Who shall lead us?
A long time ago, I withstood heat for my prediction that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller would remain a grass-roots politician accustomed to rumbling in the political trenches, a crowd magnet and a designated people's champion because of her humble beginnings and life-long dedication to the People's National Party (PNP). I envisioned her needing to rely heavily on others to manage the country. I am not being discourteous ... it is what it is and, although she leads from the rear, without her, the PNP would not be the ruling party today.
The synopsis of The Gleaner-commissioned polls, conducted by Bill Johnson and published on October 11, 2015, revealed a precipitous falling off of the phenomenal favourability rating that Mrs Simpson Miller enjoyed in 2006 and even since 2011. The polls also revealed a steep rise in her unfavourability ratings. Unflattering descriptive words like 'vulgar', 'useless', 'non-performer' and 'incompetent' are being thrown around. She also appears elusive and reticent.
In spite of her perceived and much-publicised flaws and shortcomings, Mrs Simpson Miller has revealed a modicum of political maturity, which slips into obscurity from time to time. Her physical presence, charm, disarming smile and warm embrace still represent how most people would want to be greeted by the leader of a nation. But, according to the polls, other aspects of her leadership style have many people wanting her exit.
However, polls are like weather forecasts ... they are more accurate closer to the event date. Simpson Miller needs to deploy corrective measures to remain relevant.
Holness looking better
Those same Bill Johnson polls painted a significantly better picture of Mr Andrew Holness, the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader. Many people perceive him as a bright but young and unseasoned politician who has the potential to manage the country, but lacks the political savvy to outmanoeuvre his weathered and ensconced PNP rivals, evidenced by his rush to secure his own mandate before settling down and making his mark. Worse yet, at that time, the JLP was embroiled in national and international turmoil and set adrift by the abdication of their previous party leader.
Holness' astonishingly massive faux pas in 'resigning' Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams, because of internal political differences, exposed a significant character flaw. Additionally, the JLP's apparent lack of unification, his rapid pouncing on any topic that is politically exploitable and making dangerously expensive policy promises, leave undecided voters doubting his ability to lead the country. Coalescing the party, selective criticisms and political maturity would benefit him greatly.
Various individuals deputise for the prime minister from time to time. However, the unofficial lieutenant is Peter Phillips - a party stalwart and a bright man who has a record of working very hard. He stands way out in front and is unafraid of challenges. He inherited a shaky economy at a time when the world was reeling from financial catastrophes. Many blame him for our hardships, although I can't see why. However, in spite of his advantages, his very serious public demeanour and portrayed authoritativeness do not capture the hearts of those who want an understanding, warm, flexible and inviting prime minister. Perhaps if Phillips could modify his public persona, the political landscape may change.
With Christopher Tufton shelved, the second in line in the JLP camp is former Minister of Finance Audley Shaw. He gives the appearance of knowledge and proficiency. Even though he opined that the American financial meltdown would never affect Jamaica and that we might even benefit from it, he is nonetheless seen by some as capable of wending his way through valuable international deals and arrangements. But many notice his quarrelsome and insulting repartee and, although very entertaining, people do not find that prime ministerial. An adjustment in tone and rhetoric would help him.
In spite of all that, the dependent party faithful will vote as they always have and the growing numbers of disappointed, disgruntled and disgusted citizens will stay away. The undecided teetering are still up for grabs. There is a lot of work to be done by all.