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Albert Brandford, [email protected]


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IN THIS paper is an account of Mia Mottley’s presentation last evening to the 77th annual conference of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP).

It would have been an account of her stewardship as both chairman of the BLP and Leader of the Opposition with some indication of her plans which will take on more importance now that we are roughly at the half way point in the 2013-2018 parliamentary term.

Since this is being written several days ahead of the conference, I too, like other observers of the political scene, look forward to her vision for the BLP and her sense of where the party is in the consciousness of the Barbadian voter with an election constitutionally due in about two years.

I am sure, however, that her report card will account for how she has kept Government on the back foot on several controversial issues, not the least of which is the ongoing Cahill saga.

Parenthetically, I was a little surprised that she expected Government to have given her a platform to further expose that matter in the House of Assembly last Tuesday.

Her expectations were apparently based, first, on the strength of a land acquisition resolution, dated September 29, for the Sanitation Service Authority to carry out its Green Energy Programme, which includes solid waste management, at Vaucluse, and second, on the forlorn hope that Government will ever call her Private Member’s Resolution, dated August 28, demanding Government produce the three agreements at the heart of the Cahill issue.

Mottley is too experienced in these matters to have seriously expected either matter to be called since Government is clearly not yet ready for a parliamentary debate on Cahill, and from parsing Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s recent comment and his approach, it is also clear that Cahill is not a priority at this time.

Among the questions about Mottley going into this three-day conference was whether she has shown herself to be a firm, decisive leader.

It is unfortunate that she took into the conference the still festering Christ Church West controversy, and far from there being a resolution, it appears that the parties have settled into an uneasy truce.

While that might temporarily satisfy the internal clamourings for peace, it will not play as well in the wider public as she might very well attract the inevitable comparison with Stuart as a ditherer.

It is hard to miss that the general election campaign has begun in earnest with the BLP’s mass canvassing on behalf of new candidates and more recently with even Government spokesmen ratcheting up their political rather than programmatic rhetoric.

So while Barbadians do not expect a Bolt-like sprint from this halfway point, Mottley has to get in front of the issues and maintain form through to the finish line.

The still parlous state of the economy – “we are not yet out of the woods” – is a political gift that in the cliché will keep on giving and should be graciously accepted from this inept Government without, however, any semblance of triumphalism.

After all, a lot of people are hurting and between now and then, a lot more are certain to suffer the same fate.

Despite the apparent quiescence of those who have not supported her in the past, Mottley has to emerge from this latest rallying of the troops strong enough to give the BLP a confidence- boosting push.

And that is not to ignore the fact that her leadership is still under question in some quarters and there is lingering doubt over whether she is capable of even carrying the party, far less the country.

To be sure, Barbadians would have found out last night and into today if Mottley is prepared to take the hardline, “strongman in politics” approach in the vein of Barrow, Adams and Arthur – my way or the highway. Or whether she would continue to follow the fictional political narrative that “there are no divisions in the party” and indicate that she is willing to accommodate all points of view, even from the dissenters as well as those who would insist on following their own way.

The danger is that either way she may be hoist by the horns of a dilemma: the Scylla of avoiding the dictator branding, and the Charybdis of being seen as a mollifier.

It is an important test for her leadership of the BLP at a critical juncture as it seeks to chart a new course in uncertain waters.

Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent.