Dr. Oswald Thomas, a member of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) and a seasoned political and campaign strategist, has officially declared his intention to contest the St. Phillip’s North seat, currently held by the ABLP’s Sir Robin Yearwood.
Speaking exclusively to Twin Island Media on Monday, Dr. Thomas asserted his candidacy as a potential Labour candidate stating, “I have declared my candidacy to replace Sir Robin.”
Dr. Thomas said he applied in February of 2023. He explained that his decision to apply for candidacy was fueled by the support he garnered both within the constituency and from the Antiguan diaspora, having been an advisor and campaign manager to Sir Robin Yearwood over the years. “Folks have always asked me to consider running, and so, like the prophet, I have said, ‘Who will go?’ And I said, ‘Send me,'” Dr. Thomas stated
Sir Robin, the most senior member of the Labour Party, has reportedly retired from active politics after serving for 47 years. His last victory was in the January 18, 2023 general elections, where he secured his seat with a lead of 93 votes. His victory saw him fending off United Progressive Party (UPP) candidate Alex Browne, who garnered 615 votes, and Democratic National Alliance (DNA) candidate Mario Thomas, who received 16 votes. On February 17, 2023, Sir Robin was sworn in as Deputy Speaker of the House of Parliament.
Dr. Thomas’ candidacy hinges on the possibility that Sir Robin might be unable to fulfill his full term in office. If such a scenario arises, a by-election would be triggered for the St. Phillip’s North constituency.
Dr. Thomas acknowledged that there were already three other potential candidates vying for the seat. “I’ll wait for them to make their own announcement … as it stands, it’s about four persons,” he revealed.
One notable contender is Sir Robin’s son, Robin Yearwood Jr., who has also indicated his interest in the MP position. However, Dr. Thomas expressed his reservations about Robin Jr.’s campaign, emphasizing that his association with the retiring veteran politician might not work in his favour. “Given the margin of win for Robin Sr. in the last election, it is sending a very strong message that the legacy of Sir Robin or the Yearwood is over,” Dr. Thomas remarked.
Dr. Thomas added that Robin jr. is “not very well known” in the community, outside of being the son of the current representative and it simply isn’t the time for him to serve. “He has been back and forth from England to Antigua and I’ve known him since he was a baby so I congratulate him in wanting to serve … and the others as well in wanting to serve but I just think his time hasn’t come yet,” he explained.
He believes that the St. Phillip’s North constituents want someone with experience and who can “hit the ground running” and can be committed to the development of the people and constituency. “We’re not at this point looking for someone to learn on the jo but we’re looking for someone with experience.”
Already, a by-election is slated for the St. Mary’s South constituency, where UPP’s Kelvin “Shugy” Simon emerged victorious in the January general elections. However, a legal dispute questioning the legitimacy of his position led Simon to step down from his role. Now, he’s gearing up to contest the by-election to regain the seat he previously held.
He will compete against a former party colleague Dwayne George. If Simon manages to retain his seat and another by-election is then triggered in the St. Phillip’s North constituency, the ABLP will be thrown out of government and replaced by the now opposition, United Progressive Party.
The outcome of a by-election in St. Phillip’s North could potentially sway the overall government majority. With just one seat away from being ousted, the ABLP’s standing would become increasingly vulnerable.