ALL AH WE IS ONE: Opposition dilemma
In a context where the severe economic challenges faced by the Government of Barbados were expected to redound to the political benefit of the official Opposition, the country is ironically witnessing the opposite tendency. Instead, critical attention is now being paid to failures of the Opposition.
Such criticism revolves around the apparent confusion in Opposition tactics, in which they have oscillated between Government-toppling activity and to deliberate silence. Thus, parliamentary no-confidence motions and the setting of deadlines for the termination of ministerial appointments have been replaced by confused inertia.
It is important, however, to understand the context in which these developments are taking place.
The Opposition confusion can be explained by the leader’s over-eagerness to appear in control and as pushing vigorously to topple the Government. Mottley’s “overeagerness” cannot be separated from two salient political realities. The first is the fact that the outcome of the last general election suggested a weak Government, and thus she feels obliged to push or be accused of allowing an opportune moment to slip.
The second is the presence of a former Prime Minister and political leader within the ranks of the party, who has not only publicly voiced his opposition to her style of leadership, but has demonstrated his willingness to act independently. His unwillingness to be led extends the life of the Government and diminishes her public perception as a true and secure leader.
These combined pressures have pushed the leader of the Opposition into the error of announcing deadlines for collapses and resignations which remain outside her power to honour, and shifted the accusation of “unreadiness” for leadership from Government to Opposition.
Significantly, the Opposition has fallen into the trap of accepting responsibility for a “failure”, measured against the unlikely and rare criteria of a toppled Government one year into its term. With a weak Government, and the heightening of public economic hardship, the Opposition leader is now being blamed for the perpetuation of a popularly elected Government. By resorting to inactivity, it appears to have accepted this responsibility.
It is unwise for the Opposition’s agenda to be defined by Government. Significantly, among those in the forefront of accusing the Opposition Leader of being “power hungry” are members of the Government front bench, eager to exaggerate perceptions of Opposition failure in order to prolong their tenuous pension-motivated holds onto the very power of which the Leader of the Opposition is now being accused of being hungry.
On the other hand, it is also true that despite the economic challenges, the public will not shift its support from the Government while the obvious Opposition leadership tensions persist.
The uncomfortable truth for Mia Mottley is that her party’s success resides neither in less or more public activity, but in resolving the leadership question within her party.
Until then, little will change.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs.