“We are on the cusp of securing what I predict to you will be one of the largest victories of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in many a year,” the party’s leader, Mia Mottley declared at the weekend.
That assertion at the BLP’s 78th Annual Conference, some 15 months before the next constitutionally due general election, speaks not only of a party bubbling with confidence, but a declaration that Mottley and her crew are looking at either eclipsing or coming close to the BLP’s 1999 sweep when it took 26 of the then 28 parliamentary seats in the House of Assembly.
Besides what she sees as the failings of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government that the opposition party believes makes it unpopular, Mottley’s bubbly spirit might have been owed to the smooth transition of the party chairmanship to St Andrew Member of Parliament, George Payne, who the DLP had days before said would create chaos at the weekend conference – and possibly a coup.
Shortly after declaring confidence of a massive BLP victory in the next polls, Mottley sought to deride DLP general secretary George Pilgrim who had predicted a coup.
“I saw where poor George Pilgrim . . . wished publicly for an implosion of the Labour Party this weekend. He said we would emerge from this conference with three leaders. I think the three leaders he was thinking about were David Estwick, Donville Inniss and Chris Sinckler wanting to challenge Freundel Stuart,” she said Saturday evening.
Mottley went on to heap praises on her successor, Payne, who was unanimously elected to replace her as party chairman.
The chairmanship transition became somewhat anti-climactic as the media got no opportunity to hear Payne speak. The St Andrew MP assumed his new position on Sunday, the conference’s final day, and though he sat next to Mottley and infrequently spoke to her, he made no public statements.
Party insiders said he chaired the closed-door, post-lunch sessions dealing with resolutions.
Mottley’s Saturday swank got a shot in the arm when 2016 Party Monarch Lil Rick went on stage immediately following her presentation and declared “this woman is de next prime minister in Barbados”, before electrifying the crowd with Get Thru and then belting out his monarch-winningI’z a Bajan.
A sure sign that the Opposition regards itself as a government in waiting, was when Mottley laid out several of her party’s plans for governance, tugging on the heart strings of Barbadians by promising a BLP government guarantee of water in every household and free university education.
Among the lead undertakings for businesses and the investment-minded was a promise to stop the Central Bank from “printing money”, a measure seen by economists as undermining the value of the Barbados dollar. Mottley also spoke of enabling free Wi-Fi for the entire island.
Then she threw in a bold initiative to enhance Barbados’ leisure and recreation tourism product. Her plan would marginally “increase” the size of the island, in a fashion similar to the Pelican Island land retrieval.
“We can facilitate the reclamation of 2 000 acres of land so that we can have greenfield property for our new tourism build-out. And we do this not by adding a cent in public debt but by passing legislation,” she said, and went on to explain that such new territory would be at the disposal of government for possible commercial sale. “But we will only do it after the appropriate social and environmental impact studies are done”.
Mottley’s confidence at the Lester Vaughan School infected her party to the extent that during the Sunday line up of new candidates, Kirk Humphrey, the man challenging Prime Minister Freundel Stuart in St Michael South said: “One of the questions that I have been asked most since I decided to run, especially because I am running against the prime minister, is ‘Are you afraid?’. . . ‘Why would you run against your prime minister?’
Adding that some had suggested he should fear the prime minister, “as if Freundel Stuart is now the bogey man”, Humphrey declared: “He don’t frighten me . . . There ain’t nothing to fear. We got this. We have this.”