Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Juliet Holness proves her worth

Published:Friday | February 26, 2016 | 2:00 AM

It was declared a battleground seat and there were times on the campaign trail when she looked like a general. As she quipped in an interview this week on 'Cliff Hughes On-Line' in reference to her opponent, former beauty queen Imani Duncan-Price, "We are both women and we are both beautiful. That is where the similarity ends."

Last night, Juliet Holness sealed her place in Parliament with her husband, Prime Minister-designate Andrew Michael Holness, by clinching a hard-won victory. 'East Rural St Andrew is still up for grabs', declared Gleaner pollster Bill Johnson in Monday's edition, where he declared a five-point lead for Holness. Well, Holness grabbed it with both hands.

It was never going to be a walkover. Juliet Holness faced a political dynasty with a long pedigree in Jamaican politics. Imani's father, D.K., has etched his name in Jamaica's political history as Mr Mobilisation and a political organiser par excellence. Plus, the Duncan family now boasts significant financial resources and Imani's charisma, charm and articulateness count for much.

Juliet Holness faced a People's National Party determined to keep that seat in its fold and the party pulled out its best political talent to work with Imani in doing so. But the party's and Imani's considerable resources - financial, material and organisational - were just not enough to stop the Holness juggernaut and that tide which swept Jamaica last night.

Bill Johnson is quoted in Monday's Gleaner as saying: "It is easier for the PNP to get out its votes than it is for the JLP, because the PNP votes are concentrated in areas like Harbour View, while the JLP will have to get the votes from the farming rural communities." But Holness went into the hills and valleys to pull out those votes.

Juliet Holness was helped, of course, by the fact that the former PNP Member of Parliament Damion Crawford has alienated some PNP supporters with his supposedly new style of politics which eschewed handouts. His emphasis, he stressed, was on education and training, rather than helping people with sheets of zinc to fix their houses and giving out money for day-to-day expenses. Crawford's heart and head might have been in the right place, but he needed to understand raw politics and learn from some political veterans about how changes are wrought.

In a constituency with appalling infrastructure and high unemployment - including among some who are schooled - not doing enough in these areas would prove costly. Bill Johnson found that Damion Crawford had a 46 per cent unfavourability rating in the constituency.

Mrs Holness also profited from some national factors, too. Bill Johnson found that 51 per cent of the respondents to his constituency poll said they did not want to see Portia Simpson Miller as prime minister after the election, while 44 per cent believe that her husband, Andrew, would do a better job as prime minister. She would also have been helped considerably by that magical $1.5-million figure. Jamaicans, they say, don't like figures, but that's one number they caught on to.

Plus, as pointed out in my column on Sunday, the anger against the PNP for raising issues about her family's house, and what many saw as a campaign of bad-mindedness and nastiness against her family, would also have helped. Emotive issues are big in elections, and Andrew's martyr card played well.

For the citizens of East Rural, it is good that their MP has the ears of the prime minister. They will need those ears, for all the mountain of problems they face, no pun intended. The people need roads, water, jobs. Both candidates have articulated some good ideas of the constituency. Mrs Holness must work along Imani, who is a bright and energetic patriot, and who has much to offer. Imani has outlined some excellent ideas about developing certain industries in that area and opening up significant employment. She must now work with the MP to bring those ideas to fruition.

I think Juliet Holness will make a difference. She has been a performer in her professional fields and she is a woman of steel, substance and toughness. She will need all of that in her uphill task as MP for East Rural.

- Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist working with the Jamaica Information Service. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.