Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur did not take too kindly to being branded as a traitor to his working class roots by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
However, rather than going on a tirade, an amused Arthur suggested that the Prime Minister had bigger problems to worry about, such as a collapsing economy and rising crime.
In an address at the opening gala of the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) 62nd annual conference at the George Street St Michael auditorium last Friday night, Stuart suggested that Arthur had betrayed his working class roots when he handed the reins of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to Mia Mottley.
In fact, Stuart charged that he had said as much to Arthur – who has often referenced his humble beginnings as the son of shopkeepers – in a private conversation.
However, in his usual biting style, and barely able to contain his laughter, the former Prime Minister, who said he had no recollection of such a conversation, told Barbados TODAY there was no way Stuart would have broached such a subject with him and emerge to recount those details with such nostalgia.
“If I had a one on one conversation with the Prime Minister he would not want to go out and talk about it in those terms. I do not recall the conversation but if someone in a conversation had referred to me as a traitor to my class, I would have spoken to him in such harsh and muscular terms that he would have fled from the scene, whether he was a Prime Minister or not. So I don’t see how Freundel Stuart could now make people feel that he could call me a traitor to my class without me dealing with him in the appropriate manner,” Arthur said.
However, the former Prime Minister resisted the temptation to comment on Stuart’s background and “what I think of his relationship to the class from which he came”, saying the Prime Minister was saved by the fact that the article would be widely read, including by children.
“It is only because children read the news that I won’t tell him what I think of his relationship to the class from which he came. I don’t think he could be held up as any model for any young people from humble origins. I only wish he could bring the same kind of aggression and signs of life to the other matters that confront the country,” Arthur stressed, noting that if Stuart wanted to attack Mottley, there was no need to involve him.
“This is unprovoked nonsense by a man who obviously is distracted by the overwhelming nature of the problems that he is faced with,” said Arthur, who led the country through a period of economic stability from 1994 to 2008.
“If Freundel Stuart wants to attack Mia Mottley that is his prerogative, and I expect him to do so, but leave me out of it.”
Twice since last November, Arthur was forced to state he was in good health after rumours circulated on social media and online, that he had died.
In ridiculing Stuart’s comment, the former BLP leader said it appeared that the Prime Minister had believed the rumours and therefore thought he would be unable to respond.
“It seems that he probably heard that I had died and therefore I would be in no position to defend myself. So rather than focus on the very serious, imposing and massive issues facing the country, including a collapsing economy, including crime and violence stalking the land on a scale that we have never seen before, including shootings in quiet and strange places, rather than dealing with the very dangerous drift in the affairs of the country, he obviously thought it was best to pick on a man who he heard has died,” Arthur said.
In his address to the DLP faithful, Stuart all but described Arthur as a traitor for not seeing fit to elevate someone from his own class to the BLP leadership, handing it back instead to the “elitist influences that have always controlled it”, seemingly suggesting that Mottley had nothing in common with the working class.
“You got the opportunity to lead the BLP in 1993 and ran it for 15 years,” Stuart said in an address geared at rallying his base.
“And this is what I have against you, because after 15 years of leading the Barbados Labour Party, given your origin and the support that went into your foundation, when you were ready to give the Barbados Labour Party you had not brought along anybody from your class to whom you could hand it, you had to hand it back to the conservatives.
“I said to him, as far as I am concerned, that is a blotch on your record,” Stuart said, adding that he would now take on the mantle to shield Barbados from “an arch-conservative in the Barbados Labour Party”.