Those among us who follow politics would recall two previous occasions when it appeared as though the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was on the verge of deciding the fate of the current Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and both of these events turned out to be non-events because one or both of the principal players did not turn up.
the occasion that Mottley “threw down the gauntlet” and publicly challenged her tormenters to “speak now or forever hereafter hold [their] peace”. One year (and one CADRES poll) later, a similar situation arises.
However, this time the ultimatum is being issued by the Opposition members and not the Opposition Leader.
The facts related to this issue are simple and need not be restated; however, there is considerable curiosity regarding apparent urgency of this most recent round in the ongoing Opposition battle, since elections are not constitutionally due until 2013.
Under normal circumstances, Mottley’s adversaries would have three years to negotiate a more harmonious resolution; but most realistic politicians appreciate the extent to which an early general election is a distinct possibility.
In this scenario the BLP would be severely disadvantaged. However, if it were led by Owen Arthur it could more successfully attack the DLP’s apparent economic weakness since his experience in such matter towers above that of Thompson’s heir apparent Christopher Sinckler.
This “match” seems to be a logical strategy for the BLP although this writer is not convinced that it would make much difference.
If one were to look at the issue from the other side, there is a certain amount of “unfairness” that manifests itself. Mia Mottley was selected by the parliamentary group immediately following the previous election which Arthur led the BLP into unsuccessfully.
She has led the Opposition since then, and while she has her own style of doing things, she cannot be said to have been a failure, since failure is best judged by the outcome of an election, which she is yet to fight.
Apart from these moral issues there is also the developmental issue which is relevant to the BLP as an organisation, as well as Barbados as a country. In this regard, one needs to ask what new and fresh ideas could Arthur bring to the table that he did not advance in the close to 15 years he was Prime Minister.
Moreover one can ask if the reasons why he was dismissed as Prime Minister in 2008 have changed so fundamentally two years later that he would be re-elected now.
Few would disagree
There are few among us who would disagree with the proposition that Mottley appears to be the BLP’s brightest prospect for the future; and for this reason it would seem more logical to invest in the future than to cling to romantic notions of the political yesteryear.
In situations like this where sharp lines are drawn politically, it is difficult to negotiate a solution that allows both parties to feel vindicated; and the situation has not been helped by frequent references to the Press which is apparently the preferred route for delivering political messages.
If either side should “back down” they look as though they have lost – and politicians cannot lose. Moreover if an accommodation is reached that places an alternative leader at the helm, the fact that we now know the persuasion of each BLP member would also lead to the public identification of a winner and a loser (although inadvertently).
There is even major significance in the matter of attendance at the meetings, since for Mottley to attend means that she has been has been “summoned”; and everyone knows that it’s the leader who does the “summoning”.
Conversely, if Arthur appears and Mottley doesn’t, then it looks like he was not powerful enough to bring her to the table and he also wants the job (of leader), which is something that he has skilfully denied up to this point.
In the final analysis the best case scenario for the BLP at this stage is for the parties to emerge from consultations with an agreed leader that both sides are willing to swear allegiance to.
This is without the unseemly display that would be caused if they were forced to remove Mottley without her express or implied agreement, which can only come from her attendance at the meeting which this analyst thinks is doubtful.
As strange as it might seem, Mottley now holds more political cards than Arthur does at this time, and this has nothing to do with the “legal” authority that is derived from the leadership of the Opposition.
Mottley’s oppressors must be aware that if they move against her improperly they will confront the righteous indignation of a large section of the BLP support base, the vast majority of whom are women like her, which could predetermine the outcome of any imminent election and make the leadership issue moot.
The Arthur camp can, however take some comfort in the possibility that Mottley might actually want to avoid contesting this election more than they think and her response thus far has had more to do with a defence of her image than a determination to stay in the job.
If these assumptions are correct, the solution would be to provide Mottley a dignified exit strategy that preserves her image of political strength; and one such solution could emerge from an eleventh hour meeting before the Monday deadline that creates a consensus and makes that meeting unnecessary and irrelevant.
• Peter W. Wickham ([email protected]) is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).