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Albert Brandford


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The recent call by Opposition Leader Owen Arthur for professional economist Clyde Mascoll to be a candidate in the next general election on the grounds of his worth to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), and to the country as a whole, is filled with political intrigue.
The call came in the aftermath of the nomination of attorney Gregory Nicholls to contest the seat in Mascoll’s last riding, St Michael North-West.
The intrigue has all to do with Mascoll’s political journey thus far.
Just prior to former Prime Minister David Thompson’s death, Mascoll in a tribute noted: “No matter which road we choose to travel, our destination should be about being better than when we started. Regardless of our stage in life, there is always hope, once we believe.”
There is no doubt that Mascoll is better than when he started as a politician about 17 years ago. There is also no doubt that his much displayed economic skills are also better and are indeed in much demand.
But there is equally no doubt that the package which he can again take to the political stage obviously makes him a target on both sides of the political aisle.
As was said by the Opposition Leader last Sunday in St Andrew, Mascoll is the best political talent not currently sitting in the House of Assembly. Although not in Parliament, his has been a significant voice through his weekly column What Matters Most over the last three years. His articulation and accuracy on economic matters have commanded public attention.
But it is his contribution to the electricity rate hearing in 2009, in a non-partisan environment, that might well have resonated most with the public, as it brought back memories of the stellar performances of the late Wendell McClean in Public Utilities Board (PUB) hearings of yesteryear.
It is ironic that the man who “locked horns” with Owen Arthur on economic matters for the first decade of his political journey is now so highly regarded.
It is equally ironic that the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) Achilles heel is the poor quality of its economic team. No doubt the team is sorely missing the skills of its economic spokesman for the period 1994 to 2005.
But history will record that Mascoll took a badly bruised and battered DLP into the 2003 general election, having never received the blessing of David Thompson, and emerged with almost 45 per cent of the popular vote and seven seats up from two, with five seats being determined by narrow margins.
To my mind, the manner in which Mascoll was removed from the post of Opposition Leader without the benefit of a meeting, after he had offered to give up the post on two separate occasions in 2005, made reconciliation impossible.
Indeed, Mascoll learnt of his dismissal from the post the day before it was carried in the SATURDAY SUN, only after making calls to two of his colleagues.
In time, one of the colleagues admitted to signing a document which he did not read.
The political intrigue continued during the last general election campaign when Mascoll was described as a co-leader by Owen Arthur in a manner that was exploited by his political opponents and feared by his political rivals. It is argued that some, with a common purpose, combined to make life particularly difficult in his constituency.
Mascoll would have to believe in the bigger cause to consider re-entering the political fray. Perhaps he believes in the biblical injunction that “many are called but few are chosen”. Whatever his belief, I think there are always causes that are too big to ignore and from which able men cannot retreat.
In the prevailing economic circumstances confronting Barbados, the complexion of politics and the requirements of politics must change now or the decline in the competencies of those attracted to politics will continue and compromise the country’s development path.
The obvious threats to the standard of living of Barbadians are enough to change the criteria for success or failure in politics in the future. Unless it is imposed by those who evaluate political performance, change will not come.
What might have appeared to be an irrational decision by Mascoll in crossing the floor in 2006 may well be viewed very differently in time to come.
After all, politics is about opportunity which changes from day to day and, as they say, “a day is a long time in politics”.
Not surprisingly, the political environment is as volatile, if not more volatile, than its economic counterpart. However, the real danger comes when the society loses hope in both environments at the same time. The truth is that there is uneasiness, a cloud of concern, engulfing all three spheres: the economy, politics and society.
The call by Owen Arthur to have Mascoll in his team may be the beginning of a bigger call for able men to stand up and be counted on the frontline in the obvious battle to manage and lead this country to a safer future.
The challenges and opportunities are, however, not as obvious going forward and, to this end, it may also be the beginning of a new politics.