Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Opposition MPs goin’ with Owen?


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I want to say this – that I was elected by the people of St Peter to serve and I shall serve, and if it is my judgement that the circumstances facing my country and my party requires that I continue to serve, I shall run again! – Former Prime Minister and political leader of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Owen Arthur, at a Women’s League meeting, Sunday, September 6, 2009
IT WAS, as many suggested, the first warning shot by Arthur across the bow of Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley which placed him firmly and unmistakably on the comeback trail.
Yesterday’s political intrigue within the parliamentary group of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had Barbadians enthralled about the possibility of the former Prime Minister having finally made his move to oust Mottley.
As I have noted elsewhere, it was something I had witnessed before in Opposition politics: a former leader firing a warning shot across the bow of the incumbent, signalling that a campaign had just begun to recapture the leadership position that he had given up.
In April 2004, the then former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) leader David Thompson used the opportunity of a joint meeting of the St Philip North and South constituency branches at Bayley’s Primary School to throw down the gauntlet to his successor Clyde Mascoll, to whom he had bequeathed power in the party a few years earlier.
Though he refrained from singling out an individual by name, Thompson charged that there was a practice of “intellectualising our every undertaking, which will not succeed in bringing us votes at the next or future elections”.
Thompson clearly felt that Mascoll’s approach would not win an election for the DLP, in much the same way that Arthur now appears to have serious misgivings about Mottley’s capacity to regain the Government for the BLP.
All of the polls which were conducted leading up to election day in January 2008 revealed that Arthur was the most popular political figure in Barbados, notwithstanding the declining popularity of his party.
The eventual outcome, which placed the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in office, reflected the pulse of the voters.
Once the dust had settled politically, the issue became the performance of the ruling Democratic Labour Party and its leader Thompson.
As fate would have it, the much talked about recession during the election campaign took less than six months to reveal itself.
And while the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) went for Mottley as its choice to lead after Arthur indicated his desire to rest, his shadow would always be present.
This presence would be enlarged once the economic recession deepened and the Government’s fiscal affairs worsened.
The dramatic turn in the health of Prime Minister Thompson witnessed a period of inaction on the part of the Government with respect to an economic programme to address the obvious concerns in the economy.
This played into the hands of the Opposition but more so those of the former Prime Minister, whose record of economic management has been praised even by some of his detractors.
Arthur’s stewardship (1994-2008) coincided with a fall in the country’s unemployment rate from 24 per cent to just under seven per cent.
While the recent CADRES poll might have identified new Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler as “The Man”, it also found that Arthur was the preferred leader of the country after Thompson.
In the circumstances, Members of Parliament on the Opposition benches acting in their self-interest and that of the wider party might have interpreted the poll literally, without the inferences of the analysts.


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