Noted political scientists Dr George Belle and Peter Wickham suggest Dr Maria Agard’s political future is at stake as a public squabble between the Christ Church West parliamentarian and her executive continues to unfold.
Yesterday, a new eleven-member team to run the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) constituency branch was elected without the blessing of Dr Agard, who has since publicly stated that she had no intention of working with the members.
Dr Belle told Barbados TODAY that in a strict constitutional sense, the electorate in Christ Church West voted for Dr Agard and as such she could stand on her own. But he warned that it would not be a wise political move.
“She sits in Parliament as an individual now, the complications would come in terms of political reality. It is unlikely that anybody in the present political culture can sustain themselves alone for any period of time in politics. She can function without her branch, but whether she can sustain a political future is what would be in doubt. Her political future is uncertain.”
In recent weeks some members of the constituency have voiced dissatisfaction with the stewardship of Dr Agard, who won the seat in the 2013 general election.
The dentist by profession has however stood her ground, insisting that she had always performed in the best interest of her constituents and the Opposition BLP.
Dr Belle said the controversy brewing in the constituency could only be cleared up by those on the inside, while suggesting there could be a number of issues at play.
“The question is whether they are judging her on a political level or whether they are judging her on the level of physical capacity or judging her effectiveness as a representative.
“Is there some other deeper reason that we don’t know about? In other words is there a conflict with somebody inside the party or persons inside the party that cannot be resolved and that they are not in her favour? These are things that the party itself would have to reveal as internal issues.”
The political scientist would not say whether the internal squabble would hurt the Opposition BLP. He suggested that when the party revealed the issues, it would be judged by its own actions.
Asked whether Dr Agard had made a mark during her tenure, Dr Belle questioned her national profile.
“She’s not that kind of national politician. She’s just an individual who is representing her constituency – now there are some people in politics who are simply good representatives so that their sustainability as a politician really rests on their ability to be a good representative. In other words they don’t have a national profile. They are not somebody who is seen as one of the people who contribute to the leadership of the party, or has the potential of a quality minister or a potential prime minister. Such people will very much depend on their capacity to retain the seat as a safe seat and that is where I think a lot of the criticism is coming.”
Noting that the Christ Church West seat is a BLP stronghold previously held by Sir Henry Forde and Dr William Duguid, he expressed the view that quality candidates should hold strongholds.
“This means people that are not only good representatives but are national figures in terms of actuality or potential. If you are not such in a sense you wasting a seat.”
Meanthile, political scientist Peter Wickham described the unfolding events as fascinating politics.
“I think politicians generally understand when something is worth fighting for and BLP members realize and understand that Christ Church West is a prize, and a prize that can be retained.”
Wickham expressed concern that questions were being raised about Dr Agard’s performance as an MP and he told Barbados TODAY that while he understood why she might feel slighted, she was not handling the matter well.
“There is a reality that the machinery has to work and the MP has to work with the executive and the situation now is clearly untenable.
“She can hold onto the seat. She has the constituent support. The problem is that she also needs the support of the party and we have to be realistic about these things. Political parties run candidates in various constituencies, there is no sitting Member of Parliament who is there because of their own effort. They are all there because of a political party that is behind them.”
Wickham added that while he did not believe that Dr Agard would lose her seat if she decided to run in the next general election, she should reconsider her position and seek a win-win solution.
“Seek an accommodation in a way that her political career does not end and that the Barbados Labour Party is enabled. Try to find common ground with her executive, the chairman of the party and the leader.”
He predicted that the political wrangling would be short-lived, insisting that the BLP was bigger than the issue, which he described “ as a small matter.”