Incumbent Member of Parliament for Christ Church West Dr Maria Agard has challenged Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate Dr William Duguid to tell the people of the constituency the real reason why he packed up his bags and “abandoned” them back in 2009.
Suggesting that it was really because he did not have the “stomach” for Opposition politics following the BLP’s humiliating defeat to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 2008, Agard accused Duguid, who addressed last weekend’s BLP convention, of seeking to hoodwink her constituents into believing that he was some of sort of political “saviour”.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY Tuesday afternoon, an incensed Agard maintained that this was far from the case.
In fact, she described his convention speech as “the essence of sophistry”, pointing out that even though she did not follow the BLP convention she had received numerous telephone calls from constituents who were upset by Duguid’s remarks.
In his address to the BLP’s annual conference on Sunday, Duguid, who held the seat from 2003 to 2013 during which time he migrated to Canada with his family, said he was forced to make a comeback because “we [BLP] had a problem and like every good servant who is on this team, I could not sit idly by and see my constituency that myself and Henry Forde worked so hard to develop fall into the destruction and to be destroyed.
“It hurt my heart, so I had to make a tremendous sacrifice and I am happy to be back with the family of the Barbados Labour Party,” he said to loud applause.
Duguid also said he was pleased with the response he had been getting since his return, and he issued a personal assurance to BLP political leader Mia Mottley that “all is good in Christ Church West”.
However, describing those remarks as both “hypocritical” and “deceitful”, Agard pointed out that Duguid presided over the steepest decline in BLP support in Christ Church West in this country’s electoral history and that he had in fact “squandered” its biggest lead, which was whittled down from 2,000 votes, when he took over from Henry Forde – now Sir Henry – to 650 votes in the two terms he served as representative.
She added that the BLP had enjoyed 76 per cent support in the constituency when Sir Henry left, but only 57 per cent by the time Duguid called it quits.
“For him to profile himself or to be in anyway suggesting that he has come back to save the day would have to be deemed the height of sickening dishonesty,” Agard told Barbados TODAY, emphasizing that even as the incumbent, whose party was in power at the time and who was up against a newcomer in 2008, Duguid was not able to stop the slide.
“William Duguid needs to look at the man in the mirror. He is the one who presided over the decline in Barbados Labour Party support,” she said, noting that the DLP had increased its influence in the constituency by 100 per cent between 1999 and 2008, moving from a paltry 900 votes for its candidate Peter Barrow in 1999 to 1,800 votes for Taan Abed in 2008.
“At the same time the BLP’s influence . . . fell by 20 per cent,” Agard said.
“Rather than stay and fight for the Barbados Labour Party’s cause after the Labour Party had suffered a shocking and unexpected defeat in 2008, William Duguid found it necessary to migrate to Canada, leaving the constituency abandoned to be managed by a branch president [Agard] and a few volunteers,” she said.
She said as the elected representative, Duguid was away for no less than four years, choosing to be back and forth to service the constituency one week out of every month, rather than to do the honourable thing and resign.
“In the view of the people of Christ Church West, that was a cowardly and contemptuous act and people have not forgotten that,” Agard warned.
“So I can say to you that all is not well in Christ Church West because people are incensed that regardless of the so-called honourable explanation that William Duguid gave, the fact remains that he left Christ Church West when people needed him the most.”
Agard, who succeeded Duguid in the constituency, also said while the impression had recently been given that she was the one who was responsible for creating all the trouble in the constituency, she had in fact inherited a “bitter and fractured branch” when she took over from Duguid.
“Let him challenge what I’m saying,” she told Barbados TODAY, recalling that she was the only one who stayed when the rest of his branch executive quit on him.
Agard, who won her seat by over 500 votes in the last election, also said it all fell to her to stop the party’s slide in Christ Church West, where she was constantly asked in the last election by constituents: “Why should I vote for you. The last time I voted for a Barbados Labour Party candidate, the person picked up and left. How can you convince me that you too will not pick up and leave?”
She said there was also the strong view that candidates only had an interest in representation if their party were in power.
“There is a view that there are some candidates who do not have a stomach for opposition politics,” said Agard, who, after overcoming those challenges, fell out of favour with the BLP’s hierarchy last year, resulting in her expulsion.
However, with the court yet to issue a judgment in her legal challenge to the action by the Mia Mottley-led National Council, Agard has sought to warn Duguid that the jury is also still out on whether the people of Christ Church West have forgiven him for leaving.