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A house divided cannot stand, Ms Mottley

At first blush, the call by respected political scientist Dr Tennyson Joseph for the leader of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Mia Mottley, to step down does appear quite previous.

But when one listens to the appeals last weekend by Messieurs Owen Arthur and Kerrie Symmonds, it is clear something has to give to allow the Opposition party to move forward.

Speaking at a BLP St Joseph constituency branch meeting at the Grantley Adams Memorial School on Sunday night, which clearly did not have the backing of the political leader, Mr Arthur was adamant that dissenting voices needed to be heard, and that such has long been the tradition of the 70-year-plus-old political movement.

He harped back to the days of Tom Adams, pointing out that David Simmons and Richard Cheltenham, now both honorary knights, spoke out freely and fearlessly, in much the same way that Errol Barrow, our nation’s Founding Father, as well as the current leader of the Democratic Labour Party, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, had to face strong dissenting views.

“In my own case, when I was leader of this party, George Payne made it clear that he did not support me, and O’Brien Trotman said he done with politics,
but it did not stop me from embracing them as part of the family of the BLP,” Mr Arthur said.

In the same vein, Mr Symmonds told the meeting: “We have to end this climate of distrust and fear of Labour Party people inside the Labour Party. The time has come to stop peeping under ourselves, to stop peeping behind BLP people, but to unleash the wealth that this BLP has, so that the BLP can reposition and ready itself to assume the reins of Government.”

And for those who were still in any doubt over a recent move to have the party discipline Mr Arthur, Mr Symmonds made known his position on the development: “The most asinine of conditions” to think of even bringing “disciplinary measures and threats of expulsion against somebody who took the party from years of Oppostion, took the Government for nearly two decades and transformed the country into the leading island in the Eastern Caribbean”.

After all of that, there can be no more denying the existence of a rift in the BLP.

However, we understand that not everyone, in particular those who make up the eminent group of party stalwarts, would be happy with this current business of hanging dirty linen in public, especially by those on behalf of whom the party would have gone to tremendous lengths in the past to keep private affairs away from the glare of the public spotlight.

And while we concur that if two people always agree, then one is unnecessary, yet there is a way of doing things, and in a leadership contest, you learn to choose your battles well, selecting those you are most likely to win.

It is in that context we take the sentiments of Dr Joseph, who has suggested that now may be a good a time for Ms Mottley to step down –– not permanently –– but at least temporarily so a decision can be made on her ultimate fate.

He reasons that “if you are the head of an organization and every day you come to work you have difficulty with people following you, then you have to make  a decision. You cannot lead that way”.

Therefore, were he in Ms Mottley’s place, Dr Joseph says he would not stay on as leader of the party.

“. . . I would also continue in a very ordinary profile in the party and remember there is another election to come.

“If you have a former Prime Minister in your ranks who is asserting desire for leadership, then that is a complex issue. It diminishes you as a leader. However, if Arthur dies tomorrow, Mottley would emerge as the leader of the party and the entire island would agree with it. Even persons in her ranks who are expressing dissent now would agree that she is the leader.”

Clearly, Dr Joseph has no ill intentions for Ms Mottley. Equally, we don’t see him carrying any remit for Mr Arthur, but as one with obvious sympathy for the Opposition Leader.

That she would have been previously stripped of the title of Leader of the Opposition back in 2010, then retake the reins after the last election, and yet not be in a position to command the necessary respect of her peers is at very least uncomfortable, even though Ms Mottley herself is no sweet bread and is a well known political animal with very deep stripes.

That she has to be constantly looking over her shoulders and dodging internal bullets must be just as uncomfortable, especially when she is also vigorousy and courageously trying to fight an external battle at the same time –– one which requires the collective energy of all troops for victory to be assured.

As President Abraham Lincoln reminded his peers and supporters in his famous speech of 1858, in which he accepted the Illinois Republican nomination for United States Senate, “a house divided against itself cannot stand”.

This point must never be lost on Ms Mottley, nor the powerbrokers in the BLP.

Any internal spat between Ms Mottley and Mr Arthur is counterproductive and an unneeded distraction, especially at a time when the Stuart administration needs to be kept on its toes.

For the sake of democracy guys, get your house in order!

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