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    September 22

  • 08:06 PM

PURELY POLITICAL: What options for Mia now?

Albert Brandford,

Added 17 October 2010


We felt that though we could have brought closure to this matter, we wanted to be fair to her [Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley]. – chairman of the Barbados Labour Party, George Payne MP, October 13. WHEN I SAW a clutch of Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Members of Parliament dressed in business suits last week at a Press conference, it was immediately obvious they were not about an ordinary meeting of the parliamentary group. Instead, theirs was clearly a mission to seek a formal audience with the Governor General to change their allegiance from beleaguered Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley to another of their number – presumably former Prime Minister Owen Arthur. Their hands were stayed, however, possibly by the influences of others within the party, certainly not in Parliament, but more likely they were swayed by George Payne’s self-proclaimed sense of fairness and justice. In explaining to the expectant media why Mottley has been summoned to a council of her peers in the House of Assembly tomorrow at 10 a.m., Payne said the now famous letter was sent to her because they wanted to ensure that she was given a “fair hearing”. He said that for last Tuesday’s meeting of the parliamentary group, Mottley had 48 hours’ notice, “24 hours more than when she invited us to her meeting [earlier this year]”. “Even though we can constitutionally move [to replace her], we decided to give her more than 48 hours this time,” Payne added. His comments suggest they now felt that Mottley’s precarious situation demanded she be treated justly even if they were only postponing the inevitable.   There is a limit, however, to how far justice is truly served in a system of parliamentary democracy like ours. Justice is that thing which conforms to high moral principles in conduct and character; and if politics were not that thing which informs the process of parliamentary democracy, then it would be reasonable to expect justice to prevail in politics. Majority view Our system of parliamentary democracy, however, is not about justice, it is about the majority view. This view is best exemplified in the way in which our Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are chosen. By now, it must be clear to everyone, including former MP and Cabinet Minister Trevor Prescod, that only the Members on either side of the aisle in the House of Assembly, and not any rank and file as was recently noised abroad, have a say in determining the political leadership in Parliament based on majority rule. Now it seems Payne may have his own troubles with information late last Friday suggesting moves afoot to have him expelled from the BLP for an alleged breach of its constitution by “acting in [a] manner inimical to the best interest of the party”. The question is when would such expulsion take place? Before tomorrow’s meeting? Would he be given a hearing to defend the charge? Would that hearing take place before or after the meeting? If he is not at the meeting and should it come to a vote, would Mottley, as presumptive chair of the Parliamentary Group, have an original and casting vote? What happens if, according to whatever rules guide that group’s meetings, she does? Would the so-called dissidents still be able to go to the Governor General to withdraw their support for Mottley?  The plot thickens. The recent CADRES poll and the parade still surrounding the move to change the leadership of the Barbados Labour Party are insignificant factors in determining the respective leaders of the two parties in Parliament. The matter rests squarely on the shoulders of the elected Members of Parliament. No one else has a real say. Not to belabour the point I have been making recently, but the basis of the decision-making in politics is self-interest. The collective self-interest of a group of politicians is determined by access to power; that is the thing that allows them to govern. No politician enjoys being in Opposition, he tolerates it. Therefore, the elected members of the Barbados Labour Party have the right to change the Leader of the Opposition if and when they so choose. So what, if any, might be Mottley’s options ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the parliamentary group? Ignore the clamant calls for her head and stay away? Attend and use all her forensic skills and oratory to defend her stewardship to ask for a second chance? Or call for a show of hands? Whichever way she decides, what happens to her if she is forced to vacate the position of Leader of the Opposition? She is in her mid-40s and has the time on her hands to rebound. Unfortunately, since justice is not the strong suit of politics, there are no guarantees with respect to leadership succession. Implications Further, the move by the majority is bound to have implications for the immediate future relationship between Mottley and the other Barbados Labour Party MPs. Any new relationship would have to be managed very carefully to ensure that there is restoration of trust, if she is to re-emerge down the road. Her focus has to be on honing other political skills that would allow her to reach out without necessarily reaching in. Given that there has been an insistence on the way in which the change is handled, it is very unlikely the Mottley would see another political party as an alternative, effectively ruling out defection, or forming a new party. She is talented enough to recognise that opportunity is the thing of which politics is made, and being in position is the first step in grabbing that opportunity when it comes. If Owen Arthur takes over the reins and is unsuccessful in the next general election, then her original expectation of being in Opposition for at least two terms is realised. On the other hand, if he succeeds, then his tenure has to focus on rebuilding a team and grooming a successor. If the Democratic Labour Party loses the next election to the BLP with Arthur as the leader, it would send a signal of the value of leadership and certain required skills that he obviously possesses in the eyes of the public. This would become a lesson for Mottley and certainly the eventual leaders of the DLP. • Albert Brandford is an independent, freelance political correspondent.


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Instead of an announcement via the Throne Speech, should Barbadians decide via referendum whether the country becomes a republic?