Sir David’s political run
POLITICS had been on Sir David Simmons’ radar since boyhood.
His father, the late Kenneth Simmons, was a staunch member of the Barbados Labour Party. Sir David recalled: “In 1956 I was only 16, and he would drive us around to political meetings.” The godparents chosen for baby David were Dr Gordon Cummins and Hugh Springer (later Sir Hugh Springer, former Governor General of Barbados).
The foray into politics was therefore a natural progression for the young Simmons as he shifted from a promising law practice with Sir Henry Forde to elective politics on the side of the Barbados Labour Party. He was indeed part of a family with divided political loyalties, some members tied to the Barbados Labour Party, others to the Democratic Labour Party.
Succinctly put by Sir David: “Some of us were Bs and some were Ds. We had peaceful coexistence.”
Though he says at the outset there was no doubt in his mind that he would have on his own initiative at some time become involved in politics in Barbados, memories of that initial outing still draw laughter as Sir David relates the story:
“Henry (Sir Henry Forde), ‘Bree’ (Sir Harold St John) and I were doing a big case in St Vincent in 1970. We were down there for two weeks. We knew there was going to be elections in 1971, so whenever we had a spare moment, St John would talk politics. Many nights we were talking and St John encouraged me ‘Simmons come and run, man’. . . We couldn’t find candidates and nobody wanted to run in St Philip North because it was a sure loser for the Labour Party.”
“He said to me, ‘Man come and run – you would get some publicity, [and] it would help your practice even if you lose.”
Sir David acknowledges it was “really out of a desire to help ‘Bree’ and the Labour Party that I ran. I have always been a member of the Labour Party from 1957 when I was a boy at school”.
And so he threw his hat into the political ring though being “green as grass”.
He contested the St Philip North seat in 1971 and lost by over 2000 votes in a crushing defeat to popular DLP member Neville Maxwell.
But his foot was now in the door of elective politics. With the political demise of Neville Maxwell five years later, Sir David captured the vacant seat in a by-election and managed to retain it in the general election, albeit by the very thin margin of a mere seven votes. It was a ground-breaking victory for the BLP in a former DLP stronghold.
But in the 1981 elections he was unsuccessful.
“In 1981 I was due to go wherever there was even a puff of wind far less a swing,” Sir David remembers.
“I lost St Philip by 143 votes. I went into the Senate, and then Tom Adams died in March 1985 and the people of St Thomas asked the leadership of the Labour Party to send me. I did not offer myself. They called St John and others and said they wanted me and nobody else, and so I ran and won the by-election, and I remained the representative of St Thomas until I retired in August 2001.”
He had the “wonderful experience” of representing St Thomas for 15 years.
“I am proud of a number of things I did in St Thomas, and I am also proud of the fact that I ended my political career in St Thomas with a greater majority than Tom Adams – whom I succeeded – had ever been able to accumulate.
“Tom’s best majority was 1 500 but I left with a majority of 2 500. I am satisfied then that the people themselves were satisfied with what I had done for the constituency.”
Sir David resigned from elective politics on November 26, 2001, and was appointed Chief Justice.
He has not exercised his constitutional right to vote since that appointment.
He confesses: “I have not voted in elections in Barbados since 1999. While I was Chief Justice, I refused to vote because I considered that the exercise of a vote is the demonstration of a preference for a particular party or candidate and as Chief Justice I was expected to be impartial and to have no preferences, so I refused to vote.”
Perhaps following his lead, his wife, a former judge, and his daughter, now an attorney, also no longer vote.
Sir David has truly taken his exit from politics. By his own admission, he no longer even follows political debates.
He told the WEEKEND NATION, “I don’t take a great interest in local politics now”.
“During the time that I was Chief Justice I never followed the political landscape closely. Once or twice I found myself listening to debates on the FM station, but it was not something that I would be addicted to or attracted to. I severed my relations with politics in August 2001 and kept my distance ever since.”
But his life continues to be full and his legal brilliance is being engaged by other countries. In July he begins work on a biography, which he appropriately plans to title What Luck!
Editor’s Correction: The original version of this article stated that Neville Maxwell had died. This is incorrect. The NATION regrets the error.