It might not be easy to wrest incumbent Gline Clarke of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) from his perch in St George North.
However, as the last in the series of the Barbados TODAY random surveys of the Pulse of the People revealed today, his days of utter dominance may be over.
Clarke is used to crushing his opponents with effortless ease, taking between 60 per cent and 80 per cent of the votes against candidates too battered to try a second time.
There has been a procession of victims since his first victory in 1994, the year he got more votes than Antoinette Thompson of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and Richard Byer of the National Democratic Party (NDP) combined, despite strong showing by both opponents. It was also the year he recorded his closest victory with 56.24 per cent of the votes.
The DLP’s Patrick Carter came and went, so too, Desmond Browne, popular calypsonian Colin Spencer and Jepter Ince, who was able to reduce the hometown boy’s share of the votes to 59.47 per cent in the 2013 election by polling 2,391 votes to 3,508 by Clarke.
Ince will run again next time round, and the incumbent will also have to face Grenville Phillips II of Solutions Barbados and Everton Holligan of the United Progressive Party, both fledgling political parties hoping to create a ripple.
However, in order to secure a sixth straight term the incumbent will also have to grapple with increasing apathy and uncertainty, and troublingly, former backers such as disenchanted 51-year-old Superlative fish boner Sandra Elliott and her family, who threaten to withdraw their support.
“I don’t think I voting anymore. I think I done wid that. We always used to vote for Gline Clarke. I bold to tell you dat. And he loss all the votes in this house too now,” Elliott declared, adding that her daughter may be the only one in the household voting for Clarke, whose only defeat came at his first attempt in 1991 when he lost to the DLP’s Cyril Walker in a race in which the NDP’s Granville Cox competed as well.
Ince will have a lot of ground to cover if he is to topple Clarke. However, he too, seemed to be losing support, while those planning to turn their backs on the incumbent have expressed no desire to run to Ince.
“I got six children in my house and nobody can’t help each one . . . . It don’t make sense,” said Juan Gittens, a 57-year-old St Jude’s mother-of-six who has supported both parties in the past.
“I got mixed feelings about a lot of things and that is the reason why I does be so confused, right? Personally I know Mr Clarke because he taught me at Grantley Adams [Memorial] School. But from politics-wise, looking at it from that angle, I don’t know who is the best person to pick to run the constituency,” added 43-year-old police constable John Holder, also of St Jude’s, whose neighbour Latoya Holder, a 24-year-old unemployed woman, felt there was no difference between the candidates.
“At the end of the day they [politicians] would still do the same thing. They are no different,” Holder said, adding that she would wait until Election Day to decide.
It was different for 59-year-old retired Sanitation Service Authority truck driver Michael Read of the same district, who declared without hesitation that it was “still Gline Clarke” because not only was the BLP legislator his friend and a relative of his wife, but he had done a lot for the community.
Like Read, 42-year-old accounts clerk Sandra Thomas said she too would throw her support behind Clarke, while Errol Wood, a 68-year-old who worked at the Barbados Water Authority’s sewerage treatment plant in The City said she intended to support the DLP.
So too Sherlock Grant, a 55-year-old carpenter and joiner of Cottage Retreat.
“I love Jepter . . . I would go for Jepter,” Grant said.
In addition to the mountain that Ince has to climb – he lost by 1,117 votes – the unpopularity of the DLP administration also appeared to be weighing him down.
Therefore, even though a 35-year-old engineer, who wanted to be referred to simply as Mark, would not say who he planned to support, the Superlative resident made it clear he wanted a change.
“Jepter ain’t got a chance . . . . I want change,” Mark told Barbados TODAY.
But his friend, a 47-year-old painter, who wanted to be referred to as Fluff, had no qualms expressing his support for Clarke.
Despite being a Government senator and the parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Finance, there were those, like a 36-year-old clerical officer named Angela, who were simple unfamiliar with Ince and threw their support behind the incumbent as a result.
There were those, too, such as Angela’s neighbour Sonia Applewhaite, a supporter of the BLP, who Ince can target because she was uncertain who would get her vote next time around.
“I will consider that when the time comes,” Applewhaite, a 40-year-old day care assistant said.
In the quiet community of Cottage Retreat, 50-year-old chef and Ince voter Antoinette Lewis reflected the views of several constituents, among them 72-year-old maid Ernesta Harewood and 89-year-old Edwin Haynes, both long-time Clarke supporters, who simply did not care who won or lost.
“None of the two parties never do anything for me. They help their own . . . [and they] don’t care for the poor man. I voted Jepter . . . I am not voting anybody [next election],” Lewis said.
However, it was 89-year-old Ivy Bascombe who best reflected the mood among the residents of the quiet community.
Bascombe said she has voted for Clarke in the past. However, today, a general election was the last thing on her mind.
“That is a funny question you asking me, cause I ain’t thinking about no voting now,” Bascombe told Barbados TODAY, before adding: “I did vote for Clarke.”