Posted on

Chalk and cheese, Peter

Ezra Alleyne

Chalk and cheese, Peter

Social Share

In his column, People & Things, in the last SUNDAY SUN, Peter Wickham seems to brand the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) as a sinking ship, and purports to set out the “strategy” appropriate to an individual who “believes himself (or herself) suited to the office of Prime Minister and who is aware of their broad public support”.
I wondered if Wickham was assuming the role of public adviser to Chris Sinckler. But in any case Sinckler has already declared publicly that “forever” he is not interested in leading his colleagues in the DLP!
But Wickham considers Sinckler’s denial of interest in the top job as “consistent with the type of things that politicians who would ultimately become Prime Ministers have said”. And then he says that Prime Ministers are reluctantly “dragged” into office in a “way that is not dissimilar to the tradition relating to the speaker of the House of Commons”.
On this latter point, I do not agree! The origins of the offices of Speaker and Prime Minister are very different, and whereas it is true that speakers are physically dragged into office, that has never been the case with the office of Prime Minister.
The speakership of the House was a most dangerous job, for the speaker often had to report to a sometimes very angry (off-with-their-heads) king that the parliamentarians had objected to his proposals.
An aspirant for the office of Prime Minister has to let his (or her) light “so shine before men” in order to qualify for consideration by colleagues as possessing leadership and Prime Ministerial timbre.
For example, Chris Sinckler’s and Donville Inniss’ robust defences of DLP policy since 2010 is what one could consider as “letting your light shine” if either of them was positioning himself as a potential leader of the party . . . just in case . . . . Now, too, one also has to watch the heightened profile of Denis Kellman.
No disavowal
I also disagree with Wickham that aspirants for Prime Ministerial office have to disavow any interest in the job in order to get it. On the contrary!
But Wickham then quotes my earlier article mentioning Margaret Thatcher’s statement that a woman would not become prime minister in her lifetime and uses it to justify his flawed thesis about Sinckler’s “no leadership statement”.
But there is a huge difference. Thatcher’s statement was made six long years before she became prime minister. Sinckler’s was made after allegations of a DLP split became Front Page news! Chalk and cheese!
Nor do I recall David Thompson making any “denial” statement when he gave up the presidency of the DLP, as Wickham alleges.
Thompson gave up the leadership in the run-up to the 2003 election, precisely because he was still very much interested in being Prime Minister, and did not wish to lose three straight election battles.
But within two years after the 2003 election, Thompson was back in the frame and by 2006 his famous “go for the jugular” speech signalled that he wanted the leadership back to exploit the more favourable “time for a change” theme at the next election in 2008.
Continuing problems with the change which came in 2008 prompted Wickham and others to argue that to “change horses in midstream” was the correct strategy, but in this latest article Wickham seems to have come to the view that such a strategy will not now work and hence we come to the charge that the DLP is probably a sinking ship.
Wickham refers first to the fact that Gordon Brown (Britain), Arnhim Eustace (St Vincent) and Andrew Holness (Jamaica) all took over prime ministerships midstream, and lost the next elections . . . and then he writes: “In these instances, and what increasingly appears to be the position in Barbados, the fate of the government was already sealed and there was little that Brown, Eustace or Holness could do to save the ship of state.”
Wickham concludes: “It is perhaps wise then for Sinckler and any other serious contender for the post of Prime Minister to wait until such an opportunity arises. If the DLP’s ship has to sink temporarily in the meantime, then this would seem to be an unavoidable reality.”
Wickham’s article is interesting, but is Wickham not saying that the DLP is a sinking ship and that not even a change of leadership will save it? You tell me . . . .
• Ezra Alleyne is an attorney-at-law and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly. Email [email protected]