Monday, January 22, 2018

Owen Arthur’s last ball

 After several public disclosures of his discomfort with the leadership of Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, former prime minister of Barbados Owen Arthur has bowled perhaps his last ball by resigning from the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) led by Mottley, and continuing as an independent Member of Parliament (MP).

Had Arthur resigned as an MP, it would be seen as a logical response to his 2013 election defeat, as was done recently by The Bahamas’ Hubert Ingraham, and no other motives would be attributed to the action.

However, the fact that Arthur has opted to stay in the Parliament, and given his historical discomfort with Mottley’s leadership, suggests that some of his remaining political time might be spent fiercely criticising a Mottley-led BLP and thereby frustrating Mottley’s ambitions. If that happens it will be indeed an unfortunate climb down in political role and purpose from chief development advocate for Barbados to blocker and foil of a former political ally. Political actions and decisions should be motivated by deeper stuff.

It is telling that in a week when a significant cross-section of Barbados’ population was motivated to march in opposition to post-2013 Government policy, and in a week when Barbados fell several places down from its coveted high ranking on the Human Development Index to be replaced by The Bahamas as the leading Caribbean country on the index, Arthur was more focused on reacting to the perceived failures of Mottley rather than the failings of the Government against which the population seems to be revolting. It is clear that Arthur prefers to live with the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) rather than Mottley.  

Indeed, the most immediate political consequence of his resignation from the BLP is that he has provided the Government with much needed parliamentary breathing space, and widened the seat gap between the DLP and the BLP, and reduced the possibility of an early collapse in the event that a DLP parliamentarian was having a pang of conscience over current policy or doubt in the face of mass opposition.

All of this raises the troubling question of what about Mottley that is so politically troubling that a former prime minister would desert his party rather than passively facilitate her eventual emergence.

To avoid the charge of vindictiveness and political pettiness, Arthur is duty-bound to make it known; otherwise there will remain a considerable gap between the gravity of his decision and his explanation(s) of it. Thus far, none of Arthur’s protestations carry much weight. Why is “Walk With Me” evidence of megalomania when “Going With Owen” was not? What is the soul of the BLP?  

Basically, Arthur has left the BLP in opposition to Mottley’s leadership. It is the last ball in an otherwise very fine over. That ball was however so wide of the crease, at a time when the batsman was at his most shaky, that Arthur will be remembered for squandering the game. 

—Courtesy Barbados Nation