Sir Louis Straker, the 73-year-old retired politician who was Deputy Prime Minister from 2001 to 2010, was Sunday night selected as the ruling Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) candidate for Central Leeward in the next general elections.
General elections are constitutionally due March 2016, but are widely expected to be held this year.
Sir Louis, a former minister of foreign affairs, represented Central Leeward from 1994 to 2010. He opted out of politics ahead of the 2010 general elections.
At the ULP’s convention on Feb. 13, 2011, he announced that he had relinquished the position of Deputy Political Leader of the party, which he had held since 2001. Straker also said he was no longer interested in holding any post within the party.
He is making a come back after the ULP failed Sunday night to get either the incumbent, Minister of National Reconciliation, the Public Service, Labour, Information & Ecclesiastical Affairs, Maxwell Charles, or his challenger, Dunstan Johnson, to bow out of the race.
Charles, a retired educator, was elected as Member of Parliament for Central Leeward in the 2010 general elections, his entry into electoral politics.
I-Witness News was unsuccessful in its attempt to reach ULP general secretary, Sen. Julian Francis via his mobile phone late Sunday night for a comment on the development.
However, we understand that Sir Louis was attending a religious meeting in Central Leeward Sunday night as the candidate selection was taking place.
As the impasse between the two hopefuls continued, a senior party official is said to have left the candidate selection exercise and went to fetch Straker.
After some negotiations, Charles and Johnson nominated and seconded Straker as the candidate, I-Witness News was told.
The ULP was elected to Parliament in 2001, when the main opposition New Democratic Party was voted out of office — 3 seats to the ULP’s 12 — after 17 years in office.
Straker was deputy prime minister from 2001 until 2010.
He was the minister of foreign affairs, commerce and trade from 2001 to May 2005, when he was transferred to the ministry of transport, works and housing during a cabinet reshuffle.
He became foreign minister again in December 2005, after the general elections of that month.
Sources say that repeated polls conducted in Central Leeward have shown the NDP’s candidate, Ben Exeter, a political newcomer, was more favoured to win ahead of either Charles or Johnson.
The sources say that the ULP may feel that it has a better chance of retaining Central Leeward, the only Leeward constituency it won in 2010, if Straker is the candidate.
But a ULP insider told I-Witness News last July that they rejected an effort by the party to have Straker transferred from Central to South Leeward ahead of the 2010 general election.
The information was disclosed by Edgar Cruickshank a former member of the ULP’s council in South Leeward.
Cruickshank, who last year threw his support behind the NDP, died in December when a vehicle crashed into persons at an NDP rally in Clare valley.
“We had a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in 2010 — the [South Leeward] executive [and] some front liners — because he wanted Louis Straker to run in South Leeward. And is we who beat out Straker from yah (here),” Cruickshank told I-Witness News.
Cruickshank also told I-Witness News that Charles has performed poorly as an area representative and stands a big chance of losing to Exeter.
Observers say that the re-entry of Straker into electoral politics may pave the way for a more seamless leadership transition in the ULP, as Deputy Prime Minister, Girlyn Miguel, who has been representing Marriaqua since 1998, is also set to bow out of politics ahead of the next general elections.