It was the Welsh Labour Party politician Aneurin Bevan who gave the world of politics the phrase, politics is a blood sport.
Mr Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people, and the architect of Britain’s National Health Service, which was to provide medical care free at point-of-need to all Britons.
As one of the main leaders of the leftwing of the Labour Party, he was involved in many a bruising battle with the Tories, for whom he had a deep, abiding hatred.
“No amount of cajolery and no attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin,” he said at a party rally in 1948, much to the anger of both Conservatives and his own party.
Mr Bevan also was no stranger to party infighting, often publicly taking on his own leader Clement Attlee.
The latest manifestation of Mr Bevan’s description of politics is the bitter exchange between former Prime Minister Owen Arthur and Sir Richard Cheltenham, who once served in Mr Arthur’s Cabinet.
In coming to the defence of Mr Arthur’s successor as leader of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Mia Mottley, who the former prime minister has criticized, Sir Richard seemingly painted Mr Arthur as a divisive force.
“The point is that there is total unity in the ranks of the Barbados Labour Party. That was not so two years ago, but that is so now,” Sir Richard told Barbados TODAY in an exclusive interview yesterday.
He acknowledged that Mr Arthur – who quit the BLP in 2014 stating he could not serve under Ms Mottley’s leadership – at one point “did a lot to promote Mia Mottley, but for some reason there seems to have developed a fracture in their relationship.
“I know that she continues to reach out, but Arthur seems to have some very rigid views about here. I don’t know that they are any longer balanced views,” he said, adding, “This man is always attacking this lady, but this lady has nothing adverse to say about him.”
Arguably, no politician in Barbados today has as sharp a tongue as Mr Arthur, and today he responded by describing Sir Richard contention that the BLP is more united now as “an unbelievably lie”.
He also described his former minister as a propagandist for Ms Mottley, a man who practises classism, and one with a long history of scurrilous attacks against his opponents, thus painting a picture of an irritatingly bumptious crony.
“I now know what it feels like to be savaged by a political sheep,” Mr Arthur disparagingly said.
What we are witnessing here is an episode of political savagery that is proof indeed that politics is a blood sport, where loyalty is often wrapped in a sparkling dagger, dripping with the blood of previous victims; a game of frightening conspiracy and outright treachery.
In recent times we have seen the cannibalism that took place within the Democratic Labour Party of former leaders David Thompson and Clyde Mascoll, including the undignified defenestration of the latter.
We witnessed how close the so-called Eager 11 of the DLP came to having their Brutus moment against Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who has become something of a prisoner in the Office of the Prime Minister, seemingly unable to muzzle or control any of his ministers.
And, the bad blood – here is that word again – between Mr Arthur and Ms Mottley has been an open secret for years. Today, Mr Arthur also observed: “Since I have left the Barbados Labour Party [in July 2014], they have thrown out Maria Agard – that would have to be a most curious way of showing unity. Lynette Eastmond has left to form her own political party – that is a curious way of showing unity. Wendell Callender is the process of forming his own party as well, and you have other splinter groups being formed out of the Labour Party.”
Often, while these politicians tear each other apart behind closed party doors, they come out in public with exaggerated pretences of agreeing with one another and manufactured acts of make-believe that they get along.
They even laugh at each other’s jokes, all in an effort to portray, falsely of course, that all their differences are behind them.
We saw it on the BLP platform in 2013, with Mr Arthur virtually hugging Ms Mottley.
We’ll see it again in the next election when Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss, who has made no secret of what he thinks of Mr Stuart’s leadership, proudly touting Mr Stuart as the best leader for Barbados.
Yet, somehow, it gets to a point where they cannot cover it up anymore and it all explodes into the public domain, and the realities of discord, disharmony and plots are made clear.
With a general election around the corner what are we left with?
Hopefully, not a government that is so broken and tattered and frayed and weakened by internal combustion that it is no more stable than a stool on two legs.
Heaven knows we need a stable and strong government to deal with the many problems now facing Barbados.
Mr Bevan once said: “I have never regarded politics as the arena of morals, it is the arena of interest.”
Let us hope that for our country’s sake, those who offer themselves as leaders can at the very least have some principles, if not morals, and work for the common good.