A senior academic and social scientist is urging Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s political “handlers” to rethink the strategy of pushing her constantly before the international press in what appears to be a case of “profile building” and a “fixation on optics”.
The position has been outlined by head of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr Don Marshall, who linked it to regional political strategist Hartley Henry and slammed the tactic as “tone deaf”.
Writing on his Facebook page, Marshall said: “Last week the Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley herself was at the receiving end of an inconsiderate question by a British journalist. She responded well but I posted elsewhere that her handlers should rethink having our Prime Minister routinely appear before the international press circuit as it’s not the place for her Office and the demands of the job.
Her campaigns for the cause of SIDS [Small Island Developing States] at international summitries and conferences have already raised her profile.”
The UWI academic added: “We also had a Throne Speech mid-term replete with partisan rhetoric and reminder of the Party’s Manifesto pledges.
This detracted from what ought to have been a post-lockdown, post-COVID call to action with a coherent, budgeted, Development Renewal Plan with key performance targets and clear signposts.“I well recall the BERT [Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation programme] which spoke more to fiscal rebalancing than transformation touching such chords as with appeals to ‘stay the course’.
“All of the above causes me to ask after her handler/s. I am attempting here something that may be unprecedented and that is to question a political strategy based on building the profile of the leader as key to regime consolidation.”
Marshall charged that the current Mottley political strategy translated to all ministerial successes being so attributed to her, while “all failures deflected elsewhere”.
The SALISES head questioned the effectiveness of Mottley’s “decorous silence” on many important issues such as “violent gun crime and violence against women” and the lack of details on “finance and developmental strategy behind assigning $300 million for tourism”.
Marshall went further.
“All we are having [is] a fixation with optics and that optics is around Prime Ministerial performance. It dovetails with a swerve towards populist leadership internationally but as we observe – the austerity and inequalities,
and the effects of COVID on livelihoods are leading to great social unease.
“The impacts of what’s happened to the existing model of development, the meltdown of the working majority, and the many years of drift among large swathes of our youth exposes the Hartley Henry obsession with promoting the personality and aura of the Prime Minister as palpably, tone deaf.”
Marshall added: “Surely if the end game is to win elections then such strategists need to hone a better craft. You can win an election and lose legitimacy. Occupying office even with a 2/3 majority still means you preside
over collapse and decay.
“Time [for] Hartley and others who so advise, pack a purposive model of development to augment the statecraft they seek to advise.”
In his posting, the social scientist described Mottley’s attack on trade unionist and Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn during a political meeting last weekend in St George North as “an unfortunate episode in the life
of our Prime Minister”.
He suggested that Hartley Henry’s playbook had “gone awry”. (IMC1)