Thu | Oct 17, 2019

Garth Rattray | The politics of strange

Published:Monday | September 16, 2019 | 12:07 AM
Rival supporters of the Rise United and OnePNP camps engage in banter outside the National Arena, where the PNP’s presidential election was held on September 7.

I want to make it clear that I am not a political creature. I am not aligned to any political party. I have very good friends on both sides of the fence. However, there are things about the People’s National Party (PNP) that I find very strange indeed.

It’s strange that the PNP took the electorate for granted during the last general election. The country was just ambling along. There was ­nothing new and exciting going on. The party needed to be far more communicative. The political representatives were not offering any spark of renewal. The crime, joblessness, and poverty were in status quo.

People needed more, something new. They needed to feel the forward motion of the country, and that was not happening.

To add insult to injury, the country was denied that all-important political debate. The challenger was young, active, high-profile, making all sorts of promises and was very ‘hungry’. The incumbent prime minister seemed tired, deficient of ideas, semi-retired, resting on withering laurels, and was out of touch with the mood of the country. The people felt that there was nothing new to look forward to – same old, same old.

The PNP campaign rhetoric lacked vision. There were a lot of rear-view accusations that were never followed up. The people didn’t ‘feel’ any vitality within the PNP. Consequently, they lost the general election by a very narrow margin. Strangely enough, that loss never seemed to galvanise the party into any sort of evolution. It was as if the PNP viewed the outcome as an unfortunate fluke. Therefore, subsequently, they lost two important by-elections.

STRETCHED BOUNDARIES

It was strange that the PNP hierarchy didn’t appear to be hands-on during the campaign for those crucial seats. It felt as if the candidates were ‘trying a thing’ on their own. Their messages were drowned out by the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) powerful and high-speed campaign train. They pulled out all the stops and used the system (that they controlled) to their advantage. That seemed to stretch the ethical boundaries but, strangely enough, perhaps the PNP didn’t mind because they weren’t adequately vociferous in their dissent.

The JLP must be given kudos for running the country. They snatched the baton and took off at a blistering pace, drawing media attention every step of the way. They are engaging in what I hear being referred to as high optics, high visibility. It’s working. Meanwhile, back at the PNP camp, things didn’t change, and, because of this, the prevailing sentiment is that they are expected to lose the next general election.

Inevitably, members of the PNP felt the need to revitalise the party in order to mount a credible challenge in the upcoming general election. Fair enough, but I think that the party would have been better off with a very low-profile campaign for the leadership post.

Care should have been taken to avoid damaging whoever will represent the party going forward. You must never expose your candidate’s weaknesses and leave him limping in future races.

Why the party chose to tackle JLP corruption is strange, since both parties have ethical issues. Stranger still is the failure to make known how close Jamaica came to economic ruin and that, were it not for our friends in Washington who lobbied on our behalf and the stewardship of Dr Peter Phillips in carrying out the requirements to save us from ruin, our economy would have been in shambles. The turnaround gave us the ability to plan much of the projects currently being undertaken.

I hope that both Peters will combine ideas and strategies, highlight the positives and the achievements, increase visibility, and promise the people something monumental. Perhaps then we will have an evenly matched election.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feed­back to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.