Historically in New York, it was the DLP — through their arm Friends of Barbados DLP — that was more visible than the BLP. The Friends of the DLP held annual events, while the BLP held town meetings from time to time under the patronage of Owen Arthur.
Now the landscape seems to be changing.
After several efforts, the BLP has an organisation on the ground that put together a weekend of activities in June, including a town meeting that was addressed by BLP members from Barbados.
In July, the Friends of Barbados added a town meeting to their annual fun day weekend.
We have had two town meetings, campaign style, within the space of six weeks. So what can we learn other than the fact that political palms are getting itchy?
The speakers at both meetings came from Barbados with the BLP showcasing a cast of higher profile.
Mia Mottley said that they had come to start a journey, while George Pilgrim told his audience that Team DLP was in town to continue the celebration which started at the February cocktail sip.
Additionally, there were different arguments and strategies, which will appear in the next election.
Chairman of the BLP, Dr. Jerome Walcott, took the position that the DLP had broken a number of its election promises and the party was therefore unworthy and incapable of taking Barbados on the journey, which they were about to begin.
On the other hand, Mottley contended that quality of life in Barbados was under threat and that not only was the DLP responsible for the circumstances, but was incapable of stopping the bleeding, so to speak. Listen to Ms Mottley: “And we are on the verge of a credit downgrade, we are on the verge of problems moving from chronic to destabilising and we are on the verge of losing our quality of life and we are on the verge for the first time of a generation looking at their children and feeling that their children might not have as good a life style as they had.
“And I am not one of them to believe that the Dems are wicked, there are simply not up to the task and if they are not up to the task, the cost to our children is too high a cost to bear.”
In contrast, the DLP, led General Secretary George Pilgrim, focused on the performance of the BLP while in office and listed the challenges which the DLP faced on assuming office. Pilgrim argued that the first order of business that the Government had to do was to find in the region of $160 million for the defence fund, the QEH, subsidies among other things. Additionally, there was the matter of another $20 million associated with an unsigned highway fly-overs contract. He alluded to what he saw as a philosophical difference between the two parties:
“Truth be told, the people gave us back the government. We have accepted the responsibility as a Government but what we cannot be accepting is the attempt to lure an entire nation into thinking that our country has a price … and asking the state to retreat and allow the private sector to earn increase profits at the expense of our social structure.”
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner also sought to portray the DLP as a people’s party and not one of numbers, and further argued that given the world circumstances, the DLP government had done well.
Clearly the battle lines have been drawn in the current sea of adversity. Now we may recall that during the February celebration, Prime Minister Stuart’s told his campers that when he returns (to New York) he will still be the Prime Minister of Barbados, and this could be interpreted that it may be some time before the next election is called.
Whatever has been said so far in New York is an effort to get votes and funds. Barbados is an outlier. Barbadians may not want to admit, but not so long ago it was bicycle society that has become a “Bentley” society in just 45 or so years.
Ultimately, the future of Barbados is in the hands of the people — their willingness to accept achievements, utilise past strategies and build relationships. In that scenario the politicians will be tested as they seek to give the people a place to go.