At least 17
This was the position of BLP leader, Owen Arthur, at a press conference today that looked at the results of the Nation Publishing Company-commissioned poll, which was released today and which put Prime Minister Freundel Stuart ahead of Arthur as the preferred leader.
But he described the results as a wake-up call, noting that he was not unhappy about what it said.
“It is a wake-up call and I am not going to pretend otherwise… This is our election to win … [or] our election to lose and I hope our supporters understand what is required… I am heartened about the fact that as a worse case [we are going to win].
The former Prime Minister noted that he had taken note of the fact, which he said was shared by pollster Peter Wickham, that the outcome was not characteristic of other polls that had been conducted, pointing out that the party had also been doing its own constituency surveys.
Arthur explained during the discussion with the media at the campaign office of St. James Central candidate, Kerrie Symmonds, that the results of fresh polling should be known some time on Tuesday, and depending on the outcome they would make decisions on how they might adjust their approach to the final few days of campaigning.
“I think that you would agree that this campaign, our campaign, is the best organised campaign that I have ever participated in,” Arthur said. “We expected at some time in the campaign that the Democratic Labour Party would become the mass party that it is, and that is happening.
According to plan
“It comes as no surprise to us. We know what we have to do in order to be able to hold our base and to appeal to people who are not in our base. The DLP will hold its base in this campaign… We are not panicked by it, we are not surprised by it, we are not going to react to it… We have planned a campaign and I believe our campaign has gone according to plan. As you can see we are very well organised… We have hit the road with our manifesto that is now to carry the campaign into the second part. We know what we have to do in the last part of the campaign to sustain momentum.”
He added: “I have 28 years in politics. In 1986, a poll was done that showed me losing in St. Peter. That poll, also on the eve of elections, said that the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party were running neck and neck, but I was losing.
“I remember some of my colleagues saying, ‘Owen Arthur, get accustomed to walking up the stairs of Parliament and turning your eyes right, meaning I was going back to the Senate… But I won a seat when the polls were showing that the parties were running neck and neck…
“We have planned a campaign, we know what we are up against, and we are not now going to panic…”
Questioned about the fact that the DLP had apparently taken a deliberate campaign stance that its speakers would go after him on every platform, Arthur noted that after almost three decades in politics he was not bothered by the assault.
“I am accustomed to it. I don’t immerse myself in it. It is politics. It also suggests to me two things – that by having to make me the focus of your attacks, the Democratic Labour Party cannot present to the public, an argument that they must win the Government on the strength of their record in office. So the attack on me is clearly – ‘I cannot defend my record let me destroy someone else’s’.
“And second, the attack on me is a substitute for presenting a reason why they need to get a second term and I would have been surprised if this was not the case. In fact, I am pleasantly surprised that they are attacking me because after 28 years in politics I stand for something, I think people know who I am. I am not going to reinvent myself now…
“[The attacks] bother some people around me who feel for me…, but this is nothing new to me. I know what it is to be the subject of attacks.”
Arthur conceded that the perceived improvement in the popularity of the Prime Minister as seen in the polls might be due in part to the sustained attacks on him [Arthur] since the campaign started.
“I came to this campaign expecting to be the focus and subject of DLP attacks and if it were not so then something would be wrong,” he said. “And it tells me that the Democratic Labour Party sees me as the single greatest threat to their success and that is to some regard a sign of respect. You do not trouble somebody unless you think that they are a threat.
“When they stop troubling me then I would know that they don’t see me as a threat, but in the meanwhile it is clear that they see Owen Arthur as the person who stands between them and victory.” (RRM)