History, as is often stated, has a way of repeating itself.
In 2006, Leader of the Opposition Democratic Labour Party, Clyde Mascoll, parted company with that organization after an internal tussle over the party’s leadership. Mr Mascoll would soon join the ruling Barbados Labour Party where he figuratively, and frequently literally, sat at the right hand of then Prime Minister Owen Arthur.
Within the scheme of things, Mr Mascoll was a political lightweight, and his controversial departure from the DLP and the divided debate that ensued did not stop the Dems from winning the 2008 general election. Mr Mascoll publicly vented his frustration at the treatment, as he saw it, meted out to him by his erstwhile colleague and political leader the late David Thompson.
Six years later, one of this country’s greatest political leaders has turned his back on a four-decade-plus-old association with the BLP. Unlike Mr Mascoll, Mr Arthur is a political giant on the Barbadian landscape, and his departure from the party through which he rose to the highest political office in the land is of immense significance.
Some political scientists and other social commentators have sought to convince Barbadians that Mr Arthur has damaged his legacy substantially and that the BLP will survive his departure. We agree that the Bees will survive Mr Arthur’s departure. We also believe that this statesman’s legacy is very much intact.
But while the damage to the DLP’s appeal by Mr Mascoll’s flight was miniscule, Mr Arthur’s repudiation of the BLP is likely to reverberate up to the next general election. Irrespective of which side of the political fence one sits, one must accept Mr Arthur’s words carry great weight on these 166 square miles; and he has said emphatically to the electorate that something is wrong within the Barbados Labour Party.
Mr Arthur has told the voting public that the BLP he once led has “lost its way” and “lost its soul”.
Many commentators have dismissed Mr Arthur’s rebuke as abstract and have called upon him to speak in specific terms. But in a supposedly Christian Barbadian society where thousands pray, often in abstract terms, to a God they have never seen, in an effort to safeguard their own souls, Mr Arthur’s indictment of the BLP will be heeded by many now and four years hence.
Irish satirist Jonathan Swift once said that when men grow virtuous in their old age they are merely making a sacrifice to God of the devil’s leavings. But we believe Mr Arthur has the best interest of Barbados at heart. We also believe that if he thinks it necessary, he will at some stage engage the Barbadian populace on specifically how his once beloved party has become a political husk without a soul.
Over the past six years, Mr Arthur has been very vocal and equally silent on a number of important national issues. When accusations were made against his party with respect to VECO, Greenland and 3S Barbados Limited, Mr Arthur was swift to take responsibility and tell Barbados: “Blame me.”
But one of the issues on which he has never uttered a single word has been the documented wiretapping saga in Barbados. According to official court documents, some of this occurred during his party’s tenure in office and he was one of the unsuspecting victims. Now, Mr Arthur is no longer a member of the BLP which is under the astute and capable leadership of Mia Mottley. She presents herself as an alternative national leader at a time when there is significant dissatisfaction with the incumbent DLP Government over the handling of the economy. This worldwide economic crisis is to her advantage.
The task that now faces Ms Mottley is to convince the electorate the BLP has not lost its way and is still on track. She must also demonstrate that her party is very much imbued with the soul of the people. Finally, as in the Mascoll imbroglio, Ms Mottley must assert that her party is bigger than Owen Seymour Arthur.