The entrance to the two-storey early 1900 Jacobean designed home that is the administrative offices of the Democratic Labour Party was shining in the morning light. The outer walls, freshly painted in the party’s colours, appeared like glass, causing all making their way to the Annual General Conference to squint and shield their eyes on approach. This brilliance from the rising sun would be symbolic of the energy and passion of a resurgent and determined political grouping with 63 years of political savvy underpinned by a commitment to continue on its legacy of building a country and a people that dream, create and sustain.
There was no denial of the political bruising that was endured; there was no denial of the importance of securing the base and building back the proletariat trust; there was also no denying that neither task would be easy.
However, in a standing room only auditorium, with leaders from the diaspora in attendance and their cohorts watching online, this group that makes up the membership of the party set aside the ‘bloody’ Thursday of May 24, 2018, and with a steely resolve forged ahead with setting up an environment to achieve its goals.
One member reminisced of the 1994 No-Confidence Vote that brought Owen Arthur to power, saying that feeling was worse than this as that was a betrayal. Three members of the then ruling Democratic Labour Party had voted with the opposition. Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford called an early election which the party lost, overwhelmingly, given the drama that preceded it. That should be the subject of another article.
At the end of the Conference, a resurgent DLP membership created history by selecting two women, both of whom have never been Members of Parliament (MP) but have been Senators, both have an extremely high intellectual capacity, both understand intimately the workings of Government and are passionate advocates of the ideals and values of the Democratic Labour Party.
Verla Depeiza as President and Irene Sandiford Garner as First Vice President, (one of four), were overwhelmingly selected to form the nucleus of the team that will seek to shape the image and character of the new DLP. This is historic on a few fronts: Ms Depeiza represents the first female leader of the DLP; it is also only the second time in the world and the first time in the Caribbean that the two major political parties in the same country will have female leaders. This occurred once before in Germany, where the country’s oldest party, the Social Democrats (SPD) on April 22nd 2018, elected Andrea Nahles as its leader, while Angela Merkel, the current German Chancellor leads the Christian Democrats (CDU).
Ms Nahles, like Ms Depeiza, leads a party that has fallen from grace. Some have described the DLP as ambivalent and insecure; a title that also describes the SPD. The enthusiasm from the membership and the energy that continues to be expressed in anticipation of things to come is infectious and inspirational. Barbados is truly in store for some exciting times.
The 1994 election saw the DLP field 17 new candidates post the aforementioned no-confidence vote to contest the then 28 seats. The party introduced such local talent as Ralph Thorne, Rudy Grant, Tyrone Estwick, Leroy McClean and Bobby Morris among others. Despite losing the election, the party consolidated its gains and came back stronger. This same depth and strength should be expected here.
Verla would have studied these machinations as she was working with the party from her teens. This Harrisonian and Barbados Exhibition winner went on to read Politics and Law at the University of Southampton where she gained a Bachelor of Science degree with Upper Second Class Honours. She would have gone on to read for a Master of Laws at the highly regarded Queen Mary College achieving a merit while specializing in Criminology and Criminal Justice, thereby making her one of a handful of local attorneys holding certification in this area.
This new leader now heads a team with a great appreciation of the role of political parties, their reason for existing and their purpose to the people and country. The team also understands that technology advancement has led to the revolution of business, leadership, and administrative practises, all which policy only seeks to facilitate. The team also clearly understands that as a result of technological advancement and globalization, the field of public management is compelled to adjust to the ever-changing functions and requirements in the various domains of leadership.
Public administration under this new team’s guidance must undergo one of the most significant changes as a result of the introduction of technology to business administration activities and operations. The future fabric of public administration will be altered into a network of collaborations between non-profit organizations, citizen groups, and public agencies facilitated by the use of modern technology in the strategic delivery of services. As global market forces progressively gain popularity due to globalization, there will be an equal increase in the pressure to efficiently use resources.
This will lead to political leaders working almost seamlessly with executive heads of major businesses to create the desired level of coherence between political and corporate systems especially when conducting international businesses activities. As national boundaries continuously erode and multi- national and cross-border business operations progressively become the norm, public agencies and corporate entities will be forced to deploy strategies that manage their human resources in the most humane and legal manner possible. Ensuring that such goals are achieved will be tasked to leaders and executives associated with political systems that handle both corporate and administrative requirements at the global level. This way, the conventional principles of public management have to be adjusted to accommodate the growing need for a merger between politics and corporate leadership.
More than 40 per cent of the adult population of this country identity with and are sympathetic to the ideals and values of the Democratic Labour Party. For many reasons, several felt abandoned by the party. The debate as to the veracity or extent of that will make lively conversation at dinner tables and rum shops across the island. The goal of the party’s new leadership is to dismiss the feelings of neglect, clearly articulate its vision and evangelize and defend that vision on the path to gaining alignment and clarity of purpose.
Demonstrate passion and commitment to the cause that others can ‘feel’, leading by example as we all work to achieve that common goal. Show positivity and confidence in the vision as we are aware that others will attempt to undermine or disrupt progress given the opportunity. Innovate to clearly demonstrate that change sometimes has to be disruptive where obsolescence of the aged thinking is the only course.
All this must be underpinned by collaboration, as only through collective effort and commitment to purpose and well executed plans will this party deliver on its stated goals to move the people of this country forward as rapidly as possible, in a manner that is sustainable.
The new President has all the tools to deliver on this; she has a team that will support her and there is a tsunami of brilliant local talent ready and willing to make a salient contribution to the future development of this wonderful country. The future is highly encouraging.
George Connolly is CEO of Business Technology Solutions Firm and a former candidate of the Democratic Labour Party.