Former UK Diplomat “Barbados badly needs plumbers but is turning out third rate lawyers by the dozen…”

UPDATED: August 29, 2011

Is/was there more than one “David Roberts” UK Diplomat? Apparently so!

We removed a link in our story to a certain David Roberts, previously with the UK Foreign Office, as we received the following email: “Please recheck the identity of David Roberts.  This is absolutely NOT the David Roberts who was the British High Commissioner to Barbados in the 1970s, who was balding and in his 50s or 60s.”

The book reviews and excerpts don’t provide a year for the David Roberts quotes below, but one of our readers (Thank you Elizabeth!) searched the old lists and came up with:

Sir David A. Roberts, K.B.E., C.M.G.: Barbados High Commissioner 1971-1973

This could be our man!

Here’s our original story…

David Roberts, at the time with the UK Foreign Office, said…

University of the West Indies…

Teachers “could not hold down a reputable job elsewhere.”

Alumni: “half-naked intelligentsia”

Well, if David Roberts really thought all that about us, he should have said so while he was here. Oh… he did, just not to our face – but authors Matthew Parris and Andrew Bryson recently obtained Roberts’ and other diplomatic reports under Freedom of Information and published them in a book called Parting Shots.

There’s no indication of when Mr. Roberts filed his report with the UK Foreign Office, except that it had to have been before 2006 because that’s when the valedictory exit reports ended – according to one book review. Mr. Roberts’ current venue is unknown but you can read a bit of what he thinks of us right here…

The High Commissioner to Barbados, David Roberts, sketched a situation by no means unique. “It is now the exception rather than the rule for a young and outstanding Barbadian to be educated at Oxford or Cambridge. Thus, through death, retirement or more lucrative employment, the generation of men who read greats, economics or law in the U.K., acquired an affinity with our way of thinking and an acceptance of our social values, and came home to govern Barbados, will pass away.

They will leave government in the hands of young men educated at the University of the West Indies, from which a half-naked intelligentsia is already coming forward. The new generation have largely been instructed by university teachers who could not hold down a reputable job elsewhere. A small country which badly needs carpenters, plumbers, engineers and so forth is turning out third-rate lawyers and sociologists by the dozen. It is good inflammable material for a political bonfire.”

… from the Frontline Magazine book review Diplomacy and Candour by A.G. Noorani

Okay, Mr. Roberts does have a point about turning out too many lousy lawyers and not enough skilled trades workers – but he sounds way too full of himself. His colonial nose is stuck so high in the air he wears loafers so he doesn’t have to look down to tie his shoes. Hmmm… I wonder if our wonderous reporters at The Nation will read Roberts’ entire report in the book and then ask Paul Brummell, the current High Commissioner, for comments?

And pigs will fly!


Filed under Barbados, Politics

35 responses to “Former UK Diplomat “Barbados badly needs plumbers but is turning out third rate lawyers by the dozen…”

  1. snorkers. good-oh!

    He’s right but not only about Barbados. The same thing could be said for Great Britain too. It’s like civilization is dying because everyone wants to be in charge but nobody wants to install window frames, toilets and change worn tyres. In the USA the guy who fixes your toilet or paves your driveway has the brand new truck while you drive the junker to your white collar job.

  2. 25

    And how many Polish plumbers are there in England again?

  3. Wily Coyote

    In Barbados everyone has a BIG JOB, well at least most have an inflated idea of their net worth, be it a lawyer, store clerk, toilet cleaner, too bad most under performing.

    Those who can do, those who can’t become politicians, lawyers and lastly civil servants.

  4. The Wiz

    Before we pull the trigger on the messenger, we should pay attention to the message which is loud and clear. Precisely what I said over ten years ago – well not the vitriolic rant about UWI etc. – when I had great difficulty finding a plumber /electrician to do a relatively simple job. It was clear that we were “turning out” too many lawyers and insufficient trades people. The situation was further compounded by the fact that several of the available tradesmen were trained outside of Bdos.
    Concerned Bajan

  5. Andrew

    I would apply this across the Caribbean in general–but after one comment above I am beginning to think it may be more widespread.
    The Caribbean is deeply in need of the skilled jobs that would attract capital from abroad (financial services etc.)

