Gordon Robinson | Can PNP postmortem raise the dead?
The Opposition's local government guru, Noel Arscott, predicted a PNP "clean sweep" of the parish councils in the upcoming elections.
Alrighty then! His party, coming off a devastating defeat seven months ago, commissioned a fulsome internal appraisal that was presented to the party in June. How many of the recommendations has the PNP implemented in its quest to produce the predicted electoral triumph?
So far, our intrepid media have reported on the appraisal report:
(a) from a circulated executive summary only; and
(b) as if it was a Julian Robinson creation.
In reality, there were 16 committee members from every level of the party: Julian Robinson (chairman),
Wensworth Skeffrey, Mark Golding, Scean Barnswell, Dena Davis, Dr Peter-John Gordon, AndrÈ Anderson; Andrae Blair, Dr Beverly Shirley, Noel Sloley Jr, Patrick Casserly, Dr Alfred Dawes, Basil Waite, and secretariat personnel Camille Atkinson, Dexroy Martin and Davaroe Robotham.
Regarding methodology, the report states:
"The committee met with a wide cross section of stakeholders within, and external to, the party. These included members of the officers corps; members of the National Campaign Committee; specific candidates and campaign managers; specific constituencies teams; and other supporters. The committee also hosted three focus group sessions with young voters. Journalists, pollsters and leaders of civil-society groups were also interviewed.
"The committee established a social media presence on different platforms, ... . An email address was also set up. We received over 100 submissions from the public."
This was no pyaw-pyaw appraisal. This represented total quality management at its best. The committee's findings were divided among three categories: government, party and campaign.
Under 'Government', the committee found that the Government's achievements weren't effectively communicated and Government failed to sufficiently emphasise effective communication as a core activity in modern governance. Worse, links between the Economic Reform Programme's (ERP) sacrifices, the overall plan, and the "wider historic struggle/mission of the party" were "not sufficiently communicated".
- Construction of the north-south leg of Highway 2000 wasn't communicated as part of a larger economic and social programme but as an end in itself.
- While several schools' removal from the shift system was communicated, the benefits weren't.
- Expansion of the social safety net was not sufficiently emphasised.
- Silence on historic and transformative reform of Jamaica's ganja laws.
- The ERP wasn't communicated as a precondition for sustained economic growth, but as an externally imposed inconvenience.
- Because of poor communication, persons came to believe the growth agenda was separate from the ERP. So, 'others' could claim they'd provide growth while offering immediate relief from the ERP's inherent sacrifices (without additional taxes).
- Government didn't commu-nicate that its programmes and policies were in advancement of the party's wider philosophical view.
For example, auxiliary-school fees policy should've been explained as the best method of delivering highest-quality education to the most children AND juxtaposed against clearly established negative outcomes (e.g., reduced quality and extended delays in health, where 100 per cent state funding was inadequate to ensure reasonable standards).
That's SEVEN examples of poor communication. So, I guess the then information minister has been unceremoniously consigned to a political dustbin?
What you say? Sandinmybrain Faulkiner is retained as spokesperson for the opposition leader? The PNP is going into local government elections with the same spokesperson with the same abysmal communication skills that the then Government entered the general election? Is this what Knowall Arshatt is depending on to predict a clean sweep?
FINDINGS REGARDING SECRETARIAT
The appraisal report made the following findings regarding the party secretariat:
- Insufficient full-time organisers in the field.
- Relationship between and responsibilities of secretariat/regions weren't always clear, especially regarding candidate selection/dispute resolution.
Insufficient focus on enumeration. Many MPs/councillors didn't attend monthly constituency EOJ meetings. Many scrutineers didn't execute critical task of verifying electors' residence.
- No systematic focus given to recruitment.
- Communication was ad hoc at best. A consistent, disciplined message tailored for specific target audiences couldn't be discerned.
Under 'Funding of the Party', findings included:
- Lack of funding why there weren't enough organisers. Party executive approved staff complement, but ramp-up couldn't be funded. This crippled the party's ability to implement activities.
- Insufficient and unreliable sources of resources for additional staff to improve enumeration and communication.
- The PNPYO and PNP Women's Movement experienced a chronic shortage of funds to finance even basic organising activities.
