The United Progressive Party (UPP) is hinting at the possibility of a political alliance with Opposition Leader and Member of Parliament for St Michael West Joseph Atherley, whose 3,214 votes in the May 24 general election was nearly twice as many as the 1,965 secured by the entire UPP.
Three days after Atherley tendered his resignation from the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP), UPP leader Lynette Eastmond confirmed that the two held exploratory talks as recently as last week, but no firm decisions were taken.
“All I can say is that yes, I Lynette Eastmond, did meet with the Leader of the Opposition and we did have discussions, but I can’t say that we have reached any concrete stage in terms of an alliance,” Eastmond said.
In fact, the UPP leader said she had been talking to “everybody that contested the last election, which includes him [Atherley].
“Before the elections we had talks with the other third parties to form an alliance. I don’t know what will happen going forward but anything is possible,” she said, while insisting that any discussion on a political union was in its embryonic stage.
Eastmond explained that in meantime the two leaders were exploring where each other stood on a number of key issues.
“Thus far we have had general discussions about where we have reached in Barbados. At the moment the Government is having discussions with the International Monetary Fund and we are both waiting to see what the outcome of that would be. We also discussed the Budget and its possible implications as well as the outcome of the general elections,” she said.
Barbados TODAY was unable to reach Atherley to determine if the discussions with Eastmond played any role in his decision to finally quit the BLP.
However, a source familiar with the talks said the focus was on building a platform made up of members of the various parties, including UPP, Solutions Barbados, the Democratic Labour Party, and even the BLP, who would speak on issues with which they are familiar.
It was on July 17 that Atherley suggested to Barbados TODAY he had no immediate plans to quit the BLP, and he would not rule out the possibility of contesting the next general election on a BLP ticket.
He also said at the time the issue about his party membership was moot, since crossing the floor was tantamount to severing ties with the governing party.
Two days earlier, Prime Minister Mia Mottley had said Atherley should have advised his constituents before the election of his intention to cross the floor, stressing that the decision “does raise the issue of trust and we must ask whether we are doing a disservice by allowing this to fester rather than treating to the right of recall for those who cross the floor”.
She had also strongly questioned the manner in which he had gone about the process, especially in light of the fact that he was elected a BLP representative, after having campaign heavily on the party’s platform.
However in a letter dated July 20 and addressed to Mottley, BLP Chairman George Payne and General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott, Atherley insisted that his motivation for leaving was as a result of his desire to be the Government’s conscience.
“Be assured of my critical support in the honourable Parliament of your efforts in Government. Be assured of my sincere plaudits when you get it right, as I expect you often will. Be equally assured of my scrutiny of your actions and my castigation should you, in the opinion of the people, go astray,” he wrote.
“I sit in parliamentary opposition, not consumed with any sense of acrimony or dissatisfaction; not driven by material considerations; not in a spirit of hostility and postured for confrontation and personal attack. I sit with an honest heart, simply offering my humble efforts in the interests of the people of St. Michael West and in the cause of the people of Barbados,” Atherley stressed.
He told his former BLP colleagues he was hoping the move would “spark a new culture in Opposition politics in Barbados”, and that “with the support of like minds” he was committed to the preservation and expansion of democracy and democratic privilege here.
“This is the legacy of the Barbados Labour Party. It is the heritage of Barbadians. It constitutes, in my humble and repeated view, a primary mandate for your 2018 team.
“It is my fervent hope that my singular presence on the Opposition benches in the Honourable House of Assembly will be more than symbolic in the above regard. May our history later record that it was beneficially substantive to our nation’s political life and socio-economic growth and development at this critical moment,” he wrote.
The UPP briefly had representation in the House after then Member of Parliament for Christ Church West Dr Maria Agard, who was elected on a BLP ticket before she was kicked out of the party, joined the UPP shortly before Parliament was dissolved in early March.