Garth Rattray | Anachronistic politicking
This new year deserves new political paradigms. Out with the old raucous, quarrelsome, derisive, divisive politicking. Jamaicans are evolving, becoming more mature and need objective, honest political leaders to take us into a better future.
By the time Mrs Portia Simpson Miller announced that she would not contest the September 2017 People's National Party (PNP) presidential election, it was clear that some of her campaign speeches had become an anachronistic liability to the party that she loved and to which she dedicated her entire adult life. Unrestrained, firebrand rants entertain and invigorate some delegates but had long ago become as unwelcomed as fingernails scraping down a chalkboard for many Jamaicans. Jagged nerves, gritting teeth, queasy stomachs and unrequited embarrassment rippled across the nation whenever her eruptions were broadcast.
Although I was numbed into a state of blunted affect by the egregiousness of Donald Trump's persona and behaviour, I was taken aback by Mrs Simpson Miller's infamous speech in St. Ann: "Let mi tell you something, this is one woman who never run from a fight from anyone, I don't allow anyone to disrespect me anywhere ... I represent one of the strongest constituencies in Jamaica; don't play with me. I will come back here for another meeting and I know who I will bring...I want people know, you nuh, is now mi ah behave, yuh nuh,'cause people never ever trouble me and get away with it. I don't allow it."
Attendees cheered noisily, in effect egging her on. But most of the nation gasped and grimaced and groaned as those fighting words assailed them in the privacy of their living rooms via television. Those words had serious consequences for her career. She committed pollical suicide in full view of the entire country. For me, her statement represented a big, red exclamation mark at the end of her political life.
Mrs Portia Simpson Miller was an invaluable part and tireless worker of the PNP. She was the rallying point for the party faithful. She proved that hard work and sustained effort pay off in the end. She made women see that they can achieve the highest political job in the land. She gave the people of humble beginnings pride and allowed them to have hope in their future.
Former Prime Minister Simpson Miller did not escape criticism. Her dodging the media and perceived naivety for details of critical issues drew righteous fire. Her hyperbolic performances at various political meetings and rallies seemed to delight the crowds, but embarrassed and worried Jamaicans who wanted a more elevated and controlled leader. She appeared to be pandering only to one subset of society, as if it was only their votes that mattered.
A lot has been said about the PNP loss in the 2016 general election. Fingers were pointed in every conceivable direction. So contorted was the finger pointing that it ended up in one tangled unproductive mess that followed the PNP all the way through to the local government elections, where they registered another significant defeat. Among the top reasons for their general election loss was the PNP leader's refusal to debate the issues. It reeked of overconfidence and insecurity all rolled into one. Overconfidence in her party stalwarts and insecurity in her personal ability to give a good account of herself in any showdown with the (then) leader of the Opposition.
The death knell for the PNP was their inability to project clearly and/or communicate a way ahead. There was nothing to look forward to. They failed to focus on the economic issues and did not counter the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) campaign rhetoric. Now, although the JLP failed miserably to keep their promise of no new taxes to fund their tax relief electioneering promise, they are currently projecting an aura of a properly organised group of managers set on performing to the best of their ability to improve things in our country.
Rants, false promises and indecent language while speaking at political rallies must be publicly abhorred by all of us. Jamaica must not allow pandering to the 'political class' to dictate our political etiquette, we must demand more from now on. We must hold politicians accountable when they fail to make good on their promises or to exercise propriety. This should be our New Year's resolution.