Barbados Labour Party MP Kerrie Symmonds appears to have emerged as the Opposition’s second in command in the House of Assembly.
Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley today informally announced that the St. James Central representative was “the Leader of Opposition Business in the House”.
But while the statement came during an obituary speech for deceased former BLP parliamentarian Glenroy Straughn and drew laughter from the Government benches, Political Scientist Peter Wickham told Barbados TODAY the news “wasn’t a huge surprise”.
Wickham said not only did it suggest Mottley was straddling her own interests while trying to keep the Owen Arthur “old guard” represented by Symmonds happy, but meant the “Dale Marshall chapter is closed”. With the St. Michael North East MP having not named a deputy since the February 21 general election, it means the Symmonds is in practical terms currently the BLP’s deputy leader in the Lower House.
Mottley made the statement about Symmond’s elevation of sorts while paying tribute to former BLP parliamentarian and social activist Glenroy Straughn, who died in April this year.
“The importance of family has come out in all who have spoken in this debate so far, but I believe that it was the Member for St. James Central, the Leader of Opposition Business in the House, who would have pointed out that the issue of family was central to the man and was perhaps responsible for much for what he was able to achieve,” she said.
Symmonds, an attorney-at-law, is the Shadow Minister of Industry, Commerce and International Business, and also speaks on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade matters.
Subsequent to the BLP’s general election loss it was rumoured that he was Arthur’s preferred successor. In recent weeks he has been one of the Mottley’s strongest supporters at meetings of the Public Accounts Committee and has led several Opposition responses in the House. Wickham said Mottley’s decision to elevate Symmonds was good politics in the current circumstances.
“It wasn’t a huge surprise largely because Kerrie represents a person that the old guard of the Barbados Labour Party seems to be comfortable with, and I guess that Mia is trying to straddle her own interest as new Leader of the Opposition, but also to take into consideration the role of the concerns and the interests of the old guard, the Owen Arthur faction, and so on,” he said..
“It is good politics to make space for him but also significant that he is not the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. And I think that that distinction is an interesting one because she (Mottley) more or less indicated originally that she was not intending to create a deputy leader position.
“I also think it’s good for him and that he has been identified as worthy of such a post,” he added.
Asked what the implication’s of the elevation were for former Deputy Leader of the Opposition Dale Marshall, Wickham said “this is a clear indication he will not emerge in such a role”.
“In effect the Dale Marshall chapter is closed and it is now the beginning of a new era of Barbados Labour Party politics so to speak. If it is Symmonds, then clearly it is a new era,” the political scientist stated.
Noting that an alternative choice for the position given to Symmonds could have been St. Michael South East MP Santia Bradshaw or another BLP MP considered a Mottley supporter, Wickham said Mottley might have opted not to go that route in the interest of keeping the “old guard” happy. (SC)