It was only last month that former diplomat Leroy McClean was vying to be the candidate for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in St John.
Having failed to secure the nomination, and “after much soul-searching”, an emotional McClean said this afternoon he will contest the seat against his own party, and he has paid his $250 deposit to prove he is serious.
However, he told Barbados TODAY even though he was going up against DLP General Secretary George Pilgrim, he remained a staunch member of the party.
“I am a member of the Democratic Labour Party and until and unless I resign or I’m expelled from the party, I remain a member of the Democratic Labour Party,” the one-time personal aide to then Prime Minister Errol Barrow explained.
Despite McClean’s interest in the seat he calls home, Pilgrim was hand-picked by the DLP hierarchy to replace the outgoing Mara Thompson, the widow of late Prime Minister David Thompson, who recently announced she would no longer be involved in elective politics.
However, McClean appeared aggrieved by his snubbing and complained that the nomination process was manipulated to achieve a particular outcome without the participation of the branch.
“I find it strange that this process was not followed now and that the people of St John were not given an opportunity to say who should be the candidate for the Democratic Labour Party. And I believe that given the poor response, a very strong, negative response to the Democratic Labour Party candidate in the constituency, that I should contest the election as a member of the Democratic Labour Party, but in an independent capacity,” he stated.
He said his chances of winning were “very good”, and in what appeared to be a dig at the outgoing representative, who has supported Pilgrim, he saw himself as the saviour of a badly represented St John.
“I believe I could save this constituency for the Democratic Labour Party. I have no intention of resigning from the Democratic Labour Party. I see myself as a legitimate representative of the Democratic Labour Party in this constituency,” the former candidate, who lost to the Barbados Labour Party’s Louis Tull in St George South in 1991, told Barbados TODAY, stressing that although the party council had formally chosen Pilgrim, the party’s rank and file had not rejected him.
“When you consider the selection process . . . it was not even an agenda item for the executive or general council on the night that it was done. So that there were several persons who were members of the executive and the general council who were not even aware that there was going to be a candidate selection and who did not have the opportunity to say who they wanted. So I am not even saying this was a party selection,” he contended.
McClean argued that if the party had the benefit of participation by the full executive and general council, there would have been a different result in the race for the nomination, which also included High Commissioner to London Guy Hewitt and ex-senator Andre Worrell.
Asked where he would sit in Parliament should he be victorious in the general election, the former Consul General to Toronto replied: “Well, that is a long way off and I would not want to make any strong statement in that regard.”
McClean also said he would bring “a clear knowledge of the things affecting the people of St John”, citing his relationship with the founder of the party.
“Having served as a personal assistant to Mr Barrow in that constituency, and in actual fact, carrying out the duties as the representative for St John while I served as Mr Barrow’s personal assistant and chairman of that branch for some years, I know what is required in St John. I know the situation with respect to the poor bus service, I know the situation with respect that you have several plantations in St John now which provided employment and weren’t productive in that parish and are out of production.”
He also said he was cognizant of the fact that a number of young people in the constituency were unemployed and university students were experiencing difficulty completing their studies due to the introduction of tuition fees.
“So we have to find ways to offer the people of St John proper representation. And I would say that over the past few years that representation has not been there. I am not doing this as just a whim. This is as a result of being encouraged by senior members of the Democratic Labour Party, in and out of St John, who have said to me that I need to go in there as the representative of the people of St John,” a confident McClean said, adding that he reflected deeply before finally deciding to run, hence the late announcement.
“It is not something that I just got up and did. It is something that I have given very serious thought to,” he stressed.
Meantime, Pilgrim avoided discussion on the potential clash, telling Barbados TODAY: “I am focused on meeting the people of St John.”
St John has been a stronghold of the DLP since 1958, and has been represented only by Barrow and David and Mara Thompson.