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OUR CARIBBEAN: Coping with challenges within BLP and DLP

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: Coping with challenges within BLP and DLP

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WITH a confident-looking Owen Arthur back as new Opposition Leader and political leader and the bitter and tough combatant Mia Mottley considering her options, attention will now be more focused on next week’s annual conference at which a crucial decision must be made on the chairmanship of the Barbados Labour Party.
As is known, it was with eyes on the chairmanship of the BLP (currently held by fellow Queen’s Counsel, George Payne) and amid speculations of a snap general election next year, that manoeuvres had unfolded to unseat Mottley as Opposition Leader in preference for the party’s former leader and three-time Prime Minister.
Trying to avoid a worst case scenario beyond the BLP’s three-day conference scheduled to start on October 29, both Arthur and Payne have been offering soothing, conciliatory words to comfort coming conference delegates and the part’s general membership.
For her part, while claiming to have been “charged, convicted and sentenced without a trial”, having rejected the invitation issued by chairman Payne to participate in a meeting to discuss reservations about her leadership, Mottley, known for her intellectual agility, continues to interject scattered references to “unity” in her interventions with the media.
Truth is that both Arthur and Mottley are fully conscious, as the BLP membeship in general would be, that without the depth of unity they have in mind, there is little hope of regaining the state power lost in January 2008 at a new general election.
Hence the need for urgent reconciliation.
This “unity” argument also applies to the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) which has been very much pushed on the backfoot, politically speaking, in the wake of the critical health condition of Prime Minister David Thompson and the recent cabinet reshuffle ­­third in three years.     
It was last month’s reshuffle that remains a major talking point, in and out of Dems’ circle, primarily on the appointment of Chris Sinckler as Minister of Finance and Economic Development and suggestions of his rising “leadership star” against the backdrop of prayers and concerns for the health recovery of Prime Minister Thompson.
Currently, party politics in Barbados has reached the stage where both the Dems and Bees would be compelled to carefully manage their propaganda in any attempt at exploiting real and perceived internal problems facing each other as speculations continue about a likely snap poll in 2011.
While the Dems now have the Arthur/Mottley leadership squabble as ammunition in their political armoury, they would be aware that the Bees can also recall, with vigour, the bitter conflicts within its former top leadership that eventually resulted in the 2005 downfall and departure of Clyde Mascoll with the return of David Thompson.
Leadership conflicts are certainly not unique to Barbados.They have often been witnessed (and still occur) in other multi-party parliamentary democracies – in and out of our Caribbean Community.
In the case of Barbados, for all its current party plitical troubles, there is still much to commend in the concept of how they strive to avoid the burden of being saddled with a maximum leader.