Barbadians will have five political parties from which to choose when they go to the polls in the next general election, constitutionally due next year.
This morning the United Progressive Party (UPP) led by former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) senator Lynette Eastmond, announced its presence during a press conference at the Courtyard by Marriott.
The UPP now joins the Barbados Integrity Movement and Solutions Barbados on the expanding list of fringe parties seeking to reshape the political landscape dominated by the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and the Opposition BLP.
It is also the second political party featuring disenchanted BLP members to have sprung seemingly out of nowhere in recent weeks, behind BIM to which former Member of Parliament for St Michael South Central David Gill, unsuccessful candidate for St John Hutson Griffith and Sylvan Greenidge, the former personal assistant to then Prime Minister Owen Arthur, have been linked.
Eastmond herself had also been linked with BIM before she ruled herself out.
The growing list of BLP defectors involved in the new political movements has given rise to speculation that Arthur and expelled BLP parliamentarian Dr Maria Agard may play a role in one of these entities.
However, the former Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Business Development in an Arthur-led BLP administration from 2003 to 2008 declined to comment on the possibility of either or both joining the ranks.
In fact, Eastmond refused to disclose who had joined her party, leaving her as not only the face of the UPP, but one of a handful of known members.
“There are many people who have expressed an interest in joining with us. I am not in a position to disclose anybody’s name as to whether or not they wish to join us. We do have a process and we want to do what we are doing in an orderly fashion. Individuals must join the party – there are application forms out there, they go through a process and then we select a candidate. So I am not making any comment on whether they [Dr Agard and Arthur] have expressed an interest or not,” Eastmond said.
Fringe parties here are normally viewed with suspicion and are seldom taken seriously, as evidenced by comments on social media following the launch of both Solutions Barbados and BIM.
It is something of which Eastmond suggested she was aware, as she urged Barbadians to judge the viability of the new entity on the ability of its yet to be announced candidates to do the job and not on their ability to attract political heavyweights. She contended that the time had come for Barbadians to look past “the pretty talk and vote for persons who could deliver”.
“In terms of the difference we will make, we want to be judged on our record, we want to be judged on the work that we do and I would say that people who are most attracted to us are people who are doers . . . . For a very long time some of us have been persuaded to treat politicians, who really are servants of people, and we have tended to treat them as if they are celebrities. So we vote for them as if they are celebrities, we already have a huge celebrity in Rihanna and therefore we don’t need political celebrities.”
The former BLP St Philip West candidate also acknowledged that her party was being launched at the so-called eleventh hour.
However, she was unperturbed, suggesting that UPP operatives had been working clandestinely on the ground.
An optimistic Eastmond also said the party would have all its ducks in row by the last quarter of this year, a plan hinging on the hope that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart would not ring the election bell much sooner.
“I have been in the political process before and maybe you have not noticed but there are candidates that have come to the public far later than we will come and some of them have even won. So as long as we get our message out and we have started to do that even though in those instances the name of the party was not mentioned but there are individuals who are already on the ground working. The candidates would be introduced on an individual basis and the full slate should be in place by the last quarter of the year,” Eastmond stressed.