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After St John

Tennyson Joseph

After St John

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With the St John by-election over, the new candidate Mara Thompson decisively elected, the leadership of the Opposition BLP settled around Owen Arthur, and with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s full slate of Government MPs accounted for, the post-David Thompson politics of Barbados can now begin.  
Stuart now has a settled Government bench, and through his command of the support of the majority of the elected members he now has the mandate to build an administration of his own.  
With these developments, none of the earlier possible explanations for delaying the creation of a post-David Thompson Cabinet now have merit. Those earlier considerations might have included the need to allow the country to mourn and bury the former Prime Minister, the necessity of keeping the existing team intact for the purposes of the Budget exercise, and the need to allow the people of St John to select their parliamentary representative.  
The coast is now clear for Freundel Stuart to turn his attention to the business of Government. Any delay in creating a Cabinet of his own will feed existing views of Stuart as a reluctant Prime Minister, content to occupy the office once circumstances allow him to, but unwilling to use its powers to shape the Government and to shift the country in his own desired direction.
One of the most logically coherent criticisms of Stuart, which emerged during the by-election campaign, was that he had continued to hold on to the portfolios which had represented David Thompson’s diminished workload.  
In other words, what had been acceptable and excusable for the ill David Thompson should not have been seen as an appropriate workload for a fresh Prime Minister who had now assumed the mantle of leadership in his own right.  
The criticism, levelled by Arthur, was couched in terms to suggest that Stuart was failing to provide firm leadership in the context of continuing global challenges. The moment now presents itself for Stuart to counter these claims.
It is also necessary for Stuart to urgently reshape the Cabinet in the context of the internal political dynamics of the DLP Government. At the death of Thompson, there were loud and unabashed claims by Thompson loyalists of an existing “roadmap” which simply had to be followed. These claims were further buttressed by the fact of Thompson’s sickbed reshuffle which, to a large extent, has remained untouched.  
Given the fact that the recent by-election result has offered no hint of a national swing towards the BLP, it is expected that any efforts at political consolidation on Stuart’s part must be internal.  
Finally, all the previous Cabinet reshuffles have been undertaken either as “trial” or as “emergency” undertakings, suggesting an unsettled administration. Stuart’s next administration must have the solidity, stability and the acumen to govern till the next general election. Time beckons.