by Roy R. Morris and Shawn Cumberbatch
At least eight members of the current Democratic Labour Party Cabinet and two other Government MPs are facing an uphill battle to hold onto their seats in the House of Assembly.
This follows this week’s extensive publication of new data from a CADRES public opinion poll commissioned by Barbados TODAY, in which pollster Peter Wickham indicated that based on the current seven per cent swing against the DLP it was in danger of losing at least 10 seats to the Opposition Barbados Labour Party in the upcoming general election.
Investigations by Barbados TODAY have found that based on the outcome of the January 2008 poll, other historical data, and the latest CADRES survey there will be an even larger number of battleground constituencies this time around.
“The national swing is still essentially against the DLP Government and is resilient and to some extent growing, albeit slowly. The implication of this swing pattern in terms of seats would be a loss of somewhere in the vicinity of ten seats for the DLP and a BLP government which is equally as strong as the DLP currently is,” Wickham has already concluded.
Taking the current national seven per cent swing alone against the government, the vulnerable DLP seats in danger include those held by Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite (St. Philip South); Minister of International Business and International Transport, George Hutson (St. James Central); Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler (St. Michael North West); Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (St. James South); Speaker of the House of Assembly, Michael Carrington (St. Michael West), and Minister of Social Care, Constituency and Community Development, Steve Blackett (St. Michael Central).
Others who will have to work harder than others to retain their seats include Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy (St. Michael South Central); Minister of Transport and Works, John Boyce (Christ Church South); Minister of State in the Ministry of Housing and Lands, Patrick Todd (The City); and Deputy Speaker of the House, Kenny Best (St. Michael East).
Based on information provided to Barbados TODAY, the electoral swings required to defeat these MPs are all below seven per cent, specifically Brathwaite (1.7 per cent), Hutson (2.5 per cent), Sinckler (2.7 per cent), Inniss (2.9 per cent), Carrington (2.9 per cent), Blackett (four per cent), Sealy (4.3 per cent), Boyce (4.8 per cent), Todd (5.2 per cent), and Best (6.2 per cent).
Many of these seats were the locations of major battles, in which the DLP candidates ended with more than half of the vote. In the case of Brathwaite, who statistically is among the most vulnerable, he defeated Anthony Wood by 285 votes. He is facing Wood again in the upcoming poll.
While there were closer margins of victory, the swings needed to defeat these individuals were not as small. Informed sources explained, however, that one proviso of these seats falling to the BLP was the fact that individual candidates “have their own political capital to expend”, mentioning Sinckler and Inniss in this regard.
Additionally, the source pointed out that the St. Michael West Central seat, currently held by Government backbencher James Paul, and St. Michael South East, currently held by long-standing, but now outgoing MP Hamilton Lashley were also marginal, since “because of the history there these can already be counted as BLP seats”.
It was also explained though that a “strong enough” incumbent MP in either Government or Opposition “can go against the grain of a seven per cent swing”, noting that this was the case with Deputy Leader of the Opposition Dale Marshall (St. Joseph).
In his concluding analysis to this week’s poll results, Wickham said the current political outlook appeared to be one in which “the BLP and its leadership is back in vogue largely because the DLP seems untenable at this time”.
“CADRES has noticed this trend in several Caribbean countries and often refers to it as a passive interest in a party and its leadership as distinct from an active interest. As such Barbadians appear to be more interested in pushing the DLP out of office, than pulling the BLP in,” he concluded.
Of the 10 vulnerable MPs, Sealy is the only one who has had more than one term in the Lower House of Parliament, having held the St. Michael South Central Seat since the 2003 general election.
Like Brathwaite, Hutson, Sinckler, Inniss, Carrington, Blackett, Boyce, and Best all defeated BLP incumbents to win their place in the House of Assembly.
On the other hand, based on the statistical data, it will take swings well beyond the existing seven per cent to defeat four current DLP seats. These were St. John (Mara Thompson 33.8 per cent), St. Philip North (Michael Lashley 17.9 per cent), St. Lucy (Denis Kellman 12.7 per cent), and St. Michael South (Prime Minister Freundel Stuart 10 per cent).
In the case of the Opposition, their strongest seats statistically are St. Peter (Opposition Leader Owen Arthur), St. Michael North East (Mia Mottley), St. Thomas (Cynthia Forde), and Christ Church West (being vacated by Dr. William Duguid, 13.6 per cent).
Of the Bees, the seats which had narrow victories in 2008 and would be the most vulnerable were St. Andrew, St. Joseph and St. Michael North.
Were the DLP to lose the 10 seats identified, they would also lose the government by a landslide, with the BLP winning 19-11.