Barbados By Election of St John – Two in A Row: David Thompson Now Defeats Owen Arthur from the Grave
A disunited Barbados Labour Party, taking as much baggage as it did into the St. John By-election, was never going to win that seat. To have given itself even a sporting chance, it needed to have been disciplined and its message needed to have been clear, clearly though out and certain.
Following the IADB Report of the 1990’s, the BLP made the claim that St. John was the poorest parish in Barbados. Again during the By-election, the BLP made the allegation that after 58 years of DLP rule – St. John was neglected and was badly in need of representation.
It is obvious that the people of St. John do not agree. That is the first BLP error – questioning the people’s judgment and stating what is best for them.
Somehow, it did not seem to have occurred to the BLP that given the high cost of living and increased taxes that the people of St. John would have been under severe economic pressure (if its allegation were to be believed) especially since their situation would have been made much worst due to the current economic climate. In such an environment (as clearly would have been manufactured by the DLP) the people of St. John would not want “hope” but “immediate relief.”
Therefore, even on the strength of the BLP’s primary argument, you quickly realised that it was making it difficult for the electorate to take it seriously because its message was wrong. People who are poor and suffering do not need hope, they need immediate relief. And so it is clear that the BLP’s campaign was off to a disastrous start.
The BLP was not in a positive to give the people immediate relief in a By-election.
Questioning Mara’s eligibility to be the candidate because she was born in St, Lucia, also saw the BLP’s political leader on the wrong side of public opinion, both in Barbados and in the Caribbean and you immediately realise that there could not have been a clamour for him. Heavily wounded, Owen Arthur was never going to be effective in the campaign.
And so, from the outset, the BLP’s campaign was doomed because it was clear that Arthur had made the By-election personal. David Thompson had defeated him at the polls, a mere 2 ½ years ago, when he was alive and now – Arthur seem to have been haunted by Thompson’s ghost from the grave.
In fact, Owen Arthur made it impossible for the BLP to win the seat in St. John because from the outset, he tried to make the By-election about him. This is a man that called a media conference on the morning when it was announced that David Thompson had died. From there it was mistake after mistake.
When the BLP’s candidate was opening his campaign headquarters, his political leader was on a boat cruise. He was not there either when the candidate paid his deposit. The minute Owen Arthur attacked Mara, the BLP handed the DLP the campaign on a silver platter. It was a position of no return. The BLP was never going to get the people of St. John to vote for a dis-united BLP and attacking Mara (a woman) only reminded the country that the people in control of the BLP’s campaign were the very people who had ousted Mia Mottley, Barbados first female Leader of the Opposition, from office.
The campaign manager was ineffective because when Arthur started taking serious body-blows from all quarters, he should have at least called a Media Conference and try to put a spin on the issue. Being yesterday’s man, Arthur could not get any of the females in his party to come to his recuse and having already referred to the stalwarts as “toxic assets,” there was no way that they would have assisted him.
It was also no laughing matter that in a By-election, Owen Arthur was attracting substantially fewer people than Mia Mottley had attracted, outside of an election season. So to rescue its campaign, which by that time had hit rock bottom, the BLP sent for the same Mia Mottley they had ousted. No one will deny that Mia Mottley gave the platform life and introduced a kinder, gentler, civil politics to the campaign. She did not criticise and made suggestions that make sense. It was also not surprising that on the nights she spoke, the BLP pulled huge crowds but for the most part, its campaign was combative, cantankerous and crude. If the BLP was really serious about asking the people of St. John to choose and move away from the DLP after 58 years – then it clearly could not have come back to the people (especially the people of St. John) in the identical form it did a mere 2 ½ years ago, when the people of Barbados said they wanted change.
It was also an error on the part of the campaign team to put Owen Arthur to speak after Mia Mottley. On both occasions, he struggled badly.
It was Mia Mottley who gave the campaign focus and showed compassion. She seemed genuinely concerned about how the people of St. John and Barbadians were coping during these harsh economic times and if they are able to “keep body and soul together.” Once the BLP campaign team realised that they were losing the By-election, they immediately went into salvage mode. For them, it was never about the people!
I doubt whether it has escaped the public’s attention that the persons who ousted Mia Mottley were mere pedestrians in this By-election. The party chairman obviously had nothing to say and remained mute. This is strange because he seemed to have had a lot to talk about in October last year. For his part, making Dale Marshall campaign manager highlighted the folly of the so-called gang of five ousting Mia Mottley thereby putting Barbados’ development on hold. Dale was clearly out of his league.
And so; the lesson from the St. John By-election is simple. David Thompson has again defeated Owen Arthur, this time from the grave, as he did in 2008 when alive. This may suggest that Arthur has maxed out – having now led the BLP to two consecutive defeats. No one expected that in the middle of an economic crisis or that while being the only Economist in the Parliament of Barbados and after alleging that there is a clamour for him – that Owen Arthur would have been so badly beaten at the poll, by (of all people) a woman from St. Lucian.
But Arthur may have only now confirmed what the DLP said about him during the recent Budget – that he is “yesterday’s man.” I do not believe that the people of St. John voted for the DLP because they like it better than themselves of their children. It remains a mystery that after 58 years, the people of St. John are still with the DLP but after 14 years of Arthur, the people of Barbados wanted change.
The people of St. John had an option to choose between Owen Arthur and “a St. Lucian woman and her incompetent DLP” and it is obvious who they prefer, even in an economic crisis when you would think that the country would value Arthur’s skills highly. Under its present leadership, the BLP lacks the capacity to motivate the electorate or encourage them to say “no,” even to an incompetent DLP.
With a general election two years away, this is a very bad sign. The BLP has now become a party that criticises for criticising sake. It criticised the DLP for not holding enough public meetings in St. John and Mara for being born in St. Lucia. This is serious. Losing the St. John By-election clearly cannot be the reason why five men would have ousted the same Mia Mottley, who out-shone all of them in the St. John By-election, even though making only two speeches.