AND THEY ARE OFF!
Last week’s enthusiastic announcement of new faces to represent the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in three St Michael constituencies in the next general election was the broadest hint yet that the ruling party is thinking in terms of its date with the electors of Barbados.
Until a governing party becomes engaged in active preparation like candidate selection, all the huffing and puffing that the public witnesses by way of rallies and marches are but legitimate exercise gallops by those seeking to wrest power. But now we have the makings of a real horse race.
Henceforth until E-Day arrives, voters are likely to be harried with messages and promises, so the population had better be prepared, for this is part of our essential democracy.
The individual choices made by the DLP signpost the party’s preparedness to undertake bold new selections. In each of the three instances, there is evidence that thought went into the decision-making.
It may be argued that the spurned candidate for St Michael South East, neophyte Patrick Tannis, was hard done by, having lost by the slim margin of ten votes in 2013. This is a seat, like the other two ridings St Michael East and Bridgetown, that has been held alternately by both major parties, offering the DLP above average hope of beating the Barbados Labour Party incumbents, all things being equal.
Both the discarded St Michael East and Bridgetown candidates enjoyed three bites at the cherry and only once did they get to taste its flavour – when the DLP was swept into power in 2008 through a major change of political fortunes.
The immediate message to be found by electors in the DLP announcement is likely to be that it will be engaged in a makeover that eliminates warts and wrinkles. This is important for a party seeking to obtain a third consecutive endorsement at the polls.
The real test will come if the party’s resolve for remodelling allows it to replace some of its old wineskins for new wineskins through the shedding of selected sitting MPs who, with three terms of service, may have outlived their political usefulness, and who, like St Philip West MP Dr David Estwick, have become estranged from colleagues on major policy issues.
In its own preparation process the BLP largely retained its senior elected MPs while introducing a number of new faces. The truth is that for all political parties tenure has real value. But when there is a swing against an incumbent as is likely to be the case, given the DLP’s two full terms in office, holding
on to what you’ve got is of even greater significance.
The DLP would be acutely aware that its victory in 2013 was based on a slim two-seat majority. Subsequently, it was given the comfort of head count advantage because of the well publicised exodus from the BLP of two sitting MPs. The Dems should therefore factor into its planning for this election equation, the original 2013 result if it wants successfully to harvest a new mandate.
All parties should readily acknowledge that, based on noises, voters are on the hunt for better days through a new and different path founded not only on improved policies, but fresh hope by way of the injection of a garden-fresh crop of candidates and their ideas and innovations.
Only Prime Minister Freundel Stuart knows if he is giving his trio of new faces, and those to follow, adequate time to do essential ground work, for while the parties may now be under starter’s orders, he alone will pull the trigger to get the race going.