History is replete with examples of politicians hurling witty insults at each other. Winston Churchill in taking a swipe at his British Prime Minister Clement Atlee once said that an empty cab pulled up to Downing Street and Atlee got out. And there is the example of former Democratic politician Barney Frank who once said that American President George W Bush provided proof that one could be totally immune to the effects of a Harvard and Yale education. Politicians use wit to deliver gibes at each other. It goes with the territory. But smart politicians seldom, if ever, insult classes of people from whom they are seeking favour. And this brings us to the seemingly witless Delisle Bradshaw.
Much has been said about his infantile insult to former Barbados and West Indies captain and Democratic Labour Party candidate Floyd Reifer, and the latter’s capacity to represent the constituents of St George North. His faux pas has been interpreted by many – and justifiably so – as not only demeaning to cricketers and sportsmen by extension, but also to blue collar or non-academic Barbadians. Already many have pointed out to Mr Bradshaw the exploits and achievements of the likes of Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Clyde Walcott, national hero Sir Garfield Sobers, and a plethora of other sports personalities regionally and internationally. We have no doubt Mr Bradshaw has heard the names of at least some of them.
But this issue goes beyond Mr Bradshaw’s doltish descent. His comments came on a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) campaign platform in support of the candidature of Toni Moore. Whether on the same night or the day after, Mrs Moore and/or Prime Minister Mia Mottley, as the head of the party and the Government, ought to have disassociated the campaign, the BLP and the Government from Mr Bradshaw’s folly. Indeed, the assurance should have been given that his future appearances during the campaign would not be in the company of a microphone. Sadly, begrudging contriteness from the BLP’s campaign came only after the public firestorm and not immediately from the personages who should have provided unambiguous regret. Indeed, Mr Bradshaw’s subsequent statement, ostensibly an explanation but not a clear-cut apology, carried little tone of contrition. Mrs Moore’s campaign manager Dwight Sutherland’s was marginally better but sounded more generic in tone and content than a full repudiation of a political has-been. Admitting misstep in opaque terms seems to be a spreading virus in the present Government. Realistically, Mr Bradshaw did little damage to himself, but he sullied a platform and a political party that has historically been accused – right or wrong – of being elitist and divorced from working class Barbadians. Many will recall a previous BLP platform which belittled the fact that Edgar “Ginger” Bourne, drawn from the fisherfolk community, was attempting to find the favour of Christ Church East voters in 1986. He won the seat despite being deemed an
“idiot” by many of his political foes.
We have absolutely no doubt that Prime Minister Mottley and Mrs Toni Moore hold all the people of St George North in the highest regard. After all, despite accusations that Moore has betrayed workers or served her own political aspirations during the pre-2018 salary/wages increase stand-off with the Freundel Stuart administration, she is still the general secretary of the Barbados Workers Union – the representative voice and champion of working-class Barbadians. Additionally, despite those within her own political circle who frequently paint Miss Mottley as elitist out of earshot, her story has always been one of looking after the interest of average Barbadians.
But this Government in particular, with its obvious regard for the power of public relations, must be keenly aware of the importance of perception. The message that has now gone forth from the BLP’s platform is that cricketers, entertainers, artisans, vendors, and those generally without the benefit of letters behind or in front their names – like Mr Reifer – are not worthy of aspiring to serve their country at the highest constituency and political level. One could not fault the non-academic folk of St George North if they went to the polls on November 11 believing that if they support Mrs Moore’s candidature that they are giving credence to Mr Bradshaw’s assessment that people of their and Mr Reifer’s ilk are idiots. That no immediate condemnation came from whence it ought to, could add even more idiotic fuel.
Late American Democratic Senator Adlai Stevenson II once said of President Richard Nixon that he was the type of man who would cut down a tree and climb on the stump to make a speech about conservation. Perception counts, Madame Prime Minister and Mrs Moore!