The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) could face extinction in coming years if its leaders do not undertake strong rebuilding efforts and come up with a set of strategies to reclaim confidence in the party.
This assessment from lecturer in Political Science at the University of the West Indies Dr Kristina Hinds, who told Barbados TODAY that although there were still ardent DLP supporters, confidence in the party took a massive hit this year and would require major rebuilding.
Taking a look back at 2018 and what the country could look forward to in the coming year, the political analyst insisted that there was no guarantee the DLP would remain a political force although it has been around some 60 years.
She said the rebuilding process should also include the rallying of constituents and gathering of new support.
“Otherwise, it is possible for another political party, I would say the UPP (United Progressive Party) in particular, to perhaps gain some of the ground that the DLP may have lost. But it (the UPP) too would have to do a lot of building and strong messaging and get candidates out there, some faces, apart from [its leader] Lynette Eastmond,” explained Hinds.
“I think that the DLP has a large task ahead of it because the party was unable to secure any seats and it really does have to rebuild and find a way to gain a level of public confidence. I think the DLP really needs to do this quickly if it wants to have a future and not be a defunct political party. I think that the Democratic Labour Party ceasing to exist is definitely a possibility if they don’t use the next year or two very wisely and find some new and vibrant candidates and some messaging that resonates with people,” she warned.
By the same token, she told Barbados TODAY that the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had some work of its own to do.
While Hinds agreed that the BLP would not suffer any major damage as a result of ongoing austerity measures, she believed some candidates, who were “fortunate” in the last general election, would have to build a good reputation over the next four years in order to hold on to their seats.
“So in some ways, there are members of the Barbados Labour Party who would have to keep campaigning even though they are in power. I think they are just fortunate to have been washed in by the tide of discontent and similarly they can be washed out,” she said.
However, she said with no elections around the corner, the BLP had the opportunity to complete some of the most difficult tasks and hope that they pay off over the next couple of years so that by the time it’s campaigning season, they have some successes that they can ride on going in the next election.
In her assessment of 2018, the politics lecturer said it was quite mixed with a lot of anticipation leading up to the general election, followed by euphoria after the BLP captured all 30 seats, and then optimism and a level of sobriety “now that we have realized what the strategy is for economic recovery”.
In a separate interview, veteran political scientist Peter Wickham told Barbados TODAY he believed this year heavy emphasis would remain on the rebuilding of the economy.
He believed the restructuring of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) and Transport Board “will take a lot of political energy”.
Wickham said he was also anticipating the promised constitutional reform this year. As for the DLP, the pollster said he was looking forward to hearing who the “spokespeople” for that political party would be.
“I think that will be the key initiative that I am looking for on their side. I think the spokespeople, especially the ones in economics, will tell us a bit about how the DLP is shaping up as an institution,” he said, pointing out that the party would require “people with economic muscle” in order to regain the confidence of the population.
“I think that really is the DLP’s major deficiency now that they have to identify a candidate or spokesperson that has the kind of economic backbone that could match up to Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Struaghn, Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs Marsha Caddle, Economic Advisor Clyde Mascoll and Avinash Persaud, which is fairly awesome,” said Wickham.
So far only businessman Ryan Walters has expressed an interest in running for a St Michael constituency.
Wickham said he would assume that the new DLP President and former Christ Church West candidate Verla De Peiza would also be interested in running for a seat in the future.
“Whether she would go where she was before or change to St John is another matter.
Wickham said while he did not see the ongoing restructuring having an adverse impact on the BLP’s chances in future elections, he believed the party’s popularity would “wax and wane” in between, which is normal.
Taking a look back at 2018, Wickham told Barbados TODAY he believed it was a “turbulent” year for politics.
“It was turbulent and novel. I have not seen a political year with as much activity as this; that was as impactful as this, especially when we consider that it was not only Barbados, but Guyana, Antigua, Grenada. So it was a heavy year politically,” he said.