Pollster Peter Wickham is predicting a more than five per cent swing away from the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) during Thursday’s general election, well over the two per cent needed for a change of Government.
And with the political scientist dismissing the fringe parties’ chances, he said the signs point to a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) victory.
“The historic reality is that we have small swing elections and big swing elections. 2013 was clearly a small swing election, this one is likely to be a big swing election largely because the two follow in sequence. So even if I were to set aside any poll data and say, let’s look at it purely in terms of history, we are looking at a swing in excess of five per cent, bearing in mind that the swing needed to change the Government is less than two per cent,” Wickham told Barbados TODAY.
However, Wickham refused to project a seat count, although he anticipated that the BLP’s Kirk Humphrey, whom he described as one of the most effective communicators in the region, would give Prime Minister Freundel Stuart a run for his money in St Michael South.
“I think that he [Stuart] is in real jeopardy of losing his seat. It takes a 14 per cent swing for him to lose his seat and a 14 per cent swing in this election is entirely possible. So I do believe that Mr Kirk Humphrey is in a very good position to take the seat from the Prime Minister. He has never been a particularly strong candidate. So, all things being equal, I think there is a very distinct possibility he won’t be a Member of Parliament after Thursday,” Wickham said.
In his assessment of St John, a traditional stronghold for the DLP from its inception, the political scientist said this election will provide the BLP with its best chance of taking the seat.
He based his assessment of the fact that the DLP candidate, George Pilgrim, who is not from the parish, was hand-picked by the party’s top brass, along with the fact that Leroy McClean, son-of-the-soil and protégé of late Prime Minister Errol Barrow, entered the race as an independent, although he said he remained loyal to the DLP.
“I think that the Democratic Labour Party is under considerable pressure in St John. I think that it is historic, unprecedented, and if there were an opportunity for the BLP to prevail in St John it would be this election,” Wickham said.
“I don’t think the conditions have been as appropriate for a BLP victory in St John for a long time. I don’t think they have ever existed like this before and they probably wouldn’t exist again like this for a long time. So we will see with great interest. So I’m still not prepared to call it, but I would just say that a victory of the BLP there is definitely more possible now than it has ever been before.”
The pollster made reference to a recent poll in the rural district, which he said showed a swing in excess of 20 per cent against the DLP, placing the BLP “within striking distance” of the 28 per cent swing needed to capture the seat.
Wickham said if McClean splits the DLP votes he could make the difference in that rural riding.
“I think that makes him very interesting as a potential option in this election. I don’t know to what extent he has been moving around and having meetings and so on . . . .But my feeling is that he could probably change the course of history in relation to St John, bearing in mind it’s the only seat the Democratic Labour Party holds and has never lost,” the pollster stressed.
Wickham predicted that voters would consider their well-being and the economy when they cast their ballots, but would also seek to punish the DLP for its handling of the country during the past ten years.
“There are people who would say, ‘I like what has been happening and I want more of this’. They would vote for the Democratic Labour Party. But the ones who feel they have had enough and they want to try things differently, they would vote against the Democratic Labour Party,” he suggested, adding that people would be making a mistake if they assumed this election was about the BLP.
“It’s an election where people are voting for or against the Dems,” he contended, while going on to state that leadership will also be a factor, an area he said the BLP has an advantage.
The last opinion poll conducted by Wickham’s Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) in June last year found that 52 per cent of Barbadians preferred the BLP’s Mia Mottley as leader, compared to only eight per cent in favour of Stuart.
The CADRES poll also found that 70 per cent of those surveyed at the time were dissatisfied with the DLP administration, while 71 per cent said it was time for a change of Government.