ONLY HUMAN: Better standards needed
In every political campaign there are two sets of messages from the competing parties.
One is official, repeated ad nauseum from the platform and is often the central theme in statements and interviews.
The other message is pushed by party operatives, hangers-on and yardfowls. It is often defamatory, quite untrue, but generally a very persuasive argument that is highly believable.
In the 2008 general election, the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) propagandists were quietly telling voters that the Opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was a one-man show – “take David Thompson away and the whole group are jokers”; and they were liars who were knowingly making promises that they couldn’t keep.
DLP operatives, on the other hand, were telling people that the BLP politicians were corrupt; they were close to big business and that was why the Government was unable to bring down the cost of living, because the party was about big business and not helping the ordinary man.
These individuals also pointed to the price hikes in land, house and construction materials, among other things, as proof of the Bees’ alignment with big business.
Given all that was happening in the economy at that time, this unofficial message spread via the intimacy of one-on-one, house-to-house canvassing would have been most persuasive to householders hurting from a spiral in the cost of living.
Of course, such tactics are not new. In the 1991 poll, which had similar issues to those being discussed for the forthcoming general election, operatives from the three parties were active spreading their viewpoint against the others.
The ruling Dems, for example, were saying that Henry Forde, the then BLP leader, favoured the Whites; he was no more than a white man in black skin.
The Bees were saying that Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford did not know what he was doing and even his party didn’t want him; and that a vote for the Dems could lead to devaluation. This latter message they also used on their platform.
The then Opposition National Democratic Party (NDP) operatives were said to have kept it clean and above board. The only underground message their operatives were known to push was that if voters didn’t want to vote for them, they should vote for the Bees – but just don’t vote for the Dems.
As we gear up for the upcoming election, operatives are already spreading their venom. Given the defamatory nature of what is being reportedly said on both sides, we can’t repeat it here.
However, the question voters need to ask is this: why should these dirty messages and this smear campaign be even necessary if the party’s platform is based on fact, its projections are sound, and its promises realistic?
The fact of the matter, though, is that many voters look forward to this gossip, innuendo and dirt. For too many, this is what politics is all about, and those politicians who try to take the high road are often considered soft or not tough enough.
Do we think this because we believe that politics has a morality of its own, as former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Basdeo Panday once said?
Or, is it that we buy into the definition of politicians as seekers or holders of public office, who are more concerned about winning favour or retaining power than about maintaining principles?
My concern is that as Barbadians we fail to hold politicians accountable for their statements and actions. We do not demand that they properly explain and/or spell out their ideas and policies. And we certainly do not stand up as citizens, taxpayers and voters to speak out on issues that impact us on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, we seem more inclined to sit back and take what is being dished out with only a murmur or anonymous protest on the daily Down To Brass Tacks call-in programme.
It is my hope that given what is at stake for the future of this country, that Barbadians start asking politicians from either side to spell out how their party’s plans to get Barbados on a sounder economic footing and to preserve jobs and the social services we take for granted.
The time has passed for gimmicks, grandstanding and name-calling which, though amusing, do not take Barbados and we as a people out of the rut we are in.
Come on, my fellow Barbadians. We deserve a better standard of representation.
• Sanka Price is the SATURDAY SUN Editor.