By Kadeem Joseph
As the United Progressive Party (UPP) officially launches its campaign to regain the reins of power in the next general elections — constitutionally due in 2023 — it is not only reaffirming Harold Lovell as its choice to lead the country, but is also certain that its slate of candidates is ready to lead.
In 2014, the party saw a major defeat in the polls as the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) swept 14 of 17 available seats, and after a snap election in 2018, Jamale Pringle became the only Member of Parliament for the UPP, representing All Saints East and St Luke, along with Barbuda’s representative Trevor Walker of the UPP-affiliated Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM).
Since then, Lovell has been the subject of strong criticism from the ABLP, which has sought to characterise him as a poor leader.
However, speaking on Wednesday during a campaign pre-launch media briefing, Lovell said the attacks were expected, adding that “if they didn’t, something is wrong with their strategy”.
“The criticisms will keep on coming, to the extent that I am here, they will throw stones … as they say on their radio station, if they can decapitate the party by hitting at the leader and bringing the leader down, it would be to their advantage,” he said, adding that just as “you can’t play mas’ and ‘fraid powder … you can’t be the leader of a party and be afraid of criticism”.
Lovell believes that whomever is the leader of the party will be the subject of criticism, but notes that the most important thing is that they have been able to pull the UPP back from “a heavy defeat” in 2014 despite the belief by some people that the party would not have recovered.
“When I look at where we were at the end of 2014 after our electoral defeat, and when I look at where we are now, and the launch that is taking place today with a solid set of candidates being totally competitive and expecting to win another election … that’s tremendous progress,” he added in committing the UPP to an agenda to transform Antigua and Barbuda.
General Secretary of the UPP, Senator Shawn Nicholas, affirmed Lovell’s position by saying that “no one throws stones at a tree that’s not bearing”.
She stated further that not only is Lovell the leader of the UPP, but the members are all standing with him.
Nicholas said since 2014 and the leadership race fallout of 2015 which saw then UPP MP Joanne Massiah depart the party along with several longstanding members, “it was Harold Lovell who put the pieces together and kept the party together so that we could be in the strong position we are in today”.
“So, for all those who think that if they attack the leader that it will weaken the party, it will only get us more energised,” she added.
“Going into the next election, Harold Lovell will be our leader and he will be our prime minister after the next election.”
The pre-launch briefing saw the unveiling of the party’s campaign logo, its slogan – ‘the right choice’ — and its website www.voteupp.com.
The party’s official launch will take place during a drive-in rally at the Potters playing field at 7pm tonight where the official presentation of its 16 candidates will be the main feature.