Longstanding vice-president of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), St. Clair Leacock, says he has been the most frontal in his party in addressing Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
He, however, said on radio on Monday that he cannot be a “pit bull” or “sh** hound”, always on the attack while others preserve their image as “Mr. Clean and Mr. Gentle”.
“… Nobody has been more frontal in addressing Prime Minister Gonsalves in the Parliament and outside the parliament than I have been — or on a political platform. Far more than many of the others who still afraid of him up to today,” Leacock said on Boom FM as he responded to criticism by political commentator Keith Joseph on the weekend that he (Leacock) is the weakest link in the NDP.
Leacock has been embattled for the past year since he failed to replace Arnhim Eustace as president of the NDP or Leader of the Opposition, both of which went to Godwin Friday, who was until then, also an NDP vice-president.
Since the leadership transition, Leacock has had a strained relationship with the party and had engaged in actions that political observers say are flirtations with the ULP.
He, however, has told iWitness News that he never considered joining the ruling party.
Leacock had, ahead of last year’s leadership transition, been a rabid critic of Gonsalves and even objected to Gonsalves referring to him as his “Honourable Friend”, in Parliament.
But earlier this year, in the wake of the leadership crisis, Leacock crossed the floor to embrace Gonsalves physically, which embrace some interpreted as a political gesture, though not in a formal sense.
Leacock said Monday that the ULP, their supporters and the Prime Minister see certain qualities in him.
“We all say things about each other. I say things about Ralph. Ralph says things about me in the cut and thrust of adversarial politics….
“If people want to love me, ‘yo’ gone soft’, because I must be a pit bull; I must be a shit hound?” he said, quoting one of the criticisms that have been levelled against him, apparently.
“I’m supposed to be cursing a lot of people on behalf of everyone else and that makes me look good. And others stay above the fray and they become Mr. Clean and Mr. Gentle—” Leacock said.
He said a woman called him a few Sundays ago saying that she has a problem and that she was calling him because she knows Friday was in church.
“Because I too ordinary, I too rootical, I too simple among you to command your respect,” Leacock said.
During his weekly commentary on Saturday, Joseph suggested that Leacock needs to demonstrate commitment to the NDP.
His comments came in light of statements that Leacock made two weeks ago, criticising his party leader over his decision to replace one senator, rather than two, which Leacock felt would have been a better move.
“What more do I need to lend support to the party? What am I supposed to do?” he said on Monday.
Leacock told listeners that during the 17 years of Arnhim Eustace’s leadership of the NDP, at no time when he left St. Vincent was he (Leacock) given the courtesy of being told that Eustace was out of the country.
“On this matter of the senatorial appointment, I didn’t even have the decency of being consulted and asked for an opinion. I was told, like anyone else,” said Leacock, who had two weeks earlier said on radio that he told the party of his view that both senators should be replaced at the same time.
He said he did not know who was in charge when Friday was overseas attending the convention of the Jamaica Labour Party last week.
“They have no respect for me. But I am supposed to deal with those things in-house because it constitutes decency in the New Democratic Party and I so badly want political office,” Leacock said, apparently repeating some of the accusations levelled against him.
“I don’t want it that badly,” he said.
“… if I am not needed, I pick up my bag and I go and … do something else. But I know the people of Central Kingstown appreciate me and until such time they signal me either at the executive level or walking through the constituency..… I will soldier on.”
Leacock was elected in 2015 to a second consecutive term as Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, having won the seat in 2010, after 10 years as a senator.
Referring to Joseph’s comments, Leacock said no one else would speak down to him “in that kind of way and feel that I am obliged to accept their picking.
“I’m not! I’m my own person in the same way I respect others… My commitment is there — over 40 years of it,” he said, referring the length of time he has been a member of the NDP.
He said he could have done like so many others and finish his doctoral studies and law degrees and take care of his family and friends.
“I have been generous to the core.”
He said some of the comments fired at him are as a result of “personal jealousy, some of it is also professional jealousy, in my view”.
Leacock said he is being challenged because he has something to offer.
“People don’t stone green mango,” Leacock said, adding that Vincentians have a fair degree of respect and appreciation for his contribution to the country and have rewarded him in a particular way.
He said politics is not a part time business and some persons believe that the NDP can come to office by coming alive two and three weeks before an election.
“It’s a 24/7 job, and they can see through you and they know when you are genuine and people have made that determination about me,” Leacock said, adding that he has his imperfections, falls short and goes to God seeking forgiveness “for my errors of omission and commission”.