‘We can win!’
Benn urges DLP to make adjustments for fair chance at St Peter victory
The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is being warned that it must clean up its act in St Peter if it is to have any chance of breaking the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) stronghold in the constituency.
Two-time DLP St Peter candidate Haynesley Benn also suggested that the constituency’s boundaries need to be adjusted to give the party a fair chance at victory.
Speaking last night at a meeting of the party’s St Peter branch at the All Saints Skills Training Centre, Benn, who is now Barbados’ Consul General to Canada, expressed disappointment that the party had done very little to address outstanding issues in the constituency, including the poor state of some roads.
“The same pebbles and leaves that we left in 2008 were still there. We had done nothing despite the pleadings,” a frustrated Benn said.
“If we in the Democratic Labour Party are going to win this seat, the things that the people in St Peter have been calling for over the years, we have got to do for them.”
He also urged the St Peter branch to put its house in order so that it would not be caught off guard by a by-election or the next general election.
Pointing out that the DLP did not finance his political campaign in the last poll, Benn, who lost the St Peter race in the 2008 and 2013 general elections to Owen Arthur, told supporters in the northern parish: “We’ve got to be on our marks in a set position and we can’t be scrambling for funds at the end because it takes a lot of money to run a campaign so I’m depending on you, the branch, to get us back to where we once were.”
During his address, Benn also called for a realignment of the boundaries in St Peter, arguing that a previous alteration by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission resulted in a shift from the DLP.
He contended that former educator Sybil Leacock proved in 1984 that it was possible for the party to win the seat when she emerged victorious in a by-election in the constituency, though by one vote. A court later declared the results null and void.
“I’m saying let us realign the boundaries and give the candidate for the Democratic Labour Party in St Peter a more than equal opportunity . . . We won this seat before and we can win it again,” the diplomat told the meeting.
Meantime, in his first public statement on the controversial split between Arthur and the BLP, Benn warned the DLP against any alliance.
Arthur resigned from the BLP last month to sit as an Independent Member of Parliament.
But his cousin, Benn, said last night he did not believe that was the end of the Arthur/BLP saga and cautioned that nothing good would come out of working with the elder statesman.
“I hope that we are not going to put ourselves to be used to destroy somebody else and I am [giving] a warning to our Democratic Labour Party, ‘keep your eyes and your ears open; do not be fooled; do not join multitude to do evil; do not pick up nobody fire rage; do not join with anybody to lambaste or disadvantage anybody else,” he warned.
“If the others at the higher level are going to be fooled [into thinking] that he is going to come over here to add value to our party . . . I’m waiting to see that,” said Benn.
In an apparent message to Arthur, he said: “Go back home and reconcile your differences with your people.”
At the same time, Benn described Arthur as a “Dem” at heart.
He said the St Peter representative grew up in a “Dem house” and was viewed with hostility and suspicion when he switched allegiance to the BLP.
The situation, Benn told the meeting, did not improve when then Prime Minister Tom Adams referred to Arthur as a future leader of Barbados since some BLP supporters felt they were being overlooked for someone who was not a “pedigree Bee”.
Benn has suggested that something serious must have triggered the decision by the veteran politician to leave the BLP given his staunch defence of the party.
He did state, however, that he was neither disappointed nor surprised that the former prime minister opted to become an Independent after ending his 30-year relationship with the BLP.
“Arthur started his political roots at the feet of an independent. [Sir] Frank Walcott was an Independent representing St Peter,” he said.