Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Take no prisoners, Portia

Published:Wednesday | January 6, 2016 | 1:00 AM
Portia Simpson Miller must assert her control over the PNP, says commentator Mark Wignall.

In not-so-recent times, Damion Crawford, the junior minister and MP on the move of East Rural St Andrew, and Angela Brown Burke, the mayor of Kingston, took to Twitter to make public what, even in private discourse, would be considered childish political concerns.

The excuse could not be made that both of these PNP officials were young adults of, say, 19 or 20, and still basking in the afterglow of a late burst of puberty. No, these were grown adults whose abuse of social media indicated that factions inside the PNP were in open revolt, one against the other and, worse, cared little about the embarrassment it would bring to the party and its leader.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and her top advisers would now be in the process of having an opinion poll conducted in the early part of January, and another in early February, to determine if the January trends are holding. Depending on the findings, we could have an election before March.

Before that happens, the prime minister needs to be reminded of a number of political items that exist, are negative, and it appears that she authored them all. The first is, the division or factionalism that was on full display in the latter part of 2015 will not suddenly go away.

 

UNRULY FLOCK

 

The PM's laid-back stance between 2012 and the first half of 2015 saw her trying to out fires after the flames had spread to the top floor. By that time, there were many in the PNP who had grown so used to her absence, especially on addressing big issues, or on flubbing them whenever she did (her response to the Riverton blaze last year), that her sudden presence in the last part of 2015 hardly created any jitter among her unruly flock.

In 2015, it was as plain as day that the receding leadership of Simpson Miller from a base where the word 'spectacular' would have no shelf life, would be a negative factor in the decision-making over elections. As last year drew to a close, it was obvious that Simpson Miller was not just struggling to show her mettle as PM, but was doing much worse as president of the PNP in trying to bring cohesion to second-tier leadership openly exposing flaws while jockeying for future positions.

This year has just one bright spot for the general election, and that is the Summer Olympics. Jamaica is once again expected to be a major factor in athletics, as it was at the Worlds in 2015. In the wake of another triumph, an obvious present is in the making for the PNP. The bigger concern is, can the PNP, the business community and the country live through the weekly tension in the first three months of 2016 with elections brewing but never ready to be poured out?

 

PETTY MALICE

 

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller may have been late arriving at the party of leadership in 2015, but her one last chance to bring her troops together is to force the dialogue by quashing the petty malice.

At this stage where the ruling PNP will have to face up to the socio-economic realities pending under the harsher stages of the IMF agreement, the party would dearly love to see an election held and won before the Budget is presented in April.

The 'holding' part of the election is easy. The 'winning' part is much tougher. The last poll the PNP had done in November 2015 indicated that it was behind the JLP by four percentage points. At that time, there was one faction in the PNP that still wanted to go ahead, but on the basis that a number of key constituencies would be targeted.

That faction believed that a national swing to the JLP was ephemeral, and acutely targeting constituencies where the margins were under 500 votes would defy the swing and take the PNP home with 36 seats. The other assumption was that the big private-sector players were comfortable doing business and making handsome profits, and would be easily swayed to fund the PNP by buying into the 'targeting' approach.

That assumption also had its flip side - that the JLP, although ahead in the polls, would soon fall behind and would not be able to convince the private sector in terms of gaining funding.

For now, I would advise the PM to call up General Secretary Paul Burke and, along with all of the other loud-mouthed second-tier leaders, make her announcement that she is back but taking no prisoners this time.

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