  6. ComeHere

    While this guy is a bit overly chuffed with himself, there is some truth to his observation nonetheless. No, Barbados is unique within the Caribbean. Too many Bajans EXPECT something for nothing without earning it. All dressed up and nowhere to go because they are given a piece of paper saying they are something they are not. A lawyer in Barbados? License to steal, without fear of criminal charges. Steal life long savings from ordinary citizens by peddling worthless annuities ? No ignominy, just continue to swan around at cocktail parties and ask for another 10 million. Destroying the beaches on the west coast with groynes and hideous building projects? No problem, the story will fade from the news. We are a tourist destination. Full stop. That is how we are paid, how we earn a living. For our sand and beaches and sun. But even though the Keystone Cops tourist EXPERTS occasionally lure a few tourists in, depending on who is counting, they do not come back or have good things to say. If you check TripAdvisor, very few fleeced visitors have good things to say about our value for money and customer service. Wonderful article in the MAIL about Barbados: Yet, is anyone here surprised to read of the abysmal service and our ubiquitous strups attitude displayed at the Tamarind Hotel? Million dollar FREE advert for the island tarnished by ignorant, disgruntled employees who THINK they should be somewhere or something else. We’re going to need some very good plumbers soon when it all hits the fan.

  7. just want to know.

    What do you expect from a country that is run like a Dictatorship! Do you see the only local station that gives the island news, the present politicians are on for the first twenty five minutes with no opposition to give their views, one will never see that happen in a truly democratic country like England, Canada, etc., and the station is paid for by tax payers; so don’t expect anything better from the working population. All the talk about transparency, and openness in Government is like blowing in the wind, so I feel it has already hit the fan.

  8. 91

    I think you guys are missing the point. He is in fact saying, because barbadians are not going to british universities, and learning the british way of life, we are doomed to be 3rd rate. ‘affinity for our way ot thinking” he says.. These damn colonies need to be colonialised to be civilised… guess we should learn from the hobs, and football hooligans and the rioters… this is nothing but a colonial racist rant, masquerading as analysis.. and in typical west indian style, because it is said by a white man from “Engalant”, we would be churlish and shooting the messager, if we say its hogwash!

  9. Richard

    I think the guy has a point. it may be worth listening to the message instead of wasting a bullet on the messenger. He is absolutely right. 100% right. Even a moron like me has one of the UWI paper degrees. Too bad they cut down a tree to print it.

    The fact that we immediately close ranks just because the guy is not bajan in proof positive that what he is saying is truth or has a measure of truth to it. Non of the responders have given even a meager retort save the ad hominem.

  10. Pieter Pieper

    Trying to employ the services of a competent,honest and professional lawyer or other tradesperson is an exercise in futility for the most part.We have indeed “acquired an affinity for the (British)way of thinking”.”Double-barrel”names e.g Tom Smith-Jones,doctorates (not in medicine or dentistry)knighthoods,Q.Cs,lawyers wearing wigs,referring to judges as “The Right Honourable Mr.Justice… are the order of the day.There are about 850″qualified” lawyers in Barbados.Most of them have graduated from Cave Hill.How many “qualified”carpenters,plumbers,electricians.masons have “graduated”from the Polytechnic ?

  11. 91

    you guys have obviously never tried to find a decent plumber or lawyer in the UK….. no different

  12. amusing

    per chance the crux of the immigration debate.and what we are.. if his assessment is correct.?
    we people are too thin skinned, that is why we are so hooked on every tom , dick and beharry who have words about the way we do tings bout hey

  13. soussed puddin'

    Its the same in UK and elsewhere ,no body wants to be seen doing a blue collar job .
    David Roberts would have made similar comments about other locations if asked.
    A great deal of tradesman in Bbds come from Guyana and St V etc , but thats not because they are better tradesman ,its mainly a financial thing ,they work at a rate potentially below the national average and can make good money as their outgoings back home are quite low in comparison.This situation is also mirrored in the UK with poles, lithuainians etc.
    There are lots of people about these days with high falluted jobs with fancy names with folks not doing much other than spewing out endless soundbites and political ideologies at each other .
    Young kids are lazy enough when they leave school and traditionally have to moulded into shape by senior workers etc ,but thats been lost as nearly all parents want their kids to go to uni ,regardless of what the degree subject is.
    And please Anonymous ,dont attack the guy because of his colour .
    I am not to sure of the cultural upbringing of a large proportion of the UK rioters either ,its certainly something that would have not happened a few years ago .

