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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: This party thing

DR FRANCES CHANDLER, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: This party thing

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BAJANS LOVE PARTIES, all kinds of parties –Crop Over, reggae, soca – even fowl cock parties cockroaches have no right at! But the parties they’re most addicted to are political parties. They seemingly inherit party loyalty, like some genetic condition (or perhaps disease).

You’ll hear people saying their parents and grandparents belonged to this or that party and some party leader of yore helped them attend some particular school decades ago, so they’ll support that party forever, apparently regardless of how its present members perform. After all the money spent on education, it’s difficult to understand such blind loyalty where the governance of our nation is concerned.

Although there’s no mention of political parties in our Constitution, they seem to have become the focal point of government, with party and pension seemingly paramount at this point. Party politics seems to overshadow the business of the country.

As far as I’m concerned, party politics breeds too much acrimony, and the energy used in these confrontations, not only between MPs but members of the public, could be better spent in some useful activity to help build the economy.

There’s also the Bajan habit of labelling people as Ds or Bs. During my time in the Senate, when the BLP was in office, I was labelled a D. When the DLP came into office I was labelled a B. But I can safely say I have no label at all – I’m not a D, I’m not a B, I’m just me. Maybe the Prime Minister will recall our discussions about this when he was an Opposition senator. I’ve always spoken and will continue to speak and vote with my conscience.

I’m not afraid to say that in 2008, I, like many others, was fed up with the arrogance of the BLP after their 15 years in office and voted for the DLP. Of course, it took only a year or two for their arrogance to raise its head, and this, coupled with the rapid decline in the county’s fortunes, made it clear to me where my X would be placed in 2013. However, the party faithful had other ideas, and amidst all the alleged vote buying we found ourselves back in the same boat – a boat which is sinking fast.

Apparently, next time we’ll have two other choices, both of which seem genuine in their desire to bring the country back to some stability, which is laudable. But with the original parties so ingrained in the Barbadian psyche, I wonder how they’ll fare.

Where has this extreme partisan politics got us? In Peter Morgan’s book The Life And Times Of Errol Barrow, he notes that “there is a sad history in Barbados that whenever one Government takesover from another, projects which are in the pipeline are either scrapped because they obviously couldn’t be any good or doubled in size on the basis of anything you can do I can do better”. This has continued up to today.

Furthermore, a newly elected Government, on taking up office, seems to spend the first half of its term complaining about the bad situation left by the former Government (which they were totally unaware of when they produced their manifesto) and the next half electioneering for the upcoming election. The result: very little achieved, a lot of money spent.

After the 2013 election, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite confirmed to the news media that “some” Bajans sold their votes during that poll, and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart reportedly deemed this an ugly practice which digs at the roots of democratic structures and indicated he was committed to stamping it out.

Our vote is too precious to be used in that way. There was a discussion on radio recently about what should fuel our vote. I agree with the moderator’s view that we should vote for those who have taken steps that lead to the country’s development for the good of all, not just a few; and not on promises, but past performance.

In Parliament too, voting according to the whip, that is, the way the party wants, rather than by conscience, seems less than moral. Actually, that use of the word “whip” has its roots in the 18th century hunting terminology “whipper-in” – a huntsman’s assistant who drives straying hounds back to the main pack using a whip. Not very flattering, to say the least!

• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email: [email protected]