PURELY POLITICAL – Botched coup!
I have frequently commended [Reginald] Farley for his skilful use of information and strategy in 2003, and while I remain unfamiliar with the details of his strategy, this instance demonstrates the extent to which Brandford and Mascoll are entirely unfamiliar with the modern tools of political science and strategy. – Peter Wickham, political columnist, pollster and political consultant, SUNDAY SUN, December 11, 2011.
EVER SINCE IT WAS KNOWN by a few insiders that David Thompson’s illness was fatal, the process of leadership succession in the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) went all wrong.
First, the kingmaker Hartley Henry publicly declared his preference, which was in line with that of Thompson.
Secondly, my fellow columnist opposite and well known pollster Peter Wickham conducted polls that have had the effect of elevating Chris Sinckler.
There is no doubt that supporters of Sinckler have engaged in what Wickham refers to as the “tools of modern political science and strategy”, with which he said I am unfamiliar.
However, I recall only too well the picture of the kingmaker and Sinckler at the calypso tent; the promotion by the pollster of his extreme competence and no shortage of his presence in the media to counter any Press conference or statement issued by the Leader of the Opposition or any of his spokesmen.
The revelation, especially in an online section of the Press, of the results of a poll in June of this year which was reportedly done for a private individual, indicated that Sinckler was preferred to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. It was admitted, however, that the poll – conducted in only four constituencies – was not designed to deal with the issue of leadership, yet the issue strangely enough emerged as the major finding in the poll.
Of course, Stuart’s unpopularity became an issue for members of the ruling Democratic Labour Party and it was rumoured that secret meetings were taking place to address the poll’s concerns.
Evidently, those concerns turned to panic once the United Workers’ Party (UWP) failed to get past one term in St Lucia.
The results of the recent general election in that country were used by Wickham to heighten the political passions of Barbadians with a specific focus on the implications for the Democratic Labour Party. In response to these political passions, a meeting was convened in St Philip to address the DLP’s chances in the next general election if the status quo remained.
Note the St Philip connection in the so-called Eager Eleven: the three Members of Parliament; Donville Inniss is a “Philippian”; and Stephen Lashley, Mara Thompson and Chris Sinckler currently live in St Philip.
Coming out of the meeting, it was agreed that a letter would be written and sent to Prime Minister Stuart outlining the concerns of the disaffected Members of Parliament. Some members are now seeking to distance themselves from the letter, suggesting not only that they have no knowledge of the letter, but that they did not affix their signatures.
This group apparently placed their greatest emphasis on employing the “tools of modern political science and strategy”.
Given that the DLP has 20 Members of Parliament, 11 constitutes a majority of its members. But to change the Prime Minister requires a majority of the members in Parliament which happens to be 16. No wonder, some parliamentarians are now so eager to “refudiate” (thank you, Sarah Palin!) their involvement in the meeting and in the writing of the letter.
What is even more fascinating than the letter itself is the composition of the 11. It included Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, whose ascension to ministerial portfolio coincided with Stuart’s elevation; an ascension that was next to impossible under Thompson.
Not too surprising was the inclusion of Mara Thompson, who would have known of her late husband’s preference for leadership. Her action followed the return of the kingmaker during the St John by-election, which spoke volumes of the failure by Stuart to take control of the party in the aftermath of Thompson’s death.
It was argued in some quarters that Stuart ought to have grabbed the opportunity to put himself in a safe seat rather than allow Mara to hold the seat at that point. It was also suggested that Mara was literally holding the seat for one of her daughters. In the circumstances, given his age, Stuart was ideally placed to hold the seat.
According to what was revealed in public from the horse’s mouth, kingmaker Henry was the one who determined that Mara should succeed her late husband in the constituency of St John.
This was a remarkable revelation and demonstrated the extent to which Henry was calling shots in the administration, which was confirmed in Henry’s remarks at Thompson’s funeral service with respect to the composition of statutory boards.
It is now very evident that Stuart has not benefited from the advice of those who understand the “modern tools of political science and strategy”, which suggest that ruthlessness is a major component and ought to be practised as a means of self-preservation.
Ironically, the botched plot has now inadvertently created a king in Prime Minister Stuart.
Once the public perceived him to be the unpopular leader who is slow to decision making, unwilling to meet the Press and not anxious to win friends and influence people, the perception favoured the choice of the kingmaker and the polls.
The problem for the political strategists is that there is nothing modern or unfamiliar about Machiavelli, but the execution has to be almost flawless.
Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email [email protected]