Will we see Mr Stuart off his high horse?
Of the many meanings of the word “high”, the one that most aptly describes Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is “great in rank, status, or importance” –– although sometimes we are tempted to believe there is yet another definition: morally or culturally superior. As the country’s political leader, Mr Stuart occupies a position of great power; greater than any other politician in the land. He is the one the country looks to for its security –– economic and otherwise; its safety; its development.
The country is counting on him for leadership; to help it cope with the bitter taste of recession and all its by-products.
Surely, the Prime Minister must also be familiar with the phrase “on one’s high horse”, which means behaving in an arrogant or pompous manner. Unlike its first use in mediaeval England when riders of high horses were poised and very ready
to assume a proud and commanding position, the term is employed today to mock those who assume a superior and disdainful posture, and who behave in a haughty and self-righteous manner.
Regrettably, this is how a large percentage of Barbadians see their Prime Minister.
Therefore, when the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) issued a release last week stating that among the matters discussed at a Cabinet retreat was “improving Government’s communications with the public”, we took note. Was this an admission that the Government was not communicating with Barbadians? Was it serious about making an effort after seven and a half years in office? Should we even believe this administration?
That was when the apprehension set in –– apprehension shared by political scientist Peter Wickham.
“I think it is an admission that there is a communication deficit, and you would have to be living outside of Barbados not to be able to see that. As to whether or not . . . anything will be done about it, I am very doubtful,” Mr Wickham said.
We have other questions too. How do the members of this Government plan to communicate? What is their strategy? Will they simply issue frequent Press releases, or will they face the Barbadian public in town halls and on social media? Will Mr Stuart come off his high horse and speak with Barbadians, or will he simply do a lot more talking down to us?
The patrician that he is –– and in this case we refer to a person of very good background, education and refinement, and not to the original aristocratic families
of Ancient Rome –– Mr Stuart must be aware of Sir Winston Churchill’s heroics as a leader. Sir Winston rallied the British people, and led his country from the brink of defeat to victory in World War II.
It all began with a rousing speech to the House of Commons on May 13, 1940, three days after Sir Winston had replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister of Britain, and with the country facing possible defeat in the war.
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.
“You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory. Victory at all costs –– victory in spite of all terror –– victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.”
Although Sir Winston was not the preferred choice of most Conservatives to succeed Mr Chamberlain, he brought them and the country along, and his motion passed unanimously. With speeches like this, and his We Shall Fight On The Beaches address of June 4 and the This Was Their Finest Hour speech of June 18, Sir Winston communicated with the people in a language they could understand. And he gave Britain hope.
Which is what is lacking here: hope! Like Sir Winston was, Mr Stuart is blessed with great oratorical skills; but this is where the comparisons end. For too long now, Barbadians have been clamouring for leadership, urging the Prime Minister to give them some hope in the wake of the very dark economic shadows that cover them. Instead they get silence and haughtiness. The country is gripped in a nightmarish stronghold of fear amidst a spate of gun crimes.
If ever there was a time for the Prime Minister to communicate, to give the country hope, this is it. Instead, there’s the booming sound of silence and arrogance. Barbadians have so many questions about Cahill Energy, about consolidation of statutory bodies; so many doubts about tomorrow. This is the time for Mr Stuart to give us hope, to come down to talk with us. Instead, there’s nothing but the still of quietness and the apparent air of contempt.
Often, all people want is for their leader to go to them and talk, discuss their problems, empathize with them and give them hope. The fact that Cabinet must now talk about how to talk with Barbadians is a frightening, yet damning indictment of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, and can be seen as an attempt to begin their campaign of spin for the next general election.
All along, people have wanted honest, open and consistent communication, and it has not been forthcoming. Now might be too late for talking, because few might be willing to listen. But still we await Mr Stuart’s Blood, Toil, Tears, And Sweat speech. Until then, we are forced to believe that the Prime Minister remains firmly perched on his high horse.