Fri | Aug 23, 2019

Mark Wignall | Storm clouds up ahead for the PNP

Published:Sunday | March 31, 2019 | 12:12 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips
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As a political watcher, the recent RJRGLEANER-Don Anderson polls showing Peter Phillips less popular than the PNP can hardly be seen as an ‘I told you so’ moment. Many had already sensed that each time he stepped up to a PNP podium to talk, his delivery not only lacked oomph but some loyal PNP supporters applauded him out of courtesy instead of them feeling any political interest or excitement.

While JLP leader and prime minister, Andrew Holness, is not yet at the level of popularity of Portia Simpson Miller in the years leading up to 2006, and might never get to those dizzying heights, the polls, if accurate, are showing him in electorally safe territory, with his popularity ahead of the JLP and taking that party to whipping boy territory of both Peter Phillips and the PNP.

Four days from today, both the JLP and the PNP will know the results of the Portland East by-election. If one should follow the historical trend, the PNP will dance home to glory and Damion Crawford will be free to gloat and Peter Phillips will wipe that sweat of relief from his brow.

It doesn’t seem, however, that we are still hewing to the accepted history. Bill Johnson’s poll was showing the JLP safely ahead in Portland East a few weeks ago. If that is not only holding but congealing, and the political sentiments, as expressed in the Don Anderson polls, are also felt in the hills and valleys of East Portland, the JLP will snatch the seat.

Andrew Holness has ‘it’, that aura that defines itself in approval, some amount of trust and a general feeling that he needs more time in governance to complete his development objectives.

Peter Phillips looks laboured each time he gets up to talk. He knows the right things to say but, as I have stated repeatedly, Peter’s best days are behind him when he was the fixit man in both the P.J. Patterson and the Simpson Miller administrations.

At this time, his ‘it’ was never ever there, even in the glory days when Portia’s popularity and PJ’s organisational ability were holding the PNP together.

The option available to the PNP, if their worst fears are realised and Ann-Marie Vaz beats Damion Crawford, is to immediately set in motion the machinery to replace the leadership of the PNP.

With two massive scandals barely into investigative phase but with significant number of voters willing to accept that Holness has acted somewhat responsibly in his ‘ownership’ of these scandals, that hoped for by the PNP has not happened. Not yet, at any rate. The JLP government has not faltered, faded and died on the vine.

It is still blooming.

EAST PORTLANDERS MUST DEMAND MORE

On the day before the North East St Ann by-election in mid-2001, road construction material was being delivered in an effort to sway fence sitters to vote for the party which formed the government, the PNP. The JLP ran a clinical political campaign and totally reversed the PNP’s success in that constituency.

Of interest was the fact that all roadworks that were ostensibly planned immediately ceased. It was just the typical governmental plot to fool up a few weak-minded voters. The very fact that the JLP’s Shahine Robinson has held on to that seat since 2001 must mean that JLP voters are more satisfied with the JLP’s policies in the constituency than they are with the PNP’s promises.

For this reason, I am imploring likely voters in Portland East not to be afraid to ask pointed questions to both Vaz and Crawford as they continue to meet and greet and talk from various podiums.

Poor roads? When will they be fixed? Tourism development? What are the timelines, and how much of the expected development will go to the small man and the so-called little people? Water supplies? I am certain that both Vaz and Crawford have regular flows of water in their pipes.

Voters in the eastern parish must demand their humanity and water as a right and not as a privilege.

Many years ago, in the early 2000s, while I was in Boundbrook in Portland, I found myself in conversation with some men of voting age. They were expressing dissatisfaction with a certain politician. I suggested that they invite the politician to the bar and then slowly lead him to the back section where a gully ran by.

“Just mek him place him back to di gully and put him under pressure with questions,” I suggested.

Many of them shouted agreement with me as I told them not to actually throw the politician in the gully.

“Just carry him to the edge and mek him get scared until him give onnu a straight question.”

One old man sat at the bar counter. He was by himself. As the rest of the men left, he called me over. “A like how you talk, youngster, but mek mi tell yu something. Yu si if dat politician come in here, him just buy dem a bag a liquor and dem shut dem mout. Dat a di reality.”

There is a sense that voters are getting smarter and they have learned the money rules which govern by-elections. Many uptowners, with their noses in the air, do not understand that to the rural voters, election campaigns are mini carnivals where they fully aim to enjoy themselves. Even if it means eating from the plates of both the JLP and the PNP.

A significant number of voters have concluded that it often makes little sense to empower the opposition party in a by-election. The way they have figured it is that the opposition has no power to deal with development in the particular constituency.

One man from a sea lookout at Fairy hill told me the following last weekend: “If di young people dem vote, Miss Vaz gwine win. Whey wi fi gi it to Crawford for? Him just a run him mout all ova di place and if him win him not gwine have any power.”

A woman in a shop in Manchioneal told me that she is traditionally a PNP voter “… but a don’t think a gwine to vote in dis one.”

I asked her why.

“Look how long wi a vote PNP and what wi get for it? Is pure foolishness. Mi can’t do dat again.”

PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE ON CORRUPTION?

Both political parties, when in opposition, retain their senior contacts in the civil service. Whenever there is the slightest whiff of governmental corruption, there are two responses. First is, if governmental authorities are aware of it there will be the tendency to cover it up by transferring personnel.

If nothing is done, the opposition will pounce on it, as has been done in recent months and weeks. A similar thing happened in 2006 when then opposition leader, Bruce Golding, revealed the Trafigura story about the PNP and the nation moved into social and political chaos.

To date, that matter is still languishing in the courts, with the PNP fighting back against full disclosure.

With many matters of corruption shared between both political parties, especially the PNP, it can’t be an easy job for the PM to be constantly on top of his monitoring game.

For this reason, it falls to the present prime minister to step up and issue a pre-emptive strike.

We need the prime minister to issue his own apology on behalf of those who he may believe are the miscreants clogging up his administration and who may yet show up in matters that he can only hope remain buried.

Apologise for them, PM, before they are exposed. I know it’s not a laughing matter but it may just prompt them to walk the straight and narrow.

 

- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com