He has not crossed the floor in the way that, say, Clyde Mascoll did back in 2006. But based on his new “Independent” seating arrangements alone, it would appear as though former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader Owen Arthur has not only turned his back on the Opposition party, but that he has joined forces with the Government side of the House of Assembly.
However, at this point that may only be wishful thinking on the part of some.
As explained to us yesterday by officials of Parliament and Mr Arthur himself, the position which he now occupies on the Government side
of the House was not his decision to make, but that of the Speaker of the House Michael Carrington.
However, in arriving at his placement, consideration would have been given to Mr Arthur’s stature as a parliamentarian and former Prime Minister. In keeping with Westminster tradition, such a personage is generally accorded the respect of Cabinet MPs –– as distinct from an ordinary backbencher.
Still, it does look quite odd to see Mr Arthur, as an Independent, positioned as he is currently, with two chairs serving as the only separation between him and the full line-up of Cabinet ministers in the Freundel Stuart administration.
It is enough to make one consider what would happen if Mr Arthur did finally decide to go all the way and team up with the ruling Democratic Labour Party.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart would certainly welcome him! After all, Mr Stuart wasted no time last week in extending the hand of a friendship to Mr Arthur, once it became clear that the St Peter MP had quit the BLP.
Stuart would no doubt be seeing this as the final nail in Mia Mottley’s political coffin –– one that would put to rest, once and for all, any immediate notions held by the Leader of the Opposition that she could somehow wrestle power from the current Government, outside of a palace coup or a fresh general election, which is not due before 2018.
With Mr Arthur in his camp, Mr Stuart could definitely relax a bit more without feeling the tenseness of leading a slender two-seat majority. It would certainly take some pressure off in terms of dealing with the business of the House. Automatically, Government’s numbers would increase to 17, leaving Ms Mottley powerless to act with just 13 Opposition members in tow.
At the same time, Mr Arthur’s inclusion would strengthen Stuart’s hand in Cabinet, especially as it relates to economic management.
The Prime Minister could also call on the St Peter MP, who has over 14 years’ experience in running a country, for other useful and timely advice in terms of steering the ship of state. Maybe Mr Arthur could help to get Moody’s off our backs and keep us away from the clutches of the International Monetary Fund.
Mr Stuart may even decide to take a chance and bring him into his Cabinet as possibly Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs and to shift Chris Sinckler to another portfolio. But then again, how would that go down with Dr David Estwick?
With Mr Arthur in the camp, would Dr Estwick finally be willing to accept another economic prescription that is not his?
In fact, what about Mr Stuart himself. Would he start to look over his shoulder like Ms Mottley?
But this is all conjecture since Mr Arthur has made it quite clear that he intends to operate as an Independent from now on and not as any member of any political grouping –– be it BLP or DLP.
His position has so far has spelt relief for him from the humiliation he said he was made to feel at the hands of his own political party. It has also spelt relief for Ms Mottley, who now has free rein to take the BLP where she wants to.
Ironically, in his first debate as an Independent, Mr Arthur chose to support the Government’s resolution to compulsorily acquire Sam Lord’s Castle. And while Kerrie Symmonds, in his capacity as the leader of Opposition business in the House, would have us all believe that Mr Arthur’s stance in the debate came at no expense to the BLP, it may be a sign of things to come.
As Mr Arthur said to loud applause and laughter from Government Members of Parliament yesterday at the start of his contribution: “Things are now working on this side.”
That certainly does not augur well for the Opposition benches.