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PURELY POLITICAL: Dems and St Peter


SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

PURELY POLITICAL: Dems and St Peter

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“We have not nominated anyone for that yet. Those things are done in-house. When we get to that bridge, we will make the appropriate announcement.

General secretary of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), George Pilgrim, (August 26) on the likely candidate for the St Peter constituency in the next general election.

​IT WOULD NOT be too much of an understatement to say that the parish/constituency of St Peter has not been very kind to the Democratic Labour Party in elections in the post-adult suffrage years.

​And if anything, it has shown a close affinity for, and an almost unbending partiality to, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) except for the anomaly of choosing an Independent in 1956 and 1961 and the blip in the first of the two 1984 by-elections when the DLP recorded a historic one-vote victory that was later overturned by the High Court.

It should therefore not surprise anyone who follows these things that the party does not appear to be in any great hurry to nominate and put a candidate into the field for the next general elections which are a long way away.

Still, it must be said that – especially given that the person eventually chosen will most likely be a newcomer both to elective politics and campaigning – it cannot hurt but would most certainly help that candidate to have all of the time available to familiarise themselves with the constituency, the people and their issues well ahead of the ringing of the bell.

On the other side, the Opposition, for which St Peter has become in the clichéd, “BLP country”, has moved with comparative alacrity to select a caretaker for the constituency pending formal nomination even if the choice has not exactly found favour with some in the leadership of the party who, I am told, had their eyes on a particular female prospect.

With the Opposition’s matter virtually settled, it is only natural that our attention would turn to the ruling party which, given its ongoing difficulties in managing the affairs of a country in deep crisis, can truthfully say that candidate selection for St Peter is not among its top priorities.

Given the severity of the problems, that would be understandable, but one would also have to take into consideration the electoral history of St Peter particularly the record of the outgoing MP, Owen Arthur, who won the seat in the last seven general elections after turning the one-vote defeat in the first 1984 by-election into a comfortable margin of victory in the second.

In the first general election after the introduction of adult suffrage, which was conducted under the double member system, the parish returned the two BLP candidates, K.N.R. Husbands and Frank Walcott, with an Independent – the only other candidate on the ballot – placing a very distant third.

Neither the Progressive Conservative Party (PCP), which had fielded candidates in the other ten parishes and The City of Bridgetown, and won four seats, nor the Congress Party, which contested and won the two St Philip seats, bothered to show up for the St Peter contest.

In 1956, by which time the DLP had been formed and entered the fray, Husbands and Walcott were returned to the House of Assembly, only this time the latter emerged as the senior member. The 1961 general election, which swept the DLP into office for the first time, produced the same results in St Peter.

However, for the 1966 general elections –the so-called “Independence election” – Walcott had by this time formally abandoned his Independent status and ran on a DLP ticket only
to suffer his first electoral defeat after suffrage.

Husbands had been joined on the victorious BLP platform by Burton Hinds and was restored as the senior Member.

With the change to the single member system in 1971, Walcott switched to the newly created St Michael West constituency.

In St Peter, Hinds, as he would do in the succeeding polls in 1976 and 1981, kept the BLP flag flying high above the others.

Since 1984, Arthur has virtually cemented the BLP’s stranglehold on St Peter winning over a succession of hapless DLP candidates, including the person who had defeated him in the
first by-election.

It is against that background that that one can fully appreciate the apparent reticence of the DLP in naming a new candidate given that Haynesley Benn, who lost the 2008 and 2013 polls, has said he won’t run again.

But Benn, though disappointed with the party’s treatment of the constituency, believes it can win the seat with a little Government attention to parochial issues and some help through a reversal of a previous determination by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which he’s convinced shifted DLP support.

History and the initial residual Arthur support are not on the Dems’ side.

Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent.

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