Wed | Jan 22, 2020

Daniel Thwaites | The upcoming clash

Published:Sunday | January 12, 2020 | 12:57 AM

With the somewhat surprising announcement that Dr Dayton Campbell has been reinvited into the Shadow Cabinet, the acrimonious leadership contest in the People’s National Party (PNP) seems to be finally ending.

First to the issue of why people are paying so much attention to this story, which on the surface doesn’t warrant it. The attention, I believe, is due to it being an indication that some genuine rapprochement is afoot in the PNP. And that’s a story because, otherwise, the PNP is doomed to get properly flogged in the next general election.

Whatever the gaps in the performance of the current administration, and there are many, they also have amassed some selling points and a formidable PR machinery. Speaking of which, it’s so funny that the press was fuming when the prime minister made some simple, unexceptional and unobjectionable comments about citizens needing to take the time to find their own information about what’s happening in the country.

Even this ordinarily sensible newspaper got into the gig and gave the PM a hard time about his remarks in an editorial titled ‘Mr Holness loves the press. Doesn’t he?’ in which it was noted that according to Transparency International’s 2019 report, Jamaicans trust journalists more than politicians, which is sort of like praising your running ability because you can outpace a cripple.

The whole thing was amusing. But more than that, it was surprising. That’s because the administration, through its political apparatchiks, pays rent for so many journalists and reporters that it’s strange to hear the PM complain at all, and even stranger that the contractors and subcontractors took exception to his mild remarks. But this is the land of wonder, and wonders never cease.

Or even better, it shows that even in the cosiest relationships, there is room for ‘disgrumplement’. So how could it be any different in a political party where feral animals are scrambling for the top?

So back to the PNP. Nobody would go so far as to say that genuine and complete reunification is just over the horizon, but the leadership does seem to be methodically stitching it back to together.

I’ve heard the criticism that it has been too long and that this process should have begun immediately after the run-off. That’s not a fair criticism. I think that under the circumstances, it’s happening reasonably quickly.

The contest was just last September. If you think about it, the combatants would have needed a little time to catch their breath and lick their wounds, then remember that although they may not be in love with one another, they have some joint interests and may actually even like each other. Relationships, especially of the political and therefore opportunistic variety, are very fine-grained that way.

The exact same thing happened after Andrew Holness trounced Audley Shaw, then invited him back as the finance man, before finally relegating him to the cattle and bushes.

Plus the reinvitation after the Andrew/Audley contest would have been less painful, the discomfort being generally directly proportional to the threat shown in the numbers of the final vote. In the PNP’s case, Peter Phillips survived by a mere sliver, and so his bridge-building is both more difficult and necessary. It was a real and robust challenge. Daring Bunting & Golding put up a frightsome machine and came within a whisker of seizing the Iron Throne.

All the talk about a “win is a win” is, at best, only partially true. At the end of the day, he has to lead those same troops who would have preferred another man.

EARNED HIS SEAT

So even though Phillips has been reasonably magnanimous in victory, he actually needs to be if he has any intention of seeing Jamaica House. If another man can seize almost half the delegates in your party, you cannot ignore him and he’s earned his seat at the table.

As I understand it, immediately post-contest it was the Risers who were naturally feeling bruised and unwilling to rejoin the bigger tent. Now, according to the reports, it’s those from One PNP who felt slighted by Campbell’s readmission.

In particular, the One PNP’s DC, Damion Crawford, seems to have felt slighted that the Riser’s DC, Campbell, was returned without his knowledge and consent. These guys had had their clashes in the campaign. I just feel like this déjà vu, with apologies to Sugar Minott: “Comin’ from Portie, wid a bag of liquid eggy, I buck up on a DC, him want fe hol’ me, ‘don’t you run now yuteman, you won’t get away, if you slip you will die, and if you run you can’t hide’.”

Anyway, the electorate is quite sophisticated about all of these things. They understand that a political party is always riven with factions, grand and petty resentments, people who don’t like each other, and all the flavours of mistrust, betrayal, and treachery that are endemic to a hierarchical organisation. But they won’t tolerate open warfare.

As of now, Andrew is on course to lead the Labour Party to victory in the next election. Plus there’s money in the coffers, a Budget to be read, tons of goodies to throw at the JCF and other key stakeholders, and a dengue epidemic to help justify bushing down the whole of the country.

However, crime and corruption continue to dog the administration and the economy is a mixed bag.

In all this, the PNP will have to make itself more competitive, and this attentiveness to reunification is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition to achieve that. Thereafter, the viral savvy of Peter Bunting’s challenge has to infuse as quickly as possible into the PNP’s main vein.

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com