Mark Wignall | Why is the JLP so happy?
In April of this year, the most popular man in the People’s National Party (PNP), Damion Crawford, squared off with political neophyte, the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Ann-Marie Vaz, in a by-election in Eastern Portland. A key element in the background to the contest was that the last time the JLP competed and won that seat was in the big blowout of 1980 when that party painted the constituency map of Jamaica green all over.
Nine years later, in 1989, the picture changed and the PNP ‘owned’ East Portland until the April 2019 political tremor shook, rattled and rolled over the PNP machinery, and in the process sent Damion Crawford to the little boy’s room.
We all know what happened in the April by-election. Not only did Vaz secure 300 more votes than Crawford, but she added 3,000 more votes to the JLP column than the previous JLP candidate got in the general election of 2016.
With that as established history, PNP delegates gave to Peter Phillips a 76-vote win over Peter Bunting, a squeaker of a win among almost 3,000 delegates in a 96 per cent turnout. It cannot be said that the PNP delegates were oblivious to many opinion polls which showed Phillips settling into being less popular than his own PNP, and way behind the popularity of Andrew Holness, the JLP leader and prime minister.
What we do know is in the vote split Phillips got 51 per cent and Bunting took home 49 per cent. Yes, it was a win for Peter Phillips, and yes, we know that in politics no medals are awarded for second-placers, but it sure looks like just about equal love was dished out last Saturday. Maybe Phillips got an extra dumpling in his plate.
Joy and satisfaction
After the vote count was announced, my WhatsApp was lit up by a few JLP members of parliament, expressing their joy and satisfaction at the results. One sent me a YouTube rendering of John Holt’s Riding for a Fall. Another sent me, ‘Could not have scripted it better. One Peter turn Half Peter as of today’.
And the meme with Holness sitting well relaxed in a green deck chair with a similar red-painted chair beside him! No one is seated in that chair, but the whole is titled, ‘Andrew is relaxing awaiting his next beating stick’. So very unkind to the PNP and Dr Peter Phillips.
It is worth repeating that any momentum that Phillips may claim at this time is due solely to Bunting pumping life and energy into the PNP. Isn’t that a perverse dilemma that the PNP leader will have to live with? And, for how long will that momentum last? Three months certainly, and six months only likely.
For the PNP’s sake, Phillips cannot afford to be anything other than a magnanimous leader and welcome Bunting to the table of ideas and team building. All egos in the PNP must be suspended and battle planning must begin with the sole objective of levelling the JLP at the next election.
The PNP needs to put an end to any factionalism hangover. It needs to bring and end to it this very week, or at the very least utter the right, healing words.
I do not expect to find much meaning behind a joint picture of Phillips and Bunting smiling like Cheshire cats, but that would be a great start to mending fences. And I promise that I will no longer WhatsApp anyone with, “Don’t know if the JLP could have wished for such a perfect situation. Di winner by a whisker? A dat dem do! Party time fi Andrew.”