Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock, says he is “satisfied” that he was re-elected on Sunday as one of the two vice-presidents of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).
He, however, told iWitness News that the vote tally shows that he has damaged himself among party supporters and that he needs to address the situation.
“I am satisfied. I feel pleased about that,” he told iWitness News on Sunday after he and Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Roland “Patel” Matthews, were elected as the party’s vice-presidents at its 39th annual convention in Layou.
Leacock and Matthews were elected ahead of Sen. Shirlan “Zita” Barnwell, who amassed 144 votes, compared to Matthews’ 198 and Leacock’s 197.
Israel Bruce, a prospective NDP candidate dropped out of the race shortly before the vice-presidency was put to a vote.
Some persons commented that Leacock would have done better had it not been for his ambivalence, including an announcement on Thursday that he would not be content to remain a vice-president in light of Barnwell’s candidacy.
But by Saturday, he had recanted that position.
He told iWitness News that the votes tally “is a reasonable indication to me that I have damaged my record in some parts and there is a need for me to go and mend that.
“I think that, on introspection, I should see what that figures and I need to go and address that absence of confidence.”
Confidence in Leacock has wavered after last November’s leadership transition in the NDP, in which the party’s parliamentary caucus chose Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines, then an NDP vice-president, as Leader of the Opposition.
Leacock was also interested in that post, but did not turn up at the meeting where the votes were cast.
Member of Parliament for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings, also participated in the election and received one of the six votes cast.
Leacock went on to withdraw from the race for president of the NDP — in which Friday was the other contender — just before it was put to a vote at the party’s extraordinary convention on Nov. 27.
The convention was held to choose a successor for Arnhim Eustace, who resigned as NDP and opposition leader, two posts that the MP for East Kingstown had held for 16 years.
Leacock told iWitness News that addressing the loss of confidence in himself has to be “broad-based”.
“One, improve quality of communication with the popular media, namely my regular radio programme,” he said.
“I will have to revisit the relationship between myself and my colleagues and I may have to moderate the pace and rate at which I want to push through some programmes and maybe show a greater level of appreciation and concern for their way. And just simply work harder on messaging generally speaking, and, to some extent, [reduce] some of the ambivalence that I myself might have created.”
In announcing in Parliament on Thursday that he would not contest the NDP vice-presidency, Leacock gave the impression that he would have crossed the floor and sat on the government benches, saying that on Tuesday, there would be a new New Democratic Party.
But he told iWitness News on Sunday that joining the government “never crossed my mind.
“That was never a consideration. That is not something I could do.”
He further said he found the ruling Unity Labour Party’s Sen. Julian Francis’ comments on the NDP’s leadership transition, made during last week’s Budget Debate, to be “not only arrogant but it was insulting to me as a person.
“Julian was almost writing me off as finished politically and [insinuating] that I was pretty much close to the stage where you tie one out to pasture. That kind of an approach.”
Leacock said that Francis — who is also general secretary of the ULP — suggested in a subsequent interview that the door of the ULP is always open, “but if one wants to enter, they have to make applications and so forth — as if I was looking for refuge. I never reduced myself to that state.”
Leacock told iWitness News that he decided to re-enter the race to become an NDP vice-president because “when I listened to the signals that were coming from inside from the people who were presenting the challenge, I think that there were significant miscalculations by people who were, in a real sense, simply unprepared to hold the office that they were claiming to hold”.
He said it was “not arrogance on my part but the position of a vice-president of a political party is one that is going to present leadership to an organisation and institution”.
Asked specifically, Leacock said he was speaking about Barnwell, who he said was “far too dismissive of the value of experience to the political process and the governing of a political party”.
Leacock was in high praise of Matthews, saying, “For many years, I have been saying that Patel was the fastest growing politician in the New Democratic Party. If he has made progress to this stage, then power to him.”