It is supposed to be the epicentre of political intrigue come next general election, with the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) seeking to recapture a seat it has never lost from the person who retained it for the party the last time round.
However, the battle for Christ Church West could all peter out into an anti-climax if the incumbent Dr Maria Agard stays off the ballot, with many of the voters who spoke to Barbados TODAY during a four-hour Pulse of the People visit Thursday saying they would return to Dr William Duguid, the BLP candidate.
Nowhere was the sentiment stronger than at Forde’s Road, where a man who gave his name as TC made it clear that Dr Duguid was the only true option.
“Dr William Duguid . . . [for] Christ Church West until further notice. Duguid is the man for out here, without a doubt,” he argued.
Not far away, a self-employed tradesman who referred to himself as Sparks was going about his business. But he stopped long enough to express his support of the BLP dentist.
“I sticking wid who I know . . . I sticking wid Duguid,” he said.
Over at Bonnetts housing area, it was clear that Dr Duguid had that district “locked down”, with his name being the only one that flowed instantly from the lips of everyone as the choice for parliamentary representative.
The seemingly widespread support for Dr Duguid notwithstanding, the next contest is likely to be a fascinating one.
The BLP has never lost the seat in an election since it was created in 1971, the year it was first won by Henry Forde by a slim margin of 1,693 votes to 1,549 over Michael King of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which won that election handsomely.
By 1976 Forde had begun the BLP gallop in the constituency by virtually embarrassing the DLP’s VC Fraser by 2,679 to 774, before securing 3,814 votes in 1981 to 1,562 by the DLP’s John Daniel.
He continued to breeze through every election, and virtually destroyed the DLP’s Peter Barrow in his last contest in 1999, winning 2,952 votes to 26 by Barrow.
His legacy was handed over in 2003 to Dr Duguid, who won two straight elections comfortably before stepping down and taking his family to Canada.
In stepped Dr Agard – who, like Dr Duguid, is a dentist – and the DLP came as close as it had every come, with its candidate Verla DePeiza losing by only 511 votes in 2013.
After Dr Agard was booted out of the BLP in 2015 – a decision she is still challenging – the seat switched to the Independent column and the DLP began to sense that, for the first time ever, it had a chance at wresting Christ Church West from the Opposition.
However, with Dr Duguid back, Dr Agard has added to the intrigue by refusing the say whether or not she intends to run again, and if she does, in what capacity. And as she continues to recuperate from an undisclosed illness, her decision continues to be pending, exacerbating the uncertainty.
No doubt she continues to have her supporters, such as Gillian Hinds of Forde’s Road.
“The only person [candidate] I have ever met was Maria [Agard] at the time . . . and she was upfront in saying what she wanted to do and what she was about . . . and now she is out [of a party]. So between the other two [Dr Duguid and DePeiza], I really don’t know. But if Maria runs, I would vote for her,” Hinds told Barbados TODAY.
Hinds’ neighbour and businesswoman Talliah is also inclined to vote for Dr Agard, but she wants the representative to visit and declare her hand.
However, there are others such as businessman Randy Duncan, who will not vote for the incumbent if she runs as an independent.
“[I will vote for] Duguid, because independent candidates can’t do anything for me,” Duncan declared.
It is an indication of the mountain any independent would have to climb, certainly in Christ Church West, as the last election proved.
Leading up to that poll, the DLP’s Taan Abed defeated DePeiza for the party’s nomination but was overlooked by the hierarchy. So Abed ran as an independent and polled only 303 votes to 1,777 by DePeiza in a losing cause.
It not clear which of the three candidates got Duncan’s vote in 2013. However, he made it clear he wanted to see the back of this Government.
“Right about now it is time for a change. When people are in power for too long, they tend to get complacent. So, once there is change, things shake up and things start to move.
“Everybody saying the economy is that, the economy is the other . . . the economy is dead; [with] a change of Government . . . it might pick up again, you never know,” Duncan contended.
There was also a lack of enthusiasm for DePeiza from a Rendezvous resident, who wanted to remain anonymous. She voted for the DLP candidate in the last election, she said, but she plans to switch allegiance to the BLP.
“I decided that I was going to make a change next time . . . which is now,” she said.
Change was also foremost on the mind of a young voter, also from Rendezvous.
“I would prefer the Bees . . . to represent me because I think the Government needs to change now,” said the youth, who did not want to be identified.
However, his relative, who wanted to be referred to only as Diana, was not quite sure if she would vote, telling Barbados TODAY she had developed a degree of distrust of politicians.
“When voting time comes around I will decide what I am going to do, whether I going [to vote] or I staying home, cause they ain’t no help to me . . . it [is] help to the big people. These people does come around . . . oh, they’re going to do this and do that [but when] they get your vote . . . you don’t see them,” Diana complained.
A number of other constituents, including a Rendezvous Ridge pensioner who wanted to be called Jay said they were simply fed up with politicians.
Still, should Jay choose to vote, the signs were that the DLP would not be his choice.
“The ones in power now . . . there is gross disrespect for the public . . . . The Prime Minister wouldn’t even talk to the people. I haven’t decided yet [if he would vote].”
The suspense surrounding the seat was evident in Bartlett Tenantry, Sergeants Village, where residents could not decide between the two dentists.
However, while a group of young men who were liming would “vote for who giving me something”, at least one suggested that both the DLP and BLP were “cut from the same cloth” and that there was need for a third party.