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Inside Politics – End of An Era?

A giant size egoWhen the Antigua Labour Party emerges from its biennial convention tentatively set for November 25, 2012, there is all likelihood that the party, the country’s oldest political institution, will have a new leader whose last name is not Bird.

Vere Cornwall Bird Sr., whose many sobriquets include ‘Father of the Nation’, became president of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union in 1943 when it was a fledgling organization still trying to make its mark in colonial Antigua.

From the union came a Political Committee to contest general elections in 1946, 1951, 1956 and beyond until around 1968 when the name Antigua Labour Party emerged.



V.C Bird, a man tall in stature, was a towering presence as the undisputed leader of the ALP until he handed over power to his son, Lester Bird, following a bitter leadership struggle between the younger Bird and John E. St Luce.

In fact, there are many who today still question the outcome of the vote at the convention as the published results were that of a tie. It took another hastily arranged convention for Bird to emerge as the undisputed winner. This was back in 1993. Lester Bird has been Political Leader since then.

Now, following successive electoral defeats, failing health, physical incapacity, signs that he is losing his grip on the party, and over the past two weeks, a severe blow to his credibility, even Bird would acknowledge that the writing is on the wall.

It was William Shakespeare who wrote:
 
“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages……”
 
Bird may have realised that his time has come to make that exit, but it is felt that he finds himself surrounded by a small clique of sycophants who see in him their only meal ticket to the ‘good life’. These people bombard him daily with suggestions such as ‘Les, you are the only man for the job! The young boys can’t make it without you!’
 
Bird, himself a former athlete standing over 6’ 6” and who was often fondly referred to as ‘Giant Malt’ in the 1980s and 1990s, was never one short of hubris as he possessed a giant size ego. He started to believe in his own indispensability, thus clutching on to the party’s leadership even after polls indicate that the party would do better with someone else at the helm.

Bird ignored the signs that despite the many failings of the UPP Administration, the Lester Bird-Asot Michael combination is much too unpalatable for many people to take.
 
Despite his detractors inside and outside the ALP, the name Bird still has much currency within the body politic of Antigua & Barbuda. Lester Bird therefore felt that he had enough left in the ‘tank’ to make one final comeback. But when the much-hyped vote of No Confidence failed to even reach the floor of the House of Representatives, neither he nor those involved in the cabal anticipated the backlash for party diehards.
 
They miscalculated the level of frustration among the electorate, many of whom genuinely felt that the vote of no confidence would have led to an early poll and an eventual end to their sufferings. It has been perhaps the biggest political miscalculation in Antigua & Barbuda’s history.
 
Now Bird has been engaged in a massive campaign of damage control. But it would have been easier to give him a mop to keep the gutter in his old neighbourhood of Tanner Street dry.
 
Unfortunately, for the elder party and national statesman, the majority of party members, including all of the current leadership, have reached that psychological moment: it’s time for a new leader, come what may.
 
But the ALP without a Bird at the helm is also another ‘leap of faith’.
 


That would be an event of tremendous significance! After all, the ALP can be said to be the “House that (Papa) Bird Built’’. Not even his staunchest critics would argue against V.C Bird’s contributions to the party and country. Naming the country’s international airport in his honour, a bust at the bottom of Market Street along with being the country’s first National Hero, are among the accolades bestowed on him by an appreciative nation.

Now, nearly 20 years since V.C’s departure from politics, Lester Bird is losing his grip on the party he inherited from his father.

There are several contenders for the throne, including Lester’s longtime ally and confidante, Robin Yearwood. At Friday’s executive meeting, he made the clearest statement so far of intentions when he addressed the gathering and urged Bird to desist from making further public statements on the aborted debate of the No Confidence Motion. He is reported to have told Bird that with each statement, his credibility takes further beating.

Yearwood is strategically promoting himself as the ‘Saviour’ of the ALP. His argument is that by selecting him, the party would avoid a nasty fight between Chairman Gaston Browne and St Mary’s North representative, Molwyn Joseph. Over the past several years, Yearwood has carefully nurtured close relations with the business community in preparation for taking over the leadership of the ALP.

But other party sources are saying this is not yet a done deal and there are suggestions of a ‘dark horse’ candidate emerging from the floor of the convention who could very well emerge as the new party leader. Only time will tell.

But for those members of the party who may feel let down with the absence of a Bird at the helm of the party when Lester Bird exists, they may be comforted by the political activity of Vere Bird III, whose Lone Wolf group has demonstrated a sense of fearlessness that was associated with a younger V.C Bird.

If he continues on this trajectory, he may well be a contender for leadership of the ALP in 10 to 15 years.

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18 Comments In This Article   

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RE: Inside Politics – End of An Era?

