While the Opposition Barbados Labour Party is reacting cautiously to an opinion poll giving it a landslide victory in the coming elections, governing officials appear to be jostling for the leadership role held by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
The Nation newspaper last weekend published results of a Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) poll it had commissioned, showing voter support for Mottley standing at 52 per cent and Stuart a dismal eight per cent.
Embarrassingly for the prime minister, the man whom he beat in the 2013 elections, Owen Arthur, scored 18 per cent popularity across Barbados though this former leader had long announced that he is no longer contesting elections.
But reacting to the poll a day later BLP Member of Parliament, Dale Marshall, advised supporters, “forget about it, do not even think about it.”
“If we had to follow that we would be looking at 30-seat win,” he said of the 30 Barbados electoral constituencies, adding, “but I want us to take a more cautious approach.”
Marshall, a former attorney general in a past BLP administration, had good reason for caution.
A CADRES poll days before the 2013 elections had placed the BLP ahead and named it likely winner, but Stuart’s incumbent Democratic Labour Party romped home to a 16 to 14-seat victory.
“The reality for parliamentarians is that the electorate is fickle and a lot of things can happen between now and the next election,” he said of the national vote which is constitutionally due just before mid-2018.
At the same time, Marshall was warning the party faithful not to let history repeat itself, a Government MP, David Estwick, was offering himself up as a replacement for Freundel Stuart.
“If Freundel Stuart steps away from the leadership of the DLP I will stand to lead it,” another daily newspaper, Barbados Today, reported him saying.
Estwick had managed only a three per cent popularity rating in the Cadres poll, but that did not deter him from throwing his hat into the DLP leadership ring.
He reportedly contended that his experience in high office and what he described as mass popularity has earned him the pick.
“I have served this country as acting prime minister on several occasions; as minister of health, national insurance and social security; minister of economic affairs, trade, industry, commerce and small business development,” said Estwick who currently sits in Cabinet as Minister of Agriculture, Food Fisheries and Water Resources Management.
“The people of Barbados know that I had to carry the bulk of the DLP’s political battles in 2008 and 2013 general elections,” he added.
Even as the often outspoken Estwick, who is regarded as somewhat of a renegade for his past pronouncements against his government’s economic policies, made his case, a fellow Cabinet minister who polled at six percent popularity was being promoted by Barbadians on social media as the man to fill Stuart’s shoes.
Inniss, another outspoken senior government member, himself has said nothing but Barbados Today also reported the he enjoys the support of the public opinion pollster who heads CADRES, Peter Wickham.
The irony is that this talk of a Stuart successor ignores the person who topped both Estwick and Inniss in the poll. Labour Minister Esther Byer-Suckoo came in at seven per cent, but this one percentage point below the prime minister that places her head and shoulders above those two men has not earned her a mention in any successor race.
Further absurdity in the reaction to the poll is that this talk of Stuart’s replacement comes despite the DLP leader not having said a word in reaction to the CADRES poll and giving no indication of an interest in stepping aside.