Submitted by Dr. George C. Brathwaite
Since the announcement by Barbados Labour Party (BLP) through the Leader of the Opposition to embark upon a strategy of bringing a ‘no-confidence’ motion against the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), several cynics have questioned the decision and decried the move. One gathers from the critical statements made, and with the BLP holding a parliamentary minority, that Mia Mottley is heading for another ‘embarrassment’.
However, Mottley and the BLP members are resolute; and rightly so. They suggest that the motion of no-confidence is not simply about winning a vote. Rather, it is to ensure that the current and mounting issues which have been managing to burden Barbados and occupy much public apprehension (if the popular discourse is to be accepted), need to be highlighted and addressed.
Mottley asserted that: “This motion of no-confidence is not about having the parliamentary majority … but it is about bringing the facts to the people of the country because Barbadians deserve the right to be able to determine their future and their destiny on the basis of the facts available to them.” Is this not a fact?
Let us be clear. Since the DLP won the 2008 general election and having surprisingly repeated the feat in 2013 after being labelled by many to be the worst performing administration in the history of Barbados, two no-confidence motions brought by Mottley and the BLP had failed, being less impactful than the BLP would have desired. Mottley brought motions in 2009 over the CLICO collapse, and then again in 2013 over the DLP’s austere and tax-driven economic strategy that pushed thousands out of work.
Notwithstanding, the double defeats, nothing happened to strengthen the executive/legislative grip of the DLP, nor lessen the fortunes of the BLP – beyond the voluntary and forced departure of two members. The former BLP members whose alleged lack of commitment to rally around the present leader, became apparently irreversible given the self-protracted priorities of both over more conventional party rallying.
For Mia Mottley, the outcome of the previous two no-confidence motions helped to feed the bogus claim that she was in a ‘rush’ to become Prime Minister. Reflectively, the frenzied twist against Mottley – intensified by internal struggle – has caused some anxieties and dissent among those within the BLP’s membership and support.
The current doubt and scepticism on this latest move of no-confidence, perhaps shows that several BLPites do not fully understand that there are solid grounds for exposing a paltry government. Again, much political mileage is on offer for the BLP, including the opportunity to snatch political buoyancy and momentum in the public domain.
Mottley is contending that with the insidious silence of the DLP on so many matters of national concern, the Stuart-led DLP has become in all practicality a ‘government by stealth’. Mottley explained that “we cannot have a government by stealth, a government by rumour, and a government by anonymity. That all equates to no government at all … bred by a culture of silence which is unacceptable given the dire state of affairs in the country today.”
Surely, this is apt description of the DLP’s occupancy in government. The DLP charade puts Barbados realistically and reputedly in a perilous position. Mottley’s sentiments coincide with many things being said about the country’s executive at home and abroad.
Clearly, even the best leaders can be undermined by factors beyond their control, and this was likely the case for Mia Mottley on the two previous occasions when ‘no-confidence motions were carried (hardly a debate in the latter).
To the extent that all leaders, regardless of ability, fear suffering a future demise, will suggest that the strategy being employed by the BLP and Mottley for the third time, stands a far better chance of gaining widespread national backing, provided that the most crucial and damaging issues are effectively presented and debated.
Despite not achieving numerical success in the Lower House, the negative exposure will likely awaken Stuart to desperate remedial action. Also, the BLP’s trigger could draw demands from the public for general elections sooner rather than later.
Added to this tactical opening, has to be the assumption that ‘it is [incumbent] leaders who fear the future, not those who expect their fortunes to improve’. Mottley and the BLP have nothing to lose, but will have everything to gain.
In fact, this third no-confidence motion by the BLP will have the effect of solidifying in the minds of the electorate, that too often in the recent past, the DLP has been contemptuous in its dealings with the public. The DLP’s nonchalance towards public engagement, its abandonment of accountability and transparency, and its worsening penchant for consecutive bouts of economic failure are discomforting for most Barbadians, although tolerable for a die-hard minority of DLP surrogates.
The DLP has managed to prevail – aided by the perils and pathways to mutiny against Mottley – and by the political spectacle of distractions. Side-stream issues happen to greet the public on each occasion that Barbados appears to sink lower in both economy and society. Distractions, therefore, are the DLP’s most potent weapon. Do not be surprised if the propagandists in that party spin another diversion, once the no-confidence motion gains steam.
Traditionally, “governments care about performance since it affects their popularity and hence their ability to win the next election.” The BLP has to become more vocal and more synergised as it goes about exposing the incompetence of the DLP.
The BLP must in simple and clear terms show the impacts of the DLP’s economic failures, the non-existent economic growth, the depletion of foreign exchange, the rising debt by government to the NIS, the increased hardships that have brought the poor to their knees, and the growing incidence of disputes in industrial relations.
The BLP cannot afford to shield the DLP from public censure regarding the several claims of shady deals and possible corrupt practices likely to implicate more than one DLP Minister of Government.
Political theorists contend that: “Opposition parties can use their legislative forum to raise embarrassing questions in anticipation of the next election and may occasionally find procedural levers of influence.” For the sake of Barbados, one must hope that the BLP gets its strategy right, and take the people’s fight to a badly stumbling and fumbling DLP.
Hence, the BLP-Mottley risk is marginal when compared with the fact that the DLP and Barbados can continue to drift for another 22 months, operating as a government by stealth.
To that end, everyone should realise that “the actual legislative defeat and subsequent fall of a government on a no-confidence vote is, in practice, very rare in parliamentary democracies; just as an actual checkmate is very rare in a chess game played between grandmasters.”
Fortune favours the brave, Miss Mottley. Proceed with courage. At this juncture, most Barbadians will firmly support the BLP’s efforts. Answers have not been forthcoming from the dilly-dallying DLP.