  14. 231

    The comments of Mr. Roberts while they appear to be painted with a broad brush, does have much truth with respect to the 3rd. rate lawyers. This reality cannot be dismissed except you have personal experieced. It has taken me 4 interviews to get advice on a pratical matter, where the evidence was clearly in my favor. Two of them took the case and then decided weeks after that their schedules full. The third one said he could not and to his credit told me upfront that he was booked up. The fourth, took the case, wrote the lawyer representing the individual who created the problem and to this day, 14 months later, their is no movement whatsoever or comments other that, I speak to my client and get back. Seems to be a problem, an uncertainty of going forward due to the lack of confidence on the lawyers part of properly preparing the case even when the facts supports a successful outcome. Also most lawyers know each other and may have in fact attended the same university. Accordingly, I sense that there is a buddy system not to offend and try to work things out behind the scenes. The problem with that is the delay has a direct impact on the fees being charged.

  15. The man wiv no name!!

    And I bet they all went to Commamare!! LOL!!

  16. FearPlay

    You know “TMWNN”, there are times when if you don’t have something to say (that makes sense) then you are not obliged to say anything. Old Harrisonian.

  17. civilsociety

    Ambassador Mary Kramer wrote a book called The Unlikely Diplomat about her time here. Well worth reading, and lots and lots of realistic insights into this region.

  18. The man wiv no name!!

    LOL!! ‘Old Harrisonian’, I sure u doan mean me!! LOL! i always got someting sensible tuh say, is jes dat sometimes even i doan know wha it is!! LOL!!

  19. Dessalines

    LOL.You Bajans certainly have a way with words, “His colonial nose is stuck so high in the air he wears loafers so he doesn’t have to look down to tie his shoes” and my favorite “All dressed up and nowhere to go because they are given a piece of paper saying they are something they are not”

    Having said that one can surmise that If Barbados had the luxury obtaining millions of acres of free land by murdering the natives who lived on them and then benefited from free African labour for over 400 years to work the same lands then they would have better teachers and universities like Cambridge and Oxford. Then they could send diplomats to these lands to make condescending statements about the natives and their countries who in the space of 60 years still have not lived up to the expectations of the mother country who has had a 700 year head start.

    The British formula has been, invade, rape, pillage, enslave, deculturalize, colonize, then leave out to dry (aka give independence) after the administrative costs to London exceed the benefits derived from the natural resources from these islands (they dont even maintain embassies now)
    However in Mr. UK Diplomats prejudiced mind, they came to civilize and proselytize the natives and this is reflected in his statements.

  20. A number of interesting replies. They show some insularity, which is not good for anybody. There is a shortage of electricians, top class mechanics ( though I know two top of the line), and most definitely people with agriculture in their blood in an island with good soil and quite enough rainfall. Plumbers could be added to the list, carpenters when you really want them, etc, house painters are really busy I’ve been told.
    I have been trying to get my granddaughters fresh out of University, to lean worthwhile trades too. All these jobs require some sweating.
    All these jobs find work in a recession. Many other professions, during recession, fall by the wayside. People should keep that in mind. There are not many people who truly think the recession is over. It might never be over.

  21. The man wiv no name!!

    Are the lawyers that terrible! I hear that they’re awfully rich!!

  22. Ping Pong

    The only decent thing to do is to delete this silly and defamatory story. Nowhere in the man’s profile does it state that he was ever the British High Commissioner to Barbados. The person maligned in this post by BFP graduated from university in 1976. It would have been nothing short of amazing to be appointed High Commissioner in the 1970’s. This guy was appointed Deputy Ambassador to Chile in 1997 – 2000 and there has been no British High Commissioner to Barbados by the name of David Roberts in the period 1998 to the present.

