Tue | Feb 20, 2018

George Davis | Learning from losing

Published:Wednesday | June 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Derrick Kellier
Paul Buchanan

My uncle is an exceptionally good lawyer. I'm tempted to say that despite him being old, red and fat, he's still one of the very best abogados in the country.

But the last time I wrote about looks and its relationship to professional excellence, I barely escaped being tarred and feathered by the army of track and field fans who respect and love the genius that is Stephen Francis. So I shall say nothing about the appearance of the tub of lard that, from time to time, represents himself as my uncle.

My uncle has told me countless times that lawyers who win every case they handle are doing themselves a tremendous disservice. His rather strange view is that lawyers only learn from the cases they lose. Hence, an attorney who wins all the time learns absolutely nothing, and, over time, when the law of averages kicks in, is a worse advocate than a counterpart who has a career chequered by defeats and successes.

My uncle has delivered this logic to numerous students fortunate enough to sit in his lectures at the Norman Manley Law School. He even extends the maxim to suggest that it's in defeat that truths are told and missteps exposed, because persons have a habit of getting drunk on victory and never being sober enough to acknowledge those things that didn't go right or according to plan.

I cite my uncle and his twisted logic as I ruminate over how much truth-telling has come from the lips of several senior Comrades since the People's National Party (PNP) had its nether parts kicked hard by the JLP in the February 25 general election. Paul Buchanan, the beaten candidate in West Rural St Andrew, has been churning out columns and giving strident interviews, talking about all the things that were terribly wrong as the PNP campaigned for re-election to office almost four months ago.

Through the eyes of Buchanan, the day after the PNP lost was the day he knew the PNP would lose, given the disorganisation and inefficient use of people during the election campaign. He believes a few of the party's bigwigs should be flogged for the role they played in weakening the powerful PNP election machinery.

This is the same Paul Buchanan who was a study in confidence when he spoke to me on Nationwide Radio, a week before the election, cocksure about the work that he and his party had done to secure victory at the polls.

But if defeat caused Buchanan to speak the truth about the true state of the PNP heading into the election, outgoing PNP Vice-President Derrick Kellier must have dipped his words in holy water and dried them with the tail of Mother Teresa's frock before talking frankly with Comrades at a Region Six Executive meeting in Rose Hall, St James, on Sunday.


All about personal power


In a speech that must have taken the dead skin off several bunions, Kellier said: "We are in a state of flux. We are all about power - personal power and personal aggrandisement and one-upmanship. That is what we are about. We are no longer a cohesive unit that can deliver a knockout punch to the opposition."

Don't believe that Kellier, who survived in his South St James seat by the plaque on his teeth, is speaking about a post-election PNP. The man is clearly talking about what the PNP was before the election defeat and how those things served to distract the party, weaken the election machinery, and make it difficult for Comrades to rally their neighbours as they sought to pull out votes on election day.

Kellier's withering critique and Paul Buchanan's studied assessment make me wonder if they are talking about the same PNP that party heavyweights said would win 45 seats at the close of polls in the last election. There were 9,877 days between the PNP's election win on February 9, 1989, and the February 25, 2016, election. The PNP held power for 8,300 of those days.

That's a lot of success over seven general elections. Perhaps the party has proven my uncle right by learning nothing from all the victories they toasted over that time.


- George Davis is a journalist and executive producer. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and georgesylvesterdavis