60 pieces of silver
AS WE end the first full week of campaigning for Elections 2013, and our thoughts turn to individual seats, I have chosen to examine the challenges and chances of the 60 candidates nominated last Wednesday by the two major parties.
In the eight instances where independent candidates or those from minor parties are competing, I have not factored them into my equations because, frankly and painfully, history suggests they have mostly been of nuisance value.
Given space constraints I can only provide nuggets of commentary, more silver than golden, for perusal by those who value precious standards.
In ridings where there are two newcomers, I shy away from looking too deeply at the possible numerical opportunities since several unknown factors may play into considering what is needed for one or the other to emerge.
I am making no predictions at this early stage and all references to swings are based on the most recent CADRES/Barbados Today public opinion poll conducted in January. This picture would change when a more current poll is conducted.
Here then is my constituency by constituency assessment:
Outgoing MP: Denis Kellman (Democratic Labour Party – DLP)
Kellman is on the verge of becoming one of a rare breed of five-time successive winners. He has always enjoyed comfortable margins of victory, amassing his highest tally in 2008 when the turnout for the BLP was even lower than usual. Only a swing of seismic proportions could shake Kellman. Such is the justifiable confidence of the DLP in St Lucy.
Challenger: Peter Phillips (Barbados Labour Party – BLP)
This seat has only once been conceded by the DLP to the BLP. That was in 1981 when Roy Brathwaite won it over then two-time winner Evelyn Greaves. Phillips got 286 fewer votes in 2008 than the 2003 BLP candidate (Richard Arthur). The riding is divided (east-west) between the DLP and the BLP. Phillips will be required
to penetrate the eastern stronghold of the DLP where he lost ground in 2008, if he is to make any impression.
ST ANDREW:Outgoing MP: George Payne (BLP)
Although Payne is a five-time winner, his margins have grown slimmer election after election, winning by the narrowest (43 votes) in 2008. The anti-DLP national (seven per cent) swing is the one good thing going for him this time around. His lucky escape last time out will probably put him on notice that his opponent is no walkover. Challenger: Irene Sandiford-Garner (DLP)
Since losing the seat in 1991, the DLP has run four different candidates against Payne (Clifton Neblett, Laurence Clarke, Dennis Lowe and David Jordan). Having come within 50 votes of winning in 2008, Sandiford-Garner is the first Dem to be given a second bite at the St Andrew cherry. Interesting! Her challenge is to influence the swing voter who went with the DLP last time around, to retain confidence in her. For her, the St Andrew terrain remains hilly in more ways than one.
Outgoing MP: Owen Arthur (BLP)
Even with a 13.8 per cent decline in 2008 when the BLP lost, Arthur’s sustained majority was such that any opponent would feel intimidated. He should comfortably shake off all comers given his high profile as party leader and former prime minister. Add to that the negative current swing against the incumbent governing
DLP. Challenger: Haynesley Benn (DLP)
Benn had the pleasure of doing better than the average positive DLP swing in 2008 and will take confidence in the fact he reduced Arthur’s vote from 85 per cent and 81 per cent in the previous two elections to 67 per cent in 2008. If hard work alone was the tool of success for aspirants, Benn would hold a safe seat. Truth is, he is facing a formidable opponent in a safe BLP seat. If he gets above the 32 per cent of the votes he got last time, he would have done well.
ST JAMES NORTH:
Newcomer 1: Edmund Hinkson (BLP)
Newcomer 2: Harry Husbands (DLP)
In any election with two newcomers, all bets are off. The statistics are subject to reconfiguration. Hinkson is succeeding a highly popular BLP MP in Rawle Eastmond and the outcome will tell us if St James North is BLP territory as it has been in every election except once, when Joe Payne won it for the DLP (1986), or if it is Eastmond territory. The DLP has exchanged Husbandses, from Austin to Harry, creating a new dimension to the equation. If Harry loses we will all wonder if Austin would not have been the better Husbands. If Hinkson loses, the BLP will rue the bloody nomination contest the party endured.
