Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Gordon Robinson | The best Christmas gift ever

Published:Sunday | December 18, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Dr Peter Phillips with Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller at the People's National Party candidate councillors meeting at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston on Sunday, November 5, 2016.

As the Computer Whiz (aged 5) used to say, "It's Crimpas Time!"

Every parent has experienced going to bed circa 3.00 a.m. on December 25th after completing some vital, albeit childish tasks, only to be awoken two hours later by the sounds of excitement. For me, it was the Ampersand, aged 4 and still with a bad lisp-tongue shouting to the Computer Whiz: "Douglath, Douglath, wake up, wake up! Thanta come, Thanta come!!"

Those experiences, thank God, are now behind us, and although the family, with the late addition of SputNick, still gets together for the traditional Christmas Day breakfast, it's a far more sedate process. Usually, we (the Old Ball and Chain and I) wake up long before the "children" and I have time to play all sorts of warped mind games like contemplating, while we wait, what sort of Christmas gifts the rich and famous are opening. This year, we can play the game a week in advance.

Right off the bat I can state with certainty that Peter Phillips has found the greatest gift of all under the tree as he's about to be ushered into leadership of the People's National Party (PNP) without turning a hair. That venerable organisation must enjoy self-flagellation, as not one opponent has so far come forward to try to put together a leadership team with even a 5 per cent chance of winning the next general election.

 

ISSUES AFFECTING ELECTION

 

It's fair to say that, at least according to constitutional convention, Portia has stepped down after being rejected by the people at the polls. But has the PNP forgotten who engineered that loss? As campaign manager, it was Peter Phillips who took the decision to attack Young Andrew's acquisition of a home in Beverley Hills as a public policy issue and who didn't back down until it was crystal clear that he was barking up the wrong tree. As campaign manager, Peter Phillips decided that the PNP wouldn't debate, or at least approved that decision. These are the two major issues that even the PNP in its appraisal report has acknowledged cost it the election.

Lest we forget, this is what the report found:

"Among the main findings is that, as indicated by post-election polls and focus groups, the decision not to participate in the national debate was a fatal error. It contributed to the impression that the Party was arrogant and took the electorate for granted."

Peter Phillips led the charge in an electoral decision that the PNP itself admits "contributed to the impression that the Party was arrogant and took the electorate for granted". His punishment? He's now promoted to Ultimate Comrade Leader!

Peter Phillips led the 'boycott the debates' charge. That decision was found by the PNP itself to be "a fatal error". Apparently, the error was only fatal to Portia, but not to Peter, who led the crafting of that error.

Lest we forget, this is what the report found:

"Our findings also indicated that there was a breakdown of trust among elements of the leadership leading into the campaign. This was never resolved and led to the campaign being dysfunctional and divided."

If ever there was a basis for a complete eradication of old guard leadership, including Peter Phillips, THIS IS IT. Instead, we, the Jamaican people are once again shafted down the elevator of our dreams of national leadership by a weak-kneed Peter Bunting who is behaving like one of the worst Festival songs (Stop and Go); and by a closing of the ranks within the PNP resulting in the presentation to Jamaica of a 67-year-old two-time loser before the delegates as the sole alternative to Young Andrew as Prime Minister. We the Jamaican people deserve better, but, instead we're getting panic, fear and cowardice where leadership once was.

Lest we forget, this is what the PNP appraisal report found:

"The Party's message did not communicate hope and was incoherent. It was exacerbated by the decision to raise the issue of Holness' house during the campaign. There are some who felt the Party had deviated from its core philosophy."

Peter Phillips led the campaign team that crafted an "incoherent" message that failed to "communicate hope". Peter Phillips it was who led the public charge about Young Andrew's House. Peter Phillips it was who led a campaign team that the Party felt had "deviated from its core philosophy".

Under Government, the Report found:

"The achievements in Government were not effectively communicated" and "the Government's policies and achievements were not sufficiently communicated in the context of an overall plan derived from the core values and objectives of the Party, which the wider population could identify with and embrace. Persons could not link the sacrifice of the programme with the wider historic struggle/mission of the Party".

 

NOT A POLITICAL LEADER

 

Peter Phillips is widely credited with the said achievements (or at least the foremost achievement, namely of economic stability), yet his campaign team was unable to "effectively" or "sufficiently" communicate them to the electorate. This simply means that while Peter Phillips is a top-class technocrat (or minister) with a safe pair of hands, he is NOT A POLITICAL LEADER. I'm giving the PNP a friendly warning that unless it wakes up and smells the ink on its own appraisal report, in a wink, Young Andrew could be Prime Minister for life.

The appraisal report specifically found that "the Economic Reform Programme (ERF) was not communicated as a precondition for sustained economic growth, but as an externally imposed inconvenience". To put it more crassly, the PNP's own appraisal report found that Peter Phillips couldn't even properly communicate his own achievements or the details of his own programmes.

The report went on to be even more scathing: "The discourse suggested that a separate growth agenda was required and many persons came to believe that the growth agenda was separate from the Economic Reform Programme." Discussions on "growth" and the ERF were Peter Phillips' speciality. This was HIS baby. He sent the incorrect message about HIS work. Good God, can you imagine him struggling to explain complex issues surrounding a new telecoms licence or a Port Authority pension multimillion gratuity saga?

"The Government's communication did not suggest that its programmes and policies were in advancement of the wider philosophical view of the Party." This additional detailed finding emphasises Peter Phillips' strengths to be in government, NOT in party politics.

Don't start me on the appraisal's finding specifically about the campaign.

"The Party's organisation should have been ready with all candidates in place before any telegraphing of an election campaign."

Who was it that "telegraphed" an election campaign as early as July 2015? That was PETER PHILLIPS, and this finding is a personal indictment on him. Now, if a campaign manager can't even keep his trap shut strategically when it's required, what on earth is he going to be like as party leader? One thing NOBODY can accuse Portia of is lack of knowledge of how and when to shut up. As a result of foot-in-mouth "telegraphing", the appraisal found:

"The JLP was able to maximise enumeration in a number of critical marginal seats in the phase ending on September 30, 2015, while (due to the telegraphing of an imminent election) the Party was focused on campaigning rather than enumeration."

Do any of you need reminding the JLP won the election by ONE SEAT?

 

DIVIDED

 

Specifically under the heading Leadership of the Campaign, we come to the most damning findings for the future party leader:

"Findings: The campaign could be best described as dysfunctional, disjointed and divided.

"There was a breakdown of trust among critical team players; and as a result, different centres of power and influence emerged which negatively impacted the coordination of the campaign.

"National campaign management meetings were infrequent, and as a result, senior leaders of the Party felt excluded.

"There was not a sufficient inclusion of younger persons in the leadership of the campaign to ensure knowledge transfer for future campaigns."

Well, screw me with a rusty totem pole! THIS is the man PNP is about to usher, by acclaim, into the post of Top Dog; Comrade Leader; El Numero Uno? God Bless 'em, I say. Merry Christmas to Peter, but Merrier Christmas to the JLP whose position in government has been cemented by the PNP's gift jointly to Peter Phillips and the JLP.

Peace and Love

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@

gleanerjm.com.