The Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) brand is so badly tainted that the 63-year-old political institution needs a new identity, according to one of its advisors during the ill-fated May 24 general election.
Former Member of Parliament for St Michael South East Hamilton Lashley said the 30-nil whipping the party suffered at the hands of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in the poll was evidence that it was now necessary to rebuild the DLP’s political structure, beginning with a new name.
“I don’t believe that Barbadians want to see the demise of the Democratic Labour Party, but it has to be a new look party. There is absolutely nothing wrong with rebranding with a new reinvigorated policy. We cannot live in the past. There is nothing wrong with the DLP rebranding and calling itself the New Democratic Labour Party,” Lashley told Barbados TODAY in an interview.
In the wake of the DLP’s disastrous election campaign in which it garnered a mere 22 per cent of the votes cast, compared to nearly 73 per cent for the BLP, there have been discussions on the way forward for the party founded in April 1955 by Errol Barrow, James Cameron Tudor, Frederick Sleepy Smith and a number of others.
While party stalwarts have offered suggestions, nothing concrete has been heard from those who led it into the election and became part of the island’s political history when it lost all 30 seats, including St John, its former bastion.
In a scathing criticism of the defeated party, Lashley told Barbados TODAY every one of the 30 candidates must step aside, since, he contended, it was virtually impossible for the DLP to rebound if it retained any of them as candidates in the future.
As a matter of fact, he suggested that every member of the former Freundel Stuart Cabinet had lost the moral authority to comment on current issues facing the country.
“This is the time for these men to sit down and keep quiet because Barbadians are saying that they don’t want to hear from them anymore,” he said.
“However, if they continue with this whole introverted philosophy of clapping and shaking the hands of the past leadership then they would be an ill-fated ship like the Titanic. Those people saw the iceberg and sailed right into it. They simply cannot come back to Barbadians with the same slate of candidates,” Lashley stressed, while suggesting that the party needed to begin looking towards its youngest and brightest members.
The populist politician, who first won in St Michael South East on a DLP ticket in 1994 before crossing the floor in November 1998 to join the Owen Arthur-led BLP where he became Minister of Social Transformation, later quit the BLP after it lost the 2008 election.
After announcing then that he would become an independent, Lashley went back to his DLP roots, before quitting elective politics ahead of the 2013 poll.
However, he was heavily involved in this year’s campaign, particularly in support of his protégé, Rodney Grant, who was seeking to regain the seat for the DLP from the BLP’s Santia Bradshaw.
At one DLP event, he said if it were up to the BLP Barbados would have crashed and burned a long time ago.
But with the BLP sitting comfortably with 29 seats in the House – Joseph Arherley, who won in St Michael West, crossed the floor one week after the election to become Opposition Leader – Lashley called on the DLP and other parties to work along with Government to help it rebuild Barbados’ ailing economy.
The retired parliamentarian told Barbados TODAY such a move would augur well for the country and would help to remove some of the bad taste that the DLP has left in the mouths of Barbadians.
“There should be an unprecedented attempt by all political parties in Barbados to come on board and work in some type of coalition effort in helping the new Government. It doesn’t mean that they can’t maintain their own identity, policy and philosophy, but in relation to the whole effort of nation building, we must remember that we are all on this rock together,” he stressed.