By September 2010 the BLP was already on the highway to an electoral victory: Opinion from Henderson Bovell, Former Social Policy & Political Analyst to previous Leader of the Opposition
It is really not true that there is now some major effort or task to hold the BLP together or that a foundation has to be laid, in order for the party to move forward. In fact by September 29th 2010, when then Opposition Leader Mia Mottley addressed the Barbados Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCCI) and outlined a new economic model and development path for Barbados, (having already introduced a new politics) it was clear to the entire country that the BLP was well on the way to an election victory. That address, was widely embraced by moderators, academics, the Private Sector and patriotic Barbadians – as refreshing and worthy of serious national conversations.
Since January 20th, 2008 – the Party was busy charting a new path and putting new systems in place in order to be relevant and responsive to the needs of the people. As the first order of business, a decision was made to find fresh people who were brimming with new ideas – to serve the party in various constituencies. The policy was simple: select the very best of the past, mixed with the present to get the best Team for the future. The party was even criticised for putting candidates in place “too early” but it was more about serving the people, than purely pursuing state power. Candidates were told that they did not have to be in Parliament in order to serve people and each of them was invited to ‘do good works’ within their respective constituencies.
- The Message
Every effort was made to ensure that the party’s image and message was right, hence an Editorial Committee, was established, with the directive that before anything was sent on the party’s behalf, it had to be approved by three members of that Committee.
Instead of Shadow Ministers, “Teams” were established, which were each chaired by a Sitting Member of Parliament. There was an Economic Team; a Team on Governance; a Team on Physical Development and the Environment and a Social Policy Team. Zonal Conferences were held. A Policy Committee was also established to formulate manifesto proposals and persons were assigned responsibilities for initiatives such as: Social/Political Research; Economic Research, Network 111, as well as to revise the party’s Constitution to provide for: Zonal Conferences, the Stalwarts and the League of Young Socialist, to name a few.
- Getting the Message across
The party was forced to find innovative ways to get its message across and despite an offer to purchase air-time on three occasions – it was literally denied access to CBC, except for funerals and to broadcast an Independence and Christmas Message. As a response, a decision was taken to speak directly to the people within communities and so: The ‘Live and Direct’ series of Community Meetings were started.
- Public Meetings
Between 2008 and September 2010, the party also held six National Meetings. Two in Heroes Square; one in Oistins; one at Eagle Hall, one at St. Patrick’s and one at Haggatt Hall. By the time the last meeting was held, it was clear that the BLP was building momentum and was attracting, what was essentially an election crowd, out of an election season. Some events were streamed live. That is exactly how the party’s money was spent. The hosting of six National Meetings and the purchase of radio and Newspaper advertising accounted for a huge chunk of what was spent. However, as would be expected, every red cent can be accounted for.
In addition, timely Press Releases were issued and Media Conferences were held. The BLP had a presence on all Blogs, while its message was also communicated via You Tube and on the then – party’s attractive webpage, which was updated daily. After each Media Conference, the content was widely distributed both in hard copy and by MP3, while text, audio and video was posted on the party’s website. Time was purchased from VOB to accommodate the Leader’s, once-month, end-of-the-month national address.
- Other Communication plans
There was also a plan – for the Leader and Teams to meet the Press, to discuss issues as they arise and training was to have been executed for new candidates.
- Community presence
Members, supports and the general public – were always kept informed about what the party was doing (via text messages and e-mails) whether it was a branch meeting or a social event such as the: ‘In and About’ session, which was an initiative for the leader; the candidate and the entire BLP family – to visit some location within a constituency, either on a Friday or Saturday night. The leader was also on the ground with and among the people all across Barbados.
- BLP Speaks
Perhaps the most progressive initiative was the party weekly broadcast: ‘BLP Speaks,’ which was aired on VOB at 2:05 p.m., every Friday. This was used, to get the party’s message across but also to build the profile and public image of new candidates. Other initiatives were on the card and the people who were involved in those conversations, especially the Young Socialist, know what was being discussed.
- The Leader and Team BLP
What I can also say is that when the late Prime Minister was in his prime (no pun intended) the then Leader of the Opposition – The Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C., M.P., was right there, shoulder-to-shoulder, with him. The BLP Parliamentary Team was united to the extent that it walked out of Parliament in solidarity, when it was felt that former Prime Minister, The Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur, M.P., was being un-faired.
The simple point I am making is that by the time the late Prime Minister announced that he was seriously ill (in about August 2010) the BLP was already on the highway to an election victory. The leader was humble and Barbadians wanted to be part of history in the making.
Our Team was disciplined; the leader was charismatic; mature and responsible and demonstrated her humanity, having also introduced a new politics, as well as outlined a new economic and development model for Barbados. It is now obvious that the people liked what was being said – the tone and also, the direction in which the BLP was going – and Miss Motley’s address to the BCCI, on September 29th, 2011, ‘was the tipping point.’
This is the honest truth, as I remember it.