ALBERT BRANDFORD: PM Stuart, a fox or a hedgehog?
DONVILLE INNISS IS playing a strange political game.
He is trying to sell a belief that he is different from his Cabinet colleagues.
It is strange because this difference is directly related to policy. But, he is part of the Cabinet that has overall responsibility for the management of the country. It, therefore, does not make sense for him to try distance himself from the Cabinet.
So, can he be trying to avoid the present to enhance his future?
Having had the experience of working with the private sector, Inniss comes across as pro-business in his public utterances. In this regard, he must be disappointed with the general direction of the economy since becoming a Minister.
He certainly cannot be happy with Government’s tax policies with respect to the VAT and income taxes. On the property tax, he made his concerns quite clear in the past.
In short, there must be conflict between his pro-business stance and the constitutionally imposed demand of collective responsibility on members of the Cabinet.
Section 64(2) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet shall be the principal instrument of policy and shall be charged with the general direction and control of the government of Barbados and shall be collectively responsible therefor to Parliament.”
The implied interpretation is that if a Minister does not agree with the general direction of Cabinet’s policy, he ought to resign. If he stays, then he agrees. He, therefore, should not claim he is opposed to certain Government decisions.
The fact that Inniss makes such a claim with an unusual degree of frequency – not to mention latitude – speaks to the leadership position of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
The Prime Minister’s position causes consternation in political quarters. In their state of dismay, members of the public give wide-ranging interpretations of Stuart’s silence. The public, including some of us in the Press, is capable of ascribing to politicians, attributes they may or may not deserve. This is especially true of leaders.
In this vein, some people are describing Stuart as a fox, when he is in fact behaving like a hedgehog.
An ancient Greek parable says a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing.
Attempts are made to use the parable to analyse the leadership styles of businessmen, politicians and others, even though it is accepted that the classification has its weaknesses. Notwithstanding, politicians appear to be flattered when they are associated with the fox.
In The Prince, Machiavelli notes: “A matter of no small importance to a prince is the selection of ministers, for their competence or incompetence will depend upon his capacity to judge; and the first estimate of his intelligence will be based upon the character of the men he keeps about him. If they are capable and loyal, he will be reputed wise, for he will have demonstrated that he knows how to recognise their ability and keep them loyal to him. If they are otherwise, he will be judged unfavourably, for the first mistake a ruler can make lies in the selection of his ministers.”
It is difficult to argue that Inniss is disloyal to his leader and by extension, the Cabinet. So why is he able to continue his disaffection with the general policy direction of Government in public?
There is only one answer, and it is that the Prime Minister is in a weak position to lead.
When the Eager-Eleven failed in its mission to remove Stuart prior to the 2013 election, it created the opportunity for him to get a mandate from the people, which he did. Strangely, he never troubled the group because his mandate was not a commanding one.
But he certainly had opportunities to send signals to his Ministers, which he never pursued. In so doing, he left space for the more ambitious among them to try to fill the void.
Inniss has certainly tried.
He has been trying so hard that his most recent foray into the realm of biting political commentary raised a few eyebrows, perhaps not least, Stuart’s.
The “transitory inconveniences” – better known as potholes – became a source of convenience for Inniss to demonstrate graphically his opposition to the refusal of the Stuart administration to address the public’s outrage over the state of the roads. Not only did the Minister drop into a pothole, but the Press went to the scene!
There is a bigger scene up ahead that will determine the efficacy of Inniss’ political strategy and the future of the Cabinet in which he shares collective responsibility.
Only time will tell if his strategy coincides with his future expectations.
Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.