Political scientist Peter Wickham says Ralph Thorne’s move to the opposition benches, though not surprising, is a good one for the democratic process.
Thorne, the Member of Parliament for Christ Church South, has severed ties with the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration. He will be sworn in as Opposition Leader by President Dame Sandra Mason at 10 a.m. on Monday, according to the Government Information Service.
Thorne’s departure from the BLP comes at a time when the party is facing “some opposition” to the Cybercrime Bill and Labour Clauses (Concessions) Bill.
Wickham told Barbados TODAY that “a formal opposition” now in place will channel the resistance to the bills, that has been building in recent times.
According to Wickham, while he has not heard Thorne speaking in relation to the two bills, he does not believe he will just take a position against the Government simply because he is on the other side.
“But I think that he will probably give a reasonable response. My thing is that I am not as concerned that this demonstrates that there’s a breakup of the party [BLP] over those two pieces of legislation, but I think it will help us reflect on those two pieces of legislation in a slightly more mature way now, which is a national benefit to be honest,” Wickham said.
“The Government has faced opposition to other pieces of legislation — notably opposition in relation to the Republic and they pushed through, and I think that now we believe that it was a good thing that we became a Republic.
“So, it is not the first time and I think that it will help us treat the negative concerns a lot better now that we have an Opposition Leader,” he added.
The Cybercrime Bill, which repeals the Computer Misuse Act of 2005, aims to combat cybercrime, protect legitimate interests in the use and development of information technologies, and facilitate cooperation with international authorities on investigating computer-related crimes and related matters.
The Mia Mottley administration is also revisiting a 71-year-old labour law to deal with the undesirable employment practices of companies executing government contracts.
Meanwhile, Wickham says Thorne’s best bet would be to go in the direction of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), adding that such a move would benefit the party
“I definitely think that it would make a lot of sense for him to go with the Democratic Labour Party… He can bring considerable political credit to the DLP, he can bring the Leader of the Opposition office — remember it’s a staffed office — that’s something he can bring to the DLP,” Wickham said.
“He can bring senators to the Democratic Labour Party … he can also bring the … Public Accounts Committee chairmanship. He can also bring subvention possibly now because there may be DLP representation in Parliament and he may be able to lobby for that.”
According to Wickham, going the route of an independent would not make a lot of sense and would ultimately lead to Thorne’s political demise.
But the political scientist said if Thorne joins the DLP, the question would arise as to what happens with the current Leader, Dr Ronnie Yearwood.
“I definitely do think that Ronnie’s days are numbered … and I think this may hasten his demise,” Wickham said.
“We have what could be a Clyde Mascoll situation emerging from the past and I think that Ronnie would be well advised not to do what Clyde did, which was to get angry and move. I think that it might make more sense for him to say let me negotiate a political future … eat a bit of humble pie now and move forward.
“If he digs in his heels and insists that he has to lead the DLP it can’t work in a situation where you have a person who is a sitting MP and is coming with street cred, having won a seat twice to be able to offer something and you rejected it,” Wickham added.
Thorne’s move marks the second time a member of the Mia Mottley-led BLP has left the party to become opposition leader. Following the 2018 election when the BLP again won all 30 seats, Bishop Joseph Atherley decided to leave the party and became opposition leader. He subsequently formed a new party that failed to win a seat in the 2022 general election.