THE HOYOS FILE: Mia settles leadership question
Last week proved to be a turning point in the career of Mia Amor Mottley, both as Opposition Leader and potential next Prime Minister of Barbados. In short, there is no doubt now who leads the Barbados Labour Party, not just in name, but in deed.
Some people (including me, if someone were to have asked me) may have advised her not to lead last Thursday’s march from Parliament to Government Headquarters, where the increasingly embattled Cabinet of the Freundel Stuart administration was having its regular meeting, but Mottley did as her leadership instincts advised, and went ahead anyway.
Even the rain accommodated her, falling late in the evening as the sun went down so as not to disturb the sunshine-filled midday event.
Her brief speech from the back of the lead truck at the Bay Street/Beckles Road stoplight – the march been made to end there by the police in an over-abundance of caution – was a metaphorical victory lap for Mottley, as she surveyed the thousands who had followed her and her parliamentary colleagues, but she displayed no unseemly pride in her new unchallengeable status.
She can now move forward with confidence in taking the fight to Government without looking over her shoulder all the time.
What a difference a day makes, goes the lyric to an old jazz standard. And that difference is Mottley. You might think I am making a big thing of this, but I say – knowing nothing about politics and all of its strategies – to give credit where its due.
The announcement of the demonstration, the first held by one of the two major political parties in a very long time, was openly criticised by one MP, who went on the air – as if he were her equal in party status – to say he wasn’t going to take part and that it was a bad idea. Something about raising the expectations of the people too high, which would only disappoint them and turn them against the party, if the hated Municipal Solid Waste Tax was not repealed as a direct result of the march.
It was an argument that was a solid waste of broadcast time. Nobody in their right mind who takes part in a demonstration is crushed if they don’t get their way. They accept that they may not achieve their goal, but they want those in power to understand how they feel. They know that cumulatively this may in time tip the balance in their favour.
A couple of hours after it ended, I spoke to one of the people who took part in the demonstration. She was at work keeping the dining area of a popular mall clean and tidy for patrons. For her, she said, it was more a victory for Barbados than for the BLP. She felt so good that she had been able to let the Government know her view on the tax and how hard they had made life in general, even if nobody knew that she was there individually. It was good for her psychologically, she told me, to actually go out and peacefully protest against what you thought was unjust in your country.
That was why it was a good day for Barbados, as the people didn’t do enough of these kinds of demonstrations, she said. And then she went back to work.
Mottley, I realised, had reached past all of the intellectual “long talk” about political strategy and gone out on a limb. She might have failed, but she would have done so with her heart in the right place. Many people (yes, including you-know-who) have wondered about her overall strategy, which is reflected in the public sessions which the Bees have been hosting all over the country of late, and in her speech from the back of that lorry on Thursday.
There she read from her letter to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, offering ideas for the way forward and calling on the administration to bring the Opposition into its confidence and work towards a bipartisan approach to getting us out of the economic whirlpool dragging us to the bottom.
Mottley has take an all-inclusive approach and while I would never have come up with it myself (which is why I am no politician) I have to admit that it finally seems to be gaining traction.
Instead of just trying to stir up a political storm, Mottley seems to be succeeding in stirring up a national whirlwind of countrywide opposition to an administration whose policies may leave the country bankrupt, given a little more time.
Two opponents of Mottley were swift to harden their positions. Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said essentially that you could march wherever you liked, but you will eventually have to march over to your bank for money to pay the solid waste tax anyway.
And Owen Arthur, the sole MP not to take part, whose lack of support for Mottley was as much in evidence as much as it was unmissed, however lost no time in calling up a newspaper to try to re-direct the spotlight on himself. He hinted at an early resignation from Parliament, claiming he was tired of always being made the centre of controversy, or words to that effect.
Even on the day of Mia’s complete ascension to the title of undisputed leader, Owen could not resist asking for attention. Like Winston Churchill, the great man cannot concede that his era of leadership is over.