New Democratic Party (NDP) Vice-President St. Clair Leacock has come out in strong support for the party’s candidate-elect for Marriaqua, Kirk Da Silva, amidst statements by some party supporters that the central executive should not ratify his candidacy.
Da Silva, who in 2015 failed in his bid to become a candidate for the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), later joined the NDP and won the run-off in Richland Park, a bedrock of NDP support, last week Tuesday.
Leacock said that the result suggested that one of the 30 persons qualified to cast a ballot did not do so.
However, of the 29 votes cast, Da Silva, an accountant, secured 15, compared to just two for pharmacist Curtis Bowman, who was the NDP’s candidate in the district in the 2010 and 2015 general elections.
Bernard Wyllie, a former representative for the area under the NDP administration, who came out of retirement from politics in an attempt to wrest from the ULP the seat it has held since 1998, got eight votes. Public servant Phillip Jackson, who was making his first bid to become a candidate, got four votes.” And as we understand it, a number of people are not satisfied with the outcome,” Leacock said, noting that many people had thought that Jackson would have won the primary.
Leacock, a two-term MP for Central Kingstown, speculated about the messages that the NDP’s party groups in Marriaqua were sending about each candidate in the way they voted.
Kirk is ‘very visible’
Speaking about Da Silva, Leacock said:
“I happen to know on the basis of my own political activism, that Kirk is consistently in the constituency. Much of his politics resembles some of what people like myself do and others do.
“He’s very visible on the blocks, in the bars, the man on the street. And he also spends a lot of his money in sponsorship of social activity in the constituency, particularly the promotion of sports clubs, and so forth. And he’s a ‘yes, please’ person at all funerals.”
Leacock said that while these might appear to be small things, “they have significant political capital.
“My ears are on the ground, and I am not insensitive to the fact that a lot of people feel that this is not the optimal outcome,” he said, noting that since Da Silva did not get 75% of the vote, it would be subject to ratification of the NDP’s Central Committee, in keeping with the party’s constitution.
“… when you don’t get more than I think 75 to 80% of the votes, the president could have a change of mind on the outcome and ask that we have a different look at the whole outcome. So this is one in which the central executive and the party president will have a say at whether the matter stands or doesn’t stand,” he said, explaining the provision.
Leacock noted that some persons have pointed to the fact that Da Silva had come to the NDP after failing to become a ULP candidate.
He noted that three years ago, Sean Rose, after Israel Bruce defeated him in a primary and became the NDP’s candidate for South Central Windward, became an activist for the ULP.
“One who was as clear, firm, strong, decisive, precise, committed, dedicated, gung-ho, wanted it badly, the minute he lost he went on and threw his support to the Unity Labour Party and you hear him on radio from time to time,” said Leacock, who had presided over the primary.
“You are left sometimes to ask what manner of people are these but it’s their right. That’s what democracy allows for and Bruce is soldiering on now and doing a damn good job at it and I believe he will do extremely well in the elections.”
‘people said: Leacock ha’ too much baggage’
Leacock said that when he offered himself as a candidate, at the invitation, of the party’s Central Kingstown group, “I was not the candidate of choice.
“And I’m not afraid to say what people said: Leacock ha’ too much baggage… They still say that today, even when they came to the candidacy and the last election,” said Leacock who lost by 14 votes in 2005 at his first attempt at the poll.
“And for those who don’t like it, put it in their pipe and smoke it. I still demonstrated that my constituency, Central Kingstown, was the one constituency that showed growth, because I know my performance and service in this country shone through. So they push that aside now,” he said, referring to his performance at the last polls, compared to the other NDP candidates.
“The people have selected Kirk in Marriaqua. I’m not interested in whether the process was flawed. I’m not going to evaluate whether leadership or management or representation shoulda do A, B, C, D, E. That’s the outcome. That’s the outcome. So people may want to jump high, they may want to parade.”
Leacock said he had had a call that day from someone “to indicate to me that they heard of some sorts of atrocities that Kirk had done why should not be [the candidate].
“And they always do these things. People always know more about you than you know about yourself. And I said to the caller immediately. ‘I don’t want to hear that. I’ve heard it too much about myself and I have heard it too much about others.”
He said persons are often ready to say why each person the NDP selects as a candidate should not have been selected.
“But they can’t come forward, their children can’t come forward, their families can’t come forward, but they always want somebody to bare their chest to come forward,” he said, even as he noted that there are “ pros and cons of Kirk in the constituency”.
Leacock noted that some persons have noted that Da Silva was a Labour supporter.
“So that’s a sin? You want anybody who had become a member of more political parties before they settle down than Ralph Gonsalves?” he said, referring to the prime minister.
“So what is the sin if he was Labour? My family was a Labour party family… Daniel Cummings’ family was Labour… Kay Bacchus’ family was Labour, and you will find many people who have crossed the lines. And you are a [relative of the late Labour Prime Minister Robert Milton] Cato,” he told the host of the show, Clemroy “Bert” Francois.
“Mitchell was in the cabinet of Labour and came out,” he said, referring to NDP founder, Sir James Mitchell.
“Eustace came from a Labour tradition in his family, but he chose wisely for himself when he was of age to make his own political decision,” he said, referring to former NDP president, MP for East Kingstown, Arnhim Eustace.
“So the fact that a person was of that is no blight or condemnation. But what’s important to note, as some people are acknowledging is that in the election, he was potentially a candidate alongside or before Jimmy Prince and he was forced out or manipulated out and Jimmy Prince emerged.
“So, how does that happen? Of all people who could’ve represented Marriaqua for the Labour Party, if that is correct, how come he got to the top to be considered as a potential candidate? And they had to undo him to allow Jimmy Prince to emerge. There must have been something he’s doing right,” Leacock said.
Leacock said that if Da Silva does have support within the ULP and the NDP is “sensible enough” to keep its support, this could work to the party’s benefit with Da Silva as the candidate.
He, however, said he was not speaking ahead of his turn, even as he noted that he is a part of the leadership of the party and has “41 solid years of political capital and I’ve been in every single political election in this country from 1979 to today”.