Saturday, March 2, 2024

EDITORIAL: Time for DLP, BLP inward reflection

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MUCH HAS CHANGED with our political parties since their emergence out of the riots of the late 1930s. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was driven by the trade union movement while the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) focused on nation-building.

Today they form our classic two-party system, allowing for a level of consistent competition, which is why many people believe there is no significant difference between them.

So as the BLP celebrates its 78th anniversary this week and the DLP prepares to begin its 61st next week, this is an ideal occasion for both of them to reflect on the best way forward. these organisations, which once loudly proclaimed that they served the majority, need to reflect on the public perception that the primary objective of the political class is to win elections and look after itself.

There can be no denying the great gains Barbados has made under these political parties, which have been relatively strong mass-based organisations. It is also true that the loyalties of the first and second generation supporters no longer obtain today. A better educated and more informed electorate is less trusting of politicians even though no credible alternative has emerged to replace the existing political party structure coming out of the colonial experience and patterned after the Westminster system we inherited.

Barbados no longer has iconoclastic and charismatic leaders like Grantley Adams and Errol Barrow but must now look to the managerial class. That is why our political parties of today need to change with the times and respond to the needs of a complex, modern economy.

These political parties must therefore be driven by the highest standards of integrity, with zero tolerance for dishonesty and corruption, while at the same time abstaining from political victimisation. They must not be the new comfort zone for the professional politician, the business elites and the middle class.

It is critical that both the BLP and the DLP be far more transparent and open in the conduct of their affairs. They need to embrace campaign financing reform which would allow the public to know the big contributors, even as they reject election vote buying.

They also need to declare their financial status annually and must move to ensure that elected politicians all declare their assets before and during their term of office. This would be a great boost in clarifying and even eliminating the speculation which can bedevil the institutions as well as the individuals.

At the same time, both the BLP and the DLP must also be more pragmatic and stop making unrealistic promises. They have a responsibility not to make worse an already defective system of governance, which will only lead to greater distrust and apathy amongst the electorate.

Reforms in relation to political parties and electoral practices must be high on the agenda if we truly want to put Barbados first.

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