In the wake of a just-released public opinion poll, which shows that the popularity of both Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is at an all-time low, outspoken Cabinet Minister Dr David Estwick Monday publicly declared his interest in filling Stuart’s shoes at both the party and prime ministerial levels.
“I will say this: If Freundel Stuart steps away from the leadership of the DLP I will stand to lead it,” Estwick told Barbados TODAY in an exclusive interview, in which he contended that there was simply no one better to take over the leadership reins.
“I have served this country as acting Prime Minister on several occasions; as Minister of Health, National Insurance and Social Security; Minister of Economic Affairs, Trade, Industry Commerce and Small Business Development; Minister of Agriculture, Food Fisheries and Water Resources Management.
“I have served as the Chairman of the Economic Committee of the Cabinet and as Chairman of the Infrastructure Committee of the Cabinet and at the party level, General Secretary,” he said, while arguing that his Cabinet experience and his relationship with the masses of Barbadians speak for themselves.
His comments come amid a suggestion made yesterday by pollster Peter Wickham that Stuart should step aside and hand over the leadership of the party to Minister of Commerce and Industry Donville Inniss, with elections constitutionally due here by the middle of next year.
Wickham based his position on the results of the latest survey conducted by his Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) on behalf of the Nation newspaper, in which Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader Mia Mottley emerged as the number one choice for Prime Minister with 52 per cent support, followed by former Prime Minister Owen Arthur with 18 per cent, and Stuart with eight per cent –– one point more than Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo who garnered seven per cent support among respondents.
The poll, which was conducted in the immediate aftermath of the May 30 Budget, also showed that support for embattled Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had plummeted, with him no longer being viewed as an obvious Stuart successor, mustering only 0.6 per cent support in terms of leadership preference behind Inniss (six per cent); and Estwick and Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy (three per cent).
However, while maintaining that he was the best man to run the DLP and the country, Estwick Monday dismissed both the pollster and the poll results entirely.
“My comment about the Peter Wickham poll is this: I do not read or listen to anything Peter Wickham writes or says. His polls are a reflection of him.
“[However], I will say this. I know, and the people in Barbados know, that I had to carry the bulk of the DLP’s political battles in the 2008 and 2013 general elections,” Estwick told Barbados TODAY, adding that this was evidenced by the crowd support for him at political meetings.
In fact, the outspoken Minister of Agriculture and Water Resource Management contended that the crowds went wherever he went on the campaign trail.
In further presenting his case for leadership of the party, Estwick pointed out that he had also served as the spokesperson on finance and economic matters for the DLP during the election campaigns.
He is therefore insisting that no other person in the Freundel Stuart Cabinet was as qualified as he was to lead the Government if Stuart were to call it a day.
The latest CADRES poll, which was released on Sunday, also suggested that the Mottley-led BLP was on course for a landslide victory in the next election, with support for both Stuart and his ruling DLP said to be at an all-time low of 11 per cent, compared to 51 per cent for the BLP. The remainder was undecided.
It further indicated that satisfaction with the DLP Government was at 3.3 out of ten compared to 5.3 for the BLP.
However, while expressing confidence that the DLP will retain the Government, Estwick warned that polls did not vote, adding that he was looking forward to the next general election “because the future economic and social development of this country will not be advanced by criticism”.
He pointed out that Barbadians were an intelligent people.
“Thus, the antithesis must be defined and articulated,” he stressed.