The United Progressive Party (UPP) believes it can shock the Barbadian electorate with victory in the next general election due by the middle of next year, and it is looking to the Democratic Labour Party for inspiration.
While dismissing suggestions that it will split the opposition votes and guarantee the DLP a third straight term in office, the UPP insists the country is crying out for change and it is the best party to lead that change.
Addressing a public meeting in West Terrace, St James on Saturday night, the party’s candidate for St James South Christal Austin invoked the spirit of the DLP, which she said was considered a fringe party that could not field a full slate of candidates when it was formed by Errol Barrow in 1955, only to emerge victorious in 1961.
Austin argued that Barbadians recognized back then that the time had come for a change, and suggested that history was about to repeat itself more than six decades later.
“At that point in time you the people of Barbados recognized that it was time for change and I am telling you that that time has come again. We have come full circle again and it is time to do something new. We have to do it for our children, we can’t continue to be so shortsighted only seeing to the end of our noses as a nation, we have to evolve and change,” she stressed.
What Austin did not say was that having been formed in 1955, the DLP, which contested 16 of the 24 seats, lost the 1956 general election, although it won four seats. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP), which had put forward 19 candidates, won that election with 15 seats. The Progressive Conservative Party won three seats, while Frank Walcott and Mencea Cox were elected as independent members.
The UPP is seen as a party made up of disguntled BLP politicians and BLP rejects.
The party is led by Lynette Eastmond, a former Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Business Development in a previous BLP Cabinet but who has never won a seat, having been soundly beaten by the DLP’s Dr David Estwick on the three occasions she contested the St Philip West seat.
Former BLP candidates Hutson Griffith, David Gill and Wendell Callender, whose Citizens Action Party recently folded and was subsumed by the UPP, are also actively campainging on the ten-month-old party’s platform.
In addition, Eastmond has made no secret of the fact that she would welcome on her ticket, independent Member of Parliament for Christ Church West Dr Maria Agard, who won the seat in 2013 for the BLP before she was expelled from the party amid a contentious relationship with its leader, Mia Mottley.
The UPP’s composition has led to suggestions that it could siphon votes from the BLP, thereby paving the way for the DLP to hold on to power.
However, Austin stated that nothing could be further from the truth as her party was not pedalling the “same warmed over ideas” which appeal to the traditional BLP and DLP supporters.
“They talk about us cutting votes, they say that we are cutting the vote and the Democratic Labour Party will get back in because we are going to cut the Barbados Labour Party’s votes. The Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party are in the red ocean fighting for the minds of people who do not see the new vision, they do not see a new way of life for Barbados. The United Progressive Party is changing the entire game, we are not cutting votes. We can’t be cutting votes because the votes we are competing for is in a totally different market. Those two are fighting for the vote of people who are not progressive, but I know that the majority of Bajans are [progressive],” the public relations consultant said.