The leading political groups grew out of the labor movement of the 1930s. The Barbados Labor Party (BLP) was established in 1938 by Sir Grantley Adams. The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) split from the BLP in 1955. The National Democratic Party (NDP) was formed in 1989 by dissident members of the DLP. The parties reflect personal more than ideological differences.
Errol W. Barrow, the DLP leader, was prime minister from independence until 1976. The BLP succeeded him under J.M.G. ("Tom") Adams, the son of Grantley Adams. In 1981, the BLP retained its majority by 17–10, and Adams continued in that office until his death in 1985. On 28 May 1986, Barrow and the DLP won 24 House of Assembly seats to three for the BLP. After Barrow's death on 2 June 1987, Deputy Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford, minister of education and leader of the House of Assembly, assumed the prime ministership.
Despite the resignation of finance minister Dr. Richie Haynes in 1989, and his subsequent formation of the National Democratic Party, the DLP under Sandiford continued in power, retaining 18 of the now 28 seats in the House of Assembly. The BLP won the remaining 10 seats, leaving the dissident NDP without any representation.
After losing a vote of confidence in the legislature on 7 June 1994, Sandiford dissolved the House of Assembly and scheduled a general election for September. The BLP won by an overwhelming margin, with 19 seats; the DLP won eight, and the NDP, one. The BLP leader, Owen S. Arthur, became the new prime minister. The BLP swept the next elections, held in January 1999, winning 26 of the 28 House seats, while the DLP claimed only two. New elections must be held before March 2004.