Who is Peter Wickham ?

Last week in reaction to the most recent CADRES poll, the UPP spin machinery launched a “political broadside” on this author in an attempt to suggest that CADRES’ predictions were either flawed on account of a poor methodology or were inspired by “ill-intentions”grounded in our support for one of the political parties.  Naturally neither of these propositions are true and while I appreciate that “self-praise is no praise” I also feel constrained to correct several perceptions that the UPP machinery has sought to promulgate.

The first and perhaps the most ludicrous is the suggestion that “I” along with publication Caribbean Times “dropped out of nowhere”.  The suggestion is patently untrue and represents an insult to the intelligence of the Antigua and Barbudan population that would have had some knowledge of my work and involvement in the politics of Antigua and Barbuda since 2004.  The simple fact is that CADRES initial involvement here was in 2003, which was more than one year ahead of the 2004 general election.  CADRES conducted polls locally and published some results in anticipation of the 2004 election which the UPP won as predicted.  The publication of the CADRES poll generated substantial interest and as a result I was asked to be part of the 2004 election coverage on Observer Radio which witnessed the historic changing of the political guard.

This association continued in the wake of the change of government and in addition to our involvement in several confidential political exercises, CADRES did further work in Antigua culminating in a 2009 prediction that the UPP would retain office.  There was considerable interest around that time in the role of former Prime Minister Lester Bird and I was very forthcoming with my opinions on his role on Observer Radio.  That organisation seemed quite comfortable with my professionalism and willingness to re-state the opinion that Lester Bird was doing the ABLP a disservice by continuing to lead.  In 2009 CADRES polled Antigua yet again and again we correctly predicted a UPP victory and I participated in the Observer Election night commentary.

Thee can therefore be little question that CADRES as an organisation and Peter Wickham as one of its directors can lay claim to more than ten years of exposure and involvement in the politics of Antigua and Barbuda and while some of what we have done has remained confidential, much of it has been squarely in the public domain and available for critique and discussion.  At the regional level there is also much that needs to be said about our work which has touched every single English Speaking Caribbean island, as well as St Maarten, St Eustatius and Haiti.  CADRES was established in 1991 and my association can be traced back to 1994 with my leadership starting in 1998.  We have conducted public opinion polls, focus groups and related research for various clients for over a decade and we stand by our promise that we have NEVER published a poll in ANY COUNTRY within 30 days of an election that was not within a +/-5% margin of the predicted outcome in terms of popular support.

It is therefore unfortunate the UPP in its effort to discredit this organisation sought to advance information that was entirely misleading and incorrect which implied that CADRES did 3 polls only since its inception and these were all wrong.  This assertion ignores the reality that CADRES has completed approximately 200 public opinion polls regionally since its inception and these included the set which correctly predicted the outcome of the 2004 and 2009 elections here.

The information advanced with respect to Grenada was particularly unfortunate since it is not only untrue to suggest that we called the 2008 election there incorrectly, the UPP also conveniently forgot to mention that two days prior to the Barbados 2013 election we predicted that the NNP would be swept to power winning all fifteen seats, which
is precisely what happened.

Some truth can be located in the assertion that CADRES relies heavily on the Swing Analysis; however it is both untrue malicious to suggest that this political tool is “flawed” by reference to the election in Barbados and the UK.  CADRES has pioneered the use of the swing analysis as a predictive tool in the Caribbean and it worked flawlessly here in 2004 and 2009.  Across in Barbados, we relied on the swing analysis in 1999, 2003, 2008 and 2013.  Its utility as a predictive tool was demonstrated in the 1999 landslide election as well as the 2003 and 2008 elections.  It was particularly useful to note the comparison between the results of polling done by UWI’s CHAPO using traditional methods and CADRES using the swing analysis in 2008, which proved the superiority of the Swing analysis which the UPP is gleefully unaware of.  We readily admit that swing analysis did not predict the party winning the 2013 election in Barbados, but CADRES nonetheless came within the promised margin regarding the popular support outcome.  If one wishes to condemn the swing analysis based on this election, one would need to identify the alternative approach which would have worked better, which is a question that boggles the mind of analysts until now.

In my personal capacity I have authored a column in the NATION newspaper Barbados since 1998 and have made additional contributions to the regional press on an occasional basis.  My articles have been reprinted in the Antigua Observer, Trinidad Express and Jamaica Gleaner, along with numerous other publications across the OECS.  This contribution to the region’s printed media has been complimented by a regional profile that I dear say is not matched by any other analyst. I have been attached to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) as their political analyst since 2001 and as such have been part of a regional conversation about politics for more than a decade and between 2008 and 2011 I also served in a similar capacity at the state owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation in Barbados.

Earlier this year I accepted an invitation from Caribbean Times to contribute regularly to their new publication and I happily accepted this invitation to expose the Antiguan and Barbudan population to my brand of political analysis.  I have contributed each week and have never been censured or advised that I should or should not write anything that was favourable to one or other political party.  Like most Antiguans and Barbudans I understand the ownership of this publication in much the same way that we knew the ownership of Stanford’s paper as in the same way that the Sun’s Editor denied that he ever received editorial instruction from Stanford, I can state categorically that I have never received such instructions from anyone in the management of this paper.

Neither CADRES nor, Peter Wickham can attempt to suggest that we are perfect, but we will both jealously guard our sincerity and integrity in our chosen profession and hope that Antiguans and Barbudans will judge us on the entirety of our regional work and not a selective presentation designed to suit political ends.

Peter W. Wickham (peter.wickham@caribsurf.com) is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).

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