The current impasse between Christ Church West MP Dr Maria Agard and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is unlikely to impact Mia Mottley’s leadership of the party, and is not likely to affect the party’s chances at the next general election, according to political scientist Peter Wickham.
Dr Agard has been at odds with the BLP since September when an internal squabble saw the election of a new executive for her constituency, with which she said she would not work.
A meeting planned for November 4 between Dr Agard and party leader Mia Mottley to bring about “healing” failed to materialize, as Mottley did not show up.
The rift has raised questions as to whether Mottley’s leadership is under threat, but Wickham told Barbados TODAY the current disagreements are no different from what obtained in the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) shortly before it was voted into office.
“The fact is that the way our systems are set up it is easy for you to maintain discipline within a government, but it is extremely challenging within opposition parties. And opposition parties across the region manifest these kinds of challenges and it doesn’t stop them from winning elections,” he said.
Wickham recalled “well-known” divisions within the DLP while it was in opposition, including challenges to the then leader David Thompson ahead of the 2008 general election, as was well as public disagreements involving the likes of the current Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, David Estwick and Denis Kellman. “And those issues were resolved reasonably amicably one could assume . . . because they won an election subsequently. ‘So I don’t believe that this is any more of an indication of division than anything else. I think what it is an indication of is that you have a personality that was firmly associated with the Barbados Labour Party that’s alive and well and very, very active and it starts giving some trouble and trying to make one uncomfortable for Ms Mottley and we just have to see how she handles it,” he said, without naming the personality.
Wickham added that he expected the situation would end soon, but that Dr Agard was unlikely to emerge the winner. He advised that she “negotiate a soft landing” as soon as possible for her own good.
“I’ve never known a situation where a candidate comes up against a political party and wins that battle, and I think that what she has to do is to negotiate a soft landing for herself and as soon as she does that the better.
“If she is wise enough to understand that, politically this issue can go away very quickly. If she isn’t then I think it will come down to a situation where she is challenged openly within the political party and she loses the battle,” Wickham stressed.
The political scientist argued that an election victory for the BLP did not rest on Dr Agard, but advised that the party needed to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
He made reference to the last opinion poll which showed the BLP “would have done very well” if an election were called, adding that the general assessment was that the Government was not doing well. “So the question of Dr Agard being critical to the Barbados Labour Party victory is not anything that I believe they need to worry too much about,” he said.
There’s been talk of a split within the BLP over the debacle, but Wickham told Barbados TODAY that any BLP members who are inclined to break ranks at this stage would be “signing their own political death warrant”.
“I cannot for the life of me understand the wisdom for any member of the Barbados Labour Party to want to follow any ‘motley crew’ for want of a better word, in pursuit of an alternative to the current leader that they have.
“The Barbados Labour Party is now led by a person who the majority of Barbadians want to be led by. If a member of parliament decided that their interest was better off behind an alternative person who does not have the support of the electorate, I would say that they have to go their way.”
In fact, he predicted that a split within the BLP could ultimately do more damage to the ruling DLP. “So my sense is that if you have a split in the BLP and members now move to an alternative bench, they will create some interesting times for themselves, and quite frankly I think that they will also be setting up the Democratic Labour Party for greater trouble,” Wickham said.