The expulsion of Dr Maria Agard from the ranks of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) could be a catalyst to bring about major change on the political landscape, including giving Barbadians a new alternative to both the BLP and the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), says political strategist Reudon Eversley.
However, political scientist Dr George Belle has dismissed the notion, suggesting that the Christ Church West MP has no political future unless she crosses the floor and becomes a member of the DLP.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Eversley expressed skepticism that Dr Agard, a first term MP, would seek solace in the DLP camp, arguing she could choose to stand on her own and be instrumental in the establishment of a new party as conditions on the ground were favourable.
“Dr Agard could be a catalyst in that if she so desires. She has the national profile, she is a professional and she is intelligent. This could be the catalyst to launch a new politics for Barbados, a politics that is more geared towards the 21st century as she seems not to be about the old politics,” he argued.
Insisting that politics in Barbados is in crisis, Eversley, who is Canadian-trained in political management, took issue with how the bitter row in Christ Church West played out, suggesting that last night’s decision appears to have been “rushed”.
“It looks as though the whole thing was really structured against Dr Agard. It appears as if it wasn’t so much to give her a fair hearing but to deal with the issue at hand. Naturally, it will please some BLP supporters, especially members of the rank and file who still believe that a leader must ride roughshod over people.”
He warned that the expulsion might cement public perception that Dr Agard was wronged by her peers and that could backfire against the BLP.
“I think what should have been done in the circumstances, especially after Dr Agard and her attorneys left, if I were there advising Miss Mottley, I would have told her to adjourn the proceedings until another time. I don’t think it should have come to this point.
Eversley went on: “There is nothing that cannot be solved by mediation, by getting people to sit down and thrash out the issues among themselves and once there is that frank discussion, you will find that even though there is disagreement, there are points on which you can agree. I am not sure that happened in this exercise.”
Eversley warned that the BLP could be in for some uncertain times and the issue of leadership was again in question since senior members of the party had already publicly taken issue with the actions of party leader Mia Mottley.
“The BLP appears to be split, bearing in mind that George Payne had come out telling Ms Mottley to hold strain, and Ronald Toppin as well, and if the Labour Party is divided, the question is how strong is Ms Mottley’s grip on the leadership? Are we seeing the possibility of a repeat of 2010 when she was ousted? There are all types of possibilities in politics, “he suggested.
In contrast, Belle told Barbados TODAY the writing was on the wall for Dr Agard who failed to reconcile with the executive of her constituency branch.
He suggested the BLP hierarchy made the right move in addressing the contentious matter despite the fact that its position in Parliament was now down to 12.
“This is the best time to take a definitive position in that constituency, to try to get out the problem and to try to correct it by the time the next two years come around and elections are called. So I think it was the best time to act in a decisive way.”
Unlike Eversley, Belle could find no fault with Mottley’s management of the affair, noting that she allowed the matter to play out to allow the feuding sides to settle their differences.
“I don’t think she was too indecisive having given the matter a long time, having given a warning to give people the capacity to use political commonsense to resolve the issue. But when it comes to the point where they are showing an incapacity to do that, then as leader you have to intervene and you should intervene at such a point with guillotine force.”
Acknowledging internal rumblings with Mottley’s approach, Belle warned it would do the Opposition party no good if disgruntled members persisted in raising questions about the leadership of the side.
“I do not think it is in interest of the Barbados Labour Party. Those who are saying that she [Mottley] is doing the wrong thing, do they want to be the leader? Has she done anything that is outside of the constitution of the party? Unless they can show that Ms Mottley is in breach of the constitution, then I think they are also making a political misjudgment. They are damaging the party unnecessarily.”
Belle sees no significant political future for Dr Agard, on the basis that independents in Barbados were hardly successful. He further expressed the view that she was likely to lose the seat in the next general election since she would come up against the machinery of the BLP and the DLP.
While suggesting that she could switch allegiance to the ruling party, he was doubtful this would work for the Freundel Stuart led side.
“The DLP had a good candidate that did quite well in the last general election, Verla DePeiza, unless they are going to move Verla DePeiza from that constituency which they could if they think she [Dr Agard] is a very good candidate. They could put her [DePeiza] in St John which is a safe seat too and that would open the way for Dr Agard. But I don’t see why they would tell Verla DePeiza not to run in that situation where the Barbados Labour Party now has to look for a new candidate.”