If the events of October 2010 are to be used as a gauge, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley could possibly find herself in a win-lose situation after the next general election. It is public knowledge that not every member of her current political team has always lined up behind her. And in the weeks leading up to the general election, there might be concerns among her ardent supporters that even if the national poll favours her, the majority of her parliamentary colleagues might not do so.
Among those remaining from the 2010 palace coup that saw her removal as Opposition Leader are St George North MP Gline Clarke, St Andrew MP George Payne, St Joseph MP Dale Marshall and St Michael North MP Ronald Toppin – all highly influential personalities within the Barbados Labour Party and who previously dangled the sword of Damocles above Miss Mottley’s head. Returning candidate and then Christ Church West MP Dr William Duguid did not sack the battlement with his colleagues at that time.
There has also been an uneasy relationship between St James Central MP Kerrie Symmonds and Miss Mottley. Following the Barbados Labour Party’s defeat in the 2008 general election, Mr Symmonds, a losing candidate, was selected to be an Opposition Senator. However, following a personal incident, Miss Mottley announced on August 14, 2009, that Mr Symmonds had resigned from the Senate. But, on March 16, 2010, Mr Symmonds publicly refuted Miss Mottley’s suggestion while at a meeting at the then St James Secondary School stating that his resignation had been “eagerly sought and accepted”. The St James Central MP while extolling the leadership qualities of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur at the meeting, said then that there were some in the higher echelons of the party who were “wasting their time and intellectual energy.” His reference was palpably clear.
Like Messrs Toppin, Clarke, Payne and Marshall, Mr Symmonds is a highly influential and important member of the Barbados Labour Party. Indeed, there are many who view him as a potential leader of the party, if not now, sometime in the future.
In November 2015, following the impasse between the Opposition Leader and Christ Church West MP Dr Maria Agard, and the latter’s subsequent expulsion from the party, MP George Payne was publicly supportive of Miss Agard. He expressed his belief that she would be the party’s representative in the next general election and suggested that she should sue his Barbados Labour Party over her expulsion. Though indicating that there was no resultant rift in the party from Miss Agard’s expulsion, Mr Payne told the media: “I am not aware of any rift in the party. It is a political party, it is not a Sunday school. There is no rift in the BLP. There might be one individual in the Labour Party who might be causing certain things to happen but I am not saying there is any rift.” To whom he was referring as “causing certain things to happen” was not lost on many within earshot.
At the time of Miss Mottley’s ouster from the leadership of the Barbados Labour Party in 2010, Mr Payne explained to the media that the action was taken because the majority of the Opposition’s parliamentary group “had no confidence” in Miss Mottley. Subsequently, three years later, Miss Mottley was returned to the leadership of the party following another general election defeat with an eight to five split of the parliamentary vote.
But, if as late British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once noted that a week is a long time in politics, then a three-year period is even longer. Much could have transpired within the inner circle of the Barbados Labour Party. Fences might have been mended, the infusion of new blood into the party might have brought different perspectives and led to the creation and strengthening of new allegiances. At the time of the great pain inflicted on Miss Mottley, the likes of St Thomas MP Cynthia Forde stood by her side. Though not a member of the parliamentary group at that time, St Michael East incumbent Trevor Prescod has been a faithful lieutenant to Miss Mottley. In the midst of the hurly-burly of the political game, there have been some who have been unflinchingly loyal to Miss Mottley.
But the proverb of once bitten, twice shy cannot be ignored. And as an intelligent, ambitious and quite capable politician, Miss Mottley can be forgiven if due to the unpleasant experiences of 2010, she is inclined not to take anything or anyone for granted going into the imminent general election. Across the divide, her actual political foes are Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his Democratic Labour Party colleagues. But standing behind her could be some who provide an equal threat to her ambition to become Barbados’ first female Prime Minister. Could there be a situation brewing where Miss Mottley wins but still loses? The next few weeks will provide the answers.