Here to stay!
He’s a first-timer but the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) candidate Hudson Everett Grifith is no stranger to the hustings.
Griffith, a 45-year-old businessman, partnered the last BLP hopeful Tyrone Power on the 2008 campaign trail in the constituency of St John.
The son of missionary parents, Griffith – in this interview with Associate Managing Editor Tim Slinger – speaks passionately about his interaction with, and personal interest in, people.
Born in St Vincent, Griffith also talks about coming to Barbados at age four and the values of his Christian upbringing.
Who is Hudson Griffith?
Hudson Griffith, first, is a businessman. From the time I was young, I’ve always had a desire to run my own company. As a matter of fact, my mother told me and reminded me that the first time I ever saw somebody write cheques, I said: ‘I want to do that’. I’ve always had this desire to run my own business.
Outside of that, I’m a family man and I’m also a sporting enthusiast and I’m a person who likes to get on with the job. I’m a man of few words.
When a job is to be done, it must be done to a certain standard. It needs to meet expectations and once that is done, I’m cool with that.
Your parents were both messengers of the Christian faith and one would have believed you might have followed their trail. What prompted you to get involved in elective politics?
I have a deep admiration for Mr Owen Arthur and his ability to get the job done. Where politics is concerned, it is reflective of me wanting to represent the people. [This has come about] from being in business.
I’ve employed people all my life; I’ve taken care of families through my business and my desire to see people feeling good about themselves brings satisfaction to me. So when the call for me to come into elective politics came – maybe at the right time of my life – it was not too hard a decision.
I consulted my wife and my mum and from there it has just been growing.
I never necessarily considered being in politics although some of my close friends always told me: ‘You should get into politics’.
I’ve always discussed the issues in my close circles and with my family. If you interview any of them they would tell you I have always discussed the issues.
Some may suggest that you have chosen one of the toughest political races in which to represent the Barbados Labour Party (BLP). History speaks for itself in the constituency of St John with the odds heavily weighed against you. Why such a tough choice?
Again, it’s reflective of the personality of Hudson Griffith. Quite honesty, the DLP does not offer me as much resistance as the daunting task I consider representing the St John constituency to be. As I walk across St John, as I meet people, it really boggles my mind that a constituency can remain in the condition that it’s in for the length of time. There are so many things to be done in St John.
Maybe this is St John’s moment; maybe this is Hudson Griffith’s moment – I don’t know. But the task of representing St John is far greater to me than anything the DLP can offer.
For example, if I go and do something in College Savannah, the people in Edgecliff or Venture or Cherry Grove – because of the number of things that has to be done – will consider that I’m doing things in College Savannah alone.
The amount of money required by the BLP administration to bring St John to a level that is on par or greater than the other constituencies in Barbados, I don’t think the BLP administration has that amount of money. So it’s going to be a gradual process.
After I’ve said that, I don’t want to give the impression that St John is as bad as it is made out to be. It’s just that if you compare it with the rest of the constituencies – the infrastructural work, the social programmes, the lack of a strong commercial environment – there are things that I consider large enough to say that St John’s moment is here.
I believe that the people were just waiting for the right moment, waiting for the right person – that’s what I feel.
What is your vision for St John?
In the last few years, money has been given a bad name – the earning of money; profit is considered a bad word. Money and profit are needed to generate almost everything is this world. So from that point of view, my vision for St John is going to Four Roads and turning it into a thriving commercial hub.
I would be interested in creating a small industrial area in Four Roads. I would invite the financial market to come back into St John; invite the Ministry of Agriculture to place an outlet in St John because St John is a farming community; encourage a farmers’ market; encourage a craft market and, by that, shops should have a rippling effect from commercial activity.
The spin-off of that is that you would generate employment within St John. This means that a lot of the young women who might have to leave St John to go to work in other areas can now open hair salons and so on that employ persons.
It would reduce the amount of money that they would have to spend in bus fares, which means that their disposable income would increase to take care of bills because they would not have to go out of St John. You then start getting commercial activity coming into St John and you also attract the tourism product.
