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EVERYTHING BUT: Polls apart, we!

Ridley Greene

EVERYTHING BUT: Polls apart, we!

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Opinion polls, for what they are worth, are essentially the calculus of differentiations in political preferences and partisan dreams; the extrapolation of the feelings and positions of particular sampled people, designed to represent the will or favour of a population. And this all comes from the posing of a series of questions, whose answers are interpreted and then presented as likelihood – in some cases prophecy.
The media house that facilitates such opinion samplings and their conclusions is not necessarily an engineer in the polling, or an information-seeking soldier in the hustings. And so it is mortally baffling when observers, some of whom should know much better, accuse THE?NATION of bias.
Such a charge implies widespread conduct – aided and abetted by editorial leadership – that contravenes the principles and standards of journalism. This is not fair.
The degree of perceived NATION bias hasn’t ceased to be hotly discussed since the silly season began and the Peter Wickham poll arrived; but the fact is that each of the two major political parties believes itself to be disadvantaged by the other in the very NATION.
The editors could cynically take comfort in this double dissatisfaction of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and Democratic Labour Party (DLP), assuming they are doing right by favouring neither. Truth be told, there are limitations to media neutrality.
The media take positions on social issues as a matter of course – and responsibility; and these stances may for expediency be taken as pros or cons by any political party. Such are the vagaries of journalism, and thus this partisan manipulation must not be allowed to undermine the media’s right to apt selectivity.
Not everything that a political entity does or says is news, or is worth commenting unduly upon. Enough said on the bias.
Tonight at its town hall meeting, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, NATION?Talkback explores the pulse of the electorate on who should lead this country. The DLP will not be present – officially. And understandably, at least for me. Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is presenting the University of the West Indies’ Sixth Distinguished Alumni Lecture at the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination at the same time.  
The clash of events is regrettable; but then Mr Stuart needs all the support he can get, and will want his troops rallying behind him.
Weakened a presence as the DLP may have at the town hall discussion this evening, the BLP will surely make the case for Owen Arthur’s renewed leadership. The argument should be riveting.
But the Bees need to present a more crystal clear plan for reducing the Government deficit, other than boasting of their leader’s past achievements of economic management. It cannot be reasonable of us to expect magic and sleight of hand from Mr Arthur. Nor is it fair to him.
The present Government’s medium-term strategy is not without its merit, and it seems sensible in the circumstances. Rising from the ashes is really what the debate is about.
What can be said for both sides though is their acknowledgement that while our social and political culture might be influenced by the International Monetary Fund, Standard &?Poor’s and the like, it cannot and will not be sculpted and fashioned by these Big Brother financial institutions.
The critics of the Government give it the thumbs down, arguing that Barbados’ deficit is the largest in its history, but fail conveniently to acknowledge that this dilemma reflects the longest, deepest global recession since World War I. And there is no point or sense hoping – or willing – that the economy falls off the cliffs of Pico Teneriffe for the sake of being able to say “I told you so”.  
There can be no disagreement that fiscal prudence is required to steer our public finances along the road of sustainability towards recovery. But recovery will be contiguous to timing and effectuality of measures taken.
At the end of the day, return to economic success will depend on finding the right balance between the roles of the public and private sectors – and this will not be without the challenge from a world outside that has gone mad by its obsession with greed and reliance on luck.
• Ridley Greene is a Caribbean multi-award-winning journalist.