Mara holds key to DLP future
I am ready to represent the people of St John just as my late beloved husband did. – Mara Thompson, widow of late Prime Minister?and St John MP David Thompson, January 1, 2011.WITH?THAT?DISARMING?COMMENT to the media,?Mara Thompson confirmed weeks, if not months, of speculation that she had indeed made up her mind to contest the January 20 St John by-election.
Since then, the formal decision has been causing a lot of debate in homes, rum shops and offices across Barbados. The views on her decision are varied and have tended to reflect one or more of the following perspectives: (1) gender, (2) party and (3) status.
For reasons which seem gender-specific, females appear not to be as supportive of the decision as some people might have expected. The discussions have been cast not only in the context of what is good for the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), but in the prevailing circumstances, what is good for the country, given the safe and long-term nature of what is the most democratic of seats in Parliament.But Mara’s decision must also be seen in more personal terms such as finance, family and the future.
Given the wide-ranging circumstances surrounding the politics of the St John safe seat, it is understandable why so many political aspirants – some say as many as a dozen – expressed an interest in replacing the late Prime Minister David Thompson. In addition, the permanence of the seat would have excited some incumbents who were reported to have had an interest, given the permanence of their leadership aspirations.
It really would not have mattered who the DLP offered for the by-election from the standpoint of winning the seat, though it has to be said that the Opposition?Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) candidate seems to have a definite future in politics based on the little heard from him so far. From a party perspective, the choice of Mara offers the DLP a chance to hold on to the image of her late husband for at leastup to the next general election, and to play on whatever goodwill that may still be lingering, especially among the financiers of the party.
In this regard, the decision to run Mara is a good one, but this does not explain why she would be so keen to enter politics, having had a lifetime of the demands of it through the eyes of her husband who did not have the easiest of time, notwithstanding the comfort of the seat.
Her desire to enter politics must have been driven by a greater personal passion than her public demeanour of the past would suggest.In a recent interview, Mara was quick to point out that she has the brains and the education like everybody else, and so in this respect, she is not disadvantaged.
It was a surprising comment that might have reflected a concern about obvious comparisons that will be made with her most able late husband who was described as a moulded politician. In some quarters, the ascension of Mara may even be taken to the level of future leadership of the DLP. How often have we heard that the son or daughter of a former Prime Minister has the pedigree to fill the shoes of the father? This same line of reasoning is being posited by some with respect to Mara, especially supporters of the ruling Democratic Labour Party.
In this respect, the extension of such reasoning is that it is possible for her to not only become a Member of Parliament but to become the Prime Minister of Barbados. The latter is not being easily digested by some Barbadians who are not too predisposed to CARICOM and are therefore not comfortable with a citizen by registration becoming the Prime Minister.
Further, Mara’s financial condition is enhanced with the receipt a widow’s pension, once she does not marry again, and in her own right a pension from Parliament if she stays on long enough to qualify. Prior to two pensions, it is indeed likely that Mrs Thompson may be considered for a ministerial post. So in every respect, a future in politics is bright for the widow of the late Prime Minister.
The possible downside to all of this is the impact that her entry in politics could have on the family. However, this has not been seen thus far as an issue, since the family has been prepared for the positives and negatives of the political arena.
It must be stated that the politics of a by-election is completely different from that of a general election, and the environment which prevails in the upcoming by-election is guaranteed to be more civil than normal.
The real interest in the future, as far as the St John seat is concerned, will surround the desire to keep this safe DLP seat within the family. This desire or lack thereof will send a very powerful signal to not only the country, but the party itself which may have its future determined for it from beyond the grave.
The choice by Mara Thompson to contest the St John by-election may therefore have very far-reaching implications for the politics of Barbados into the near and distant future. In the past, the Democratic Labour Party was at one stage reduced to two seats in Parliament, one of which was St John; similarly, the Barbados Labour Party was once reduced to three seats. What is there to prevent a similar occurrence in the future? And if there is such an occurrence, the safe seats are the ones most likely to survive, in which case, the leadership of the party may come from the safest seat.
The analysis above rests upon one fundamental fact that Mara remains the widow of the late Prime Minister David Thompson. Any decision to do otherwise will compromise her status, her finances, her family, her future and her party. • Albert Brandford is an independent freelance political correspondent.