Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Juliet Holness a shot across the bow

Published:Sunday | December 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM

No one saw this coming. Juliet Holness, wife of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, is now almost certain to be confirmed as Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) caretaker in the somewhat troubled East Rural St Andrew seat, where she will face off with the People's National Party's (PNP) Imani Duncan-Price.

At first glance, some may consider these ladies political interlopers, but it would be foolhardy of us to do so. Both have earned their political bona fides through sheer proximity to political fervour.

Certainly, Andrew Holness would tend to carry home his work each day, and party politics is his life. Having as her father D.K. Duncan, the political firebrand of the 1970s when he was both aide-de-camp to PNP icon Michael Manley and a veritable thorn in his side, it would be difficult to make the case that Mrs Duncan-Price was a political tyro.

As far as candidates go, East Rural St Andrew has in recent times become the constituency where candidate selection for the ruling PNP has become an on-again, off-again area of discontent after the nationally popular Damion Crawford was rejected by the very delegates who once swooned over him.

Now it seems that the time for the also-rans has passed, and coming up to election day in early next year, it will be a straight battle to the finish between Duncan-Price of the PNP and Juliet Holness of the JLP. In a strategic view of the expected results, it is quite difficult to name a winner at this stage.

A few months ago when the JLP was writing another chapter of its political disorder, a few JLP delegates in North East St Andrew told me that Juliet Holness had been wooing some of them in an effort to ramp up and, hopefully, win a delegate contest over the holder of the seat, the JLP's Delroy Chuck.

When I attempted to determine the veracity of what could have been just wild talk, Belmont Road was simply not the place to contact for sound information. At this time, there can be no doubt that anyone else in the JLP would want to throw his or her hat in the ring and go up in a selection exercise against Mrs Holness. At this stage, she is queen of the hill and, strong woman that she is rumoured to be, it would be a fool's errand.

What, therefore, should we expect in this battle? As background, it would appear that history favours a PNP win, but there are factors operating now that could be at odds with history. In the nine elections held since 1959, the PNP has won six times to the JLP's three. The last time out, in 2011, the PNP's Damion Crawford's win could hardly be considered a canter as he scraped home by 259 votes.

In such a scenario, the seat is wide open, and if the present swing away from the PNP holds firm into next year, it is more than possible that Juliet Holness may get to kiss her husband at home and hold his hand in the Lower House.

 

WHY PETER BUNTING'S

 

BABY IS OUR BUSINESS

 

I am not a betting man, but were I so disposed, I would place a bet with myself that were I Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, I would have many reasons to enjoy having my lovely wife give birth to her baby in the United States (US) instead of here at home in Jamaica.

I would definitely win that bet against myself. Hands down. First, I would be comfortably wealthy, and as a wealthy man, I would, as a rule, take orders or directives from no one - except my wife, that is. Second, as a minister, the power of that post would, by itself, provide the necessary deflection should I be criticised for the move. Nine-day wonder.

Third, in a choice between having a child of mine owning US citizenship as against purely Jamaican, sorry, Jamaica, but you are no competition.

Fourth, and most important, let's assume that I am adventurous and want to prove to my fellow Jamaicans how patriotic I am, why should I risk the hazards associated with Jamaica's 'pop-dung' public-health system, especially having me and my wife's baby being exposed to all sorts of cooties and bugaboos at one of our public hospitals.

After all, I love my wife and, even though I love my country, I am under no misapprehensions as to the state of the general conditions at the University Hospital, Cornwall Regional, and that hellhole called Jubilee at the Kingston Public Hospital.

Incidentally, I was born at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in 1950, so that makes me a spawn of that institution, which has since fallen on hard times.

A few months ago, a number of babies who did not reach full term contracted two bacterial infections at two of our public hospitals, not necessarily because they were short-of-term babies, but more so because the hospitals did not have the resources to adequately adhere to what would normally be considered the 'right procedures'.

The right procedures meant that hospital wards had to be screened and that medical professionals entering one area did not take infection with them into the other area. When gloves have to be washed for reuse and floors are scrubbed by dirty mops, anything is possible.

At the end, 19 babies died, and Minister Fenton Ferguson was removed from responsibility for the health ministry. And that is the point of this article.

Many of the politicians who had in the recent past begged us to vote for them did so because securing power was purely an extension of their overblown egos. Many will be doing so again in this election campaign season, and in their eagerness to 'serve', among the things that will be promised will be a better public-health system. A system for us, not for them.

So when they become ill, they hop on a chartered flight to Miami or New York. When we become ill, we go to a public hospital, wait for 12 hours to be attended to, and all the time the risk is death because the system is broken.

That is what Minister Bunting knows very well. Good for him. Bad for us.

 

JLP WAY AHEAD IN THIS SHOCKING TELEPHONE POLL

 

Not many people seem to be aware of it, but just about a week ago, a little bird sang to me a song that was music to the ears of the JLP. I was privileged to glance at some of the lyrics. My first major concern was that the results from telephone polls are as problematic as they may be spot on.

One assumes that this poll was done in November. As whispered to me not by three little birds but only one singing on my window, a sample size of 3,500 was utilised, with 2,400 of that sample aged 18 to 24.

What makes telephone polls viable in a country like Jamaica is that every person and his mother and her father has a mobile, with many among even our poorest owning smartphones.

I gather that the poll was pushed directly to those who owned smartphones, so the researchers have to be quite careful in crunching the numbers, especially as there could be a skew of smartphone ownership towards the middle class, where likely voting support is shaky at best.

As background, until 1980, the middle class was 'owned' by the PNP. In the class warfare fervour of the late 1970s to 1980, the middle class switched its allegiance from PNP to the JLP, but it did not give the JLP the expected long-term 'bounce' from then to now as the tenor of national politics turned off that class and kept it at home on election days.

So that initial result of JLP 50% and PNP 29% has to be understood along those lines. What may be missing is the political support of those owning 'peanut' phones - those phones that can do little more than make and receive calls, send text messages, especially 'please call me'.

- Mark Wignall is a political analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com. Blog at markwignall.com.