Political consultant questions decision by former BLP member to become Opposition Leader

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A political consultant is questioning the decision of Bishop Joseph Atherley to become the Opposition Leader, one week after he was elected as a member of the victorious Barbados Labour Party (BLP) that swept the May 24 general elections, winning all 30 seats in the Parliament.
The Member of Parliament for St Michael West constituency, has already brushed aside suggestions that he had decided on his new position because he was not made a member of the Mia Mottley Cabinet.
“I have heard a lot of things said and obviously it seems to be a shocking event to some. Let me tell you what it is not. It is not a reaction to any ministerial appointments made by the Right Honourable Prime Minister last week and the omission of myself.
“It is definitely not a reaction to that. I have indicated that to the Prime Minister and to my other parliamentary colleagues. It is definitely not a repudiation of the Barbados Labour Party platform or policies,” Atherley said, adding that he was part of those engaged in the formulation of the policies contained in the party’s manifesto.
But Peter Wickham, the principal director of the Barbados-based regional research political company, Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that while it was “almost predictable” as in the case of other Caribbean countries that someone from ruling party would move in to fill the opposition benches.
“Bishop Atherley has indicated that he is still committed to the Barbados Labour Party, but nonetheless he has chosen to take a position on the opposition benches. The whole move defies logic. I don’t think there’s a lot of political logic behind it.
“Many of us are left to wonder what he is trying to achieve. He gets a larger salary but certainly he will now become dislodged from his position within the Barbados labour Party and he would have lost the confidence of members in the party.
‘I don’t think it is a good thing for him politically and I can only assume he is at the end of his days politically and he would prefer to sign them off as Opposition Leader as opposed to being within the current administration,” Wickham told CMC.
Atherley told reporters he intends to give “critical support to the party in office…to applaud them when they get it right, which I believe they will often, to put pertinent and pointed questions to them when necessary to keep them on their toes.
“This is about our traditions of democracy, it is about parliamentary processes and that is why I am doing what I am doing,” he told reporters, adding that he would not be forming a party.
Prime Minister Mottley had last weekend noted that she was exploring the possibility of amending the Constitution to allow for the opposition party with the most votes to be able to nominate two members to the Senate. The move was seen as allowing the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which formed the last government, of having a presence in the Parliament.
But Bishop Atherley, the head of the Evangelical Holiness Christian Community Church, said he would be appointing two senators soon.
Wickham said he had been aware of the “conspiracy theories” that the move by Atherley was to ensure that the DLP is not represented at all within the Parliament.
But he said his information indicates that the leadership of the BLP is not comfortable with the situation where the main opposition party is not represented in the Parliament and “therefore the idea that they would have conspired with Bishop Atherley to block the Democratic Labour Party is not something I am convinced about”.
Wickham said that calls for a by-election to replace Atherley will not happen.
“There’s certainly a feeling on the ground that it ought to happen….(but) it is difficult to say to a person who is elected on the strength of their own individual performance even though…the party may have a lot to do with it, you do not enjoy the rights of freedom of association…(like) in Trinidad and Tobago where there is a Crossing of the Floor Act, you cannot force a person to go back to the polls.”

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