KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – New Democratic Party (NDP) Vice-President St. Clair Leacock has come out in full support of Arnhim Eustace’s leadership of the party as the public debate about whether Eustace should go continues.
“… I will do nothing, absolutely nothing, to undermine the leadership of Mr. Eustace in the NDP,” Leacock said on radio yesterday, adding that it was Eustace who rebuilt the party after it was voted out of office in 2001 after 17 years.
Leacock said that Eustace, who has been president of the NDP since 2000, also has the support of the party’s top brass, including Chairman Linton Lewis, Vice President Dr. Godwin Friday, and the opposition parliamentarians.
“I don’t hear from any of my colleagues, I don’t participate in any discussion with any of them in which it is every suggested in the slightest that Mr. Eustace is not the best person to lead the party at this time. I think there is complete unanimity in that regard,” Leacock said.
“But this doesn’t say that among us … that we might not have had a view at a given time that something may not have been done one way or the other. But Mr. Eustace is very democratic in his approach,” Leacock further stated.
Leacock said that he does not know of many people who would have been able to get as much work done for the NDP over the past 10 years as Eustace.
“And he needs to be credited for the amount of work,” Leacock added.
Eustace came to the helm of the NDP on Oct. 27, 2000 as the party was staring down the barrel of the gun that was the March 28, 2001 general elections.
In 2000, Former prime minister and NDP founder Sir James Mitchell, who was in his fourth term in office, was heading the one-seat majority government that was elected in 1998.
He decided to call early elections after the political unrests of March-April 2000, commonly called the “Roadblock Revolution”.
Sir James resigned as prime minister ahead of the elections and was succeeded by Eustace as both prime minister and NDP president.
But the NDP was sent to the opposition benches after winning just three of the 15 parliamentary seats, with Eustace as the only NDP candidate on St. Vincent to win his seat.
But while Leacock defended Eustace’s leadership, be said he understood the claims at times that the party needs to function “in a more robust way”.
He further said that Eustace probably needs to affirm on radio that he has the support of the leadership of the NDP.
“And I don’t think that anyone of us would be so silly to want to present a challenge. In fact, we just reaffirmed our support for Mr. Eustace when we had the last convention [in December].”
Leacock said that the NDP understands that based on Eustace’s “significant years as a public servant and as a development economist inside and outside of St. Vincent, it is incontestable that he is the best among us to head the party at this time and to seek governance.
“And therefore, what our membership and the public should look at is the collective wisdom of the New Democratic Party than the singular focus on one person or trying to pit one of us against the other,” Leacock said.
“I am not going to be drawn into that. The first responsibility that all of us have is to win our seat and to win our constituencies,” he further stated.
Leacock said that party members who have won their seats have to keep them and those who have lost must concentrate on winning.
He said that when he called for “fresh legs” in the NDP on election night in 2010, he was not calling for a new leader.
“… when I said fresh legs I wasn’t suggesting that I needed to replace Mr. Eustace. But understand this, that God forbid – and I emphasize this — something should happen to Mr. Eustace, the NDP has to continue,” he said.
He, however, said that in the meantime “our focus has to be on our policies, programmes and principles while we buttress and support resolutely our leader, Mr. Eustace.
“And I know he has that trust and confidence and I know he has the ability and I know he deserves the support of us because I know he has worked damn hard to keep the New Democratic Party in place. Real hard,” Leacock said.