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Owen Arthur’s statement

marciadottin, [email protected]

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I want, on behalf of the Barbados Labour Party, to be the first to offer the warmest congratulations to Mrs Mara Thompson and the Democratic Labour Party for their overwhelming victory in this by-election. I also want to commend our candidate for a wonderful performance.
This has been an extraordinary election for us in many respects. We came to this campaign with no illusions. There were matters that we had to contend with that were beyond our control.
There were matters that we foisted upon ourselves that, in part, explain the nature of this campaign.
I say that with no intention whatsoever to drag down the efforts of this campaign.
This campaign was an extraordinary campaign like the 1987 campaign, and in 1987 you will see that David Thompson got more votes than Errol Barrow got in 1986.
We were fighting a campaign against the sentimentality arising from the death of a Prime Minister both in his prime and in his youth, and it was very, very difficult to break through . . .
The Barbados Labour Party, properly so in my view, respectfully distanced itself from any political action in St John all through Mr Thompson’s illness.
We did not appoint a candidate until after he had died. We did not put an organisation in place and we didn’t seek to raise resources, and I am not treating that as a mistake (but) we maintained a respectful distance politically from this constituency.
This young man is a splendid candidate.
He had the opportunity to be appointed as a candidate sometime in December. He contested this election in the hardest constituency against the Democratic Labour Party with only enough time to canvass just over a quarter of this constituency.
This is a situation we had to deal with and I am satisfied that he will return; [and] that after he has had that rest, he will canvass this constituency in full.
You see, these things were stacked against him – a man not well known in the constituency running against a lady who is a household name in the constituency.
We tried to run a very strong campaign. I must say that I am pleased that the entire family of the Barbados Labour Party came out to support our platform. We didn’t have a lot to work with. We could not afford the kind of extravaganzas and other kinds of vote-catching gestures that the Democratic Labour Party so clearly could afford. We tried our best.
We tried to mount a campaign that tried to focus on the issues. Some of the issues that we focused on some people would say we should not have focused on. We knew the particular risk that we were taking but we really did try to mount as vigorous a campaign as possible.
And what pleased me most about this campaign is the way in which, although everybody in the Labour Party knew that we were up against it, the family of the Labour Party did not shirk its responsibility. Night after night they were here and
I want to thank them and I know that there is fighting spirit in the Barbados Labour Party that will not be daunted by this.
We came to a campaign in December with no institutional arrangements, no functioning branch in place. It is a message to us that we cannot ignore. The Barbados Labour Party must have a presence in every constituency in Barbados and a strong presence at that.
Part of the issue is that people did not believe that the Barbados Labour Party was going to have a candidate who kept coming back and coming back and coming back – we were up against that.
And you will find that in some districts, Labour Party supporters did not vote because they felt that we were going through the motions again and having a new candidate who is not going to come back.
Hudson Griffith is going to come back. He is the running candidate in the next election and I am urging him to use the time between now and next election wisely, not only to get himself known to the people of St John but to help us to build the Labour Party presence in the constituency.
St John is Democratic Labour Party territory and it is very, very difficult to have to keep fighting elections in this constituency, having to contend with the death of Prime Ministers at the height of their popularity.
It is a daunting task but we will try our best.