Why should the people of St John vote for you?
The BLP has clearly demonstrated that it is able to manage the country, put people to work, keep prices down and put forward a vision the people can build on. Now these are all facts that cannot be disputed when you strip away the politics of talking and politics of everything; these are areas that one cannot dispute.
My commercial proposal, which would lead to social work, would then lead to the ability to develop the sporting side of the community and would also take guys from just sitting down idly on the block, put them into something meaningful; offer them the opportunity to use sports as a way of combining their academic ability and opening doors for scholarship and discipline. Because a good sportsperson most of the time turns out to be a good disciplinarian, if they can take the discipline of the sport to their academic and social life, it improves them personally and then they can pass it on to their children.
From a BLP point of view, and from a personal point of view, I consider myself the person most suitable to take St John into the next century and into the future.
Based on Mara Thompson’s popularity do you feel threatened or intimidated in any way?
I’m amused! I’m amused at the DLP and that Mrs Thompson is still not prepared to demonstrate that she is capable of standing on her own two feet. Even today (Monday), when I opened the newspaper, the first thing I see is a tribute to David Thompson. How far will we go in using a crutch to support and satisfy one’s ability?
The DLP sat down for almost nine months and waited for Mr Thompson to reach the point that he reached and did nothing for this country.
They were warned by the international ratings agencies that they had to do something. They sat down and they continued this long memorial, when people in this country needed to get on with the work.
We have a serious economic crisis in this country that needs to be addressed. So I am amused and a little annoyed that despite [the fact that] I’ve called on Mrs Thompson to defend the role and work of the DLP, today, the DLP still has not done that.
The reason the BLP is not carrying the amount of “fandangle” and the amount of music and the trappings of a carnival is because we have a message to give. There is a place for a carnival and this election is not the place for a carnival.
People have issues. You have an increase in gasoline, bus fare, water; we are not sure whether the tourism season is going to produce the amount of foreign exchange we need. Based on all reports, we are going to get another [ratings] downgrade.
With another downgrade, [it] means that foreign investment will not be able to come into this country.?So you have to go back to the Budget.
We have a serious economic situation looming in this country and the DLP consistently fools around with the lives of people.
Both the DLP and BLP held their second mass meeting last night and again, I have put the work that the BLP has done in the island and in St John on the drawing board and have defended it.
The DLP still has not placed its record and defended it. This is what it needs to do to tell the people of Barbados and the people of St John why it is the better team and why Mara Thompson is the better candidate.
People can’t take sympathy to the supermarket; they can’t put sympathy into the fare box of the bus; they can’t put sympathy into the gas tank of a vehicle; it can’t pay a water bill and the DLP needs to stop this foolishness.
In my opinion, we are heading for a similar situation to that of 1991-1994. Prices are escalating, unemployment is going up and yet no strong and serious decisions are being made.
Finally, what gives you that confidence that you can pull it off for the BLP?
The people first need representation. There are a few people in St John who are so partisan, they are attempting to silence the people who want change. There are people in St John who have told me: ‘We didn’t vote in the last election because we didn’t think that our vote was enough to change’.
I’m telling you now, Timothy, that change is imminent in St John. The St John people vote for who they love and I’m going to be one of the first people to also apologise for the BLP because we have not been consistent.
In my opinion, and based on the feedback from the people, we have not been able to crack the seal because, one, they didn’t feel that their vote could’ve made the change. Two, they didn’t feel that the BLP took the St John seat serious. Again, I’m saying maybe this is the BLP’s moment. Maybe this is Hudson Griffith’s moment. I don’t know, but it’s in the making and it is only a matter of time that what I bring to the table and what I represent is more sustainable than any sympathy votes or what Mara Thompson’s DLP has to offer.
I’m here to stay. I’m not moving from St John.
I’ve been called to St John and I have answered that call to represent the people. The only thing that can change that is if something were to happen to me.