Led by Mia Amor Mottley, the Barbados Labour Party swept the polls in the 2018 general elections with numbers declared early Friday morning showing an overwhelming response from the electorate giving the party all 30 of the island’s parliamentary seats.
In doing so, Mottley and her team of 29 other parliamentarians created history in multiple ways: the first woman to be elected prime minister; the largest number of women members, six; the first for a single party to win all seats of parliament; and the first time that an elected prime minister was defeated.
Mottley, a 52-year-old lawyer, has herself created other firsts for Barbados, being the youngest person to hold a ministerial position in government at age 28, and the first female attorney general of the island in a previous BLP administration.
“There is a time now for healing that must take place in this nation, for if we are to move forward and face the challenges that lie ahead of us, then my friends we have to be prepared to heal and allow many hands to make light work. That is our mandate,” said the history-making Barbados leader after former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart conceded defeat in the wee hours of the morning.
Mottley who was sworn into office hours later Friday, made clear her intention to keep promises to ease the financial burden on Barbadians, one of the reasons she is believed to have commanded such a victory.
“We are also committed to removing the noose of taxes from around your necks, for we recognise that if this economy is to grow again then Bajans must have access to greater disposal income and we give you a commitment that within the next few months that will be business number one for us,” she said.
“I take full responsibility for the defeat,” a sunken-looking former PM Stuart told the media after early voting numbers trended to a resounding win by his opponent.
Speaking in a low tone matching is depressed appearance, Stuart seemed to be referring to the fact that he stood alone to face the media in his party headquarters, with the usual entourage of supporters including former government ministers nowhere to be seen.
“There is an old feature . . . that in campaigning whenever there is success, success is shared by all those who succeed and by those with whom they are associated. But when there is failure, failure points to one man”.
Stuart’s bearing presented a picture far removed from the confident and somewhat arrogant posture of the man who refused to call elections at the end of the five-year term on March 06, for which his government was elected, and used a constitutional anomaly to extend his time in office until his crushing defeat in the morning of May 25.
When questioned a month ago about his refusal to dissolve parliament and call elections within the elected term as has been done by every prime minister before him, Stuart said, “That is how history is made. History is not made by things happening the same way all the time. History is made by doing things differently”.
But the political newcomer who created his own history by booting an elected Barbados prime minister out of a constituency seat, Kirk Humphrey, quipped after it became apparent that he was beating Stuart, “the prime minister got the history …, but he didn’t get the history he wanted”.
The forlorn figure of Stuart speaking to the media Friday morning perhaps represented the shock suffered by his government – that was accused of ignoring the electorate – when it heard the people speak with their ballots.
Stuart said he will no longer contest elections.
The experience for this 67-year-old, having first entered parliament in 1994, raising to the heights of prime minister from 2010 and now being booted out by a political novice in an unprecedented rout of the party he leads, may hold lessons to Barbados politicians about listening to the people.