The threshold for “Payne” appears to be extremely high in St Andrew, where Member of Parliament George Payne continues to enjoy the support of his constituents despite a number of grievances.
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) parliamentarian, who defeated the then newcomer Irene Sandiford-Garner of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) by a mere 43 votes in 2008, before increasing the margin to 292 in the last election, seems set to retain the seat in the next general election.
A four-hour tour of the constituency by Barbados TODAY to test the Pulse of the People revealed that constituents were prepared to give Payne another term, although there was some disenchantment over broken promises and the lack of jobs.
Thursday’s visit included stops in the DLP stronghold of Belleplaine, and Hillaby, where Payne is strong.
There were common complaints about poor bus service, the state of the roads, and the closure of a number of facilities, such as the Bellplaine Police Station, the community centre, some primary schools and the law court.
“There is nothing new to report . . . it’s still the same under both Governments. There is no police station ‘cause they say the crime rate low, there is no court, it is one gas station, there are no supermarkets . . . Up here ain’t even got an ATM [automatic teller machine]. There is no community centre. . . . even to host anything you have to go to the Alleyne School . . . or the primary school . . . . So it’s same under the BLP and the DLP. . . .The roads still bad, the bus [service] still bad,” said one Bawdens resident who asked to be referred to simply as Natasha.
Yet, in what seems to be a pattern, the woman swore she would not switch allegiance.
“I [have] always been a Barbados Labour Party supporter . . . and there is where I remain,” she stated emphatically.
It was the same with a retrenched Transport Board worker in Bawdens, who asked to be identified as April. She suggested that the representative had not achieved much since the BLP lost the election in 2008. However, her love for Payne remains as strong as ever.
“He can’t do nuffen for you now he in the Opposition. But when he was there [as a Minister] you could uh count on him . . . and even though he is not anything [a Minister] you can still call upon him . . . .You can talk to him . . . .I will support him in anyway I can.”
Over in Rock Hall Tracy Maynard expressed disgust at the unreliability of the bus service, but still sang Payne’s praises.
“I come up wid George Payne . . . .He come in the constituency, talk to yuh, he help yuh out. I don’t know Irene that well,” Maynard said from the window of her humble wooden house perched precariously on stone blocks on an incline.
The sentiments were similar elsewhere in Belleplaine and Rock Hall, as a mother and daughter who called themselves Butter Cup and Blossom, as well as Kevin Henry and mother of three Tonya Worrell, made it clear that with the current state of the economy they would vote for Payne and the BLP, while in Hillaby, husband and wife Mac and Beverly were somewhat at odds.
While Beverly, who “normally vote BLP” said she did not plan to vote in the next election, her husband, a retired teacher who in the past had supported the DLP, said his vote would go to the BLP next time around.
“It is common sense. The country is in a rut . . .why should I support her?’ he said of Sandiford-Garner. “No support for her.”
However, Payne had his detractors, such as Mealine Taitt, an unemployed mother of seven, who complained bitterly about the bus service, and Ron Alleyne, who “want to see the back of Payne”.
There was also a “concerned resident” in Belleplaine, who said the parish had not been represented for years and Sandiford-Garner should be given a chance.
“We got a representative down here for all of these years . . . [he] never done anything for St Andrew,” he said.
Meanwhile, far from being in anyone’s corner, Carmen Devonish placed a premium on her vote.
Relaxing in the former National Housing Corporation (NHC) house at Belleplaine housing area, which she now owns, Devonish was blunt about her intentions.
“Do my house and you could get my vote,” she said.