Veteran political scientist and pollster Peter Wickham believes the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) will make mincemeat of the latest picks by the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to contest the next general election.
The DLP announced over the weekend that former Member of Parliament for The City Patrick Todd would take on BLP leader Mia Mottley in St Michael North East for the seat she has held since 1994.
The ruling party also revealed that newcomer Kim Tudor, chief executive officer of the Barbados National Initiative for Service Excellence would challenge Ronald Toppin in St Michael North, while businessman George Connolly would go up against Kerrie Symmonds in St James Central.
However, with the election mere months away, Wickham today questioned the DLP’s thinking, arguing that it would be difficult for the electorate to take these candidates seriously, having thrown their hats in the ring at the eleventh hour.
“My main reaction is that at this late stage in the game the candidates are just filling up a space,” Wickham told Barbados TODAY.
“I don’t think that any candidate would want to wait until this late stage in the game to make themselves available. So I can only assume that the three candidates who have just thrown their names in are basically only offering themselves up as political cannon fodder. I can’t see the electorate taking any of them seriously, quite frankly,” he said.
Unlike Connolly and Tudor, Todd is no stranger to the political ring. He defeated Jeffrey Bostic of the BLP in The City in 2008, taking 55 per cent of the votes in a seat the BLP’s Billie Millie had held since 1971.
However, Bostic reversed the results in 2013, defeating Todd by 2,012 votes to 1,888 – 51.59 per cent.
As part of a makeover, the DLP announced last April it would replace Todd with former Deputy Chairman of the Rural Development Commission Henderson Williams, signalling that the former teacher would not be a candidate.
“Todd is most intriguing to me because he is facing off against the most formidable candidate in the Barbados Labour Party. He is the same persons that was rejected by the DLP in 1999 and then again in this election for The City. So to bring him then to St Michael North East suggests to me that they are not taking the fight to Mia in a serious way. They are obviously conceding that seat,” Wickham said.
The DLP St James Central branch has had its eyes on Connolly since last March, when it became clear that branch members were looking beyond George Hutson, who defeated Symmonds in 2008, but subsequently lost the seat to the same opponent by five percentage points in 2013.
It was at a branch meeting at Good Shepherd Primary School in Fitts Village, St James in early March last year that DLP stalwart and former Cabinet minister Keith Simmons shouted from the floor that he did not want Hutson to be the candidate in the election.
And while Connolly appeared to have been the clear favourite, he had faced relentless grilling from the faithful, who appeared to know little to nothing about his background.
However, just two days after his apparent coronation, Connolly had told Barbados TODAY he no longer planned to contest the election.
“I did consider [running for the DLP, but I] informed the constituency that same evening that I had no interest in contesting that or any other seat,” he had said in a terse email.
Tudor, on the other hand, is not known within political circles, and has spent most of her career in organizational development.
She will go up against Toppin, who has held the St Michael North seat for 24 years, defeating Francis Depeiza of the DLP by 2,506 votes to 2,322 in 2013, improving his performance over 2008, when he beat the same opponent by 2,494 votes to 2,374.
Still, Wickham believes both Connolly and Tudor could have been strong contenders had they been given more time to prepare.
“George Connolly is a businessman and seems to be a decent candidate. At any other time I would say that he would make a good candidate, and the same goes for Kim Tudor. But the fact that they are coming into it now demonstrates a lack of political wisdom that makes me question their seriousness,” Wickham said.