Two leading political scientists have weighed in on the latest upheaval in the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), saying the Opposition party needs to urgently settle its internal wrangling.
Barbados TODAY broke the story last Friday of the move by Trevor Prescod and others to have the National Executive Council censure “unruly” members, including former Prime Minister Owen Arthur and St Andrew MP George Payne, who have been deemed to be out of step with Opposition Leader Mia Mottley.
The matter was the subject of a videotaped interview last week with Prescod at his Tichbourne home in which he confirmed that it was discussed at two recent NEC meetings –– on April 17 and May 15.
Other NEC members who contacted Barbados TODAY said those meetings were chaired by Mottley and that a veiled warning had been issued “that leaders of the Opposition have long memories”.
However, noted political scientist and lecturer at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Dr Tennyson Joseph, is contending that it would be difficult for the BLP to discipline Arthur even though he agrees with Prescod’s view that there should be a cessation of the internal leadership squabble.
“If the stability of a party is to be maintained, members cannot act and say things willy-nilly. The problem for the BLP is the reality of the individuals, the personalities and the relative strengths of those persons who seem to be causing the instability,” Joseph said.
“Let us be quite frank. I think the view is widespread that the Leader of the Opposition has not been able to rein in and gain the support of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur. It is felt that he should be disciplined, but in actuality, given the personality involved, it is hard to discipline him.
“The problem facing the BLP is the two leaders are very powerful individuals. You cannot bluff leadership, it is self-evident and it speaks for itself,” Joseph added.
However, Peter Wickham sees the latest rumblings as “a perfect opportunity” and a “decisive attempt” to settle the leadership battle once and for all.
He told Barbados TODAY the reported efforts of some party members to pressure the NEC to act should be viewed as a useful tool to send a strong message to unruly members.
“I don’t know whether it is something that is sanctioned by the leadership, but I think it is useful that members of the party remind dissident members that they can be disciplined if their actions are found to be offensive to the party’s progress and . . . members would do well to remember that it is an option available,” Wickham said.
He argued that it would be difficult to ignore the differences within the BLP, and suggested that the absence of Arthur and Payne during the final vote on the Estimates back in March spoke volumes of the party’s problems.
“The issues that prevented Mr Arthur and Mr Payne from being present and voting on that day are clearly issues that could stop the Barbados Labour Party from taking power, because certainly if Dr David Estwick was not there on that day, the Government could have collapsed all be it for the presence of two BLP members that should have a vested interest in the Government collapsing anyway.”
Wickham further dismissed concerns about the timing of the move to right the party’s troubles.
“I think it is painfully clear to all of us now that the BLP will not be called to action in terms of an election any time soon. I think it also clear that the BLP’s ability to wrest power from the DLP could very well be affected by these concerns about infighting within the organization,” he said.
“So I think it is really incumbent upon the BLP to settle all these matters now rather than later, because we are already one year out from an election and I think that certainly you would want that as an election becomes two years away, with the possibility of a poll being imminent, the party is in far better shape than it is in currently.”