The Phartford Files: Agenda for a Third Party – Part 3
Submitted by Ironside
I ended part 2 of this series with the following:
Whether it is one third party or a coalition of third parties fighting the 2023 election is irrelevant. The important thing is to break the two-party system domination. Therefore, there are three things we have to do from here on: 1. Focus! 2. Focus! 3.Focus!
As I also pointed out in then, it would be foolhardy of any third party to count out the DLP. In point of fact, as long ago as October 2018, the DLP has started to get is political machinery in gear. Furthermore, Mr. Mayers, General Secretary of the party, had hinted at possible by-elections given that “a Member of Parliament…is very ill” and alleged that the head of one of the St. Philip candidates was “on the cutting board”.
Source: ‘Snap goes the Poll’, Barbados Today 10/29/18
Against the background of the above, I wish to raise the following two issues in relation to the agenda for a third party:
1. If Guyson Mayers is correct, should the PdP also prepare for and contest a by-election if and when it occurs?
2. Should the PdP fight the next election as a coalition?
On balance, I would answer in the affirmative with respect to this issue. The main advantage of such a move would be to test the waters for the new configuration that is called the PdP, birthed and bathed as it is, in controversy.
Of course, the question is whether the party has the resources to do so. I would argue that given the localization of the contest, the party should be able to drum up the resources. The real practical issue, however, is whether the party has such an election in its strategic focus and more importantly, the political machinery to tackle it.
The issue of whether the PdP should fight the next election as a coalition is definitely a point open for debate. Peter Wickham does not think that the current opposition led by Joseph Atherley has a chance. Addressing the question of how Barbadian would vote if an election were called today he opines:
I don’t see him [Atherley] making it because…once parliament is dissolved Atherley ceases to be relevant ‘cause he has no political party to speak of, they don’t have any branches, they don’t have any branch movement…no branch chairman”
Daily Nation, Thursday 28 November, 2019
Is Mr Wickham’s opinion based on current/ recent research? The fact that he does not state so suggests the negative. The context in which Mr. Wickham spoke, a Rotary event, is also very interesting. Did he believe that he was speaking to a predominantly BLP oriented audience?
Those matters aside, if the deficiencies possessed by the PdP are as posited by Mr. Wickham, there is cause for concern for its status as a viable third party. Ergo, a coalition of some sort to fight the election will be necessary. But that raises the question of the readiness of the PdP and the “other third parties”.
I have always been very concerned about the issue of the readiness of “alternative parties” to fight elections in Barbados. It is quite clear that there is dearth of strategic (=medium to long term) thinking among the newer parties. Consequently, their appearance on the scene is almost without exception, ad hoc, i.e. for the current election only.
Such a non-strategic approach will not get a third party much traction – or respect for that matter – from the majority of the electorate. For this reason, the approach taken by Solutions Barbados re the 2018 election: that is engaging the Barbadian electorate some three years in advance, has to be commended. Where the party fell down is another matter.
The modus operandi has got to be that as soon as possible after the last election, party strategists get down to doing the hard research and planning to define the contours of a strategy going forward to the next election and even beyond. In the intervening years, that strategy has to be fleshed out and refined.
This is the same basic message that business students all over the world hear in any strategy management class. I am not sure, therefore, why any political party would think that its management is an exception to these strategic principles.
So the question is: Are the third parties, PdP in particular, listening to Mr. Wickham and to the strategic principles being enunciated here?
I wish to reiterate that there is mental space out there for a third party. However, as I have explained in previous instalments, capturing it will not come without a sustained battle.
Barbadians are by nature short-term thinkers. We are very much unlike many eastern peoples, the Chinese in particular, who are long-term thinkers. Speaking generally, that explains why we wait until a hurricane is upon us to buy emergency supplies, why we do not save and why we are always late! It is ingrained in our DNA. In the social psychology of Barbados, it is a major theme!
Now is the time for those who are committed to the development of a third party to get on board. Now is the time for such a party /parties to define their philosophy and goals and seek to attract quality membership. Three months before the election will definitely not do it. It’s all about three things: 1. Preparation, 2. Preparation, 3. Preparation!