When the United Democratic Party was formally established on September 27 of 1973, it was comprised of three political parties: the National Independence Party (NIP), the People’s Development Movement (PDM), and the Liberal Party. There was a fourth political party involved in the founding of the UDP, but it has never been acknowledged. That was the UBAD Party, and its presence in the original UDP has never been acknowledged, one reason being that the UBAD had actually divided in two earlier in 1973 precisely because of the UDP issue. In addition, the ideas and opinions of the UBAD Party were not considered appropriate or acceptable to the power brokers of the new UDP. And, there was the issue of Hon. Philip Goldson, and his relationship with the UBAD Party.
The founding of the UDP represented the successful completion of a plot to oust the Hon. Philip Goldson as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. When the UDP was formed in September 1973, it did not name a Leader, the reason being that while members and supporters of the new party knew that attorney Dean Russell Lindo was their de facto Leader, the Hon. Philip Goldson, the Leader of the NIP, was the most popular and powerful politician the new UDP had on the ground.
Of the three political parties which officially comprised the UDP at formation, neither the PDM, established in 1969, or the Liberal Party, formed in 1972, had ever participated in any kind of election, apart from the PDM’s being the junior coalition member in the NIPDM alliance which contested, unsuccessfully, the December 1969 general election. The NIP had been contesting local and national elections from its formation in 1958 as an alliance between the National Party (NP), founded in 1951, and the Honduran Independence Party (HIP), founded in 1957.
Mr. Goldson had led the NIP from the time of the death of the NIP’s Leader, Herbert Fuller, in early 1962. He had sat in the House of Representatives from 1961 as the only Opposition member except for the period from March 1965 to December 1969 when he had been joined by Toledo’s Edwin Morey.
In October of 1971, Mr. Goldson had allied his NIP with the young UBAD Party to contest the December 1971 Belize City Council election. Following the defeat of the NIP/UBAD coalition, Mr. Goldson left for London in January of 1972 to study law. He was in London when his NIP Deputy Leaders, Senator Simeon Hassock and Ulric Fuller, took the NIP into the UDP forty years ago. Mr. Goldson did not return to Belize until the middle of 1974.
The main point of this editorial is that the original UDP proceeded to be dominated by PDM and Liberal Party elements, when there was no doubt that at the UDP’s formation the NIP was the most popular of the three parties. In becoming a PDM and Liberal-dominated entity, the UDP became an instrument of the wealthy classes in Belize. Because of the presence of those UBAD officials who supported the UDP, however, the UDP appeared roots enough to the Belizean people for the party to perform very well in the October 1974 general election, better, in fact, than the NIP had ever performed. With that October 1974 election success, the UDP openly declared Dean Lindo its Leader. Mr. Goldson was made Party Whip.
Between 1974 and 1979, nevertheless, it became clear to the people of Belize that the UDP was not a roots party and that Goldson had little or no say. Mr.Goldson retained his seat in the 1979 general election, but Dean Lindo and the two Liberal Party candidates – Manuel Esquivel and Paul Rodriguez, were defeated in Belize City.
From a certain perspective, the UDP can be seen as the 1973 mechanism which the wealthy elite used to gain power over the roots majority in the Opposition. From another perspective, one may say that the UDP of 1973 was a return to the elitist NP roots of 1951. Either way, the UDP in 1973 was about the dethroning of a Belizean political legend – Philip Stanley Wilberforce.
Mr. Goldson had been one of the founders of the People’s United Party (PUP) in 1950. He was a high ranking PUP official and an editor of the party newspaper, The Belize Billboard, when he was jailed for sedition by the British in 1951. Mr. Goldson lost a power struggle with Hon. George Price in August of 1956 and left the PUP, whereupon he founded the HIP along with Leigh Richardson. After Richardson left Belize, Mr. Goldson took the HIP into the NIP coalition in 1958.
During Mr. Goldson’s leadership of the NIP, his most charismatic move was the revelation of the Thirteen Proposals in 1966. He had been participating in talks led by the U.S. mediator, Bethuel Webster, appointed to negotiate a solution to the Anglo-Guatemalan dispute over Belize. Although he was sworn to secrecy, when Mr. Goldson realized that the Webster Proposals amounted to a “sellout” of Belize, he felt duty bound to reveal them to the Belizean people. Uprisings took place in Belize City as a consequence of Mr. Goldson’s courageous revelations.
If you look at Mr. Goldson’s overall political career, which includes his breaking away from the UDP and formation of the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR) in 1992, you can consider him somewhat of a maverick. The thing is, that when Belizean nationalist politics began here after World War II with the Open Forum, which included the General Workers Union (GWU) leaders, Clifford Betson and Henry Middleton, the energy came from the Belizean working class. What the Thirteen Proposals established in 1966, and Mr. Goldson’s anti-Maritime Areas Act position proved in late 1991, was that Philip Goldson was bucking a trend in Belizean politics which has seen the wealthy classes gain control of the country’s two major political parties. The workers lost influence in the Opposition when the UDP was formed in 1973, and they lost influence in the PUP when Ralph Fonseca and Glenn Godfrey, supported by Said Musa, came to power in 1989.
Philosophically, the UDP betrayed the NIP. This is one of the reasons the people of Belize are always calling the name of Philip Goldson. The people of Belize hold Mr. Philip in the highest of esteem. And this is one of the reasons the UDP celebration of their fortieth anniversary is muted. The UDP really don’t know what to do about Philip Goldson. In death, he is larger than life.