The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) must “cleanse itself of the ghost” of former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart before it can claw its way back from last Thursday’s devastating loss to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in the general election, according to a leading political scientist and commentator.
Having done this, Dr Tennyson Joseph said, the DLP should shift its philosophy back to the social democracy of its founder and former Prime Minister Errol Barrow.
The DLP suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the BLP in the general election, losing every seat, including its bastion, St John, and securing just over 20 per cent of the votes cast.
Joseph said the loss was the result of a mass popular revolt against the administration, which he accused of having a preoccupation with narrow economics and a lack of humanity in its messages.
Joseph, the head of the department of government, sociology and social work at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), said the seeds for the massive loss were sowed in 2013 when the DLP’s barely hung on to power.
“The 2013 election was a vote against the DLP. Most persons have not analyzed it that way, but people were beginning to express dissatisfaction with the DLP from as early 2013 for the same narrow economism.
“What happened after 2013 is that they ended up doing the same thing a little more drastically. So what they did not do in 2008, they did it in 2013. They laid off the [public] workers, they terminated free education for UWI students and then they began to quarrel with the labour unions for the same narrow economism,” he said, adding that the numbers game continued into the 2018 election campaign.
“Imagine a party put out a manifesto and saying things like, ‘we did not cut salaries, we did not ask you to pay fees at the hospital’. Is that what you put in a manifesto? The only way they put that in the manifesto is because of the narrow economism. And therefore there was nobody in the DLP, including the Prime Minister, who said anything to change that language,” emphasized the political scientist.
Joseph said the BLP capitalized on the DLP’s shortcoming and shifted the message to a broader social one by “introducing social democracy back into the language and the DLP could not respond to that”.
The UWI lecturer added that the punitive tax measures introduced over the years, including the much-maligned National Social Responsibility Levy, left the population without hope of an improvement and forcing them to revolt en mass.
“The whole country . . . seventy-something per cent of the population voting in one direction can only be described as a mass popular revolt . . . and in my view, I hope the lesson sinks in that it was a failure of that narrow economism and it was a demand for a return of social democracy. Any other party that is trying to establish itself in the future, cannot remain trapped in that narrow economism and must find a way to redefine and redevelop a social democratic philosophy that . . . [espouses] both the economy as well as social development,” he suggested.