One very arresting aspect of the mystique of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party is the movement’s ability to excite, attract and keep the loyalty of successive young generations. Labour has been able to maintain its hold on the imagination of young people for eighty-one years, since its birth in 1932.
Labour has been a constant in the politics of St Kitts & Nevis, and has formed the government more often than any other political party in the history of the islands.
Its pantheon of heroes begins with the illustrious Sir Robert L Bradshaw, who served as first Chief Minister, first Premier and who led the call for independence. Sir Joseph N France, and Sir Caleb A P Southwell flanked Bradshaw for decades, and all three remain the most revered individuals in the history of the Federation.
Significantly, Robert Bradshaw became leader of the St Kitts Nevis Anguilla Labour Union at the relatively young age of 29.
That may have set the stage for successive generations of young people to step into the arena of politics, and certainly Kittitians and Nevisians have never been afraid to put their confidence in the ability of young leaders. This feature may account for the emphasis the Labour Party has always placed on youth – and the 21st century Labour Party continues this tradition in style.
Today, the St Kitts & Nevis Labour Party finds a huge segment of its national support base among young people, who form an energetic and committed wing of the movement. Although most if not all regional political parties boast a “youth arm”, none to my observation can rely on a cadre of young supporters as vibrant and enthusiastic as the “Labour Pickney” segment of the SKNLP. This phenomenon differentiates Labour from the People’s Action Movement, and the Concerned Citizens Movement of Nevis.
A new, barely formed political party led by one fired and one resigned member of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour party can lay no claim to any roots in the Labour movment – and certainly has nothing that even remotely resembles a Young Labour wing or arm. The existence of Labour’s powerful youth auxiliary, on the other hand, ensures that the Labour Party is able to reach far, wide and deep into the communities all across St Kitts.
More than ever, the SKNLP is reaping the benefits of having invested heavily in the federation’s youth. Youth Minister Glenn “Ghost” Phillip exemplifies his party’s youth-oriented thrust. His patent concern for the younger generations of the Federation is well received by the young people, and he has shown that he can be trusted to articulate the needs and interests of youth effectively around the cabinet table.
Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas has demonstrated that his government’s alertness to the value of the young people of St Kitts & Nevis is no mere passing political fad, or some transient nod in the direction of political expediency. The millions that his administration has invested in student loans and scholarships over the past years have created for his Party an affection among the youth that is broad and deep. Programs like the Labour Government’s People Empowerment Program (PEP), with its emphasis on both skills training and employment, recognize that keeping young people gainfully employed is essential to the development of a competent, competitive populace, and social stability beyond that.
“Labour Pickney” is responding with appropriate enthusiasm, and bringing ever more young people into the fold. With such a long, strong history behind it, and so much youthful dynamism with it today, the future of Labour seems secure indeed.