Sun | Feb 23, 2020

JaRistotle's Jottings | The message from East Portland

Published:Thursday | April 11, 2019 | 12:05 AM
Comrades and Labourites celebrate in East Portland after the by-election.

Well, the tsunami in East Portland fizzled even before it started, and Damion Crawford, having run what many have dubbed a ‘class-less campaign’ is now seatless and senateless after being trounced by a ­neophyte who overcame a previous 2,200-plus deficit to claim the right to represent the constituency.

Are the results sending a message, or should we just write them off to better politicking or luck? I opt for the message.

It is no secret that Ann-Marie Vaz was well entrenched in the constituency and actively involved in the political and social goings-on long before the untimely passing of the then incumbent member of parliament (MP), Dr Lynvale Bloomfield. It is also no secret that her husband, Daryl Vaz, is a very influential member of the ­governing party.


Mr Vaz is also the MP for the neighbouring constituency of West Portland, where, if I may say so, he appears to be making a notably positive mark. The places I have driven through are well kept, and maintenance works seem to be ongoing, in contrast to East Portland, where, based on my observations, ‘nuttin was a gwaan’.

Could it be that the writing was long on the wall, as East Portlanders could not help but notice the differences in the states of the two constituencies? The prosperity message being sent by Labourites, even before the need for a by-election arose, would certainly have added to the groundswell for change.

By the time Mr Crawford was catapulted into the constituency as a candidate, it was evident that he was starting out well behind the eight ball. Notwithstanding, his affliction with foot-in-mouth disease whilst on the campaign trail certainly did not augur well for him. Neither did his seeming attitude of taking for granted his party’s thirty-year dominance of the constituency.


In 2016, Dr Bloomfield won the seat by some 2,200 votes, with a lazy voter turnout of 43.58 per cent. Three years later, with an improved voter turnout of 53.5 per cent, the tables were ­completely reversed: Mrs Vaz achieved a turnaround of over 3,500 votes, notwithstanding that the Comrades’ voting base grew by roughly 1,050.

Whilst we cannot reasonably ignore the advantages accruing to better messages, a more well-oiled campaign machinery and greater in-constituency time, clearly the Comrades were not sufficiently incentivised to keep the constituency orange in deference to their late Comrade. They lost ground. Some stayed home, others flipped, and overall, they failed to attract sufficient numbers of new voters. As for vote-buying, let he or she who is without sin cast the first stone.


These days, people are more cognisant of goings-on in the local, national and international arenas and the economic, social and ­security issues that affect their daily lives. Outside of hard-line garrisons, voters are sufficiently perceptive to vote their conscience. East Portlanders voted according to their conscience.

‘Enough is enough’ was clearly the message being sent in the results, especially by the turn-around voters. No more taking us for granted, no to denigrating messages, no to candidates of opportunity.

But the message extends beyond the boundaries of East Portland. Rising crime in other parts of the country and the Comrades’ withdrawal of support for states of emergency for ‘bad-mind’ political reasons weighed heavily on Portlanders. Jackass politics premised on promises without delivery and opposition to constructive initiatives solely for the sake of opposing weighed heavily on Portlanders.

The next general election is due in roughly two years. Political candidates in other constituencies had better take heed as more ­voters are going to take their cue from the East Portlanders.

It’s the people’s time now; put up or shut up. That is the message.

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