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BLP Government and BLP Opposition

Published: 
Sunday, June 10, 2018

The landslide victory by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in the general election on May 24 instant has had two significant outcomes. The first was the fact that they won all 30 seats at stake and that removed the prospect of there being any opposition in the House of Assembly.

That left the new Prime Minister Mia Mottley talking about a constitutional amendment to facilitate the need for an opposition in the Parliament. One week after the election, one of the BLP MPs decided to cross the floor and become Leader of the Opposition. Bishop Joseph Atherley, the MP for St Michael West, resigned from the BLP and he has now turned against the party that he encouraged Barbadians to vote for.

What was in his heart when he was campaigning for the BLP during the election campaign? Was he secretly harbouring the thought that he was going to become the Leader of the Opposition right after the election or was this an opportunistic move after the election because he was left out of being appointed to any ministerial portfolio when the Prime Minister named her Cabinet? 

The outcome of the election is now effectively that the BLP has formed both the Government and the Opposition. Atherley cannot have undergone a conversion like Saul to become Paul on the road to Damascus. There is no earthly reason for him to have undergone such a conversion to be suddenly opposed to everything that the BLP stands for in its manifesto when he signed that document with his fellow candidates. Organically, he is BLP at heart. There is no way that such a change could take place just like that in one week after such an historic victory.

Atherley has only appointed one opposition senator so far. He has promised to appoint the other one very soon. The BLP manifesto has him starring prominently on page 32, which highlights the following headline: “Lay New Economic Planks for Growth and Development”.

As if that was not enough, all of the candidates put up by the BLP for the election signed their manifesto on page 72 of the document. Those signatures were placed in a circular fashion around the following message:

“Team BLP 2018. This is Our Commitment. This is Our Sacred Trust with The People of Barbados”

Really? A “Commitment?” ? A “Sacred Trust?” That was not the case for Atherley. He had other plans to convert his exclusion from the Cabinet into an opportunity to get some perks for himself. Technically, he solved a major constitutional problem by forming the Opposition in the House of Assembly contrary to the “sacred trust” and his “commitment” given under his hand.

Was he elected to be part of the Government or was he elected to jump ship as soon as his party got elected into office? Unlike T&T, there are no crossing-the-floor provisions in the Barbadian Constitution that would have permitted a by-election to be held if a person who is elected on the ticket of a party then resigns from, or is expelled by, that party and has their seat declared vacant.

The voters of St Michael West will have to swallow the actions of their MP as he enjoys the perks of the office of Leader of the Opposition which are better than those of an ordinary backbencher because the opportunity presented itself and he made an opportunistic move.

The reality here is that he is going to function like a pressure group inside of the BLP which will allow him to give critical support to the measures and policies that will emerge from the manifesto to which he affixed his signature.

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) will have been crowded out by Atherley’s actions however, their task of rebuilding may be facilitated by them using Atherley as a whipping boy. They may be able to label him as a fake opposition in order to advance their cause.

Prime Minister Mottley has a huge task on her hands to turn the fortunes of Barbados around. If Atherley functions as an ally to her in the process while pretending to be opposed to her, the DLP will get what they need to rebuild from the licking of their lives.

On paper, there is an opposition in Barbados. In reality, it is a mirage.

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