Give us back the reins!
This is the contention of several Barbados Labour Party (BLP) stalwarts, who have also suggested that the current economic problems facing the country mirror those of a past era when the BLP had to step in and “save” the country.
“We had to save Barbados,” said Sir Henry Forde during a BLP political meeting dubbed, A Conversation with the Elders, held on Wednesday night at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.
Forde, who was undefeated in his seven outings at the polls, also recalled that “some of the conditions which we see now were present then, and it was a task of young people, and we had to bring in at least one or our senior [Barbados] Labour Party people, Ronald Mapp, as a minister”.
During the meeting, another BLP elder, Sir David Simmons, also focused on the BLP’s entry into Government in 1976, led by Tom Adams, after scoring a 17-7 victory over Errol Barrow’s Democratic Labour Party in the then 24-member Parliament.
Sir David, a retired Chief Justice who had left the political post of attorney general to head the Barbados judiciary, explained that on account of a global oil crisis prior to 1976 Barbados was “in deep trouble”.
At the time, he said, “the [then incumbent] Democratic Labour Party had no answer to the crisis”.
In fact, Sir David recalled that DLP representative “Branford Taitt’s answer was to go on television and ask people to share a shower, and do some carpooling”.
He also recalled that a special pump was set up below Holborn for people to get gas.
“In the commercial sector about 400 small shops in Barbados were closed; unemployment was about 25 per cent,” he told those attending the meeting which formed part of the party’s programme celebrating its 80th anniversary.
Organizers brought together leaders of that 1976 to 1986 era such as Delisle Bradshaw, Dame Billie Miller, Sir Louis Tull, Ezra Alleyne, Victor Johnson, Aaron Truss, Clyde Griffith, and John Williams, and invited supporters to “get the facts on how the BLP transformed Barbados from merely having the symbols of independence to being a truly independent country”.
During the discussion which lasted well over an hour past its scheduled end, the BLP stalwarts reminisced on achievements of that decade while crediting the charismatic and wily leadership of Adams.
They also recalled the depressing experience of the inglorious 1986 defeat when the party was routed by the DLP 24 to three for the then 27-seat Parliament.
Sir Louis said that leading to the election he had a distinctive feeling that the BLP was facing defeat, a feeling shared by Sir David, who said the party was so out of favour with the electorate at that time that when they were leaving the last Cabinet meeting before the poll the then cabinet secretary had waved them goodbye with a DLP manifesto in his hand.
However, the BLP elders were adamant that it was the party’s time to govern again as they strongly endorsed current leader Mia Mottley as the right person to ascend to the helm of Government.
“I firmly believe now that we are at the stage where people will begin to look towards us,” Sir Henry said, adding that “it is time that we have a woman as a prime minister”.
Dame Billie, who is set to take on a central role in the BLP’s 2018 campaign, also advised Mottley to “fear not”.
“Once the people of Barbados understand, and we explain, they will stay with you,” she said, while Bradshaw told the BLP leader, “you are capable of delivering the goods to this party. We are looking forward to you to fulfil and continue that great [BLP] legacy, and everybody here expects you to do it”.