The question many supporters of the Barbados Labour Party might be asking at this juncture is whether Opposition Leader Mia Mottley can survive another palace coup. Some who see the absolute importance of an effective Opposition party-cum-Government in waiting might instead question whether the Barbados Labour Party can survive a second run on Ms Mottley’s authority.
Political commentators, party supporters and casual observers might have thought that with the departure from the BLP of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur –– one of Ms Mottley’s staunchest public and private critics –– that the road to the next general election would not have been fraught with peril. How wrong it seems we were!
With the exception of Mr Arthur, all of those who figuratively stormed Roebuck Street and ousted Miss Mottley in 2010, still remain within the bosom of the parliamentary battalion. These are St Andrew MP George Payne, his St Joseph colleague Mr Dale Marshall, St George North representative Gline Clarke and St Michael North MP Ronald Toppin. Ms Mottley had the support then of St Thomas MP Cynthia Forde, former St James North representative Mr Rawle Eastmond and had no reason to fear then Christ Church West MP Dr William Duguid, who publicly kept away from Mottleygate.
Of course, since 2010, the BLP’s numbers in the Lower House have increasedto 14 with the additions of Ms Mottley’s trusted lieutenant St Michael East MP Trevor Prescod, St George South’s Dwight Sutherland, St Michael South East’s Santia Bradshaw, Christ Church West’s Dr Maria Agard, The City’s retired Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, St James West representative Mr Kerrie Symmonds and St James North MP Edmund Hinkson.
Though the Opposition Leader has not addressed repeated suggestions of a move to usurp her authority once again, Mr Prescod has given some exposure to those hiding in plain sight that he will not be part of any move to unseat Ms Mottley. Of course, his is only one voice. And as occurred in 2010, any initiative to remove Ms Mottley will depend on numbers and her command of the majority support of the parliamentary group. If her colleagues move against her, she will need more than Mr Prescod’s public support.
So where do Ms Mottley’s colleagues stand on her leadership? Can she count on the support of Messrs Payne, Toppin, Marshall and Clarke this time around, those who along with Mr Arthur initiated Mottleygate in 2010? More importantly, what is her standing with the newcomers to Parliament? Can she count on the support of Mr Symmonds who has previously publicly criticized her?
If the palace is bombarded, can she find sanctuary in the support of Mr Bostic? Will Dr Agard bury any hatchet –– real or imaginary –– and support her leader in any vote to change the leadership?
If the tenet that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and taking the wrangle existing between Mr Hinkson and Mr Payne in the Supreme Court, can one assume that if the St Andrew MP reverts to his 2010 position, that Mr Hinkson will automatically not join those ranks but support Miss Mottley?
The St Michael North-East MP has elevated the profile of Miss Bradshaw by appointing her Leader of Opposition Business in the Lower House. Does this spell camaraderie and sure support if leadership of the parliamentary group is put to the vote?
Five years ago, Ms Mottley acted with great decorum and showed immense intestinal fortitude as the tumult swirled around her. Not once did she publicly berate those parliamentary colleagues holding Damocles’ sword above her head by the thinnest, singular hair of the horse’s tail. Following the BLP’s 2013 general election loss under the leadership of Mr Arthur, hatchets were seemingly buried, swords were sheathed, waters were calmed and Ms Mottley returned to the helm of the party.
Now it seems to be déjà vu. But with Mr Arthur seemingly out of the picture –– we believe –– on whose behalf would a move on Miss Mottley’s authority be conducted? Who would seek to hold the sword while hiding in plain sight?
Supporters of the BLP, and indeed those apolitical citizens who believe that a true and thriving democracy should always have a potent Opposition, perhaps rejoiced that the party was progressing with the task of positioning itself as a Government-in-waiting. Now those keeping abreast of rumblings in the party must feel a sense of dismay that the bigger picture of extricating Barbados fromits economic mire is not the main focus of every member of the House of Assembly –– Government and Opposition.
Ms Mottley has not covered herself in glory with her handling of the Christ Church West fiasco involving Miss Agard and that constituency branch. Some have interpreted her inaction as weakness and indecisiveness. Five years ago she allowed internal rumblings over the handling of the party’s accounts to play themselves out, and the result is history.
Can she now afford inaction as history looks seemingly set to repeat itself? Does she have the numbers to keep the fort safe? Only time will tell.