That last express finding regarding underfunding of PNPYO/PNP Women's Movement must be a typo, because The Gleaner reported Knowall Arshatt as taking a Trumpesque swipe at his recent challenger for vice-president:
"The Gleaner understands that losing vice-presidential contender Lisa Hanna will be given a critical role in the upcoming local government elections to prove her worth.
" ... Arscott ... said it was his hope Hanna would be able to show, this time around, that she could attract young people to the PNP.
"'I expect her to use this campaign to demonstrate what she can do politically,' Arscott pointed out, while noting he was disappointed when Hanna, as youth minister, wasn't able to mobilise volumes of young people to the PNP in the last general election."
Oh, dear! Mr Arshatt, did you read the appraisal report? "This time around," will the PNP provide funding to PNPYO/PNP Women's Movement to allow THEM to "mobilise volumes of young people to the PNP" under Lisa's leadership? Or will it be more of the same (chronic underfunding), exposing a chronic PNP contempt for women and youth?
On party discipline, the committee found:
- Party sanctions are rarely applied despite instances of premature public outbursts before appropriate, available internal channels were exhausted.
- Internal disputes aren't swiftly and decisively addressed many times because of the PNP leadership's inability to agree.
- There's a sense of favouritism and inconsistency when party rules are applied.
- For these reasons, the much-heralded decency and loyalty, which traditionally accompany PNP's operations, have been eroded.
THREE MONTHS later, there've been at least TWO recent "premature public outbursts" of which Arshatt's is the second. Premature adjudication is commonly caused by fear. What do you fear, Knowall?
Space won't permit detailed reproduction of the report's campaign critique, but among the faults identified were weak advertisements; weak slogans; leaders' media inaccessibility; lack of social media 'branding'; ineffective deployment of resources; poor disbursement of funds as against constituency need; weak/inaccurate intelligence from the ground; and, most important, non-participation in the debate.
The committee recommended:
- Policy Review Commission to engage in wide-ranging consultations; reaffirm the party's core values; and ... develop policies that reflect PNP philosophy.
- Develop communications strategy to link achievements/policies to PNP core values.
- Revisit secretariat's structure and state to meet new political organising realities.
- Increase support staff for general secretary (gen sec) to elevate focus on enumeration/recruitment. Increase number of organisers available to gen sec for deployment based on priority areas.
- Full-time staff member assigned with responsibility for supporting the Recruitment Commission's work. Recruitment/enumeration assigned to a deputy gen sec.
- More consistent emphasis must be placed on enumeration, with monthly reports to the Executive Committee and reports at all NEC's monthly constituency EOJ meetings' attendance forming part of MPs'/councillors' assessment.
- Establish a properly staffed/resourced communications unit headed by a suitably qualified full-time communications director.
- Develop/implement a relevant, appealing and ongoing political education/training programme for ALL workers.
- Reform the role of groups to improve workers' morale/quality and the flow of reliable information to the party from the ground and vice versa. Strongly recommended this be done forthwith and a pilot programme be developed/implemented in two groups per division, in one constituency per region over the next six months. The future of the party rests on this issue.
- members' orientation programme to be developed and studiously applied.
Cut-off time for candidate selection should be the end of the third year after election, giving candidates two years in the constituency.
- New candidates to be given a work programme, mentorship and an executive assignee.
- All aspirants are to be approved by the party's Integrity Commission before facing the delegates.
- Develop a protocol, and provide guidance, on how elected persons should work together within a constituency to maximise quality representation and harmony.
Knowall, how many of these recommendations (especially groups' reform) have been implemented? Upon WHAT do you base your local government election prediction?
Peace and love.
P.S. Last week, I depended on notorious PhD, Dr Google, for the meaning of 'mapipi', a word missing from my extensive Eastern Caribbean vocabulary. I was VERY uncomfortable with his definition that seemed out of sync. So, I'm eternally grateful to a living Caribbean legend (asked for anonymity) who took the time to inform me 'mapipi' meant 'scorpion'. Sandra's metaphor involved a scorpion 'park up already' inside your shoe waiting for you to stick your foot in carelessly, so it can sting you.
Thanks a million.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com.