ST JAMES CENTRAL:
Outgoing MP: George Hutson (DLP)
In 2008, Hutson scored a major upset over then outgoing MP Symmonds. What was even more surprising was that the 228-vote margin almost equally matched Symmonds’ 2003 margin of 223 votes over Hutson. He would be aware, as Symmonds should have been in 2008, that his opponent is not far off his heels and he has to keep running.
Challenger: Kerrie Symmonds (BLP)
The opinion poll numbers favour a return to Symmonds if all other factors remain as they were in 2008. But if he takes the bare level of national swing against the DLP as evidence of his own good chance of being returned as MP, he may be found wanting. Having once ditched a candidate, the electorate doesn’t need much persuading to do it again. Effort needed.
ST JAMES SOUTH:
Outgoing MP: Donville Inniss (DLP)
When Inniss scored a major upset over Liz Thompson in 2008, the electorate sat up and took notice of him. Was it his personality? His campaign? Other assets or considerations? Or was it on the strength of the DLP’s popularity at that time? Inniss won by a 2.9 per cent margin and needs to increase that number in order to enjoy a level of comfort. How does he achieve it in the light of a swing away from the DLP? This is a riding where a fickle middle class moved from the Bees to the Dems in 2008. Will they move back in 2013? Or will they stick with Inniss?
Challenger: Sandra Husbands (BLP)
This newcomer would know that her opponent failed to win the large crucial working class in the Haynesville area in 2008, but did sufficiently well in the sprawling middle-income areas to carry the seat. Husbands has to penetrate Inniss’ middle class strength while at the same time retain the crucial Haynesville box. This is a tall order.
Outgoing MP: Cynthia Forde (BLP)
The decline in support for Forde in 2008 – 63.6 per cent down from 74 per cent and 76 per cent in 1999 and 2003, was higher than the national swing against the BLP. Forde will have to confront those numbers in order to ensure St Thomas remains the comfortable stronghold the BLP has enjoyed since the glory days of J.M.G.M. “Tom” Adams. She has the swing in her favour.
Challenger: Rolerick Hinds (DLP)
The DLP has chosen a new candidate for the third successive election since George Pilgrim carried the DLP banner in two general elections and one by-election and then walked away. Musical chairs is not a popular political game, but some parties seem to have little choice in the strongholds of their opponents. The DLP may pay the price in St Thomas.
ST GEORGE NORTH:
Outgoing MP: Gline Clarke (BLP)
The 2008 opponent, Colin Spencer, gave Clarke the biggest jolt of his political career when he came within 745 votes of upsetting the long-serving MP who was accustomed earning four-figure margins. There is no Spencer to trouble Clarke in this election and so he is placed to take advantage of those swing votes that are returning to the BLP column. He has turned a seat that alternated between the Dees and the Bees in the ’70s and ’80s into a BLP riding, winning it in four consecutive elections.
Challenger: Jepter Ince (DLP)
Ince joins a long list of DLP challengers who have faced Clarke since he took the seat in 1994 following the retirement of Cyril Walker (DLP). They are Antoinette Thompson, Patrick Carter, Desmond Browne and Colin Spencer. Ince would find their failures quite uninspiring as he desperately tries to climb uphill to success against some serious headwinds.
ST GEORGE SOUTH:
Outgoing MP: Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo (DLP)
This is a riding that is regarded as a bellwether constituency. At times like these when there is a sizable swing against the governing party, it is expected that St George South will fall. But Byer-Suckoo’s numbers were so strong in 2008, she enters this race with more confidence than any of her rural party colleagues except those in St John, St Lucy and St Philip North.
Challenger: Dwight Sutherland (BLP)
This newcomer steps into a race having secured his nomination with unprecedented support at an historic meeting. He will know that the 2008 performance of the previous BLP candidate was the party’s worst. That means he will feel he can do better than Ian “Cupid” Gill (42.1 per cent down from 56.3 per cent in 2003 and 63.4 per cent in 1999). Sutherland has to outdo the national swing against the DLP in order to unseat Byer-Suckoo. His chances may be better than other rural newcomers.
Outgoing MP: Mara Thompson (DLP)
This is the DLP’s safest seat. Thompson comfortably won it for the first time in a by-election in 2011. She is capable of withstanding the strongest attack possible as the BLP continues to struggle to make an impression in St John.
