Former Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party government minister Asot Michael has served notice of a challenge to Gaston Browne for the leadership of the Party and the post of Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. The Member of Parliament for St Peters since 2004, the closest and best known ally of Prime Minister Browne, spoke in a special session of Parliament on July 11, 2020 where he praised Browne for his commitment to regional integration and his stance on saving the regional airline LIAT.
Michael told Browne while are “brothers for life” in a relationship that transcends politics “that don’t mean I won’t run against you for Prime Minister one day and challenge you in the party for the leadership”. Michael is widely regarded as Browne’s key supporter in his bid, following the defeat of the Antigua Labour Party in 2004 after 28 years in government, to wrest the leadership of the Party from the grip of the Bird family, who in their own right has been an institution in this country. He used his contribution to debate of the Company Amendment Bill to stroll down memory lane: “I was the first person to stand with you to become Political Leader, before many sitting in this House. I was the first to stand with you against all odds… against my surrogate father Lester Bryant Bird. And Lester never forgave me up to this day”. Michael who resigned from Browne’s Cabinet in May 2018 said the Prime Minister and himself are “blood brothers” for good reason: “Because we suffered together and when the police came to my home you were there. And when they wanted, certain members, including Sir Lester and Lennox Weston and Molwyn Joseph and Robin to expel me from the Party, you mash up the whole of 46 North Street and you stood up for me… And when Jimmy Fuller and Robin wanted to take away St Peters you stood up for me… And when the police came to Dry Hill and held my mother hostage for 14 hours, you pushed down the barricade and you were the first to reach there…
“You were always there for me as a brother and I will always be there for you, despite our differences in the past”, Michael said. It is a well known fact not just in Antigua and Barbuda but in Caribbean leadership circles that had it not been for Michael’s unwavering financial and political support for Browne he would have never been able to defeat Sir Lester Bryant Bird for the leadership of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party and go on to become the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. In fact, Browne has expressed similar sentiments on more than one occasion on his own radio station. This is the first clear public statement from the popular MP for St Peters that he has his eyes on national leadership, but it remains unclear what his next steps will be or if there will be any steps at all.