Late British journalist and satirist Malcolm Muggeridge once suggested that God seemed to be an artist rather than a judge. He said God had created the drama, and the parts of the play that were wicked and dreadful might be necessary to the whole creation in a way we can’t understand. Life, he noted, was a drama and not a progress.
There was a drama on May 24 last year that saw the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) win all 30 seats in the general election under the inspired leadership of Mia Mottley. Among those who succeeded in that election was Reverend Joseph Atherley who retook the St Michael West seat he had lost in 2008. Interestingly, during the election campaign Miss Mottley had supported Mr Atherley’s overtures to and canvass of that constituency. During that general election campaign Mr Atherley never complained publicly that he was not receiving the support of Miss Mottley nor did he publicly expressed an opinion that he was persona non grata in the estimation of the soon-to-be Prime Minister. We assume that the fact he contested the election under her leadership was indicative of her endorsement, as well as that of the BLP’s executive machinery.
But then there was another drama. Mr Atherley assumed the role of Opposition Leader, some would suggest simultaneously averting while creating a political anomaly in a one-sided Lower Chamber. Mr Atherley became Opposition Leader without initially quitting the BLP officially. He also committed a political act that ran counter to the stated desires of the majority of his constituents who had voted for him in support of Miss Mottley’s BLP. At this juncture, Mr Atherley did not publicly indicate his crossing of the floor of Parliament was due to not being wanted by Miss Mottley.
Mr Atherley subsequently noted that he had discussed the matter with his God and that “I go where God leads me.” He did not pointedly state at that time whether God had actually told him to cross the floor. But if Mr Atherley is to be taken at his word that he goes where God leads him, we can only assume that particular heavenly conversation cancelled out the 3, 214 souls who voted for him as their BLP representative and he did so without compunction.
We hold no brief for Prime Minister Mia Mottley and we have the utmost respect for Mr Atherley. Miss Mottley is eminently qualified to defend herself against any assertions by Mr Atherley and he is ideally placed to invoke the presence of the Almighty to lead him through the valley of the shadow of Parliament or elsewhere. But the drama that started on May 24, 2018, continued last Sunday at All Souls Church in Bank Hall, St Michael and has brought this matter to the fore once again.
At a meeting of his recently formed People’s Party for Democracy and Development, Mr Atherley sought to explain his political about-turn. He was at pains to explain that he was not motivated by the big bucks attached to the office of Opposition Leader. He was adamant that his actions were in the best interest of those same St Michael West constituents who had voted for a BLP candidate, as well as in the interest of wider Barbados.
Mr Atherley said at Sunday’s meeting that Miss Mottley’s actions in selecting her Cabinet implied she didn’t want him. “If you appoint 26 people to a Cabinet out of 30 and then you make another one the speaker, another one the deputy speaker and another one the chairman of committees… and you look at Joseph Atherley, who has served as a parliamentary secretary, who has served in the Cabinet of Barbados, in the office of the Prime Minister, who has represented this country at home and abroad…something is wrong.
“I say it’s a clear message that ‘I don’t want you’…for whatever reason, ‘I don’t want you’ and it could not have been based on past performance. So I had to ask myself where could I best serve the people of St Michael West and the people of Barbados,” he said, while still asserting his decision had not been predicated on vexation of the spirit or more than $129 000 in annual salary.
But the unstated logic behind Mr Atherley’s assertions on Sunday was that he would be better placed to serve the constituents of St Michael West on an Opposition bench in the Lower Chamber than in the seat of Government. Atherley referred to the fact that the overwhelming 30-seat victory by Prime Minister Mottley’s BLP created an unprecedented situation. He explained that the Constitution demanded there be a physical presence representing the alternative opinion and somebody had to do it. He did not indicate if he spoke to God on whether he should have allowed the elected Prime Minister to deal with that situation. His actions, however, demonstrated that he decided to deal with it himself.
God, to the best of our knowledge, did not create the drama that occurred on May 24, 2018. But if Mr Atherley, through divine conversations, has taken this path in the interest of the constituents of St Michael West and wider Barbados, then which mortal is qualified to judge or condemn him. There are some dramas that even faith and logic cannot explain.