Sat | Sep 26, 2020

Mark Wignall | PM Holness anxious for the whip

Published:Sunday | June 21, 2020 | 12:16 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Don’t you ever be fooled by the title of this column. I was actually trying to meld the immediate political desires of politicians with the rest of the society they are supposed to represent.

At this time, they are all on the same page. The two-unit hairdresser wants full opening up and so does the hotel employing hundreds of people when we are beautifully overrun by tourists from the USA, Canada, and Europe.

The bar owner wants it and will never be in a position to reconsider another lockdown. ‘No, don’t mention it to mi. Police haffi come and lock mi up. How much a wi dem can lock up? It nah happen.

There may be holdouts in the education sector as to when will be the perfect time to return to pre-COVID-19 times school. Some believe there will be indelible changes, but as of now, it is mostly a guessing game as to how every sector in the country, government, big private players with outsized political influence, medium-sized businesses and the hustling among us have actually charted a believable picture.

And how the changes in each sector will create bottlenecks or flow smoothly with every other sector.

Not ever to be omitted from the main players in this stage are the politicians. At this time, I believe that Prime Minister Andrew Holness would have had to have this number cut and pasted in his head by the best of his highly trained technocrats. The number of days that the country has gone without a new case of COVID-19.

To me, that would have had to be one of the numbers that would factor into his decision on officially launching a campaign and naming a date for elections.

Let us assume that that number is 21. All of the COVID-19 protocols are rigidly maintained. Much would bank on whether the numbers are zero or, say, halfway into the campaign or two weeks the graph begins to climb.

In the early 1970s, there was a political bond that was magically forged between persons in their early 20s to those in the age 30 group, with the words coming from the honeyed lips of Michael Manley.

Is there something like this operating now with Holness and that same age grouping?

Coming out of what we believe will be the worst of our experience with COVID-19, the prospect of many unknowns ahead and the need of the Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to rid itself of any political mosquitoes buzzing around its ears, we are, all of us, in that decelerating part of COVID-19. It may prove more difficult than the days when it was speeding straight ahead and into destroying many lives and livelihood.

The most foolish thought that political pundits should have is one that leads them not to sense when a name and a trend have outlived their sell-by date.

Could Peter Phillips surprise Andrew Holness?

The most favoured thought or position one holds for JLP’s Andrew Holness in his comparison with the People’s National Party (PNP) opposition leader is that Phillips has tried just about everything to convince the people of this country that he has one last electoral hurrah in him, but Holness keeps on bettering him in opinion polls.

But just as how the painful reality of COVID-19 brought out what I believe will prove to be advantageous poll numbers for Holness and the JLP over the next few weeks, the delicate reopening up of the economy will present to the JLP no better a template than they had when COVID-19 struck in March.

In other words, this is still uncharted territory.

Dr Peter Phillips needs to concentrate on a target like an eagle on high and reacting to the slightest movement hundreds of yards away. Is Dr Phillips up to that political quest? And if he ups the volume of his political voice and it gets lost in the thickness of electoral fog, was it ever heard?

It is not so much that Dr Phillips as PNP opposition leader has anything new to seriously affect Holness like the new ball on a bouncy pitch. This is Jamaica. We are still in the embrace, if not the clutches, of COVID-19. There are still too many powerful guns in the hands of too many youngsters who have locked off themselves from society.

Too many of our men still maltreat their women. What can Phillips offer us as solutions here that presents a better and a more believable picture?

Mike Henry and Karl Samuda: survivors

Too many times it appears that the guns of the underworld are about to threaten the vast majority of us who are law abiding. Where are Peter Phillips’ solutions?

It would be hypocritical of me to advocate a position in support of JLP politicians Mike Henry and Karl Samuda as being the best that our politics could produce. But, say what you will of them, they have survived, and at many times, it was close to life threatening.

Mike Henry, JLP MP representing Central Clarendon, is 85 years of age. If a lot of good things and a pile of bad things did not happen to him, it is only because he has at least another 85 years ahead of him.

If Mike Henry is in a large living room at a cocktail party with 150 people, it would be an easy guess to believe that Mike considers himself the brightest one in that room.

His colleague from North Central St Andrew, Karl Samuda is 78. Samuda is now full minister of education. Henry is now the newly minted minister of labour and social security.

What is hardly ever known is the extent to which these two veterans have mentored many young politicians in winning against the odds.

In 1976, Mike Henry was shot while campaigning in York Town in Clarendon. In 1980, he captured the Central Clarendon seat and has ‘owned’ it ever since.

Samuda? Wins for both the JLP and PNP. Legend.

- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to and