“ALL AH WE IS ONE: Not puppets, but...”


THE POLITICAL EXPERIENCE of former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) minister of Government Elizabeth Thompson became clearly evident last week when she re-labelled a new political grouping calling itself the United People’s Party (UPP), as the United Puppets Party. 

Such political wit is indicative of a seasoned political player able to capture all hidden political undercurrents in a masterful slogan that resonates with the public. 

Picong aside, however, the basis for Thompson’s label is worth examining, the merits of her critique explored and the new grouping’s wider context explained.

In analysing the new party, Thompson’s main claim is that its leading personalities share the experience of past involvement with the BLP, of having found disfavour with the present leader of the party, Mia Mottley, and having been openly critical of Mottley’s leadership. All of the above put them in a bracket similar to the most politically prominent critic of Mottley, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur.

In Thompson’s thinking, since Arthur has made it clear by word and deed that his current political energies are devoted to frustrating Mottley’s prime ministerial efforts, and since no other political philosophy appears to be guiding the UPP beyond their collective opposition to Mottley, and since the most prominent UPP operatives have built their political careers as acolytes of Arthur, then the party appearedto be little more than an anti-Mottley grouping consistent with Arthur’s own rejection of Mottley, hence the puppet reference.

Whilst observers have little choice but to accept Owen Arthur’s strong denial of any involvement in the UPP, the essence of Thompson’s critique of the UPP cannot be ignored. Her main criticism is that a new party ought to justify itself and ought to be built on deeper stuff, than the “dislike” for one personality.

Thus, whilst one may respect the UPP’s desire not to be reduced to a party of Owenite puppets, the personalities involved, in addition to denying what they are not, have the additional burden of indicating what they are. 

At least the other third party – the party of businessmen formed by Grenville Phillips II called Solutions Barbados – however flawed its reasoning, has given a philosophical rationale for its existence that has some basis in contemporary political economy. Indeed, the same politico-economic forces which explain Donald Trump can partly explain (though not legitimise or justify) Solutions Barbados.

However, when all the fluff is removed, the UPP could possibly frustrate the Mottley-led BLPfrom winning the Government.

For this reason, our political commentators miss the point when they mock the poor electoral records of the UPP actors. If the main aim of the UPP is to block Mottley, then the past electoral performances of the UPP players matter very little. 

In a context of narrow margins, the UPP may very well achieve its objective.

•Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email: tjoe2008@live.com