Democratic Labour Party (DLP) General Secretary George Pilgrim, whom I have known to be a man of usually calm disposition during a former close political association that spanned some 15 years, appeared uncharacteristically ruffled and on edge this week.
During an intervention yesterday (Thursday) on VOB’s Down to Brasstacks, there was frantic desperation in his voice as he lashed out at the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), especially leader Mia Mottley, for planning a protest on March 11 over the poor state of the country under the embattled Freundel Stuart regime.
Agree or disagree with their tactics, the fact of the matter is that the BLP is legitimately doing what any clever Opposition does in a competitive political system such as our own. When an incumbent is failing in critical areas and the people are crying out, an Opposition would be stupid not to capitalize on these shortcomings and apply pressure especially if there are clear signs that the political tide is turning in its favour.
Answer Barbadians honestly, George! Didn’t the DLP Opposition under David Thompson, in which you and I played effective, behind-the-scenes roles, do the same thing to Owen Arthur and the then BLP government prior to the 2008 general election when we sensed a groundswell that pointed to the real possibility of a change of government? Oh yes, we did, George! It just happens now that the shoe is on the other foot.
Prior to the Brasstacks intervention, Pilgrim had treated Barbados TODAY readers on Monday to a rambling defense of the regime’s record of success as he sees it. The unconvincing hodgepodge was a regurgitation of past DLP history that offers precious little in terms of solutions to the current problems facing Barbadians It also contained a litany of excuses for the regime’s failure to deliver..
If the few paltry achievements which Pilgrim struggled to identify as successes for the DLP after nine long years in office are all he can shout about, then the party is presenting a rather weak case for re-election to a third term at the forthcoming general election. What Pilgrim really needed to address is the fact that Barbadians are collectively worse off today than nine years ago and have lost confidence in the DLP’s ability to create a better future.
Being familiar with the mindset of the DLP which goes into panic mode whenever the BLP is perceived to be on the ascendancy, it seems to me that Pilgrim’s statements most likely were a knee-jerk reaction to pressure from within, presumably at the level of the national executive, to say something, especially in light of the public fall-out between Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler, and fired Central Bank Governor, Dr Delisle Worrell, and the unfavourable debate it was generating.
Interestingly, the day following Pilgrim’s statement in Barbados TODAY, it was not the Opposition or any other external critic but one of the DLP’s own, Dr David Estwick, a philosopher with a sharp intellect, who knocked the wind out of the sails. In a candid admission to this publication, the Minister of Agriculture said to the effect that his regime’s economic policies had failed miserably. You cannot ask for a harsher condemnation of the regime than that, especially when it is coming from one of its own.
In the 21st Century, how an economy performs is what matters most to the average citizen. When there is consistently high levels of growth, there are always increased opportunities for happiness through self-actualization. And a primary purpose of government is the promotion of happiness for its citizens through steady improvements in their quality of life. That pursuit suffered a major setback under Stuart’s weak and indecisive leadership.
Perhaps the only person who seems unable to make a direct connection between economic performance and political success is Senator Jepter Ince. Which explains why his dream of gaining election to the House of Assembly is likely to remain elusive. In a mind-boggling statement at a recent DLP branch meeting, the goodly senator declared: “The next general elections . . . will not be about unemployment, it is not going to be about economic performance, it is not going to be about foreign reserves, it is not going to be about devaluation. It is who will be able or better able to lead this country . . . .”
Whose leadership does he consider to be better at this time? If it is Stuart’s, as is the obvious conclusion, Ince has simply revealed how much he is out of touch with the pulse of prevailing public opinion. Indeed, from what is being said on the ground, Stuart’s leadership has already been weighed in the balance and found wanting. It is such a major source of public dissatisfaction and unhappiness that the clamour for general elections is growing louder with each passing day, especially with the growing fears that the economy is going from bad to worse.
Pilgrim’s frantic behaviour this week, as the political house of Stuart appeared to be heading for implosion, suggests he is sensing what obviously must be a terrifying thought for the DLP hierarchy. Namely, that the good life which the people of Barbados so generously provided them over the past nine years, is finally and rapidly drawing to a close.
Power belongs to the people. They loan it to every government for a specific time on the understanding that effective solutions will be provided to the problems they face so that they too may have a chance of enjoying a good life which is a perfectly legitimate aspiration, especially for those looking to pull themselves out of poverty.
As founding fathers of the DLP, Errol Barrow and Sir James Tudor fully understood this. That is why the DLP’s first tenure in government from 1961 to 1976 is widely considered as the most productive and transformative in our political history. The focus was on changing lives for the better which is exactly what occurred. And among the beneficiaries are the members of the current regime. That Stuart in particular has so miserably failed to build on and advance this great legacy is heart-breaking to every bona fide Dem.
The divine favour has already passed from this regime which, frankly speaking, no longer has the moral authority to govern even though a year remains in their current mandate. The regime finds itself in a sad predicament which is so reminiscent of the Old Testament story of King Saul after he was censured for disobedience to the divine will and was informed by the prophet Samuel that someone else had been chosen king.
As the crisis deepens within the DLP with the possibility of a repeat of the 1994 implosion which happened to the Erskine Sandiford-led DLP government during a similar time of economic distress, Yahweh is saying: “Let my people go! Let them go so that they can renew their strength and confidence to get on with the important task of rebuilding the Barbadian Jerusalem so that milk and honey can flow in this land once again!”
(Reudon Eversley is a Carleton University-trained political strategist, strategic communication specialist and journalist. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)