#18 Anonymous » 2012-06-13 09:10

Gaston as the best choice for the revival of the Antigua Labour Party is a no brainer. Replace Lester with Molwyn or Robin does not represent change. In addition, you would need a new leader in a few years if either Gaston is younger, brighter of better integrity than the others. he is strong and would not be manipulated by certain business interest to the detriment of the state. He also has a deep sense of loyalty to the people. The only problem I had with Gaston was his abrasiveness which he has changed. I believe that he would make a good leader and instead of tearing him to pieces the party needs to embrace him.
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Anonymous

RE: Inside Politics – End of An Era?

#17 J Bird » 2012-06-12 23:41

Gaston is the best man for the job, simple and plain like that,
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J Bird

@Watching

#16 ANTIGUAN WOMAN » 2012-06-12 19:33

Although i agree that it may be time for some structure within the ALP,i fail to see how and when has Lester Bird ever tried to hold on to power at any cost,he lost his seat in 2004,and was re-elected in 2009 by the people of his constituency.If/when there is a convention and he is voted out,then so be it., give me a couple rational and logical examples of Lester becoming a laughing stock.It seem some of you just use words because you know how to spell them.Have you taken the time to really listen to the PM on the recordings with his own voice,which cannot be disputed? The man clearly cannot count,he has a serious problem in using Decimal points,simply put he does not know the place value of figures past hundreds.If that is not making a laughing stock of yourself i dont know what else is. Focus on the blinking dunce Govt we have and leave Lester Bird alone,he never once when in Govt made a public spectacle of himself.
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ANTIGUAN WOMAN

RE: Inside Politics – End of An Era?

#15 Rubbin alcohol » 2012-06-12 17:33

Lester the people clearly don't want you. We have a government that doesn't account for anything yet people chose to have a referendum on you as the leader of the opposition. Uncle les be a statesman for once in your life walk with Joseph and robin so people can focus on whats important. We have an incompetent government than except for the artificial growth experience leading up to the world cup has proven a dismal failure. There is no denying there is a leadership problem and it's in the UPP. I would have loved to hear the debate I guess comrade leader had clothes on the line. what a pity. There are reasons for a vote of no confidence but I guess when there is a fire in the new Antigua under UPP it matters who yell fire.
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Rubbin alcohol

De Real Observer

#14 Osbert R. Frederick » 2012-06-12 14:17

What the ALP and indeed Antigua and Barbuda need right now is not just leadership, but leadership with stewardship. Leadership without stewardship is a recipe for disaster. We have seen it under the UPP. They came to office promisingto be good stewards of the nation's possessions, but failed miserably. All they were concearned about is leadership power and got caught up in the three P's of distruction: position, possession and prostitution. All Antigua/Barbuda now suffers because of this. Come on house of Labour, the people of this fair land look to us for rescue. Let us reunite leadership with stewardship. It is the only way to do it right. any other way will end in disaster. A word to the wise is enough,
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Osbert R. Frederick

under the rug

#13 Jumbee Picknee » 2012-06-12 14:15

The magic rug which every evil, wrong doing, prejudice etc have been swept under by the pseudo mentallity of many in our Nation, cannot and will not fly anymore. It's overloaded with crap from all of the poliical parties brooms...SWEEP DEM OUT, a wey de obeah broom dey, fu fly dem south to hell....
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Jumbee Picknee

Johnny

#12 tenman » 2012-06-12 12:53

Johnny, sadly some people forget this tradition where the "royal" family was concerned. Power continues to be garnered whether via birth or marriage. Anyone who needs a reminder, should take the time to watch the showtime show "the Borgias" on how to get and keep power. Its amazing that even today and in Antigua of all places, worth for some continues to be based on family name and status.
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tenman

@ Tenman

#11 Johnny » 2012-06-12 10:52

HAHA! Tenman is so right. Gaston, with his new-found sense of nuclear family ties, will be the leader of the ALP
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Johnny

Applicable to Anyone

#10 Smoke n Mirrors » 2012-06-12 10:27

To everything there is a season. It matters not what the last name is, the bottom line is that we are all mortals. Today for me, tomorrow for you.

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" Hebrews 9:27

"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." James 4:14

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not Lamentations 3:22
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Smoke n Mirrors

@Everton Barnes

#9 tenman » 2012-06-12 09:06

Mr. Barnes you are wrong in your analysis. There will be another Bird, heading the ALP. In order to get a family name one can get it via birth or marriage (traditional or legal). Since the winner will most likely be Gaston, the Bird tradition continues.

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tenman

THE LAST FLIGHT?

