Sat | Dec 10, 2016

No time for JLP to party, or PNP to mourn

Published:Sunday | October 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness. - File
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Gary Spaulding, Columnist

The vagaries that usually attend surveys on perceptions of individuals were very much present in the findings of the Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson polls, the last of which were published today.

For one, analysis will show that the findings were actually not in favour of the Jamaica Labour Party and its leader, Andrew Holness, as is being widely claimed.

Rather, the findings pointed to a massive fall-off in the popularity of the governing People's National Party and its leader, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

In short, the polls showed that although the JLP is leading, it has not made great gains. It's the PNP that's actually losing important ground.

With few exceptions, the dominant feature was the 'undecided' imagery graphically depicted in the findings.

In the main, there are neither orange nor green laurels on which the parties can sit. Both are severely wilted.

In the midst of it all, it is crystal clear that the findings have brought the curtains down on the political hiatus, shaped by the apathy of Jamaicans to the art of governance in this country.

There is cause for concern on both fronts - the JLP's failure to capitalise on Government's fallout and the PNP's massive loss of political capital and whether it will be able to rebound.

While Dr Fenton Ferguson, the embattled health minister, should count his lucky stars that the chikungunya crisis escalated after Johnson went on the ground on September 6-7 and 13-14, it seems that the wrath of Jamaicans is directed at ministers with highly visible portfolios and not performance records.

To be fair to Peter Bunting, the national security minister, serious crime levels are trending down and some positive results are evident on the economic radar under Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, yet they are listed high on the list of who should be dispatched.

But then again, the inaccessibility of some government ministers, who have adroitly lain below the radar, may just be the reason why they are forgotten.

The PNP has found itself in a bit of a tailspin, struggling to get down to brass tacks as its strategists return to the drawing board.

In the main, the findings are serving as a game changer for the political forces that have been butting heads since 1944, without a truly authentic spoiler at election time.

The PNP has secured victories in five of the six general elections in the last quarter-century - one under the leadership of Michael's Manley; three under P.J. Patterson; and one with Portia Simpson Miller, while Bruce Golding took one for the JLP.

It is now time for serious introspection in both political parties.

The JLP is seeing a glimmer of possibility but appears uncertain how to deal with the emerging advantage and is hoping that it's not a mirage.

Imagine the likely fate of its leader and the impact on the party had the findings not found favour with Holness in the historically volatile environment of Belmont Road, the JLP headquarters.

The 2014 poll results have provided Holness with a glorious opportunity to take stock. He has been granted another reprieve to pull the JLP together.

The chance that came the JLP's way nearly a year ago was squandered as the party failed to suture wounds, left to fester after the bruising battle between Holness and Audley Shaw, with a tragic outcome that has left too many hard-working Labourites still languishing on the periphery.

On the other hand, some Comrades, bent on reclaiming the glow that accompanies victory, seemed to have lost their marbles when the poll findings did not find favour with their party.

Reactions among the hard-core Comrades vilifying Johnson were ludicrously ironic, with perpetrators failing to grasp an essential edict: Don't shoot the messenger!

Some Comrades, given to arrogance, seem unable to fathom that their party, or perennially popular leader, could lag behind 'lesser' beings.

How dare Johnson report findings that Holness, the political upstart, leads their venerable political veteran, Simpson Miller, in any kind of poll? Such effrontery!

Notwithstanding the bravado being portrayed in the public domain, Comrades would do well to follow the lead of General Secretary Paul Burke, who was at party headquarters at dawn when The Sunday Gleaner of October 12, 2014 published findings that Holness led Simpson Miller by an almost 2:1 ratio. Burke showed that he was aware that there is work to be done.

BLIND TO WARNINGS

In the scheme of things, too many Comrades have opted to ignore or overlook the profound warning that came ahead of the polls, prophetically in a sense, from former PNP president and prime minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson. The malady of political arrogance can be as infectious as chikungunya or as contagious as Ebola, and may demand some bitter injection of humility to bring relief or, better yet, a cure.

Patterson was the longest-serving prime minister by virtue of his winning three consecutive general elections in 1993,1997 and 2002. So, he should be heard on what it takes to stay ahead of the game on the political landscape.

Too many Comrades opted to ignore a remark by Patterson that has turned out to be profoundly telling. The former political leader has been stressing that (paraphrasing) the path of arrogance cannot be the way to get to the "promise land".

But some so-called political activists have been too deaf or dumb to heed Patterson's oft-repeated exhortation that it's patently imprudent to ride on the failings of political rivals to get to one's destination.

As Patterson indicated then, the surest and safest way to get there is by hitting the ground.

Gary Spaulding is a freelance reporter who mainly covers political affairs. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com.