Of chance, gossip, a big lie and leadership

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.”

– General Colin Powell

Leadership has played a pivotal role in every post-Independence general election in Barbados. And this country has been blessed with excellent leaders who, despite whatever human flaws they might have had or have, were never found to be individuals without integrity. From time to time the administrations of Errol Barrow, Tom Adams, Bernard St John, Erskine Sandiford, Owen Arthur and David Thompson might have had instances where some controversy might have surfaced but never was their leadership credibility and integrity brought into disrepute.

Current Prime Minister Freundel Stuart might have his detractors, especially where his leadership style and communication modus operandi are concerned. But never has his integrity been publicly or politically questioned.

Writing in his seminal text The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene says: “Do not leave your reputation to chance or gossip; it is your life’s artwork, and you must craft it, hone it, and display it with the care of an artist.” In the world of politics, especially for those in a position of leadership, this is a crucial dictate.

Somewhat earlier than Greene, a late and not particularly lamented 20th century German leader once noted that the broad masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one. Again, in the realm of politics, especially for those in positions of leadership, this is a truism that can derail not only leaders but those being led.

And so we return to an accusation that will not go away. And if the rumblings of an ongoing investigation that could lead to England are true, the substance of the accusation will be a major issue in the next general election. The ruling Democratic Labour Party has basically accused Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley with practising a legal profession while not having all the qualifications so to do. It is not only an accusation related to her academic qualifications, but as a potential Prime Minister, the accusation is clearly questioning her capacity and integrity to sit in the highest political chair in the country.

It is an accusation that is not new. It has been bandied around for more than two years. It is one that can be easily put to rest by the production of all documents related to what the Laws of Barbados require for one to be a practising attorney-at-law. Documents of all sorts have been produced in Parliament but to date those related to – as Greene would have stated – not leaving one’s “reputation to chance or gossip” have not been produced.

And, if Miss Mottley is a victim of – as the maniac of Braunau am Inn once stated – a “big lie” by the Democratic Labour Party, it is incumbent on her to ensure that the broad masses of the people do not “easily fall victims to a big lie”. And there is only one way by which this can be achieved – produce that law degree and legal certificate and end the assault on an artwork still being crafted, honed and displayed.

At a recent meeting of the BLP’s Women’s League, St James North MP Edmund Hinkson had his say on the issue but rather than drown the controversy, Mr Hinkson’s contribution was tantamount to extinguishing a fire with gasoline. He stated that there was at least one sitting judge who was in a similar position to Miss Mottley in terms of not having a legal certificate. Mr Hinkson said nothing with respect to his political leader having or not having a law degree. But truth be told, this is not Mr Hinkson’s issue to address, it is Miss Mottley’s. And his suggestion that there is a sitting judge in a “similar position” was no comfort to anyone. Indeed, it cannot even be construed as a vicarious admission that the DLP’s accusations are true.

But there is another element to this ongoing saga. If this matter is pursued along legal lines and no proof of qualifications are ever produced, where does this leave the other members of the Barbados Labour Party who are entering general election mode anticipating Miss Mottley to lead them to victory? Do they brush this aside? Do they risk their chances of taking over the reins of Government by ignoring a situation that could mushroom into a crisis in six months time? Do they insist that Miss Mottley produce her qualifications or speak directly to the whereabouts of her law degree and legal certificate? Do they contemplate a plan B in the choice of parliamentary leader in the event that this gets worse before it gets better?

It is true that the current Democratic Labour Party Government is not enjoying the greatest popularity in its history. But it still maintains a strong political base and one can anticipate that it will leave no stone unturned in the effort to retain the Government. Any party would do so.

A week is indeed a long time in politics. And Miss Mottley has had more than two years to put this matter to rest. She owes it not only to her national constituents but to those 29 political hopefuls who will be depending on her untainted leadership to resonate with the electorate, as that of others has in the past.

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