THE SINGLE MOST UNDEMOCRATIC ASPECT of the Westminster system is the ability of a prime minister to call a general election whenever he or she chooses.
That person, by virtue of their having the reins of government at their disposal – to give or take away, to hire or fire, to appoint or to disappoint – also has that extra ability to catch their opponents off-guard.
Elections should be held at a fixed time every five years thereby cutting out the guessing and manipulation. If extenuating circumstances make an early return to the polls necessary, place that decision in the hands of the head of state, or by referendum.
The business of governance is much too serious to be reduced to the bluff of a poker game. It’s crude and unbecoming of a civilized polity in the 21st century. It elevates the national blood pressure.
A Barbadian Prime Minister once angrily asked me: “Do you have any relatives in politics?” I replied: “No, Prime Minister . . . and I’m so glad I don’t.”
Another dismissed me as “apolitical”. I considered that a compliment and thanked him.
A fortnight ago, during a fretful 63-minute harangue, with mud packaged in pretty polysyllabic attire – a little of it splashed on me – I was branded a “quinquennial troglodyte” for writing that I needed to hear more from Government than “We have not laid off anyone in the Public Service”.
It happened the day my column Let Stuart Alone appeared. When you consider that it usually takes the Prime Minister months to read far more important things – like the CLICO report – boy, was I flattered!
I’m not easily dazzled by the razzmatazz of language.
I took consolation from the fact that Harold Hoyte, my former journalism colleague and co-founder of THE NATION newspaper, was also a denizen from the extinct Paleolithic Age. But then, Harold is accustomed to such compliments. A Prime Minister once dubbed him a “negrocrat”.
The most pleasurable sensation I receive from writing this fortnightly column comes from the thought that I might annoy someone of pretentious position. But then, such folks are too busy to read – they have it read to them.
After nearly four hours listening to the joint meeting of the three St James constituencies, I came away from Queen’s College (via the Internet) with a hefty collection of epithets as another season of political insult and invective got under way.
People across the globe could witness the ad hominem assault: “The biggest thing on him is his buckle head”, “When Owen Arthur wants to see her do her thing all he has to do is pull her string”, “The barren fig tree of Barbadian politics”, “Political pickpocket”, “Attention neurosis”, “The apotheosis of political treachery”, and “They thought the dog was dead but the dog was only sleeping” – what a careless metaphor!
The Prime Minister used to be more surgical in his use of language. Recently, he has taken up a butcher’s cleaver.
Even unruffled George Hutson, MP for St James Central, couldn’t avoid hurling a few choice brickbats, to deafening applause.
Donville Inniss, MP for St James South, was his usual swashbuckling self, while St James North hopeful Senator Harry Husbands – teacher he once was – must’ve taught Editor-In-Chief Kaymar Jordan the lesson that she must be more careful through whom she sends messages.
Our politicians’ attention span is short; they don’t concentrate on issues. Gossip and sexy innuendo are too tempting, especially when there’s an audience hungry for entertainment.
If you happen to memorize a few “big” words and have been able to swallow a little Socrates or Seneca, that makes the menu all the more appetizing.
But is that all we can offer our young people going into the future? Haven’t they endured enough of this wastage of energy?
I hope this election season will be brief.
Character assassination, comic relief and platform stupidity have followed us into the 21st century.
• Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator. Email [email protected]