Winds of political change appear to be blowing across St Andrew, with new faces from both of the country’s major parties expressing an interest in representing the rural constituency in Parliament.
Businessman Oldwin Skeete has been selected by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to contest the seat, and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Senator Dr Romel Springer has confirmed his interest in representing the constituency in a brief interview with Barbados TODAY.
As recently as last Friday, Springer was invited to join Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic in delivering remarks at the re-opening of the St Andrew Outpatient Clinic. The sitting BLP MP, George Payne, who has been the representative since 1991 was noticeably absent from the ceremony.
Payne, who has acted as Prime Minister and held the portfolio of Minister of Housing and Lands shortly after the 2018 General Election is now a backbencher. In fact, the BLP stalwart has appeared to be at odds with his political leadership, exacerbated by his dismissal from the Mottley Cabinet in a July 2020 reshuffle. He has been on record taking issue with the manner in which he was treated given his 40-year association with the BLP.
When contacted on Wednesday, Payne said he could not address the issue at the time.
However, numerous billboards across the constituency capturing the image of the longstanding representative remain in place since his last election campaign.
While Springer has no intention of challenging Payne, whom he said he holds in “high regard”, the parliamentary secretary acknowledged that his intentions are clear.
“It certainly is my intention to represent St Andrew and I have been working on the ground for the past three years engaging the constituents and working with constituents… I have worked with all the various clubs, groups and organisations in St Andrew, so I have been totally immersed in St Andrew,” the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education told Barbados TODAY.
“As to if the sitting MP is going to demit office at the end of this term or before the end of this term, there is no way of knowing that right now. He has not indicated that to me, I have not seen any evidence to suggest that he would do either… and I am not in a position to say whether or not he’s going anywhere,” Springer added.
The BLP’s candidate selection process starts with a vote at the constituency branch, with the outcome being ratified at the level of the national council.
On the other end of the political spectrum, the DLP candidate, Skeete, appears ready to confront what some in the constituency predict will be an uphill battle. The longtime businessman in the agriculture sector told Barbados TODAY that residents’ most pressing needs surround the apparent neglect of infrastructure, water resources and other initiatives which once fostered a strong sense of community.
“In moving around St Andrew, I have heard more than one name being bandied around as a potential candidate to be the next Barbados Labour Party representative, but to be honest with you, my concern is not who will be the candidate for the Barbados Labour Party,” Skeete declared.
“It’s about representation for the people of St Andrew. Whoever the challenger is, I am willing and able to take on that challenger, because I want to make sure the St Andrew people get the best representation they can,” he added.
Unlike the BLP camp so far, Skeete has the unequivocal support of his predecessor, Irene Sandiford-Garner, who has contested the seat unsuccessfully in 2008, 2013 and 2018. The longtime politician told Barbados TODAY she believes Dr Springer has been “anointed” by Prime Minister Mia Mottley to contest what the ruling party believes is an “easy seat”.
“George Payne has been humiliated by the Barbados Labour Party. He has basically been sidelined as an MP. He wasn’t at the opening of the clinic and his name is not even on the plaque, and this is a representative who has been in the constituency since the early 90s for almost 30 years. That to me is a clear signal of his place within the Barbados Labour Party and he needs to be routed from St Andrew,” she declared.
The next general election is constitutionally due in 2023, but sources across the political landscape say they expect the proverbial bell to be rung sooner rather than later.