Daniel Thwaites: The A, B, C, & D of JLP
Those who advocate setting timetables for national elections aren't taking into account an important feature of Jamaica man's mind: on any day, and at any time, we prefer fun to reason and logic. It's part of our charm. A fixed date would rob the country of one of its favourite guessing games: "When dem a go call it?"
I'm not saying one way is necessarily better than the other. All I'm saying is that proponents of the fixed date need to consider carefully that going against them is the sheer joy of unpredictability. When will The Trumpet sound or The Bell ring? Of course, rather like the Father on heavenly matters, only the prime minister knows the day and the hour. But all the signals are being sent.
I see a number of newspaper articles that smack of PNP overconfidence. I don't think the facts bear it out, at least not in a straightforward way. I say that because, despite the problems of the JLP, were the party to sort itself out, I see no reason why it could not become formidable. Even in the 2011 election, when there was a tidal wave of disgust with the JLP, there were very many constituencies that won by 500 votes or fewer.
Andrew's bitter medicine
Since then, the PNP Government has been implementing the bitter medicine that Andrew promised, and the people, naturally, hold the Government responsible for it.
The PNP is full of strife at the constituency level. Make no mistake about it: if you go constituency by constituency, there is sufficient tumult and numerous intra-party contests looming. But on the national level, the PNP is tracking steadily.
Let me admit an item of personal surprise by asking this question: How is it that in the face of a punishing 7.5% surplus, which should have unmistakable political consequences, the JLP is merely running neck and neck with the Comrades? This is either testament to the great political skills of the PNP or to the doldrums in which the JLP has found itself. I think it's some of the latter.
This isn't because the JLP has been lacking for a certain kind of renewal. The party, so far, will field 24 new candidates for member of parliament, and 109 new candidates for councillor. Its spokesmen have been vocal on issues large and small. And yet, somehow, the elixir isn't working.
Here's where it gets hot. Many attribute it to the incessant bickering about the leadership, but the million-dollar question is whether that discord is the cause or the effect of contentious leadership. It's quite complicated to figure out which is causing which. And yet, at another level, it's as easy as A, B, C, or D: Andrew, Bobby, Chris, or Daryl.
Andrew's grip is increasingly tenuous. The Gleaner was able to report, despite the monumental public-relations job of Derrick Smith, that the result of those frightful recent caucus meetings was a 10-10 tie among the Opposition's parliamentary group. The tie only occurred because, at the eleventh hour when the axe was to fall, J.C. Hutchinson relented and gave Andrew some time to present a plan on how he intends to marshal the party in time for elections. Andrew is, therefore, holding on to the position as leader of the Opposition by the slightest tendril.
Originally, Andrew's plan was to be presented further down in September. However, my understanding is that in view of imminent elections, it is on for this Monday.
The first question will be: How are Andrew's plans to be funded? This is the trouble. Again, The Gleaner has reported that funding of the JLP is at what must be an all-time low. Part of this could very well be because Andrew's team has campaigned against his competitors by calling them agents for business and commercial interests who are "fighting dung de likkle man". That's all splendid rhetoric. The problem is when you have to turn around and ask those same people for money. Old-time people used to say "Man weh noh done cross riva, noh fi cuss alligator long mout". Or was it "long wallet"?
Fact is, the Labour Party is already thinking about the post-election. The feeling is that when (not if) Andrew stumbles, it will be up to Bobby, Chris and Daryl. But first: a word on Audley. Audley, I'm told, is just exhausted. Tired of the cass-cass. There is some talk that if Andrew were to just walk, he could lead the troops, but he shows no signs of having the belly for that right now.
Bobby needs a seat, but, unlike Chris, he at least has one he's contending for. He has the great attribute of being consistently underrated. But as he showed when he held the chairmanship despite Andrew's attempt to wrest it from him, he has delegate strength, is wily, and close to the ground. He has, though, never projected himself as a potential leader, and I don't know how willing Labour Party delegates will be to think of him as such.
Chris is in the wilderness. The selection process for Baugh's seat has been aborted and he will likely have no turf to fight for at the next election. It was a tactical error for him to try to go there, knowing that the palace guards want him landless. With Chris, political talent is being wasted.
And then there's Daryl, also curiously underrated and overlooked. Daryl has shown political hardiness of an unusual sort, winning and solidifying his seat while fielding every political calumny ever invented. He is known as a man who gets things done, and, in particular, he has the deserved reputation of being able to raise money.
If you've never thought of Daryl as a contender for the JLP throne, start to get accustomed to the thought. If one day the kingmaker gets up and decides he's done with crowning other men king, it all gets very exciting.
- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.