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Eyes on St John

Albert Brandford

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“… I am requesting the nation’s forbearance as I have decided to take two months’ leave from my duties as Prime Minister. This time will be spent outside of Barbados.”  –  Prime Minister David Thompson, televised Press conference at Government Headquarters, Thursday, July 1.THE UNCLEAR medical condition of Prime Minister David Thompson has generated considerable discussion in Barbadian homes, at workplaces and on the streets about his political future as well as that of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Administration.Given the rate at which his physical body seems to have deteriorated and his own admission that he has not been able to work at a pace commensurate with the demands of the job, it is highly unlikely that the Prime Minister will be in a position in the foreseeable future to meet the expectations of a job which is deemed to be stress-filled even for the fittest of men.He occupies a seat in arguably the strongest of the DLP’s strongholds, and in the political arena, this is seen as a huge plus for the leader of the party in our system of politics.In such circumstances, the leader is better able to assist his candidates by devoting time and other resources to them.Attracts supportHe is the one who attracts the support of the business community which is an important factor in the financing of political campaigns.In addition, the leader is the one who is expected to carry the fight to the Other Side and this may entail having to fight in the gutter and anywhere else that is required.The political muscle in the DLP will be the weaker if Thompson is unable to battle with all his might, especially since the performance of the party in government thus far has been less than stellar.The real issue, therefore, becomes the future of the Prime Minister and, by extension, the party’s future if he is not in a physical condition to carry on the work in a very challenging economic and political environment.The time appears to have come when the leader’s health needs to be the first consideration.Of course, in the political arena, the issue is not what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country.When the politician’s health becomes a real issue then the choice is not that obvious.In any case, the nature of politics is such that each and every one of us has an expiry date.And while it is expected that we should all be sympathetic given the circumstances which confront the Prime Minister, readers can rest assured that there will be moves and counter-moves behind the scenes to engineer outcomes based upon particular interests.Strongest seatAs suggested, Thompson does not hold any ordinary seat; he holds the DLP’s strongest seat in Parliament, and this would not be lost on the powerbrokers and kingmakers in the party.In the event that Thompson is unable to carry out his mandate as the parliamentary representative for the constituency of St John, the first piece of intrigue would surround the person to be chosen as his replacement.Whoever it is would feel a serious sense of empowerment, if not in the short term, then certainly over the medium to long term.At present, there are at least two women who are not Members of the House of Assembly but are being projected by the DLP.This does not mean that they are the most favoured to fill Thompson’s boots in the eyes of either the public or the party.Indeed, it would not be a surprise if a certain political advisor sees it as an opportunity to realise a long held dream of ascending the steps of Parliament in his own right to carry on the mission.There is already a buzz in some political circles about a recent sighting in the company of a well-known son of the soil traversing the hills and valleys of St John.Was that just a social visit?Despite some people’s aspirations (I put it no higher!), however, the question of stature must come into play, given that the seat has been held by two Democratic Labour Party Prime Ministers.If and when the circumstances arise, such factors as profession, class and political pedigree will come to the fore in a way that brings a complete unknown into the reckoning.It stands to reason, then, that someone who is an attorney-at-law, for example, from the right social background with political pedigree may emerge – in essence, a potential leader.Could it possibly be true that the DLP elders have already made their choice?The realities of politics suggest that the transition from a Democratic Labour Party with – to one without – David Thompson would be an intriguing episode in all its dimensions: parochial, party and national.One of those realities is that the DLP would have been expecting at least two terms regardless of its performance in the first term.If the circumstances evolve without Thompson, then such expectations would have to be amended.For an administration that started out with a certain deficiency, the possible absence of Thompson would further highlight it at a time when the country could least afford to rest on its laurels.Thompson’s illness could hardly have come at a worse time for himself, his family, his party, or the country.It is comforting to know, though, that the Prime Minister eventually placed his health and his family first, without having to reveal the nature of his illness, only admitting that it was serious enough for him to take two months’ leave.All Barbadians, and not only those with an interest in politics, hope and pray for his return to good health and to the governing of the country.

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