Challenger: Hudson Griffith (BLP)
This candidate retains a positive outlook in the face of overwhelming odds. His target should be to improve on his by-election showing. That would represent a resounding personal triumph.
Outgoing MP: Dale
A once safe BLP seat has been transformed into a marginal one since Marshall took over representation in 1999. What was a 58.2 per cent win for his predecessor Dr Richard Cheltenham in 1999 became a 50.9 per cent one in 2003 and 50.4 in 2008. Marshall will be depending on the national swing against the DLP to secure St Joseph a third time.
Challenger: Dennis Holder (DLP)
After backing the losing Randal Rouse in 1999, 2003 and 2008, the DLP has chosen another hometown boy to compete. Newcomer Holder comes with good credentials, but may find his maiden attempt at a time when his party is resisting a negative swing, too much to overcome. This just might deny him the chance his party people are optimistic about.
ST PHILIP SOUTH:
Outgoing MP: Adriel Brathwaite (DLP)
The victory scored by Brathwaite was one that the DLP relished in 2008. He had been a late entrant and was not widely known outside of St Philip.
But he stormed home to upset the entrenched BLP MP who had won in both 1999 and 2003 by comfortable margins. Now Brathwaite will be required to capture more than the 47 per cent he obtained in 2008 in order to resist the swing against the DLP in what is the only battleground riding in St Philip.
Challenger: Anthony Wood (BLP)
After a delayed re-entry into the political fray, probably caused by the shock of an unexpected loss in 2008, Wood has volunteered for a return bout. He recognises his opponent held a slender advantage and will have to eliminate it to resume his place in the House. Wood, the only BLP MP in any of the St Philip seats since David Simmons (now Sir David) won it in 1976, is unlikely to find the seven per cent national swing against the DLP existing in hard DLP territory like St Philip, so he will depend heavily on his personal popularity to pip Brathwaite and overturn the ten per cent decline which he suffered in 2008.
ST PHILIP NORTH:
Outgoing MP: Michael Lashley (DLP)
Lashley enjoyed a massive win in 2008, copping almost 68 per cent of the vote. Not only did his personal popularity and the DLP favourability contribute, but the late entry of his opponent George Griffith, a relic of two defeats in 1986 and 1991, did not help the BLP cause. The size of Lashley’s win makes him a definite favourite, although he may find his opponent more of a challenge than a weary warrior like Griffith.
Challenger: Indar Weir (BLP)This political neophyte has made a bold attempt to wrest the St Philip seat in the face of overwhelming numbers.
His target must be to do better that Griffith’s 1 756 votes (to Lashley’s 3 720) in the last election. Weir’s markers will be the 2 161 votes the BLP won in 2003 and the 2 162 in 1999 and not Griffith’s modest sum. Getting to that number would represent a huge success for this eager starter who is also from St Philip, which is important to the people from this parish.
ST PHILIP WEST:
Outgoing MP: Dr David Estwick (DLP)
For a third successive election, Estwick is being asked to fend off the challenge of Eastmond. He will be buoyed by his previous numbers: 3 166 to 2 294 in 2008; and 2 714 to 2 259 in 2003. He clearly has the advantage in this return contest, but would be well advised not be dismissive of the impact of the swing against the DLP in this riding even though his challenger needs an eight per cent positive movement to edge him out.
Challenger: Lynette Eastmond (BLP)
It is always daunting to face an opponent like Estwick whose record is one of knockout punches.But what is very encouraging for Eastmond is the fact that in 2008 when the BLP fall ranged from as high as 15 per cent in St Andrew, 14.2 per cent in St George South and 13.8 per cent in St Peter of all places, she was able to contain the decline in St Philip West to 3.4 per cent. Her numbers also compare favourably with the shortfall in the two other St Philip constituencies where it was 11.4 per cent and 10.4 per cent respectively in North and South.
CHRIST CHURCH EAST:
Outgoing MP: Denis Lowe (DLP)
Lowe’s victory in 2008 puts him in a comfortable zone in an election where his party has set out to sweep the Christ Church seats. His was a win that was 9.2 per cent above his opponent’s, the former high-profile BLP minister Reginald Farley.
