One of the island’s leading political scientists is contending that outgoing Member of Parliament for Christ Church West Dr Maria Agard’s political career was over three years ago.
George Belle, the former dean of the faculty of social sciences at the University of The West Indies (UWI), today said Dr Agard’s political career was finished since 2015 when the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) constituency branch withdrew its support for her.
“I have already said months ago that her political career was finished, but there were people and herself who chose to believe otherwise. The moment that she lost the backing of her constituency branch her career was ended,” Belle told Barbados TODAY after it was announced earlier today that Dr Agard, a dental surgeon, was withdrawing from the race for the May 24 general election.
Dr Agard had a rocky tenure as the parliamentary representative of the traditional BLP stronghold after she fell out of favour with the party’s leader, Mia Mottley.
As the level of animosity between the two intensified, she was eventually kicked out of the party in November 2015, and later lost a court battle challenging her expulsion.
She has also been beset by an unknown medical problem, which kept her out of commission for lengthy periods.
This, Belle acknowledged, would also have affected her performance and her connection with constituents.
“All that has happened is that she has a health problem as well, which contributes to that condition, which is her not being able to participate physically. But I said long ago, once she lost the support from the constituency branch her political future was zero,” he reiterated.
It was shortly before Parliament dissolved on March 6 that Dr Agard announced she had joined the fledgling United Progressive Party (UPP) of former BLP senator Lynette Eastmond, and would become its first parliamentarian.
The UPP’s seat in Parliament was short-lived, however, with the proroguing of the House, and it was expected that Dr Agard would challenge for the Christ Church West seat against the BLP’s Dr William Duguid, the man she had replaced in 2013.
However, Belle today said she never stood a chance, therefore, her withdrawal from the race changed nothing for either the BLP or the UPP.
“My estimation again was that her impact was going to be very minimal because this is the point of a constituency branch. If you cannot maintain the support of your constituency branch you will not have much effect in your constituency,” the former UWI professor said.
“Neither one of those were going to lead back in for a constituency that is a very safe seat for the Barbados Labour Party, anyhow. I don’t think it is going to make any difference to the expectations in the constituency as that is a solid Barbados Labour Party seat. They [UPP] could only be banking on that seat in naivety. They never had a chance of winning that seat,” he said.
Dr Agard’s withdrawal from the race was announced today by Eastmond at the National Housing Corporation where she and members of her team had gone to pay their $250 deposits ahead of Nomination Day on Monday.
She said the one-term legislator had written to the party indicating that due to a medical appointment in the United States she would no longer contest the poll.
“She has an appointment, another consultation and she had delayed that appointment until May 23rd in anticipation that elections would have been called soon after the dissolution of Parliament, but that did not happen,” Eastmond explained.
“She imagined that by the 23rd everything would have been over. She has to make that appointment, she has already rescheduled. As you already may know in the United States when you reschedule an appointment there is a possibility of penalties. The professionals that are involved they are not going to just continue to reschedule appointments so she has had to withdraw her candidacy,” she stressed, adding that Dr Agard would continue to canvass for the UPP until she leaves for the US.
“She will continue up until when she has to leave for her appointment, she will continue to speak on the platform. She is already a member of the party. The fact that she is not a candidate does not mean that she will not continue to support. She will definitely be there supporting us,” the UPP leader said.
The incumbent Democratic Labour Party candidate for Christ Church West, Verla De Peiza, would not get into a discussion on whether or not Dr Agard’s withdrawal would enhance her chances. In fact, De Peiza was mum on the subject altogether.
“There is no comment from me on that,” she said.
However, political scientist Don Marshall said Dr Agard’s departure would not affect the UPP.
“They would have relied on her to carry a message and she has done so already in Parliament and the Lower House,” he said, while calling on the public to respect the outgoing Dr Agard as she deals with her illness.