Are we seeing some serious alternative?
Without the fanfare usually associated with a momentous development like this, an initiative was quietly launched a few weeks ago to provide Barbadians with what the authors say is a “competent alternative” to the two dominant political parties at the next general election constitutionally two years away.
Being spearheaded through a cyberspace campaign by engineer and occasional social commentator Grenville Phillips II, the Solutions Barbados initiative involves, to quote a write-up on its website, “a group of men and women who love Barbados, treasure our reputations, and plan to offer ourselves as candidates in the next general election . . .”.
Barbados belongs to the large and diverse global family of parliamentary democracies. As freedom of choice is the bedrock of this political model, any initiative that seeks to increase the range of political options available to voters must be seen as a welcome and positive development for democracy on the island.
Besides, anyone who has closely followed public debate on the state of local politics in recent years would have clearly discerned some interest in the emergence of an alternative to the ruling Democratic Labour Party (BLP) and Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP). Public disenchantment with both parties seems to be on the rise.
Solutions Barbados says it is looking for “accomplished men and women of demonstrated integrity and leadership” to contest the next general election. It tells prospective candidates to expect “long working hours, vicious personal criticisms, no pay, a slim chance of being elected, and an exciting journey”.
By speaking of a “slim chance of being elected”, it seems the Solutions Barbados initiative has already resigned itself to the strong likelihood of electoral defeat even before it is fully off the ground. It is a negative note on which to start. Human nature is such that people tend to want to be associated with winners rather than losers.
Voters are unlikely to gravitate towards a party that tells them pretty much that it is destined for defeat, even though it may offer an attractive programme. To be taken seriously, a political party must be effective in generating hope and confidence, especially in itself, in an environment where considerable voter scepticism already exists.
The generation of hope and confidence has to be the key objective of the party’s political narrative, which must be persuasively communicated. This, however, is not the only area where the fledgling Solutions Barbados initiative has fallen short. On its website is another profound statement that questions whether it is really serious about its stated objective of providing Barbadians
with a “competent alternative” to the BLP and DLP.
In outlining their motivation for entering the political fray, the authors explained: “One political leader recently revealed that only those in the political trenches had the right to have their advice on national issues considered. Since we do not plan to stop offering unsolicited advice, and we have no desire to engage in futile exercises, then we have no choice but to reluctantly enter the political trench.
The Solutions Barbados authors added: “If the Government or Opposition parties follow our advice, then we will leave the trench as quickly as we entered it –– the choice is theirs.”
An interpretation of the statement leads to the logical conclusion that Solutions Barbados has the mindset more of a pressure group than of a political party.
A serious political party is always inspired by a philosophy of how society should be organized that goes beyond securing the mere implementation of its agenda by other parties. Even in cases where this may happen, a serious political party stays in the trenches for the long haul because of commitment to philosophy and an expectation that the opportunity will eventually come to implement its agenda itself.
To have started on such a note, Solutions Barbados clearly has a lot of homework to do if it really wishes to convince Barbadians to take it seriously as a political alternative. It needs, first and foremost, to re-examine its political communications, especially its message, and demonstrate in convincing fashion
why it is a better choice than either the DLP or BLP.
Politics, in the final analysis, is about fighting a battle of persuasive communication. Whoever eventually emerges as winner is usually the one who has succeeded in capturing the imagination of voters with the most compelling message to attract a majority of support through the ballot box.