While these numbers offer optimism, Lowe has to contend with a large middle class population at a time when the middle class is hurting. He should take nothing for granted.
Challenger: Wilfred Abrahams (BLP)
One of the BLP newcomers, Abrahams is entering a riding where his party’s fortunes declined after 1999 from 55.6 per cent and 50.7 per cent to 40.6 per cent in 2008, the lowest BLP turnout of the Christ Church vote in that election and one of the lowest islandwide. Abrahams will therefore approach the contest knowing that the only way for the party is up. He should regard the swing against the DLP as placing him in a position to recover the fortunes of the BLP on his way to scoring what he knows would be a major upset.
CHRIST CHURCH WEST:
Newcomer 1: Maria Agard (BLP)
Newcomer 2: Verla De Peiza (DLP)
There are two women in this race, a rarity in Bajan politics. It has only happened three times before – in St Thomas (2003: Forde/Nurse), St James South (1991: Thompson/Cumberbatch) and St Michael North East (2008: Mottley/Inniss).
This Sir Henry Forde stronghold for the BLP from its inception, has declined in support in the last two elections won by the outgoing William Duguid. Even the most avid DLP supporter approaches this contest with cautious hope given the history. But with two new candidates, a number of new factors feed into the grid. The presence
of an independent candidate in the former DLP representative in 2008, Taan Abed, adds to the complexity if it is a close race.
CHRIST CHURCH SOUTH:
Outgoing MP: John Boyce (DLP)
After fighting and losing three successive elections in 1994, 1999 and 2003, a persistent Boyce came home in 2008 by about 400 votes, large in the context of the 2003 result which gave it to his opponent by 55 votes.
Boyce holds a five per cent margin of victory which is within the range of the swing against the DLP, making this a toss-up because it is a return contest. He will be required to fight to retain his seat.
Challenger: Jerome Walcott (BLP)
This is the third contest between Boyce and Walcott. The score is one-all. In previous contests Boyce lost to the more formidable
Sir Harold St John. This means Walcott would be misled if he feels this can be won as a walkover.Both men are yet to cement their place in the hearts of the Christ Church folk in the way Sir Harold did. Walcott’s is not a proud record having taken the BLP from 60.0 per cent where St John left it, to 45.2 per cent in 2008. This affords Boyce a chance to exploit it. One to watch.
CHRIST CHURCH EAST CENTRAL:
Ronald Jones (DLP)
Talkative, controversial and highly visible, Jones excites emotions of strong love and strong hate. He has been MP for two terms and enjoys a comfortable 8.8 per cent margin going into this election. In both elections he enjoyed the advantage of BLP wrangling over candidate choices. He now brings his record and experience to bear on a candidate wet behind his ears. So he should feel confident.
Challenger: Desmond Sands (BLP)
This is the son of two-time BLP winner Duncan Carter. He is being asked to rescue and rebuild the party’s fortunes which fell to just 41.2 per cent of the vote in 2008, a drop from 61.5 per cent in 1999. It is that large slice which Carter enjoyed which must offer Sands a glimmer of hope.Add to that the size of the middle class vote which the BLP is targeting with its tax policies. Although hitherto an unknown name, he must feel he has a couple things going for him. May be closer than the pundits think.
CHRIST CHURCH WEST CENTRAL:
Outgoing MP: Stephen Lashley (DLP)
Lashley is coming off a strong win in 2008 and enters the race a clear favourite. Even a swing of seven or eight per cent will not move him. In his first outing, Lashley recorded a 1 000-vote majority over longstanding BLP MP Joe Edghill. He enjoys a seat with a large slice of working class voters where the DLP’s appeal as the party which emphasises social entitlements gives him a further advantage. He has the best chance of all his Christ Church colleagues.
Challenger: Margo Durant-Callender (BLP)
A newcomer who brings enthusiasm and positivity to her campaign, Durant-Callender may find this a first electoral learning experience, given the numerical odds she faces. She needs a full 20 per cent increase on Edghill’s performance to return the BLP to its 1999 glory days.This is an almost impossible number to surmount.