After months of hinting at the possibility, Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley says he will be unveiling his new political party in two weeks.
This morning Atherley, who broke ranks with the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP), told Barbados TODAY that he intends to field a full slate of candidates to contest the next general elections, which are constitutionally due in four years.
Additionally, Atherley brushed aside suggestions that his party is being formed purely for financial gain, noting that he was in it for the long haul and for the love of service.
“There is a lot of interest generated from all corners to our cause. We have settled on a name for the party, but we will reveal this in the next couple of weeks,” said Atherley, who explained that a mixed bag of persons, including some from the major political parties, have expressed interest in the new political movement. The Opposition Leader also made it clear that he has every intention to again contest the St Michael West constituency, the seat he won on the BLP ticket in the landslide 30-nil victory at the polls last May.
“So far we have people that have never participated in politics before and there are some who have been identified with all of the major parties as well as some of the parties that are not so major that participated in the last election.”
Back in January, Atherley named a 14-member team, which he said would speak on behalf of the Opposition on national issues. Since then there has only been speculation about if this initiative would give rise to a new political party.
This afternoon, head of the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) Peter Wickham, questioned the legitimacy of the Atherley-led political movement, suggesting that the party’s formation was likely motivated by the quarter of a million dollar subvention granted to political parties by government. He also told Barbados TODAY that he does not expect the party to have too much of an impact on Barbados’ political landscape.
“The main impact that this movement will have is on the economic fortunes of persons associated with the Opposition. The reality is that Bishop Atherley does not and probably never will reflect the legitimate sentiment of people who did not vote for the Barbados Labour Party. He was elected as a BLP member and I don’t think that people’s perception of him has moved anywhere beyond that,” Wickham said
He added, “There is a legitimate opposition sentiment in Barbados, and it does not reflect him. So, he will benefit from the funds voted for parties in Parliament and perhaps they would become more formal and better organised, but I will be very surprised if these individuals were to become serious contenders for the next government. Their formalization of their arrangement does not move the political needle one iota.”
However, in response Atherley made it clear no such considerations had factored into the decision to form the party.
“I want to make it clear that Joseph Atherley is not entitled to any funding. As far as I know there is an arrangement put in place, in fairly recent times, that all political parties represented in Parliament share in a fund. So, if that comes to a political party, it does not come to Joseph Atherley. It is for party organisation and party development. Don’t you think if I was doing it for that reason, that the party would have been formed and announced 10 months ago? So, it must be that I am serious about the cause that I serve,” he stressed.