JUST LIKE IT IS – St John reflections
Now the hurly-burly’s done, Hudson’s lost, Mara’s won. I offer them commiserations and congratulations. The result was as predictable as night following day.
It is noteworthy that Mrs Thompson not only won the by-election, but increased the share of her party’s vote to an impressive overall 89 per cent in what has been a Democratic Labour Party stronghold for the last 52 years – a fact which in itself tells a tale.
I congratulate Mr Griffith on his commitment to the task and promise to redouble his efforts and stick with the constituency. He, like every reasoning observer with some familiarity with the historical reality of St John, would have known he was fighting an uphill battle in the safest DLP seat in the island.
Looking on from the margins, I could not understand from the initial salvos of the campaign why the Barbados Labour Party thought it a good political strategy to focus on the fact that Mrs Thompson was born in St Lucia.
That was a non-issue on which too much time was wasted. She is not what the Americans call a carpetbagger since she is a Barbadian by marriage and has involved herself in every campaign since 1987 at the side of her husband and was known and liked across the constituency. Considering the fact that she was the popular grieving widow of a popular Prime Minister and constituency representative, to dwell on where her naval string is buried was political puerility guaranteed to turn off even wavering voters.
I was alarmed to hear some of the top leaders trying to sell the electorate a pup that the by-election result should be seen as a referendum on the performance of the two parties. St John is not a level playing field and the result should be seen as an aberration from which it could only be misleading to extrapolate any islandwide conclusions.
It is like saying a St Peter or St Thomas by-election result would be a fair and accurate measure of the way the nation would vote en bloc.
Already there is speculation extrapolating from the result that if instead of a “by” Mr Stuart had gone for a general election, the Dems would have won a resounding victory. It does not follow.
There are significantly more variables impinging on the national playing field than in the St John garrison. I am also hearing Mr Stuart will take the opportunity to reshuffle the Cabinet which is largely an inheritance from Mr Thompson.
If this is his thinking, it will be interesting to see whether Mrs Thompson features, and what he will assign himself in addition to defence and security.
Sympathy and empathy are powerful human sentiments and in St John would have found expression in a vote for Mara. As a grieving widow on the ballot paper, she would have attracted the overwhelming support of other females even some who may not have voted Dem before, not for either Barrow or David, but would support her in solidarity.
I was struck by the comment from one first-time female voter that she and many in her cohort identified with the widow and her father-absent daughters.
These youths are also into bling in its every manifestation and were captured by the glitzy DLP campaign which climaxed with the Martin’s Bay extravaganza on Saturday. Their elaborate platforms with appropriate background music represented
a financial investment which would have been beyond a struggling Opposition party. Streaming their meetings on the Internet made good use of cutting-edge technology and saved many from the semi-Arctic trade winds sweeping the parish.
However, a word to the wise. If this technological advance is to be a feature of future elections, some speakers need to understand that some of the things they say are more suited to the fish markets than the World Wide Web.
When the post-victory shouting subsides, the harsh realities facing the country will still confront us. I saw a copy of Mrs Thompson’s mini-manifesto and took particular note of her promise that “the St John Polyclinic shall be built by this current Democratic Labour Party administration . . . it’s as simple as that”.
Thursday night, campaign manager John Boyce said the polyclinic was “on the front burner of the Minister of Health” who said that work on the polyclinic would start on March 15. Strange timing considering that funds for the major infrastructural project in the parish will have to be committed in the Estimates of Expenditure for the new financial year which begins on April 1.
This project has been a focal point for some time. One chronic caller to VOB’s Brass Tacks who says he is an octogenarian taxi driver declared he did not sleep during the 14 years when the BLP was in office because they did nothing about the project.
Especially for his sake, I hope the polyclinic is also on the front burner of the Minister of Finance and he can find the funds so that come the Ides of March
there will be a hive of activity in Glebe Land delivering this multifaceted project and helping the new representative honour a major pledge.
• Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat.