In life generally, but politics specifically, it can be dangerous to make life-altering decisions based principally on anecdotal evidence. Experience however, has often shown that it is the foolhardy who, to their own peril, completely disregard the anecdotes that life throws before them.
Just weeks ago the country was abuzz with all kinds of speculation and extrapolation based on the results of the CADRES poll, conducted by noted political scientist Peter Wickham, which suggested that if an election had been held at that time the Barbados Labour Party would have retake nthe Government.
Only the fool, or the absolutely political blind, would suggest that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, by his you-can-bother-me approach was not isolating far too many electors. By the same token, it would be hard to argue that the silence of the ruling party and the failure of its key operatives to articulate a plan to ease the hardships so many Barbadians face, did not add depth to the hole they were digging for themselves.
On the other hand, even with some not so pleasant memories of their last term in Government never too far from the minds of a not insignificant number of Barbadians, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party was making up ground because, at least, it was talking to the people.
We don’t have the political expertise of Peter Wickham, but we conclude that Barbadians are becoming increasingly informed today because finally there is actually a debate on issues taking place. The Dems have awakened and are engaging the Bees — and the country, in our view, is being better served.
In fact, we are willing to bet that if CADRES did another poll today, the result would not be the same. We are in no position to say the Dems have retaken the lead, but it is clear they are gaining some momentum. Their Saturday morning constituency tours, followed by engagement with the news media, have resulted in more robust debate and it is starting to feel like a general elections campaign and not a foregone conclusion.
It almost seems like the Prime Minister has spoken more often publicly in the last month than he did for the rest of the year combined — and that ought to be a lesson to anyone who occupies the highest political office in the land. If you don’t engage the people you will lose them.
While some have placed the proposals of Opposition Leader Owen Arthur under intense scrutiny, and that is as it should be, he must be given credit for raising the bar. There are proposals on the table and the experts and electorate can judge them.
What it also serves to do is compel the Government to do more than repeat that where we are is a result of the international recession. Every reasonable Barbadian accepts this as partially true, but we want to know what you are doing now, and plan to do in the future to ensure the national gains of the last four decades are not reversed.
It is now unlikely that general elections will be held this year, which means that Barbadians are in for a long period of campaigning. We urge the BLP and DLP to make it a meaningful one. The momentum is there to suggest it will also be a bruising period — but that is no reason why it should not be an educational one as well.
In the meanwhile, we anxiously await the outcome of the next public opinion poll. “Midnight madness” might very well take on a whole new meaning.