The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) appears to be tightening its grip on the country’s political landscape almost three years after taking the reigns of government, and even as the country grapples with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
As the organisation prepares to launch its 82nd anniversary celebrations, it is reporting a 70 per cent increase in new members this year, when compared with applications received in 2019. In fact, President of the League of Young Socialists (LYS) Kevon Henry during a press conference on Wednesday revealed that the volume of applicants triples the numbers for 2017, 2018, and 2019 combined.
During the media conference, the LYS president announced the recent establishment of a BLP charter at the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Cave Hill Campus and announced the party’s intention to launch similar organisations at the Barbados Community College (BCC) and sixth-form secondary schools.
“This year we have seen a 70 per cent increase in new members over last year,” Henry announced.
“What I will say in a very careful way is that as a party, our applications this year have exceeded what we had in the previous three years combined. People are attracted to the Barbados Labour Party, people want to be a part of the Barbados Labour Party, and we have already gone ahead and launched a chapter at the UWI. That alone gives an indication of the interest and mobilization, and how many people want to participate in the activities of the party.”
In addition to the tremendous strides made at the grassroots level, culture minister John King who is chairing the BLP’s annual conference later this month, rubbished suggestions of discord among the party’s top brass. Despite a handful of controversial statements from some former ministers who were ousted during July’s cabinet reshuffle along with the mysterious absence of a government senator from Parliament’s Upper Chamber, he declared the party even more united than it was in 2018.
“The only rumblings that you will find are the rumblings of people putting their heads together for the betterment of this country. Cabinet reshuffles are sometimes blown out of proportion,” argued King, whose previous portfolio as Minister of the Creative Economy, Culture and Sports was also slashed in July.
“[The party] is even stronger than it was and it has to be stronger because of the times that we are in. I know of all the political ramifications and all the other things that happen, but at the end of the day, we are Barbadians and we have to be able to respond to that first and foremost on all occasions. Everyone is on board, everyone understands what they have to do and they are prepared to go where man has not gone before in order to ensure that the people of this country come through this pandemic,” he added.
King also admitted that there was wisdom even in his apparent demotion and argued that Prime Minister Mottley’s decision to place culture under her portfolio was instrumental in providing more “guidance” on the way forward for the creative economy. Additionally, he said it provided more “clout” when engaging corporate Barbados regarding proposed partnerships.
During the briefing leaders also dismissed suggestions of dwindling avenues for upward mobility among younger members and argued that such concerns would only affect those whose interest in politics is driven by selfishness.
“Politics is about service and that is something that we tell our membership. If you are interested in service and serving people and you join the Barbados Labour Party, then you must be willing to serve at every level. When we joined, Dame Billie [Miller] and the Prime Minister [Mottley] would have told us that service starts with cleaning toilets at headquarters, showing up to meetings and helping to set up. Service is about helping constituents, helping at the board level and anything that advances the lives of the people,” he contended.