Mia’s power play
He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid and telling you who’s to blame for it.
– Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd in the movie The American President (1995)
IN THE MOVIE, Michael Douglas lectured his opponent in the presidential election about the key trait desirous in one seeking the presidency: character.
He said it was about defending the Bill of Rights and the constitution along with aspiring to “advanced citizenship” which challenges every attempt to put self about country.
“I’ve known Bob Rumson for years,” the Douglas character says, “and I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it!
“We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it.
“He is interested in two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”
A general election is due in Barbados before April 15 next year, and in both major political parties, there are “Bob Rumsons” shouting at the rain.
The recent attempt by Mia Mottley to have a private meeting with Opposition Leader Owen Arthur in public was, to me, more a desperate political power play than it was a genuine attempt to heal any wounds in the Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
Mottley is acutely aware that an Arthur win in the next election would more than likely put paid to her stated intention of becoming Prime Minister of Barbados.
So, we have to appreciate that the intent of a power play is to force one of two parties involved to take the initiative by being more aggressive.
But in so doing, the aggressor reveals his strategy, signalling weakness rather than strength.
There is no doubt that the former Opposition Leader still commands the support of BLP parliamentarians Cynthia Forde and Rawle Eastmond.
The call for a public-private meeting, therefore, was a reminder from her that she still has relevance in the political process and, more important, intends to display it in public.
It may be argued that Arthur could have convened the meeting for the sake of political posturing. The public may then have interpreted such a meeting as another sign of the beginning of a healing between the two parties with Eastmond as the political scapegoat in the process.
This would have allowed the appointed deputy Opposition Leader Dale Marshall and others to know that they are only stopgaps and not genuine investments for the future.
In the political game, there is always more in the mortar than the pestle; and the intent of the politician is as much noted in the unspoken as in the spoken word.
Only one leader
In this country’s party political system, at any given time, there must be only one political leader and whenever in the past this commandment was not observed, chaos ensued.
In very recent times, an attempt to disobey this commandment saw the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) Eager Eleven making a private play in public with the help of kingmakers and advisers.
Such public attempts to wring the hands of political leaders in public must never be tolerated and in cases where the numbers are insufficient, the tolerance should, perforce, turn to intolerance.
No one person in a political party should be empowered, no matter the perceptions, to exercise more than one vote. The system is deliberate in the use of majority and until majority is redefined to mean something else, its power is supreme.
The devil is always in the details, and so it is in the St James North debacle. The initial intention of Eastmond to step aside was clearly communicated to such an extent that he endorsed Edmund Hinkson as his successor.
At the time, the then president of the Barbados Labour Party, George Payne, brought in his friend and cousin Douglas Skeete to contest the nomination.
In the vein of recent nominations in the Barbados Labour Party, the new pretenders mobilized support across the length and breadth of the constituency, reportedly spending considerable sums in the process.
It is well known that such mobilization is the modus operandi of Payne, who demonstrated this in St Joseph for his friend and law partner Dale Marshall some years ago.
It was seen as good for the party in the same way that last year’s contest in St George South was seen.
So, is the difference in St James North the fact that Eastmond is the sitting Member of Parliament? Or is it that he is a supporter of the former Leader of the Opposition?
The answer to this two-edged question may reveal the details.
It may identify the positioning that is required to demonstrate relevance for those who still have an interest in leadership succession in the Barbados Labour Party.
There is always more in the mortar than the pestle.
Still, as the alliances appear to unravel, Mottley will find that she may eventually have to fall in line with the majority wishes of the party.
It ought not to be about creating a fear in the minds of BLP supporters that a divided party is in danger of losing an election that is theirs to win based upon the Government’s performance thus far, and then telling them why they should have that fear, and who is to blame for it.
• Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email [email protected]