Two leading political pundits are predicting that more dominoes are likely to fall within the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) as the organisation continues to prepare for the next General Election.
Senior political science lecturer Dr Kristina Hinds told Barbados TODAY she expects “one or two more changes” to the incumbent party’s political lineup as part of a “revitalization” push ahead of the next election.
Veteran pollster Peter Wickham, took it a bit farther, suggesting that St Andrew held by longtime MP George Payne, St Michael Northwest represented by Neil Rowe and St Philip North held by Dr Sonia Browne were some of the constituencies where BLP representation may be ripe for a reshuffle.
The discussion follows an announcement on Sunday night from St Philip West MP John King that he would not be seeking re-election at the next national poll. His announcement was immediately followed by another that Government Senator Kay McConney is proposed as the candidate to step into the vacant spot on the ballot.
When contacted on Monday, Wickham said it appeared that like City of Bridgetown MP, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, it was becoming clear that King was not the proverbial horse for the coming political race.
He explained that the moves are also a clear indication that the party is getting its house in order ahead of the next General Election that is constitutionally due in 2023, but which can be called at the Prime Minister’s discretion at some point before that.
As part of this process, Wickham expects that “older politicians”, particularly those with no ministerial portfolios like George Payne could find themselves in the “departure lounge of politics”.
“He has not indicated that he is leaving, but certainly we should be looking to see whether he will or he won’t,” Wickham told Barbados TODAY.
“There are persons in his age group who are serving within the Barbados Labour Party that one would think should be considering departure, because ultimately, if you are not in the Cabinet at that stage, the likelihood of you getting back there is very low and the question is ‘what exactly are you staying in politics for?’” asked Wickham.
He however acknowledged: “As much as you may think that it is time for Payne to retire, the reality is that he will bring home St Andrew with considerable ease and it is one less seat for PM Mottley to worry about and he continues to be loyal to the Barbados Labour Party, even though estranged.”
Another backbencher who may fall into this category is Trevor Prescod who represents St Michael East.
Barbados TODAY understands discussions are also ongoing about the future of the St Thomas seat that has been held by Cynthia Forde since 2003 and the Christ Church West seat that has been held by Dr William Duguid since 2003.
Wickham further noted that both Browne and Rowe may also have challenges holding onto their respective seats, but said that he believes the decision to return will be largely left up to them.
“I do feel Neil Rowe is anxious and interested to stay and he may very well end up staying and the same with Dr Browne. Dr Browne seems anxious to remain and she may very well remain, so by and large I am comfortable that it will be more of a question of who wants to go and if they want to go, they will be facilitated,” said Wickham.
Dr Hinds views the developments as signs of a coming election but added that King appeared to be a particularly weak candidate who was swept in with the “tide of discontent” for the previous administration.
“I don’t want to be unkind to Mr King, but I really think that he is one of the individuals who was fortunate in the last election because there was so much discontent for the previous administration,” Dr Hinds told Barbados TODAY.
“In the same way that he was swept in, I suspected that he might be one of the candidates that would be swept out in another General Election. So perhaps this is a decision to run a new candidate who one might expect could be a bit stronger in the constituency,” she added.
Describing King’s successor, Senator McConney as a strong figure with a solid professional record, Dr Hinds said the onus would be on the DLP to appoint a suitable match and also in any other constituencies where winds of change are being predicted.
“I think that there are some other changes that we will see. I am not saying that these are signals of the individuals not performing, but they may be at the point of retiring. So I suspect and if some of the whispers around are correct, there will be one or two more changes. There may be more and I have heard people say more, but my suspicion is maybe one or two more changes,” the senior lecturer explained.
President of the Democratic Labour Party Verla DePeiza however views the developments as an indictment on the PM’s leadership.
“This must be the first time in the history of Barbados that two sitting Cabinet members in their very first term in Cabinet have signalled their desire to exit politics,” DePeiza said in an apparent reference to King and Bostic.
“And it begs the question: Who is next on the chopping block?… There is more in the mortar than the pestle,” she further contended.