A Waste of Paper

Submitted by Observing

Every five years we are treated to pretty magazines called manifestos.
Even the most naïve among us must by now realise that these are the oldest marketing gimmicks on the block.. Reviews of previous years show that a manifesto is simply a comfort to a fool, aimed at giving “general” ideas but never being binding and always able to be ignored at whim and fancy.

BLP 2022 Manifesto
BLP Promises Kept 2018 to 2021


The DLP has yet to launch its manifesto but, if 2018 is anything to go by it should be a hodge podge of popular promises with little to no specifics on how to get them done.

The BLP launched its manifesto yesterday and as expected it’s lots of pages of pretty charts and pictures, repeated and unfulfilled promises from 2018 and a list of items that any GOOD GOVERNMENT should have already implemented or started to implement without the need for an election.

As for their “core values of transformation” do we really believe after the experiences of the last 3 1/2 years that this government will

  1. believe in people centered leadership rather than “top down supreme leader leadership”?
  2. deliver for all instead of a select few?
  3. encourage active citizenship rather than stifling voices and condemning opposing ones?
  4. encourage Bajan ownership rather than a continuation of the capital class?
  5. truly drive innovation rather than constantly tossing out buzz words and consultancies for party faithful with minimal results?

Give me a break. We’ve been here before.

So where does that leave us? Between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Platforms will be set up, spot meetings will be held, the usual diatribe will be tossed at us but then what? It is already almost certain that turnout will be low due to Covid patients and concerns. Voter apathy and frustration was already at an all time high. Now we have to endure pages on pages of promises that make no immediate difference to us, probably won’t be implemented and definitely given at too short a notice (1 1/2 weeks) for us to properly distill them and their impact. Furthermore, looking back at a 2018 manifesto shows me that MANY promises were NOT kept.
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me……..

So, the choice of us “independent voters” on polling day will have to be made otherwise, based on other conditions, focused on our own circumstances and constituency realities.

To put faith in scorecards, promises kept and catch phrases is a waste of time. Just like how these manifestos are a waste of paper and computer storage space.

January 19, 2022 should be interesting .

United Progressive Party (UPP) Mini Manifesto

This is the first in a series of mini manifestos issued by the United Progressive Party as a part of our conversation with the nation of Barbados. After the delivery of the manifesto the Progressive Party and its candidates will make themselves available for further discussion. Given the constraints faced by Barbados the approach taken by the Progressive Party is to take a steady, measured path to A New Economy with a heavy reliance on the people of Barbados to adopt a new vision for progress…

Click image to read the Manifesto.

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – The Paper it is Written On…

Jeff Cumberbatch – Chairman of the FTC and Deputy Dean, Law Faculty, UWI, Cave Hill

The late US film producer, Samuel Goldwyn, is usually credited with first saying that a verbal (sic) contract is “not worth the paper it is written on”. In this statement, he would strictly have erred in at least two particulars; first, he probably meant “oral” instead of “verbal” which is the adjective for “in words” and not for “spoken”, so that even a written contract is verbal in the true sense and, second, he was also wrong in law since most oral contracts are legally enforceable except where statute requires that an agreement be in writing or be evidenced in writing.

But then Mr. Goldwyn was also known for other similar pearls of wisdom – He is reputed to have averred, “I don’t think anybody should write his autobiography until after he’s dead”, and when informed by one director that a script was too caustic, Goldwyn is alleged to have responded, “To hell with the cost. If it’s a good picture, we’ll make it!”

Mr Goldwyn’s first exegesis came to mind last week as I reflected on the diligent preparations being made by the respective political parties for a general election that may possibly be a twelvemonth or more away. As the Barbados Labour Party continues to rub shoulders with the citizenry and to stage its weekly constituency canvasses, the Democratic Labour Party appears to have settled on its slate of candidates for the campaign, having last week deselected three of the candidates that represented the party in the 2008 general election. The fact that among those deselected was one candidate who had been beaten in the constituency by a mere handful of votes signals the earnestness of that party to regain the reins of governmental authority.

Amidst all this, the collective third parties are equally busy with their nominations of candidates. It is not this form of preparation, however, that brings Goldwyn’s dictum to mind. The staging of public meetings at which the respective programmes of the parties will be made known to the electorate will naturally follow the current nomination process and will itself precede the written outlines of these policy proposals in the form of glossy manifestoes sometime later in the campaign.

It is at these latter two stages that we will have cause to wonder whether these verbal (both oral and written) promises to the electorate are indeed “worth the paper they are written on” or whether they are mere allurements held out to attract the unthinking into choosing one party’s candidate over that of another party in the thirty constituency elections that collectively comprise the whole.

The observant reader would have noticed that I have chosen not to refer to these promises as “contracts”. This is so for the strictly legal reason that a contract is accepted to be a legally enforceable agreement and, try as hard as I might, I am unable to detect in the political promise, if it may be so described, any hint of an agreement on the part of the electorate as opposed to simple notice of the policy proposals. Nor is there any truth in an assertion that they are legally enforceable.

