Is the star of former deputy Prime Minister Mia Mottley diminishing further within the ranks of the Barbados Labour Party?
This is a question resounding away from the political platform and one that is being raised on the podiums of both the Democratic Labour Party as the general election campaign heats up across the island.
Much has changed in the life of the popular St. Michael North East MP since going into the January 2008 general election.
Just over five years ago she was the unchallenged deputy to then Prime Minister Owen Arthur, sitting at his left hand, and even by her own utterances, likely to be Prime Minister one day if the electorate’s movement between the two parties is to be used as the guide.
Her party’s general election defeat led to the then 42-year-old being anointed as the Leader of the Opposition. She in turn appointed the then 44-year-old Dale Marshall, the St. Joseph MP, as her deputy. Firmly entrenched in what could be considered a safe constituency for her, and at such a young age, it appeared that all Mottley had to do was wait.
But in as much as a day in politics is a long time, the past three years have proven to be a damper for her stated ambition to be political leader of Barbados.
Following the well documented “palace coup” where the majority of her parliamentary colleagues, including her deputy, voted to end her leadership, Mottley found herself sidelined, her mentor returned to the helm of the party and Marshall now firmly seated at his left hand.
So what does the future hold in store for Mottley and how close or far is she to emulating the achievements of Dame Eugenia Charles and Kamla Persad Bissessar of becoming a regional female Prime Minister?
If subtle hints and exuberant comments from the BLP’s political platform are to be given any sway, then Mottley will have to lower, if not fully dismiss, her expectations.
Arthur entered the general election with Marshall as his second-in-command and if his recent comments are to be given weight, then Marshall seems to be the man, whether the BLP wins or loses, to be the favoured heir to the BLP throne.
At a recent political rally in St. Joseph Arthur praised Marshall for the support he had given him in “difficult times” and in the party’s “darkest days” following their 2008 general election defeat. He did not specify whether the support from Marshall started before or after Mottley’s ouster. But he described Marshall as his “political son” in whom he was well pleased.
At the same meeting on Thursday a lesser mortal in the person of former Minister of Tourism Noel Lynch also suggested that Marshall stood to be deputy Prime Minister should the BLP win the general election.
Of course, one accepts that both Marshall and Arthur’s comments might have been an effort to boost further the esteem of Marshall in the eyes of St. Joseph folk, taking into consideration that he struggled to retain the seat in 2008 and expectations are again that he might have another tough tussle on his hands on February 21. However, history has shown that Arthur’s deliberate facility with the English language should never be glossed over or taken as simply loose talk.
Mottley is now 47, a still very young politician, and Marshall, at 49, an equally young politician. Arthur turns 64 on October 17. An election defeat for the BLP will almost inevitably lead to Arthur taking a political backseat, as he did in 2008, and Mottley and Marshall’s parliamentary colleagues determining which of the two is the better option to lead the party. Obviously, they must first win their seats. Of course, that Opposition grouping could be vastly different to the one which deserted Mottley in 2010.
However, an election victory for the BLP will naturally return Arthur to the seat of political power in the island, and if the current status quo remains and suggestions from within the party is that it will, then the current Opposition deputy will become the deputy Prime Minister.
Over the next few days, Mottley will no doubt be considering what an election victory will mean for the party, and simultaneously, what an election defeat will mean for her personal ambitions.
She could be faced with a Catch-22 situation.