With 2018 going down as a year of historic achievement as the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) recorded this country’s first-ever whitewash at the polls, Barbadians were hoping to get a clearer picture in 2019 of how the new political landscape would be re-shaped.
With the honeymoon well and truly over, the reality of stepping into the uncharted territory of governance outside of the revolving door of a two main political party system, one in power and the other in opposition, had truly set in. This year was certainly no crystal ball into Barbados’ political future, but there were a number of occurrences which stood out.
Enter the PdP
Early in the new year, Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley who defected from the BLP, days after the May 2018 polls, began hinting at plans to form a new political party from as early as January. It was not until March, in the days leading up to the estimates that he made the official announcement.
“I have stated quite definitely that very shortly I shall be announcing the formation of a new political party in Barbados and it is not in the realm of rumour anymore,” Atherley stated then. On June 8, Atherley officially launched the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP).
The party was officially launched with 13 members, which included his hand-picked senators and some defectors from Solutions Barbados. The full team at that time of the launch were: Senator Crystal Drakes, Senator Caswell Franklyn, Scott Weatherhead, Bruce Hennis, Paul Forte, Maria Phillips, Sylvan Greenidge, Paul Gibson, Reverend Paul Leacock, Harvey Barrett, Akil Daley, Dr Philip Corbin, Rosaline Corbin. In October the PDP added two more members, signalling their intent to field a full slate of candidates by the time elections are constitutionally due.
BLP fills St Michael West vacancy
After months of speculation about who would replace Joseph Atherley as the BLP’s candidate for St Michael West, Christopher Gibbs got the nod in October. Gibbs scored a landslide victory against his only rival Steven Leslie, getting 360 to Leslie’s 50 votes, during the party’s internal nomination process. Atherley told Barbados TODAY that he was undaunted by an apparent groundswell of support for the man chosen to replace him. He also vowed to contest the seat in the next election under the PDP banner. “I don’t know of any challenge and there have been margins of victory which have been equal to that or larger to that in other races. When I came to St Michael West, Branford Taitt (of the Democratic Labour Party) was winning the constituency by over 2000 votes. So, I have not paid attention to any challenge coming from any particular individual. I was elected by the people of St Michael West to represent them and I will continue to do that and look after their interest daily as well as others who are not of my constituency but who come to me from near and far,” he said then.
De Peiza retains DLP Leadership
Charged with the responsibility of picking up the pieces of a shattered political party in 2018, President of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Verla De Peiza has been deemed by political pundits as a stop-gap measure until a strong leader emerges to rebuild the party of Errol Barrow. Even Prime Minister Mia Mottley, during the BLP’s annual conference in October, likened De Peiza stewardship to that of a night watchman’s role in a cricket match.
But thus far, De Peiza has demonstrated that she has the backing of the DLP membership, as she was re-elected President at the party’s 64th Annual General Conference on August 25. She was elected unopposed after former Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley withdrew his bid on the eve of the elections. Former Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner retained the post of First Vice President out of a field of nine candidates. Simon Alleyne was elected as Second Vice President, Andre Worrell as Third Vice President and Nicholas Alleyne as Fourth Vice President.
Third parties show weak pulse
After promising much in the build-up to the May 2018 general elections, there has been precious little from the fringe political movements in 2019 that would suggest that they lived up to those billings. In fact, only Solutions Barbados and the United Progressive Party (UPP) have shown the faintest signs of life, while there has been absolutely no pulse from the other four that contested the last polls. In May, Lynette Eastmond announced that she would be stepping down as chairman of the UPP.
“I thought it would be appropriate to give as many people in the party as possible as much exposure as possible because obviously we are training up people in order to be able to take up big roles in Government. It’s important that we have different individuals who can step up and lead the party.”
Everton Holligan was elected the new chairman. However, since then there has been radio silence from the party. Throughout the year, the leader of Solutions Barbados, Grenville Phillips II has insisted that his pro-business party is alive and well. Three months ago, he told Barbados TODAY that the number of candidates under the Solutions Barbados banner is on the rise, even though he claimed several of them were not ready to come out publicly for fear of being victimized.
Old DLP vanguard show signs of making a comeback
After months of silence following their 30-nil defeat at the polls in May 2018, this year saw a number of the members of the decimated Freundel Stuart-Cabinet, slowly coming back into the political spotlight.
Last month, the DLP’s St Philip North constituency branch hosted a joint meeting with the St Michael South Central and Christ Church East branches at the Princess Margaret Secondary School. Several members of the old vanguard spoke at that event, giving insight into their political future.
Former St Philip North Member of Parliament (MP) Michael Lashley, QC sought to clear the air on public perceptions of discord in the party. He made it clear that the former MPs had a lot to contribute to the party in terms of their experience.
“We might not be candidates in the next election but the experience that we have, we can share that experience with you all. I came into politics in 2003 as an Opposition parliamentarian and then went straight into Government. So I lived both experiences . . . . And we have that experience; we understand.
“It is my belief and we are not pushing them [new DLP leaders] away, and they are not pushing us away either, but they could be a meeting of the minds to develop what strategy or what approach the Democratic Labour Party will take moving forward to the next election,” said Lashley
Former Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick expressed similar sentiments, while former Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe signalled his intent to contest the next election.