These are interesting political times for both the ruling Democratic Labour Party and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party, as well as for some of the main protagonists to be found in the two institutions.
As the weeks progress toward the inevitable calling of a general election, the question of leadership will be discussed more and more. Some thought will also be given to the succession prospects within both parties. The now infamous dismantling of former Opposition Leader Mia Mottley is public knowledge. Her reaction to the political daggers inflicted by her colleagues was human and is also a matter of public record. That her political leader Owen Arthur held his ground in the face of internal and external criticisms with the assertion that no one was bigger than the party was a show of strong leadership at its best.
On Sunday night at Grazettes Primary School Mottley left no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was very much solidly behind her political leader. Indeed, she stressed that the BLP had one leader and that was Arthur. One cannot be considered the best steel unless one endures the fiercest fire and Mottley’s pronouncement spoke to her intelligence, her own strong leadership qualities, her maturity and indeed, her continued elevation to one of Barbados’ finest stateswomen.
There are some who might consider it all a “marriage of convenience”. But whether it is or not, Mottley must be taken at her word.
The conclusion drawn, therefore, is that the BLP will enter a general election with a leader firmly in charge of all his troops and with a second-in-command, even if not the designated deputy, seen by most Barbadians as potentially the island’s first female Prime Minister. That Arthur has turned to her to deputise for him on important public occasions in recent times both at home and abroad speaks for itself. Leadership and succession issues within the BLP seem on the surface to be settled.
But what about the ruling DLP?
The leadership of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has come under the microscope from the time he took over the reins of Government following the death of Prime Minister David Thompson. His leadership style has been compared to others, and unfairly so, simply because he is not Thompson, he is not Arthur, nor is he Tom Adams or Errol Barrow for that matter.
When he is judged, he should be judged based on what he has presented to the public of Barbados. Is he excruciatingly slow to make decisions? Has he demonstrated strength in leading the DLP? Has he engaged the Barbadian public sufficiently to encourage confidence in his leadership? Most have already publicly and privately answered these questions. We need not do.
While Mottley has sworn her allegiance to the cause, there is the spectacle of Dr. David Estwick ordering his staff not to meet with a Cabinet colleague holding as important a post as the Minister of Finance. There is the spectacle of the same individual, to quote a popular Barbadian artiste, throwing a tantrum in public about his ministry rather than tackle his Cabinet colleagues in private.
Has the Prime Minister engaged the Barbadian public on this sign of fracture? Has he attempted to allay the fears, and glee, of supporters and detractors that there is no fracture? If engaging the public on important matters were not a problem, Minister of Health Donville Inniss would hardly have recently publicly indicated that it was.
And what about succession planning? This is a seeming headache within the DLP as demonstrated by the DLP. Finance Minister Chris Sinckler is seen as the party’s pin-up boy by most Barbadians, and there are suggestions that he is even more popular than Stuart as a leader within and outside the party.
But by Sinckler’s own admission, he is not interested in leading the DLP, or being the Prime Minister, now or ever. There are some who might consider his statements to this effect the result of a sudden surge in testosterone levels, but similar to Mottley, Sinckler must be taken at his word.
So where does this leave both parties leading into the general election? Whether the issue is the economy, leadership, inertia, GEMS, bankruptcy or hidden campaign funding, there is show and there is substance to be found in both institutions.