ALBERT BRANDFORD: Will Jerome switch?
This is not the end of him but he will be there for the Barbados Labour Party in what I believe will be a more senior capacity. – Dwight Sutherland, St George South MP (BLP), on Jerome Walcott’s political future.
One of the truisms of politics is, as I believe the late British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said, that a week in politics is a long time.
Realistically, as observers, you and I expect a year to be the long time.
In politics, as we have seen this past week in far off Australia where there have now been four prime ministers in less than two years, speculation and intrigue can intensify within seven days to the point of even encouraging a change in the leadership of a ruling party.
On the other hand, over a calendar year, such political activity can enjoy a slow burn and eventually crystallize into a surprising outcome albeit one devoutly wished by some of the protagonists.
The slow burn of political activity within the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) over the next 12 months or so will bear some considerable scrutiny, especially as the party puts itself on a war footing to contest what it openly expects to be a “snap” election to coincide with the 50th anniversary of independence.
They feel that despite Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s stated intent of serving every minute of a five-year term, there could be an exception in such an opportunistic call.
An immediate consequence of Jerome Walcott’s announcement that he was stepping aside as the BLP’s representative in the Christ Church South constituency was the re-fuelling of a controversy that flared in February over what was bruited about as an attempt by Walcott and supporters to take over the Christ Church West constituency from the reportedly ailing incumbent, Dr. Maria Agard.
Agard, quite rightly dismissed the speculation and intrigue, insisting she had a strong political future, and in any case, was not about to walk away from her constituents; while Walcott, in effect, told one radio station he was not interested in “west”.
Without attempting to resurrect the February controversy, it is, however, noteworthy that Walcott in announcing his decision to quit the “south”, did not explicitly rule out running elsewhere and was quite clear that he would still be actively involved in politics, particularly so in the exquisitely pivotal party post of general secretary if an election approaches.
“I faced the polls three times in this constituency, I was successful once (2003),” Walcott reminded a branch meeting Sunday. “I lost twice. The last time, I think that most of us were convinced that we were going to be successful, but that was not to be. The electorate always has the final say, and they determined that. But I always made a pledge that I would never stay around longer than I was wanted.”
There were no media reports or other information from the meeting that the branch no longer wanted Walcott, and what has become clear it that he has shown less stamina that his opponent John Boyce, who is in that rarified atmosphere with those who persevered, having tried unsuccessfully three times until winning in 2008.
Now, the cryptic comment from Dwight Sutherland, who, despite his elevated status as an MP, is not regarded as one of the senior members of the BLP, raised some questions.
Not the least among them is what higher post in the scheme of things could be awaiting Walcott?
Was this a secret wish or desire on Sutherland’s part? Or was he speaking as a proxy for some individual or organ higher within the hierarchy of the BLP?
“I believe that the BLP will be better served with Jerome Walcott out of Christ Church South, and I will say no more,” said the unusually enigmatic Sutherland. “Look forward to great things from the Barbados Labour Party and Jerome Walcott.”
Could the Walcott supporters, with Sutherland presumably among them, possibly be looking forward to a by-election in the “west”?
This has been one of the safest BLP seats in the last four decades, not having been breached once by the Dems since it was created in 1971.
The lure is almost as great as the temptation of the St John seat in the post-David Thompson era!
If you pay attention to the news, you can generally tell when something momentous is about to happen, says the poet Thomas Campbell. Coming events cast their shadows before.
Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email [email protected]