The political bell has not even been rung yet, but veteran political scientist Dr George Belle has concluded that it will result in a change at the helm of the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
And though Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has previously sought to downplay any such leadership ambition, Belle today suggested that Sinckler “possesses the best political skill set” within the current DLP Cabinet and was therefore best placed to take the party forward.
However, if he is to do so, the political scientist said, Sinckler would have to overcome the threat posed by Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss, who Belle sees as the other obvious successor to Stuart.
With general elections constitutionally due by 2018, speculation has been rife over whether Stuart would lead the party into the upcoming poll. However, Belle suggested today that it was simply too late for him to hand over the reins of the party to anyone. Therefore, he did not anticipate any discussion on Stuart’s DLP replacement until after the much-anticipated poll, which he expects will result in a change of Government.
Asked why he felt Sinckler would be capable of taking over the DLP leadership given his current inability to turn around the island’s ailing economy, Belle dismissed as mere propaganda, the suggestion by critics that “everybody hates Chris”.
In fact, the retired Dean of the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, suggested that the converse was true.
Not only did he credit Sinckler for the DLP’s narrow victory in the 2013 poll, but for taking the severe economic blows that have been freely dished out over the past eight years.
“He has in a sense, sacrificed himself and his potential by being Minister of Finance and remaining Minister of Finance, and there are people who are prepared to scapegoat him – people in the party, in public of Barbados and in the leadership of the Democratic Labour Party,” Belle said, adding that Sinckler has proven that he has broad political shoulders.
“So that he might go through all of that pressure, all of that scapegoating and still survive and in that way, he would actually come out as a very strong contender with the capacity to rebuild the party in the future. And that is why I say Chris Sinckler still has a lot going for him still . . . and I see him as the person who has edge over the others in terms of political leadership right now outside of the present Prime Minister,” the political scientist explained.
“When you look at it in terms of his political personality, the way he gets on with his constituents and the way he carries himself politically, he comes off as the most skilled of the potential leaders within the Democratic Labour Party.”
In assessing the future of the incumbent DLP, Belle also made mention of Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick, only to say that he “has made a lot of noise and has been very vigorous in his critique of his own Government at times”, but to little effect.
However, he said the contribution of the equally outspoken Inniss had had greater political impact.
“I think people have already read through Mr Inniss’ stances. I think that he is one of the people at the top in terms of possibility of succeeding Mr Stuart as leader of the Democratic Labour Party,” Belle told Barbados TODAY.
But in light of what he saw as recent attempts by Inniss to disassociate himself from any failure of the Government, he sought to warn the St James South representative that “in all political systems there is a concept of collective responsibility; therefore, the Cabinet governs Barbados, so Inniss cannot just stand alone and say, ‘it is the other fellas who did this and I was not a part of it’.
“The things that have happened with the Democratic Labour Party in terms of what people may conclude are failures cannot be put at the feet of Freundel Stuart or Mr Sinckler even though Freundel Stuart is Prime Minister and the buck stops with him.
“Chris Sinckler could not have gone in there with his financial policies and did what he did alone. He did it with the consent of the other Cabinet ministers,” Belle argued.
He further cautioned Inniss that attempts to distance himself from the party’s policy positions could also put him out of favour with his political colleagues, who ultimately decide by vote who commands the leadership of the majority.
“Unless he is hoping to inherit the party after a bad defeat in which there are very few parliamentarians left. In that case he would be saying, ‘those guys destroyed the party and I now have to rebuild the party,’” he said.