Mia Mottley Will Never Willingly Agree To A Leadership Vote
In the wreckage of the January 2008 election, defeated Prime Minister Owen Arthur resigned from the leadership of the BLP, and Deputy Leader Mia Mottley was publicly announced as the new party leader.
What most of the public didn’t see or read about in the papers – and only heard about in whispers and quiet standpipe talk – was that Mia Mottley’s “promotion” to party leader was anything but unanimous and smooth sailing. Her “confirmation” (if you can call it that) as Leader of the Opposition took place behind closed doors and must have been some battle judging by the reports.
I wasn’t there, but like many people I’ve heard the stories of screaming, shouting and banging that could be heard out onto the street until some thinking person sent a text message to one of the participants that party supporters milling about outside were hearing the disaster. Later, the rumours came around that Mia almost lost the position until her father threatened to lay waste to half the old-boys network if his little girl didn’t assume the mantle of BLP leader. Yes, Mia’s daddy – Justice Elliot D. Mottley – was at the inner-circle meeting on election night and not just to provide moral support to his daughter. Judge Mottley took a very active role in the political process – according to what was heard on the street.
Once again folks – I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard the stories and so have you. Whatever happened on election night that saw Mia Mottley emerge as BLP Leader, it sure wasn’t a unifying experience for the BLP. Nor was this a satisfactory “public” fight where a clear winner was declared by the party.
The legacy of the chaos and bullying that resulted in the “selection” of Mia Mottley is a dysfunctional party, an ineffective opposition and a hamstrung BLP leader operating without a clear publicly-achieved mandate from either the grassroots membership or the party elites.
What the Barbados Labour Party received on election night was an Interim Leader.
Whether the BLP cares to call Mia Mottley by that name or not, the public understands the reality of her position and it weakens her image and credibility in Parliament.
Mottley Wants A Coronation – Anything But The Real Leadership Contest That The Party Needs
After a government falls, it is not unusual to have a bit of chaos in the defeated party for a time. That can be healthy because it allows the members and the leadership to work out the problems, shuffle and add personnel – and emerge in unity and with new energy.
That is only healthy though if there IS a process happening – a process that includes a public discussion of the party’s direction and leadership – early enough before the next election that there can be a true self-examination by the party faithful.
The problem facing the BLP is that if Mia Mottley continues to get her way, there will be no leadership race – only a coronation convention scheduled so near the next election that the party will have no choice but to simply confirm her as leader.
The result of a coronation is that the public will still view the Barbados Labour Party as having an interim leader without a strong mandate from the party.
Doubts About BLP’s Ability To Win An Election With Mottley As Party Leader
Mia Mottley has always been a power-house in her own area with an impressive army of dedicated supporters, but she has not been able to turn that local support into a widespread popular base throughout the party. Many BLP stalwarts simply don’t like her, and some of those who do support her as a Member of Parliament do so with reservations. They have doubts about the ability of the party to win IF Mia Mottley is leader.
In short, many BLP faithful will tolerate Mia Mottley as a Minister, but are unwilling to support her as party leader because they don’t believe she can win a national election in front of the voters.
Mottley is no fool and she knows that in a real leadership vote by the members, her victory is anything but assured. That is why she will do everything she can to engineer a coronation and to not allow a real leadership contest to develop.
But that coronation will weaken the Barbados Labour Party. No matter how many of the party faithful cheer Mottley onto the stage before the next election, if she hasn’t won the leadership fair and square – many of the voters and many BLP supporters will have doubts.
If Mia Mottley hopes to be Prime Minister, she will first have to fight a legitimate public battle for the leadership of her party. Only by truly winning her leadership position will she be able to convince the public to even consider her for Prime Minister.