  23. BFP

    Now, now Ping Pong… Our story is in no way defamatory, it is merely a truthful report on what a Mr. David Roberts of the UK Foreign Office wrote in an official report about Barbados.

    When we were emailed that the David Roberts in our story (who is a former UK Foreign Office Diplomat who worked in the Caribbean) might not be the same David Roberts who wrote the report, we removed the photo and reference from the article. If we discover that he is indeed the David Roberts who wrote the report, we’ll put his photo and the links back into the story.

    That’s not so difficult to understand, is it?

  24. islandgal246

    We have a problem in Barbados where it is very difficult to find skilled people in all professions. Mediocrity has been the standard and many have been forced to accept it. It seems that we cannot deliver a service with the highest degree of competency and honesty. Many are shooting the messenger because of his colour and are deaf to his message. We have problem BARBADOS …let us face it and deal with it.

  25. The man wiv no name!!

    You’ve had problems for a long time and have been too cowardly to face them, so why should this make a difference!

  26. islandgal246

    @The man wiv no name!!
    So this is where you hanging out ! I thought you had been sent up! LOL

  27. The man wiv no name!!

    u mine u business u! whether i been sent up or down in nuh bisiniss uh urs! looka, David seem to ban me from over day so i in got nuh choice but tuh hang out hay – i dunno wha i do he!! Steupse!!

  28. The man wiv no name!!

    do u fancy a British guy, Islan!

  29. islandgal246

    Man wiv no name……No tank yuh I don’t fancy de British menz at all, infack I prefers dem Amerukans like muh husband.

  30. J. Payne

    If Barbados can’t get their UWI trained persons into enough jobs locally there is no shame in Barbados trying to get their people into high paying roles or jobs overseas.
    As a policy I think Barbadians should try to get positions heading up U.S. units serving Latin America and the Caribbean. Sites like have lots of jobs like that. That site have only jobs paying US$100,000/yr or above.

  31. The man wiv no name!!

    LOL! Ok Islan. Thanks, I’ll look elsewhere then! Regards to hubby! American eh? Know it’s a different country but funny things seem to b going on up in Canada wid d Jamaicans dem! Getting the British/Jamaican treatment, looks like – muggings, shooting, etc! Did u notice my august comments on the riots hay – on BU?!!

    I sen Dave a Submission (article) fuh publishing d udda day n he din publish it! I doan know wha i do he at all! Maybe u could fine out fuh me! I doan tink it wus offensive but, den, yuh know me!!!


  32. The man wiv no name!!

    Maybe we could invite some Polish plumbers to work in Bim, on a contractual basis. Having some experience of Polish plumbers over here, I’m certain they’d be far more appreciative than the whinging, African nurses u all invited, last year?!!

  33. The man wiv no name!!

    who, I could have told u, would be ungrateful bs!! – I dunno why wunna wun let me run Bim!!

  34. The man wiv no name!!

    Islan, tell yuh a little story happened to me up hay some time back bout Bajan women! gave dis Bajee lass, wid a lil boy, an her boyfren (a AFRICAN)a lift, some time back! someting seem to b wrong wid d lil boy (mix-race, dimunitive n withdrawn, maybe disabled). boy squeeze eself into d corner uh d back seat as much as e could, like e wanted to disappear down d hole in d upholstery inta d boot uh d car! poor boy! den d boyfren get in! whisky bottle in e pocket, n when e turn roung to speak to d boy, e (d poor lil ting) looked absolutley terrified n was throughout the whole uh d journey! Isl, yuh know, i really wish d Bajee women would be more circumspec bout who duh open duh legs to n fraternize wid! Poor boy looked as though he lived a life wid dat man n that muther, uh pure unadulterated, terror! n mental muther din seem to see nutten wrong wid it at all!!

    Cheese on bread man, dah’s all i cud say! cheese on bread man!

  35. J. Payne

    If UWI had global success like the following. That comment wouldn’t have been made.