Amanda Thomas is no stranger to political journalists. Ever since her election to parliament via a by-election in 2014, the Corpus native has jumped at every opportunity to be the Democratic Left Party’s mouthpiece on media rounds. Her appointment as Secretary for Culture, the Arts, and Heritage in 2018 did little to change this – dubbed the “Minister for Fun”, a large part of Thomas’ perceived party duties has been to get on television, on radio, and in newspapers defending various government policies.
It would be foolish, though, to think Thomas is nothing more than a lapdog, sent out to bark the latest on behalf of the DLP. She is a very astute politician, who has complete command of her brief, and has thrown herself into the job. She has attended every major sporting game, opens everything from pop-up art installations to state-of-the-art museums, and makes it a point to attend the theatre every weekend. There’s little that goes on in Sanctaria’s cultural sphere that Thomas doesn’t know about – even her critics don’t deny she isn’t dedicated.
That’s not to say the dedication is an entirely good thing. What comes up most when you talk to fellow DLP MPs about Thomas is another sort of dedication – fanaticism. She is a die-hard socialist, with critics even going so far as to label her “radical communist with violent ambitions”, though there is no proof at all that is accurate. What is true is that Thomas has alienated a lot of party colleagues with her dogmatic beliefs, refusal to compromise, and tendency to dig in to her positions and not give any ground. It’s understood that Thomas had originally attempted to achieve nomination for leader by getting 1/3 of DLP MPs to sign her papers – she failed in this endeavour and had to resort to two state boards backing her. What does it say about her ability command the confidence of the Deputies if she is to be Chancellor if she can’t even get 140 of her own MPs to support her for leader?
Thomas comes from a single parent, working class family in an area of Corpus that natives say has been “neglected” by successive city councils and national governments. An only child, Thomas had to work two jobs from the age of 14 to help support her mother, and then to support her way through college, where she not only graduated with a degree in addiction therapy, but she also came into her political beliefs. After graduation, she worked with inner city homeless groups, and was a group leader at various anonymous addiction therapy groups. Supporters of hers say her tendency to be stubborn and blunt-to-the-point-of-rudeness stems from these sessions, where she fought hard for funding, and for the wellbeing of the addicts who had come for help.
She was elected as a DLP Councillor to Corpus City Council before eventually winning a by-election for the Corpus Inner City North constituency (now 3rd canton) in 2014. Her force of nature soon caught DLP Leader Charlene Hendry’s attention and after some time as a junior spokesperson on drugs and addiction, was made DLP Spokesperson on Communities in 2016, shadowing Secretary Dorian Gallows. Thomas was, by all objective accounts, very good in this role. She articulated DLP policy in the House and in media very deftly, and took every opportunity to attack the SCP government, who by this point had been in government continuously for over 16 years, for leaving the vulnerable behind.
Her public appearances belied a fraught relationship with her shadow cabinet colleagues, though. More than once, according to DLP sources, MPs went to Hendry asking for Thomas to be sacked because of verbal harassment, rude behaviour, and even accusations of bullying of staff, and of fellow MPs, who Thomas, allegedly, didn’t see as being socialist enough. Hendry stood by Thomas, though, clearly, and when she entered government in 2018, gave her a cabinet spot as Culture Secretary. Thomas, though outwardly thankful, was privately seething according to those who shared her confidence at the time. She had wanted a more had hitting portfolio like Education or Health, but would have settled for Family Affairs or Social Welfare as they better reflected her past work. Instead, she was asked to go to football games, archery competitions, movie premieres, and culture nights.
Thomas’ reputation may bother the many moderates in the party, but to the socialist wing, she is their standard bearer. It’s understood the faction informally decided early after Hendry announced her retirement that they should endorse or produce only one candidate. Equality Secretary Ann Ramirez agreed to step aside for Thomas on the understanding she would be made Deputy Leader, and be given a good cabinet portfolio in the next government if Thomas and the DLP won the upcoming general election.
Popular with party members, particularly the youth wing and those under 40, Thomas has an excellent chance of winning the leadership vote. But her hard left beliefs will be an easy target for the SCP, with the wider electorate of Sanctaria more moderate than Thomas, and more wary of a self-described socialist. Polling suggests the DLP with Thomas as leader would struggle in a general election, and her contenders for the DLP crown will be focusing on this when appealing to party members for their votes.
JOEY SESSIONS, Political Editor