There is the saying he who plays the piper calls the tune. As it pertains to the political sphere, whether abroad or local – players with deep pockets who contribute to political parties expect when said party wins office, political contributions will covert to influence. There is enough evidence in post independence Barbados to agree.
In May of 2018 the electorate gave the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) an unprecedented mandate of 30 to 0. A prevailing opinion leading into that general election was that the level of apathy and cynicism was tailor made for a genuine third party movement to take root. Unfortunately we had a situation which confirmed suspicions – our best citizens are not motivated to present for public office. To support the point, combatting the duopoly in 2018 were political parties led by Alex Mitchell, Bajan Free Party, Neil Holder, Barbados Integrity Movement, Steve Hunte, Kingdom Government of Barbados, Mark Adamson, People’s Democratic Congress, Grenville Phillips, Solutions Barbados and Lynette Eastmond – see Caribbean Elections for list of candidates.
It is a fair conclusion to make that a credible so-called third party will not be an option for Barbadians any time soon. The alternative is for quality individuals to infiltrate the Barbados and Democratic Labour parties to act as change agents. Given the entrenched culture of the duopoly some will argue this is a near impossible task but it must be done.
The blogmaster is a keen observer of local politics and it is obvious both political parties have become slaves to a ‘democratic’ system that promises the electorate A but on winning office must reward B the campaign donor. What it means is if neither of the two main political parties when in government implement laws to better regulate campaign donations, nothing will change because every election cycle the duopoly will start with the advantage. Why would the duopoly lead change especially if the citizenry is not overly concerned with ‘boring’ governance issues?
Where do we go from here?
Political students are taught when there is a gap in the expectations of a people stoked by the political directorate, and the inability of said political directorate to deliver on promises made, there is a likelihood this will breed revolution – peaceful or violent based on the triggers.
Barbados is a country stalled at the crossroads, heavily indebted, crumbling systems and infrastructure, uncomfortable crime level, an educational system not fit for purpose, moribund court system, inefficient garbage and sewage systems, 1970s economic model and a people with diminishing esprit de corps.
Every day the blogmaster listens to the old guard criticizing social media instead of embracing it to co-opt the support of the new guard. Instead we have so-called social media influencers whose ignorance or deliberate misinformation is allowed to go unchallenged. We have immerse ourselves in a culture of divisiveness. We have shown an inability to negotiate and reconcile difficult issues. There was a time a win win solution was the sole objective, now it is win lose.
On this blog we have had robust debate about the merit of a gradualist approach to confronting challenges as a Small Island Developing State. Across the globe – to a lesser degree in Barbados – there is evidence of declining political influence given the level of public protest actions we have been witnessing. It is evident to this blogmaster the citizenry is beginning to adopt public protest action as a means to express dissent instead of the traditional avenues entrenched in our governance system.
We are a country at the crossroads. The level of disharmony in the country does not bode well for a better Barbados. Leadership in the country must find pathways to rebuild trust between the people, private and public sector arms of society. Rightly or wrongly civil society has ceded leadership responsibility to political parties. From this premise like minded citizens and actors in civil society will have to exert pressure on the local duopoly and others in the political sphere to reinvent by constructively engaging the general public to win back trust.