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size of crowds attending political meetings nothing unusual, says pollster

by Latoya Burnham

The national platforms of the two main political parties have been drawing crowds by the thousands.

And while both parties say the numbers are an indication of intent come the February 21 poll, one political scientist says the numbers are nothing new and may not mean people are definitely voting one way or another.

The Democratic Labour Party’s two main meetings, first at Bay Street and then at Passage Road so far attracted crowds of 15,000 in one instance and about 18,000 in the other, according to a party member. Meanwhile, numbers for the Barbados Labour Party’s main launch was said by officials there to be some 25,000 at Standard car park in Haggatt Hall.

DLP team manager for Christ Church, Ronald Jones said: “The numbers have been growing and these are the single national meetings we are talking about. Tonight we have three meetings so we are not expecting those numbers because the people will be spreading across three or so areas. So we are looking at like 1,500 or 2,500,” he said.

They were however, “very enthused” by the numbers said Jones, who was also the MP for Christ Church East Central in the last Parliament, adding that the people were coming to hear the message, the analysis of the economy as well as to look toward the future of the party.

“Everything is being done systematically. We are reminding people of the period prior to 2008, doing an analysis of our stewardship and the next phase, perhaps next week, we will start to unfurl the future plans,” he stated, noting that there were people who came strictly for the information and the speeches rather than the entertainment.

In fact, he said he did not believe the entertainment or the fact that people were decked out in the yellow made an impact on the numbers or other’s perception of attendance figures.

“The entertainment has been to break up the speeches, to provide a total package,” he said.

BLP assistant campaign manager, Dr. William Duguid, however said he did believe that the entertainment brought the interest to the issues from another cross-section of the public.

“I think it adds another dimension to the political meetings,” he said, stressing that the numbers themselves also showed that “people are voting with their feet and by their presence”.

The crowd in Haggatt Hall, he said, was the largest he could ever remember seeing at a political rally and added that they were also expecting “massive numbers” at this Saturday’s launch.

“We did not expect 25,000 at Standard. It simply shows that people are speaking in their numbers and voting with their feet,” he said.

Political scientist Peter Wickham though said the numbers were nothing significant that the country had not seen before.

In particular he recalled massive crowds in 1986 when Don Blackman crossed the floor and again in 1999 in Queen’s Park, noting, “I don’t think it is any larger than before”.

“I remember the DLP’s meeting in 2008 in Haggatt Hall, again we were told it was the biggest meeting ever, and they won the election. So I think it can go both ways quite frankly. I don’t think the crowds are any larger than before or that they are any indication of people’s voting intentions, especially when you consider that the BLP had essentially a free concert.

“What you have to watch to see is whether people remain after the entertainment to hear the speeches and in both instances the arrangement was such that you had entertainment and then speeches which would enable you to see if people were really interested,” he said.

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