ON REFLECTION: Politics a gutter sport
FOLLOWING the St John by-election campaign in the last few days has made me feel as if politics was always meant to be a gutter sport. Nothing is ever as it seems, and every politician’s single word and action is driven by the vote-winning, opponent-bashing agenda.
There must always be a surfeit of skullduggery in every campaign, bolstered by intrigue and cloak-and-dagger schemes in an effort to make those on rival political sides look bad. And some politicians have even gone as far as doing the ridiculous in an attempt to make themselves look good.
But skullduggery is what the Barbadian public has become used to in politics, it seems; and some enjoy it immensely. Without it, many almost begin to yawn. Just like people see Crop-Over and Carnival without controversy as one boring two-month exercise – even if the music is good!
At this time, many Barbadians want a snap election to play on the psychological effect of Prime Minister David Thompson’s death; they want something to make tongues wag and mouths water – and maybe I too should want this as a journalist, for in my field it often makes what we call “good copy”.
But the natural developments of any campaign, whether it’s a by-election or general election, will produce good stories; so why join the bandwagon of public relations stunts and innuendo?
The loaded comments have been already rife in St John. One has been that Mara Thompson will not be treated with kid gloves just “because she husband dead”, while another is that families in St John, the base of the Families First programme created by the late Prime Minister, have had to suffer because of economic mismanagement by the ruling Democratic Labour Party.
If the Opposition wants to make an impact among the people of St John, then it should come to the campaign with the relevant facts, figures and documents pertinent to the “mismanagement”, “lack of representation” and economic recessionary issues, and the public will decide whether Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has indeed been “loitering on the job”, according to Opposition Leader Owen Arthur, and should “be charged as a vagrant”.
Platform talk loaded with conjecture is good for entertainment only; so it must be buttressed by hard-core issues that are clearly articulated. One doesn’t go into a constituency and start roasting breadfruit with two fellow campaign officials – not even with the people of St John, the “many people” who are “engaging” Mr Griffith – to fit in.
This effort to seem like a hometown boy or man of the people who can lime with other fellows was almost laughable.
The Barbados Labour Party’s campaign clearly needs the energy of its former leader Mia Mottley, who has managed several campaigns in the last decade or more, and can bring some meaningful aggression into the mix.
It is obvious that the BLP is struggling, and if these feeble attempts – not at challenging the ruling party but at mere posturing – continue, the BLP’s campaign could peter out into an empty exercise of politicians going through the motions.
This BLP campaign, with its strange mixture of bravado and uncertainty, has no central theme. Its leader says at one moment that the constituency of St John is no happy hunting ground; the deputy leader Dale Marshall says it’s an uphill battle but the Bees can win it; while Hudson Griffith says that he will definitely “bring it home”.
There’s no united front at the moment in this political party that always seems able to stand together in the face of any opposing force – even in the midst of suspected infighting.
This is not the BLP’s finest hour; and if the result on January 20 is any indication of what could obtain at the national level, then the BLP has a lot of work to do over the next two years or so to again endear itself to the Barbadian public. And it will not do so by stunts and innuendo.
Furthermore, even if cut-and-thrust tactics come with the territory, and if political “operatives” – apparently akin to secret agents – are a necessary evil in election campaigning, is it naïve to expect, like Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said last Friday, that a politician’s survival can purely “be based on the honesty with which [he] deals with people”?
I’m beginning to admire Stuart’s straightforward approach.
Who will it be?
And if I may be permitted one more question. Now that there’s not going to be a snap election, as made crystal clear by the Prime Minister, will Arthur pass the baton again before 2013?
And to whom?
On another note: Lowdown, I stand corrected! I am chastened by last weekend’s Lowdown column penned by Richard Hoad – a must-read for me every week – for letting my concern develop over the years into worry, when worrying, as we all know, changes nothing. It merely wrinkles the forehead and can cause the same symptoms which I associated with ageing in this column a few weeks ago.
But at the same time, Lowdown, I can’t go on my merry way and act as if nothing is wrong in Barbados and the world; not when there is nothing on the horizon right now to inspire hope of a brighter economy; not when so many men I know are not making it past age 50; not when the Caribbean is threatened by an analyst’s prediction of a 8.0 earthquake; not when the Caribbean could soon be threatened by cholera in light of the many people who travel to Miami and interact with persons going to and from Haiti. Lord, have mercy!
Maybe I’m too serious! And I don’t mean to be an author of doom and gloom, because I have much to be thankful for. So let me just smile and enjoy – thanks for reminding me, Lowdown – my youth, looks and good health.
But I shall remain concerned.