A crisis of leadership
A close assessment of the systematic survey conducted this month reveals little from which either of the two main political parties can derive a sense of comfort.
With respect to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), there is a grim reality that only one in five of the respondents, or 21 per cent, would not like to see a change of Government in the next general election, while nearly two thirds of the respondents, or 62 per cent, said they would like to have a change of Government. This desire for change must be a source of alarm for a Government that appears to be readying itself for an election within the next ten to 12 months, so as to capitalize on the golden jubilee of Independence.
For the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), even less comfort can be drawn from the overwhelming desire for change. One third of the respondents surveyed, or 32 per cent, believe that the BLP is not ready to take Barbados forward on a path to success. This demonstrates a clear reservation about the BLP’s ability to be a satisfactory alternative, a concern which is further illustrated by two other significant findings.
The first is that as many as 40 per cent of the respondents believe the BLP would have performed in exactly the same way as the Dems, were it in power. This clearly suggests that the BLP has failed to persuade a very significant percentage of the respondents that it has done the necessary in-house preparation, analysis or research to make a difference in the policy direction of the country.
In short, the BLP has failed to cut a contrast with the Government.
That inability to cut a contrast is also illustrated by the finding that Mia Mottley, despite having now held unrivalled control over the political and administrative arms of the party since Owen Arthur’s departure in July, 2014, is only viewed by 21 per cent of the respondents as being suited to lead Barbados. That percentage of support is statistically equivalent to the 17 per cent support enjoyed by Prime Minister Stuart.
The harsh fact for the BLP is that despite having enjoyed complete control of her party, Ms Mottley has not been able to contrast herself from the Prime Minister as a political leader.
Added to these concerns is the fact that on March 15, 2015, less than a year ago, a CADRES Poll concluded that Ms Mottley enjoyed a 48 per cent level of support as the person best suited to be Prime Minister, while at the time, Mr Freundel Stuart’s rating was only 13 per cent. Clearly therefore, Mr Stuart’s stock has risen while Ms Mottley’s has plummeted.
The challenge for Ms Mottley now is to explain her stunning 56 per cent decline in popularity during the course of the last 11 months. The BLP’s concerns, however, do not end there.
The survey has also considered the effect of the Maria Agard issue on attitudes towards the BLP. A statistically significant one in five, or 21 per cent, of respondents revealed that it has made them view the BLP less favourably.
If it is to win the next general election, the BLP must be competitive in the marginal St Michael constituencies and across the entirety of Christ Church. It cannot therefore afford the luxury of forfeiting one fifth of the vote in these parishes; and its cause is not helped by a potential loss
of one in every five votes due to this self-inflicted issue.
Finally, there is a desire on the part of 44 per cent of the respondents for Owen Arthur to return to active involvement in the BLP. Those who desire his return were found to be spread across all demographic groups and included first-time voters, as well as voters who indicated they were inclined to support the BLP in the next general election.
This presents a significant challenge for Ms Mottley as a leader. The perception of her leadership is already one of a person in a freefall who is not easily distinguishable from Prime Minister Stuart. That perception is made worse by the view that respondents are now so disillusioned, they are prepared to reach far back into political archives for a former leader in the hope of restoring some credibility to the party’s direction and image.
By this poll, both leaders have been confronted with a number of serious questions. In particular, Ms Mottley’s leadership style and quality will now come under as much scrutiny as has Mr Stuart’s; and one anxiously looks forward to her ability to provide meaningful answers.
(This commentary was submitted by A Concerned Political Analyst.)