A cursory glance at Ronald Toppin’s electoral success record in St Michael North suggests he has a firm grip of the constituency.
Toppin, one of only two Members of Parliament the constituency has ever known since it was formed in 1981 – the other being Phillip Greaves, now Acting Governor General Sir Phillip – has won five consecutive elections, the first in 1994 when the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) under the leadership of Owen Arthur swept to power in a landslide.
However, upon closer inspection it would appear the incumbent’s hold is somewhat tenuous, and is made even more so by the fledgling United Progressive Party (UPP) led by his former BLP colleague Lynette Eastmond.
A Pulse of the People random survey by Barbados TODAY over the past two days found a number of voters declared their support for the UPP’s candidate Maria Phillips, who, though not expected to pull off a shock victory, could do sufficient damage to cost Toppin the seat which he held onto by slim margins in the last two elections -121 in 2008 and 184 in 2013.
Some of Phillips’ support come from the camp of city vendor Mark Adamson of the fringe People’s Democratic Congress, who managed only 38 votes in each of the last two elections, losing his $250 deposit in the process.
Jason Williams from Cave Hill admitted he was one of the 38. However, he wants to give Phillips a chance this time round.
“Toppin don’t do anything for anybody. He does a little sports in and out . . . and you don’t see [Francis Depeiza of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP)]. Since 1994 when Toppin was first elected, he hasn’t done anything. I may give the third party [candidate] a chance,” the unemployed Williams said.
With the next poll due by the middle of 2018, the DLP has yet to say whether Depeiza will run again, adding to the uncertainty and disinterest among voters, many of whom had voted for Toppin.
This notwithstanding, the electors’ disaffection with the DLP and support for the BLP are helping to keep Toppin afloat.
This was evident in Cave Hill, where Williams’ friend, Kevin, said he would vote for the BLP, not Toppin.
However, Loraine Cyrus, who lives in another section of Cave Hill said she would support the incumbent all the way.
“I have no problem with him,” Cyrus said, a sentiment shared by retired Minister of the Gospel Michael Kirton.
“Of course, Ronald Toppin,” the 93-year-old resident blurted out while standing at his open door.
“Whenever the Dems in power the country is in this condition . . . but it’s worse now,” he added.
Meanwhile, four neighbours, one of whom was Shirley Padmore, the only one who agreed to be identified, could not make up their minds on who would get their vote.
In Eden Lodge, former DLP supporter Kathy Waithe, who was waiting at a bus stop, said she had become disenchanted with the party to which she once gave her all.
Yet, she said, she was not prepared to throw her support behind any other party.
“Dem is a waste of time. Dems did my party, but dem is a waste of time. The only one that comes by me is Ronald Toppin. I waiting till they [DLP candidate] come, man. I sticking wid dem, but I ain’t voting,” she said.
Two other Eden Lodge residents who preferred to remain anonymous were undecided, but an equal number said Toppin would get their vote.
Four young men, three of whom were on the block simply had no interest in politics or politicians, with the one chosen as the spokesman insisting, “We are not bothering wid no election . . . they don’t benefit us.”
Over in Grazettes, 77-year-old Stephen Williams, a landscaper, was relaxing at home with a friend. He did not hesitate to make it clear he was prepared to give Toppin five more years, while a short walk away Theo Welch who sat outside a friend’s house said he was a DLP faithful, but is undecided at present. And as he ponders his decision, Welch has his eyes on the UPP.
“I used to support the DLP before [but] I would like to see Maria Phillips to hear what she has to say,” said the 59-year-old mechanic, who was not alone in considering the fledgling party.
In fact, retired school meals department cook Angela Stowe was prepared to go even further.
“I would give the UPP a try to see what happens. Who in power now not doing anything for anybody,” the 58-year-old former Government employee said.
There was a noticeable absence of passion among Grazettes residents such as 30-year-old businessman George and 70-year-old ex-canteen worker Meriam Butcher. She had supported Toppin in the past, but said “I don’t know what will happen this time”.
Perhaps the one who best reflected the spirit of the community was Samuel Roett, the 71-year-old retired van driver and salesman who told Barbados TODAY he would be voting for a ghost because “I don’t see none of them . . . Bee nor Dee”.