Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Can PNP’s deep pockets derail JLP?

Published:Wednesday | December 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM

I can empathise with our prime minister and the political dilemma she was faced with in trying to explain away the postponement of the general election this year, and the thought that the PNP's electoral strength early in next year may not see the needed increases.

I get the fact that she had to give a socially credible excuse for the temporary break in elections by using the inclusion of those 37,000 newly enumerated, potential voters as her main reason to put the election on pause. All of that makes sense to me because of the normal ebb and flow of issues, events and unexpected negatives that can crop up to derail the best-laid political plans.

One can even advance the view that the early election call was not originally on the prime minister's initial agenda and, when the negative poll numbers were presented, she was the one who had the unenviable task of cooking up a nationally saleable presentation that would not turn off those, in the PNP's base, who were geared and ready to go.

I find it quite easy to understand the fevered increase of PNP propagandists inventing their party's new route to victory, even as too many JLP diehards on social media and those close to Belmont Road believe that the delay in the elections is the surest sign that a JLP victory is assured and no grunt work is required.

Headed towards Jamaica's most favourite season, Christmas, and with many among the PNP's base surest voters expecting that they would make a cash windfall in the days leading up the election and, election day itself, early election or no, the PNP administration, and that part of it which is purely PNP, will have to ensure that its supporters are well stuffed this Christmas.

Which would mean, of course, that that would trigger the belief that the PNP is itself stuffed with cash and there is more to come in the way of bushing work and fixing potholes in roads and any other creative bit of 'bollo wuk' that the political mind can invent. In other words, a sizable chunk of the PNP's base is expecting money infusions in Christmas and leading up to elections next year.

This doesn't in any way let the JLP off the hook. There is little material difference between PNP and JLP supporters at the base and among party workers. Once that cohort among the JLP sees work being given out and rumours of cash packages begin to take hold, the JLP caretakers and its lesser batch of MPs will be pressed against the wall to hand out 'care packages' this Christmas to its party workers and base, and plan for the same process in the elections.

"We are going to put the JLP under so much pressure that they will find it difficult to find icy mint money," said a PNP activist, who had accepted that the party is behind in the polls. "We have 26 safe seats. What we are going to do is target those additional ones that we need to win, and the best way of doing that is putting more money resources in those seats to wear down the JLP machinery. We know that the caretakers cannot find the money."

"Listen," I said to him. "I have heard this line before in too many elections that I have followed. What will be different this time around?" I asked.

"We have some of the most dynamic personalities involved. Look at Imani in East Rural (St Andrew) and her sister challenging Ruddy Spencer in Clarendon. Do you think we intend to leave those seats without a win?"

He then listed the other seats that the PNP would be targeting and, at the end, the count was PNP 39, JLP 24.

 

Big Business support

 

Just recently, I had a conversation with a university lecturer who specialised in business, and he said, "From my understanding, the PNP is being heavily supported by the Big Business class. They have never had it so good with all these super profits. Money is being pumped into the PNP's campaign. The belief is, many in the business class have bought the pitch that cash can change the results of political polls."

I have my doubts there, but whenever I have conversations with my JLP friends, they preach to me a different narrative: that the Big Business class will go with the JLP because it is ahead in the polls.

"Look at 2002," said my PNP activist friend. "When Bruce Golding rejoined the JLP, that party was immediately stuffed with cash. It was the expert hand of P.J. Patterson which turned back the JLP," he explained, when I tried to point out that a superior cash position does not necessarily translate into an election win.

According to him, Patterson is behind the scene guiding the PNP. "P.J. does not work on a losing team. Mark my word."

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