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PEOPLE & THINGS: Armchair perspectives

Peter Wickham

PEOPLE & THINGS: Armchair perspectives

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On several occasions in the past I have had differences of opinion with my former colleagues “on the hill” and have always assumed that these disagreements were symptomatic of a robust academic community.
This week however, as I listened to commentaries offered by Drs Joseph and Marshall, I wondered if their opinions had more to do with the lofty pedestals from which they spoke and less to do with expected differences in opinion.
First up was Dr Joseph who amidst a commentary on the less than outstanding leadership being offered by our Prime Minister suggested that Opposition Leader Mia Mottley should resign on account of her inability to gain the confidence of members of the Opposition.
The most profound concern here arises from a comparison which Joseph himself identified in the same statement. According to Joseph, Stuart’s leadership leaves much to be desired and it is equally well known that 11 of his MPs had some difficulties with his style in the past and at least one has since gone on record regarding his reservations with one of his Cabinet colleagues. It is therefore strange that Joseph suggested that Mottley and not Stuart should resign.
There can be little disagreement that the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) as it stands is a house divided. However, those among us who are honest will admit that it shares much in common with the Democractic Labour Party (DLP) and indeed other political institutions across the region that are both in and out of office. The DLP is clearly not of one mind and if we think back over the BLP’s sojourn it becomes apparent divisions have always existed and these never prevented Arthur from achieving economic success the likes of which we can only wish for now.
Across the region it is a pattern that is repeated in almost every instance and one therefore wonders why Joseph has so hastily condemned Mottley’s tenure when her challenges are no different from that of several other colleagues across the region.
There is also the reality that the BLP will need to decide if its chances are better with Mottley or Arthur. Arthur’s economic genius is not in question, but it is painfully obvious that Barbadians would prefer not to have him lead us again.
Joseph should not need to be reminded that Arthur has already been rejected twice and this should speak volumes about our interest in his leadership. The first defeat was perhaps predictable after 15 years in office but his second defeat was at the hands of a person who has been categorised as one of the weakest leaders ever to have held this office.
To my simple mind, our preference for Stuart over Arthur is the clearest indication that the BLP should look forward and not back in terms of leadership.
The suggestion that Mottley does not command the support of her colleagues is also without basis. The Oppostion team comprises 14 members and it would appear that ten of these support Mottley, which is not only a clear majority but makes her similar in “confidence” to Stuart if we factor in the opinion of the Eager 11.
The other four can best be described as a “Mottley Crew” that lacks the credibility to either mount a serious challenge to Mottley within the BLP or alternatively to present an alternative government. Two members are in the political departure lounge and appear to have embarked on a marriage of convenience, the crassness of which is obvious. The other two appear to be nothing more than political satellites.
CADRES polls have consistently made it clear that the Barbadian public is focused on four people where leadership was concerned and among these Mottley is clearly the second most popular in the BLP. There can therefore be little question that the BLP would be ill-advised to ignore an obvious asset in preference to either an unknown quantity or a quantity that was known and rejected (twice).
The other commentary that was prominent this week was that of Dr Marshall who chastised what he referred to as a “whisper campaign” which could have severe consequences. The basis of his logic is both odd and without support. Marshall’s Argentina example raises eyebrows since Argentina’s economy is not comparable to ours but if it were, Marshall would have to mention the problem created by Argentina’s low productivity, huge debt and its ever expanding deficit. As such he would do well to “whisper” to his friends in the Government that we quickly need to address similar issues if we are to avoid placing ourselves in a similar situation.
Marshall’s other point on incompetence is one that we can agree with entirely and we therefore hope that he will speak more specifically regarding who exactly is incompetent and where within our institutions such incompetence lies. If his thinking is similar to that of other political scientists, he might yet come to the conclusion that such incompetence requires a political solution.
• Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).