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PEOPLE & THINGS: Who got it wrong?

Peter Wickham

PEOPLE & THINGS: Who got it wrong?

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One recent contribution to this newspaper by Reverend Guy Hewitt typifies the sort of analysis that has followed this election both in terms of the initial focus and its most unfortunate conclusions.
Like several others who opted to use the electronic media, Hewitt began by projecting a focus on me, arguing that I “got it wrong”, although he admittedly prefaced it by reminding all who were reading of his tremendous confidence in my ability.
Perhaps I should be grateful to him and others who express the two sentiments simultaneously, but my greater concern here is the implication of my “getting it wrong” and the extent to which the “I” was perhaps too central to the 2013 election.
It has been difficult not to notice the extent to which people have taken delight in the presumed fact that I “got it wrong” for two apparent reasons.
The larger and perhaps less thoughtful group is pleased to identify with these sentiments because they believe that I have been “at war” with the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and its leadership and this outcome means that Wickham is now a broken man who has lost his credibility and presumably his livelihood since for me the two are intricately linked.
I am sorry to report that neither of these assumptions reflects reality and therefore little more needs to be said about this perspective.
The more thoughtful group, the one to which Hewitt is unashamedly associated, takes delight in the suggestion that I “got it wrong” because they prefer this DLP victory to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) victory that I foresaw.
One should perhaps engage such people largely because their perspective is not coloured by a personal dislike (of me), but instead a political dislike of the BLP and its leader.
There are several issues that arise from this type of thinking and the first that needs to be addressed frontally is the perception that I had a personal preference for one or other leader.
This view is quite ironic since I have only ever belonged to one political party in my life and it was not the BLP. My resignation from that organization was tendered in 1998 following a four-year leave of absence and occurred simply because I believed that my professional path suggested it was the proper thing to do. Subsequently, I have pursued my work as an analyst under both administrations and found myself at various times being critical of both and all three leaders.
Those who take the time to read and follow my writings will agree that I have expressed difficulty with both Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his predecessor Owen Arthur at different times. It should also be clear that I believe the future leadership of this country should come to rest on either of two pairs of shoulders that did not present themselves in the previous election. I remain convinced from poll data that a majority of people in this country would also have preferred to have this type of choice.
Prime ministerial preference aside, it is important to come quickly to the central contention that if we analyse this election from the perspective of what Wickham or CADRES said, and the extent to which either of us misled this country, we will miss several critical points.
The first and most profound was presented by Hewitt in his ironic juxtaposition of alleged vote-buying and his assertion that the best outcome was achieved. One would think a minister of religion would tread cautiously amidst any suggestion that “political good” could come of the “political evil” called vote-buying.
This insidious practice represents a perversion of our political process and indeed a misrepresentation of public opinion, which makes is difficult to conclude thereafter that our Government is popular.
Vote-buying aside, this DLP Government is the statistically the weakest and consequently most unpopular in our nation’s history. If the vote-buying factor is included, then we need to ask ourselves if the election was an accurate barometer of public support for this Government and what are the consequences if it was not. Notwithstanding, I have accepted the result of this election and apparently so too has the BLP Opposition.
The Prime Minister and his team should be congratulated for beating seemingly insurmountable odds and I wish to state publicly that I propose to leave them alone to get on with their work for the time being. As we move from the issue of elections to the matter of governance, Hewitt’s arguments appear even less sound. Like many others, he has argued that the outcome of the election is preferable since Stuart is preferred to Arthur. The apparent reason for this is Stuart’s “congeniality”.
However, I would quickly ask any of the proponents of this thesis if they genuinely believe that we will be better governed under Stuart, and it is at this point that the conviction appears to wane.
I am therefore left to conclude that an influential majority here believe that Stuart is preferred to Arthur because the former is more amicable, when the more important question should be who will govern Barbados better. It is perhaps for this reason that in the wake of the DLP victory, the absence of a celebratory environment was noticeable, especially as the Prime Minister reminded us in his acceptance speech that this result proved he was “right” and persons like me were “wrong”.
As such, all of the criticisms levelled at the Prime Minister for the past three years should be set aside as we accept that he was right not to communicate with the public regularly; he was right not to deal frontally with the economic challenges we face; he was right to take his time regarding solutions to the CLICO debacle, the Alexandra dispute and the myriad other issues that confront our nation and, of course, his decision to continue in office for more than five years was prudent.
If then he was right and I was wrong, then I need to accept that the next five years will be more of the same, which is also “right and proper”, and we will all therefore need to live with the consequences of my “getting it wrong”.
• Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and is a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).