The resounding victory for businessman Christopher Gibbs in the nomination to represent the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in the St Michael West constituency, augers well for the chances of the ruling party to retake the seat in the next election, says well-respected pollster and political scientist, Peter Wickham.
This morning Wickham told Barbados TODAY that it was a good sign for the BLP that they were able to replace Joseph Atherley as quickly as they did, after he left the Government benches shortly after the May 2018 general elections. He contended that Atherley’s departure had not impacted on the base of the BLP but instead his presence within the political landscape of the constituency was an ominous sign for the Democratic labour Party (DLP), who are yet to name a candidate.
“As for the outlook, it is quite good for the BLP at this stage. The reality is that the constituency voted overwhelmingly for the BLP in the last election. My sense is that Atherley will lose all of the support he had in the last election. When he defected, he didn’t move with any kind of base, so my sense is that Gibbs is very well-placed when the next election is called. In the meantime, he must carry the standard in the constituency and carry the persons there that identify with the BLP,” said Wickham.
He added, “When you have a split in the vote it affects the least dominant political force. In this case, the least dominant political force is the DLP. My sense is that any split vote that Atherley can carry will not affect the BLP and the fact that he is a former member of the party is irrelevant. The DLP is going to be under threat by
Atherley and it is interesting that they have not yet even named a candidate.”
Gibbs scored a landslide victory against his only rival Steven Leslie, getting 360 to Leslie’s 50 votes, when the ballots were tallied at the St Leonard’s Boys School on Sunday night. Wickham contended that the margin of Gibbs’ victory was indicative of the work which he has been putting in on the ground and was in no way a slight on the quality of Leslie’s challenge.
“I don’t think the outcome was a huge surprise. I am not going to say the better man won because they were two high-quality candidates and I think it is a credit to the BLP that they were able to pull together two candidates of this calibre and to be able to replace Atherley in such a short space of time. It has just been just over 500 days and already we have a replacement,” he pointed out.
He further noted, “I am guessing he was more organised on the ground and ultimately that is what made the difference. I think the margin of victory communicates the level of work that he has been doing in the constituency by registering members and activating the base of the party.”