THE HOYOS FILE: The ‘impertinence’ of Adrian Loveridge
A few weeks ago, at the end of January, when Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was the guest speaker at the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s (BCCI) monthly luncheon, I got up to ask a question during the Q&A period.
I could feel my feet trying to buckle under me as I made the seemingly endless walk to the mike. “This is not a Press conference,” I kept repeating to myself. “None of those ‘rules’ apply. Try to bring him out in a conversational way so that we can get an insight into how he thinks.”
Well, that is my rational recollection of what I was thinking heading for the microphone at the Hilton ballroom, packed to capacity that day. In reality it was more like, “Yuh idiot! Who you t’ink you is tekkin’ on Freundel in public?”
Ladies and gentlemen, Freundel Stuart is no easy mark on a public platform. He can size you up in a jiffy, and launch a sudden attack at the slightest perception of weakness in your armour.
So, trying to draw out the PM to eventually answer a question about why he took so long to decide to reduce the Government’s deficit, I went on too long in my preamble and made my blunder. I said I was asking the question “without any political bias”.
Say what? Freundel went for me in a micro-second. “You mean like Nixon? Remember Nixon said ‘I am not a crook,’ and look how that turned out for him.” At least, words to that effect, probably much sharper than I recall them.
The crowd roared, the noise rocking me as if it were at the same decibel level as the response to a goal scored during the Premier League.
Sometimes, you know, you just have to take it. No need to feel sorry for yourself. Suck it up and move on.
All that you have going for you is that you know you are not trying to ask a “gotcha” question, and more generally that your reason for exposing yourself is to contribute to Current Affairs (as they used to call it in Sixth Form at HC).
This is true of formal Press conferences, but even more so at an event like an organisation’s monthly luncheon, where the person who is holding himself of herself up to questions is there as an invited guest, as are you, even if you paid for your lunch.
My experience of being drubbed by Mr Stuart would have vanished into insignificance had Mr Gordon “Butch” Stewart’s comments, directed toward local hotelier, newspaper columnist and expert on tourism Adrian Loveridge, instead been levelled at me in response to anything I had asked him.
Last week, at the February BCCI meeting (they’re really on a roll, aren’t they?) Mr Stewart refused to answer the last in a series of questions from Mr Loveridge, saying instead that he considered it “impertinent”.
Now, before I go on, for the purposes of this column, I am not going to pass judgement on who was right or wrong, as that would not achieve anything. I really don’t care, actually.
What interests me is the dynamic (if that is the word) that takes over when a very seasoned public person (for example Mr Stuart or Mr Stewart) allows themselves to receive questions from an audience. It is the law of the jungle. Eat or be eaten. Of course, while we are all on our best behaviour.
In terms of presentation, Mr Loveridge’s question – to me – bore all the hallmarks of the “Are you still beating your wife?” one of infamy.
I was not recording the session and I can only roughly summarise its gist for you. It was to do with how much of the revenue Sandals earned from bookings at its new Barbados property would actually be sent to the island. I am being vague because that is all I remember of it, as I was asking myself at the time why Mr Loveridge would ask such a leading question in such a forum?
My friends, since I can remember, there have been stories circulating about how companies which are paid in a foreign currency abroad keep that money there and only send in what is needed to keep their local operation, which helps earn the money in the first place, going.
The argument revolves around the premise that to keep any of it outside is at least ethically questionable. On the other hand, you can argue that administrative, marketing and supply costs also come in from overseas, so what is the point of sending it all in only to take most of it back out again? (Although that would surely please the central bank of the host country).
As far as I know, speaking subject to correction, there is not one piece of legislation that exists to try to regulate this in any way. And it does not only occur with hotels.
So why would you ask such a question? I wouldn’t because I would know (despite my faux pax that encouraged the Freundel ambush) that you should never ask a question that might be taken as impugning the motives of the person you are questioning, unless you have chapter and verse of some sort of proof in your hand. And even then, the monthly luncheon would not be the place to do it.
All you would be doing, and this is whether you have the goods or not, is giving the person the biggest gift you could give them in that scenario: the moral high ground.
If you concede that, even unwittingly, you are the loser in the game of Question Time, because it is the only reason why the rest of the audience tolerates you in the first place. With that sort of question, even Al Capone would be able to walk right through the loophole you created.
Moral: Even at the expense of a “scoop”, never let the guy you are questioning gain the higher ground. He or she will use it to crush you.