#8 THE GODFATHER » 2012-06-12 08:46

Shakespeare also said 'Fair is foul and foul is fair' so it's wishful thinking to assume Oppoisition leader Lester Bird will step down in November 2012! Never happen, and to suggest there is currency left in the 'Bird' name is just as false, since it's at the level of the Zimbabwe currency. Fair exchange?

Everton you are making Lester very angry this morning, you know Tanner Street, and to give him a mop to keep it dry you are sentencing the man to endless labour. Is this your 1735?

And for younto select Robin Yearwood as a contender shows your the particular business community the support is coming from, and there is no doubt about that. I have always said Gaston is the best choice for ALPs revival!
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THE GODFATHER

Opposition don't have much time!

#7 Dig It » 2012-06-12 08:15

Everton, "those that don't know their history are doomed to repeat it." I am of the view that "leadership" is a "natural" talent that you don't need to "buy" or "sell!" However, our "politricks" in Antigua have shown over the years that the "sycophants" tend to "dictate" one's political career with their "delusional" sentiments and demands! At the same time, our politicians "prey" on the electorates like a child looking for "sympathy" from his or her parent in their "actions\inactions!" Everton, if you ask on the street, many are "fed-up" with the GOAB for their "mismanagement" of the economy! No public inquiries into the Fencing Scandal or WPP! Yet, they are also "frustrated" with the ALP for failing to act on their behalf! And, the "failed" Motion of No Confidence and continuous public "fights" have leave a bitter-taste in many mouths! If we are waiting for a Party Convention to solve this leadership problem, we may very well be in for a "rude-awakening!"
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Dig It

@ Lester

#6 Family Guy » 2012-06-12 08:04

It is really a sad cometary when not even your family is able to get you to see the need to save what is left of your Legacy - and leave now!

Boy...retribution is a hell of a thing! By the way where is the medical record you had promised to release to the Nation after your last fainting spell in the Cathedral? It doesn't matter any more, since a liar is worse than one with poor health to lead a Nation...as was shown over the No Confidence Vote embar**ing fallout!

You and Asot need to lie down at Dry Hill and "Cool OUT"!
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Family Guy

@ Everton

#5 Bush Doctor » 2012-06-12 07:52

Great Article for the most part! Except that Robin's name is mentioned in every big money deal in this country! As a result, wouldn't it be like replacing "pot" with a more burnt "kettle"?

I think that Robin has too many business connections with Lester - gotten while they were in office together - to trust him to be any different!

I don't see a compromised candidate emerging! The ALP Party under the Birds has never had a strategy for Leadership succession! It may therefore take an amendment to the Party's constitution to term limits for leaders to ensure a cleaner succession in future!

It seems therefore the race is between Maulwyn and Gaston! The Party should do a Poll and based on results, chose the "new" Leader!
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Bush Doctor

Convicts on the left Rogues on the right

#4 PLM » 2012-06-12 07:17

Well, the ALP pappy show continues, and although I was the first to make VC3’s ultimate intentions known, for Mr. Barnes to suggest that it was even in the realm of possibility that a jail bird could assume the top position in the ALP, tells you all you need to know about the red brigade. Also, the idea that Robin “de hood” is offering himself as a contender is laughable in the extreme. For the record, the ALP will never win another national election with Robin “de hood” at the helm. Convicts on the left rogues on the right; oh how the mighty have fallen.
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PLM

RE: Inside Politics – End of An End?

#3 Audrey » 2012-06-12 07:09

Everton! Everton!. Sounds good until the last sentence. Vere111 reminds me when gaston first came on the scene abrasive and rude. To be fair gaston has made a complete turn and the same might be on the card for young vere but a sence of entitlement, arrogance and ignorance could derail his maturity. I would more look to Gail Christian or gaston Browne to infuse new life in the party and garner a wider cross section of support. Let's face it UPP ain't exactly cutting it. If we had a viable opposition there is no way, no way upp should have gotten a second term.
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Audrey

RE: Inside Politics – End of An End?

#2 Hmmmm » 2012-06-12 06:19

Why is it that the Birds do not want to relinquish power and bow out of politics gracefully? Isnt it ironic that Lester did his best to ge rid of VC and declared him incompetent and now he is walking down the same road.
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Hmmmm

We can't Lester!!

#1 Watching » 2012-06-12 06:06

Lester Bird is going through retribution, and only God can help him; we the people have no control over that. He will continue to make a public nuisance of himself, and a constant laughing stock.

Robin for leadership is a joke! He has to come clean about the various dealings he xxxxd for xxx "business partners", the xxxxxs. He may lead the ALP, but cannot be trusted to lead Antigua and Barbuda; that will only be the rubber stamp for the continued giveaway of Antigua to the the xxxxxs.

Leadership and politics in our country is at a crisis point, and only next moves will be critical.
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Watching

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