The battle is on in the rural constituency of St John for a candidate to represent the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in the upcoming general election, due by early June.
With Mara Thompson reiterating her intention to bow out of elective politics now that Parliament has been dissolved, two DLP stalwarts, both of whom have tasted defeat at the polls in the past, will go head-to-head for the nomination to contest the DLP stronghold, which has been represented by two Prime Ministers, including the Father of Independence and National Hero Errol Barrow.
Former Barrow protégé Leroy McClean and DLP General Secretary George Pilgrim, both of whom Barbados TODAY had reported in November last year had expressed interest replacing the outgoing Thompson, have confirmed that they will seek the nomination.
Thompson on Sunday told her constituents in the Four Roads district of her decision to quit, after telling Barbados TODAY last December that the Nation newspaper had got it wrong when it reported in a November 14, 2017 back page story that she would not run again.
Having made her decision official, Thompson, who secured a landslide victory in a January 20, 2011 by-election to replace her late husband and Prime Minister David Thompson, who died in office on October 23, 2010, and who was re-elected comfortably in 2013, immediately threw her support behind Pilgrim, who had accompanied her on a walk-through of the constituency.
However, it is not expected to be a walkover for Pilgrim, a two-time loser in St Thomas in 1994 and 1999, as he is expected to face stiff competition for the nomination from McClean, who is perceived to be popular at the branch level.
Emphasizing that he was not backing down from pursuing the nomination, McClean told Barbados TODAY this morning he was certain of getting the nod if the selection process were allowed to take its conventional course and not bypass the branch.
“I have indicated to the party an interest in being the candidate for St John in the event that Mrs Thompson is not the candidate. I maintain that position. I still have an interest in being the candidate, and the level of encouragement that I have been getting from the people of St John, I intend to pursue the chances of getting the nomination for the party,” said an adamant McClean, who unsuccessfully contested for the DLP in St George South in the 1991 general election.
Already this election cycle, the DLP has bypassed the nomination process in choosing candidates in The City, St Michael East and St Michael South East, with the party’s executive and general council deciding who would run in those constituencies.
Pointing out that it was the branch that had selected Thompson after her husband had died, and that the general council had simply ratified the nomination, McClean said he expected no less in this case.
“At that meeting [of the general council], the president of the party made it clear that the branch had spoken and he was therefore bound to accept the position of the branch
. . . . And I would therefore hope that the same process would take place in the process of selecting a replacement for Mrs Thompson,” the former consul general in Toronto stressed, even as he expressed some anxiety that the process may be circumvented.
He again emphasized that he hoped that the constituency branch would be given the opportunity to have some input through the “conventional nomination process which has been adopted by the party”.
“I am doing what I have to in terms of maintaining my contact with the people of St John and seeking the nomination,” he said, adding that he was prepared to accept the decision of the branch once it agreed the nominee.
When contacted, chairman of the St John Branch Cleton Coppin told Barbados TODAY he had not received any information at this stage from Thompson regarding her future, and declined to be drawn into further discussion on the matter.
Political scientist Dr George Belle last November had identified McClean, along with senators Verla De Peiza and Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo as possible replacements for Thomson in the constituency which the DLP has held since 1958 when Barrow arrived on the political scene.
The main Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is fielding Charles Griffith in St John, while former DLP candidate Hudson Griffith is carrying the banner for the United Progressive Party (UPP) and Cherone Martindale is contesting for Solutions Barbados.