First, it would be difficult to pinpoint with any degree of certainty which of the multiple promises might have caused the majority of a constituency to vote for a particular candidate and thereby supply the necessary consideration for that promise made by his or her party, whether it be the enactment of integrity legislation, the proposal to establish an office of Contractor General or the soonest passage of freedom of information legislation. Or even to revoke the current fee paying arrangement by Barbadian students at the University of the West Indies.

In any event, there may be good reason to believe that electoral support is not as linear as might be supposed, but owed rather to an eldritch combination of family tradition, candidate recognition and personality, bandwagonism and, perhaps, to rejection of the incumbent for articulated reasons of “doing-nothing-for- me-personally” or of “not-being-seen-in-the-constituency-since-the-last- election”.

It may be in this context that some have expressed the view that such proposals are not promises at all, but are mere moral representations of future conduct whose realization is cribbed, cabined and confined by the opportuneness of the circumstances prevailing at the time in future most appropriate for their fulfillment.

It is in the aspect of legal enforceability, however, that the analogy has its clearest failure. While there may be the politico-moral enforcement of failed promises by an elector through a refusal to cast his or her vote for the candidate of the breaching or misrepresenting party, the very vagueness of the link between the political statement of intention and the collective electoral support of a constituency converts this form of recourse into a mostly dead letter.

In fine, my thesis is that the political promise, proposal, representation, undertaking or howsoever it may be termed is demonstrably not worth the paper it is written on. And calling it a covenant or a guarantee does nothing to change its essential nature.

Please permit me to express sincere sentiments of condolence to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr. Eli Edwards, Attorney-at-Law and quondam Public Counsel, who was called to higher service on Thursday last. Eli was a skillful prosecutor who clearly had the public interest at heart. May he rest in peace.

A blessed Easter Sunday and holiday to all my readers.

Manifesto WARNING!

2013 BLP Manifesto

2013 BLP Manifesto

The manifestos of the DLP and BLP have been released about ONE week before the E-Day of February 21, 2013. Generally people pay very little attention to manifestos in most countries. A manifesto may be described as a political tool to get political parties elected. Although we know they are usually littered with pie in the sky promises, BU had hoped this one time around, given the unprecedented challenges which confront service-oriented economies like Barbados, the electorate would have been wooed and teased by a vision articulated by both political parties (espoused in the manifestos).  How do they plan to navigate the economic and social milestones currently strewn in our path? Why is it this one time our people could not have been convinced to turn-down the political rhetoric, and instead, engage in a level of collaboration hitherto never experienced in democratic Barbados? As a highly regarded small predominantly Black country here was an opportunity created by the prevailing economic challenge for us to lead; a role which is not unfamiliar in the post-Independence period.

Kudos  to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) for being ‘first’ out of the blocks with their Manifesto launch – a sarcastic comment you ask?. Although a trivial point, it has not escaped the notice of BU that apart from the first page which features an aggressive air-brushed image of Owen Arthur reflected on The Team for A Better Tomorrow, Mia Mottley’s photo appears in the most prominent position. To those with an ‘eye’ for these things it is called subliminal advertising and it is designed to draw the eye and create an impression in the minds of the electorate.

During the stewardship of the DLP government (2008-2013) a few issues have always occupied the attention of the BU family. Heading the list is GOVERNACE! On Thursday an increasingly cynical electorate will have to decide which party leads (by a nose) on the issue of Freedom of Information (FOI) and Integrity Legislation (IL) among others.

Related Link: Manifesto WATCH

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Manifesto WATCH

Stuart and Arthur, our political leaders in waiting

Stuart and Arthur, our political leaders in waiting

Whether you believe that the political manifesto of a political party is its intent to rollout certain policies if elected or that it is a social contract becomes an exercise in semantics. It is currently the preferred option which political parties have to outline a set of promises which they hope – if elected – to implement. In a growing democracy the electorate should have a reasonable expectation that a political party’s record over time should demonstrate the level of credence given to manifesto promises.

What is reprehensible is that with 10 days left to the 21 February 2013 both political parties continue to withhold manifestos (proposals) from the electorate as if it were a big secret. This is happening at a time when our tiny island continues to face unprecedented challenges posed by the global state of affairs. Both major political parties obviously see political tactics and gamesmanship being more relevant.  What does it say about us?

Until we achieve a higher level of maturity how we conduct political campaigns in Barbados the current reality which see political parties entertaining the party faithful and others looking for a good laugh will continue. Why would an intelligent electorate, and society, not demand from the candidates that they communicate their proposals to inform debate in the country well in advance of the election date? If ever there was a time in our history when we needed our politicians to depart from the same old same old the time is now surely. What does it say about us?

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