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OFFCENTRE: In search of the X factors


Sherwyn Walters

OFFCENTRE: In search  of the X factors

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I nearly choked – with laughter, that is – when I heard it.
In the midst of CADRES’ random sampling and statistical significance and standard deviation and margin of error and avoidance of social desirability bias and swing analysis and all that very technical-sounding stuff, Robert “Bobby” Morris, campaign manager for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), nearly kill me with de laugh.
A day or two before the election, Morris was on television saying something to the effect: “The poll was saying that [this Democratic Labour Party candidate] would lose, so I sent some of my fellows into the constituency to check, and they came back and told me that wasn’t so.” All said with the straightest of faces.
And I laughed. I laughed because it sounded so unbelievably unsophisticated, as a response to what I was thinking was, even if flawed, a superior approach.
But you know what? Morris and his fellows’ low-tech, seemingly unscientific approach – at least in that case and probably a few more – won the day and, against the machinery and seeming scholarliness of the CADRES’ poll.
Now that I have stopped laughing, I am wondering if, at least this time around, there weren’t some things in the mix that Morris’ fellows, if they were well chosen, steeped in local knowledge and cleverly deployed, could make better sense of than Peter Wickham’s.
Whatever the case, there is no gainsaying that the outcome of the February 21 general election was confounding to not a few people – of all political hues and of none; the don’t knows; the won’t says; the pundits; the pollsters; tout monde – almost.
 These things didn’t seem to say “Dems Again”: the polls, the “logic” of the political context (wobbling economy, regional disaffection with governing parties), the “feel” in the air, brought on by the PR mobilization of the Barbados Labour Party – including the sense of a better oiled machine, innovative (at least for Barbados) use of the Internet – on-the-face-of-it earnest, personable, “bright” young Turks more in evidence on the Opposition party’s side than the other, the size of the crowds that side attracted, and no discernible optimism among non-hardcore incliners to the DLP.
Of course, these are just my observations as a neutral and, unfortunately, a cynic (or at least, as I tell others, a recovering one, who can’t seem to be completely “cured” because people keep getting in the way).
Anyway, the story ended 16-14. And, according to my reckoning, a swing to the ruling DLP in ten seats.
So, now it’s post mortem time and the various media outlets have brought in the speculators: pollsters, political scientists, political commentators, social commentators, candidates, party sympathizers and the like – the usual suspects.
I just wonder (I wondering a lot today) if it isn’t possible to go beyond the usual suspects and find the real doers of the deed (those who voted for the party that won, in particular those who would not have said or previously did not know, those who voted differently this time, those who changed their minds late in the game, those who voted the same way despite concerns and so on) and survey them as to why they voted the way they did and tell us the findings. That would get us closer to the truth, I think.
In the United States, there are exit polls which give, I think, a better understanding than all the suppositions of pundits/mind-readers about why people voted the way they did.
For what it is worth, we could try for a version of that that fits in with our context (laws, traditions, and so on), ’cause I know that unlike the case in America, you can’t be asking anybody here ’bout how they voted when they come out of the polling station!
Talking about 16-14. I have heard people saying that that outcome would keep the Members of Parliament on their toes.
 What they are obviously suggesting is that such a close disposition of the seats means that the members on the Government side have to get to the House of Assembly almost every time and, certainly, when it is time to vote.
But what that implies is that both sides will always vote as a bloc. Is that good enough  for democracy?
No independent thinkers? No room for them? Is this what we have sent our constituency representatives to Parliament to do? –  To simply toe the party line? Might this not be  one of the reasons for the populace’s growing apathy about political affairs, something that politicians themselves so often lament?
No wonder then, that supporters of the side that lost are later on often heard telling favourers of the winning party something about “your Government” or “wunna Government”.
Stupid me. I thought this is our Government. For this is our country.
 
Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor.

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