The ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government has palpably dropped the ball on the parish of St John.
And this faux pas has nothing to do with infrastructural work, jobs, roads, environment, political visibility in the parish, community programmes, recreational facilities, or any of the other issues which opportunistic politicians often walk the length and breadth of Barbados and use as ammunition to discredit opponents over their failures – real or imaginary.
The DLP has done the constituency and itself a great disservice by its indifference and poor communication, in the handling of the Mara Thompson retirement situation. The constituency of St John has provided the DLP with its most loyal supporters for more than five decades and deserves greater respect than what has been shown to it over the past few months.
It is the right of any politician to call it quits for whatever reason. Christ Church West hopeful in the imminent general election William Duguid left that constituency basically in the care of MP Maria Agard prior to the 2013 general election and went on a Canadian sabbatical. That was his right. He has now returned and is seeking the favour of those same members of the electorate once again. That too is his right. And so too is it the right of MP Mara Thompson to return to her private life.
But with a general election fewer than four months away, one would think that at this 11th hour there should not have been any doubts as to whether she was returning or not. And more significantly, if she had no intentions of returning, a candidate should have long been identified, selected and positioned in the constituency as the face of the DLP. The conduct of the party is such that one would be led to believe either two things. One, the DLP is so thoroughly complacent and callous in its perception of St John that it believes that anything can go and it will still win the seat. Or, two, such is the confusion in the party and belief that they will lose the general election that this defeatist attitude has permeated the organization.
But, sadly, the confusion started with Mrs Thompson herself. When it was initially reported in the media last year that the widow of late Prime Minister David Thompson would not be seeking re-election in the 2018 general election, she rubbished the suggestion. Later, it was proven to be indeed the case that she was bowing out of elective politics having won the seat in January 2011. But why the denial? Why the intrigue? Why prolong the start of the inevitable process? Mrs Thompson’s actions bore no resemblance to either political strategy or common sense.
Whether the political advisors of the DLP fell asleep or had migrated to Roebuck Street, one would have thought that all the preparations – private and public – would have been put in place from the time Mrs Thompson made the personal decision that she was through with politics. Her potential replacements could have been canvassing the constituency from a much earlier period, familiarizing themselves with St John folk, and those good citizens with them. Instead, what we have now at this late juncture are two candidates in Mr George Pilgrim and Mr Leroy McClean [and perhaps others] seeking to get the nod from the party to contest the election. This too could lead to more confusion. Many view Mr McClean as the logical replacement for Mrs Thompson, being someone from the parish and one who has been associated with St John from the days of late National Hero Errol Barrow. Mr Pilgrim, a product of the St Thomas parish, is seen as hardcore a Dem as one can get and apparently has the endorsement of Mrs Thompson. The tussle between Mr Pilgrim and Mr McClean could be acrimonious.
So what can be expected? Will a nomination process via the constituency branch that reportedly favours Mr McClean be conducted? Or will the DLP’s executive council take matters into its hands – as it has done before – and simply install Mr Pilgrim as the candidate? The DLP is the ruling party acting like an Opposition entity in this scenario. The people of St John deserved a situation where this matter should not now be up in the air in March 2018.
The ruling DLP recently announced that Mr Patrick Todd would be their candidate against Opposition Leader Mia Mottley in the St Michael North East constituency. Based on voting patterns in that riding, some have suggested that Mr Todd is not only the candidate, but actually the DLP’s sacrificial lamb. Whether his was a late or early entry, Mr Todd is not expected to interrupt Miss Mottley’s 24-year tenure in that constituency.
But St John is a different scenario. This is historically DLP territory and ought to be treated like the prime political real estate that it is and held with greater respect than what is currently being shown. Both parties should be mindful that seats are not won before the votes are counted, whether tallied in a stronghold or not.