Campaigning for Barbados’ next general election, constitutionally due in the second quarter of next year, has not yet officially started. However, if recent utterances from the political trenches are anything to go by, it is likely to be one of the nastiest campaigns the island has ever seen in terms of mudslinging on the platform and elsewhere.
The latest and clearest indication to date of this came a few days ago when Derek Alleyne, a stalwart of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and one-time election candidate, suggested the incumbent administration was prepared to go into the gutter, if necessary, in order to secure a third straight term in office which, many political commentators suggest, will be an uphill task.
Addressing a meeting of the DLP’s St Michael Central constituency branch, Alleyne, who is director of the Urban Development Commission, remarked: “It is going to be an election of elections. Who lives with whom is going to come up, as part of that election campaign.” He mentioned the issue of same sex marriage and indicated, as DLP spokesmen have said before, that morality would be a central theme of the DLP’s campaign.
Ironically, this stance comes across as a tacit admission of surrender by the DLP on the critical issue of the economy. For if, as spokespersons keep saying, the administration has nothing to be ashamed of in terms of its heavily criticized stewardship on the economy, then why is priority not being given to mounting a stout defence and convincingly answering critics on the political platform?
As the economy remains in crisis with declining foreign reserves which pose a threat to the longstanding two to one parity of the Barbados dollar as well as a deficit which has stubbornly refused to come down despite hefty increases in taxation, it would certainly be far more important for Barbadians to hear the solutions which all the parties have devised to address these critical economic issues that are impacting on their quality of life.
After being treated to the juicy details of who is sleeping with whom, or who is gay or bisexual, or who was conceived as a result of a tryst in a cane ground, will the average Barbadian be able to find such comfort from this information that they will have a greater chance of finding a job, having more disposable income as a result of a reduction in taxes, or generally enjoying a better life? The answer an emphatic ‘no’.
As the party which has historically championed education of the masses, certainly better is expected of the DLP in this enlightened age of the 21st century. At any rate, why would the DLP want to descend into the gutter? Is this a clever tactic to divert public attention and discussion away from the critical issues on which the Government has received a generally low grade? At a time when so much is at stake in relation to their future, Barbadians owe it to themselves to demand a higher, more wholesome standard of campaign debate.
It is interesting that Mr Alleyne’s utterances came a day after Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler told another DLP branch meeting in The City that he and Minister of Transport Michael Lashley were the targets of an Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) smear campaign as part of its strategy to win the Government. Though he did not provide tangible evidence establishing an irrefutable link, if the BLP is found to be involved in such activities, they too deserve a strong reprimand.
Seeing that morality has been identified as a major issue in the coming campaign, it is worth pointing out that morality is not limited to human sexuality, as it appears some politicians would have Barbadians believe. Morality relates generally to how human beings conduct themselves, especially in their relations with each other. Seen from this perspective, waging an election campaign that descends into the gutter and destroys the reputations of people without justification would raise fundamental moral questions of right or wrong.
The Church is generally seen as the primary defender of morality in our society. The election bell is yet to be rung but, given the warnings, it seems a strong case does exist for the Barbados Christian Council, as the umbrella body of the Church, to come up with a Code of Conduct and get all parties and candidates to sign on and commit to a high standard of behaviour ahead of the next general election.