Mon | Dec 11, 2017

Ian Boyne | Is Peter's team ready?

Published:Sunday | October 1, 2017 | 12:00 AM
PNP President Peter Phillips (second right) speaks to journalists at a press conference organised to name his shadow Cabinet. With him are Dr Wykeham Mc Neill (left), Julian Robinson (second left), and Fitz Jackson.

In a democratic society where cut and thrust and advocacy are important, it matters who opposition spokespersons are and how carefully they are chosen. In that regard, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips has provided the country with a healthy blend of spokespersons who should serve our interests well, once they do the work and not overdo the histrionics.

Fitz Jackson should be good for national security. Security Minister Bobby Montague will need to consult his obeah man uncle more often with Jackson shadowing him. Fitz is a no-nonsense person who can serve up the toughness and stridency that is needed for that job. He is a person who is not afraid to think outside of the box, and he is solid, generally, in terms of his ideas. His boldness and willingness to ruffle feathers should also stand him in good stead in that position.

I hope he will reserve some of that toughness for criminals and terrorists and not just direct it at the security minister. Those dog-heart creatures need to know that they have no sanctuary in an opposition security spokesperson who, because of 'politricks', sends the wrong signals to them when the entire society needs to gang up against criminals.

One of the most important appointments in this council of spokespersons is Damion Crawford's in youth and culture.

Damion is a strategic choice for Phillips, who desperately needs a youth champion. The Rastaman, as he is called, is masterful in connecting with youth. Damion is a charismatic platform speaker, electrifying, and captivating. He stimulates both your mind and your heart. He can take the most profound idea and make it intelligible to the simplest person.

A 67-year-old party leader needs someone like Damion Crawford by his side to champion his cause and to be the face of youth for the party. Damion is not only a good choice for Phillips' own stocks and a foil to the party leader's youthful detractors in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), but Damion Crawford is good for Jamaica. He is the anti-politician politician. He deplores and decries much of what is bad and detestable about Jamaican politics.

 

EMPTY PRAGMATISM

 

He has, to his own hurt and loss, stood against the clientelism and dependency syndrome that have characterised Jamaican politics, and he has put philosophy over empty pragmatism. Damion, by focusing on education over sheets of zinc and pork-barrel politics, sacrificed his political career. It is a good day in politics to see one who had to walk away because of a principled ideological and philosophical position brought back to serve again. All of us who believe in principle over expedience and who abhor transactional politics must welcome this young man's return to active political life.

Damion also has a view of culture that is broader and more comprehensive than the minstrelisation view that some see as synonymous with culture.

Culture is not just song and dance and 'skin up and bruk out'. It is not just the arts. Culture is about values, norms, beliefs, etc. Damion has the sophistication and depth to bring to culture, and he has an intimate understanding of the values our youth need. Great choice for youth and culture!

Some will say education needs a 'young, fresh mind'. And that Ronnie Thwaites is old and recycled. I strenuously disagree. Ronnie is the right man to shadow education. He is one of our brightest and most intellectually sophisticated politicians. There is no one who has a keener grasp of this crucial matter of values and attitudes than Ronnie Thwaites. There is an asinine view that it is absurd that someone of Ronnie's age should be in charge of the education of our youth. That's pure bunkum, put forward by those who have no respect for scientific findings.

Peter Bunting should do well in industry, investment, and competitiveness. I like the fact that competitiveness is a discreet portfolio area, showing the opposition leader's being au fait with current thinking in economics. (I suspect, too, that Imani Duncan-Price's working closely with him would help in this area as she is quite attuned to competitiveness issues.) Bunting has been a very successful businessman and is respected in the private sector. He has the kind of amiable and affable personality that will make him work well with the business class once he avoids the kind of gaffe that landed him in the doghouse with the Chinese elite recently.

His lifelong friend and former business partner Mark Golding has also been successful in business. He now has the finance portfolio, and he is competent to manage it. However, he faces the very experienced and seasoned Finance Minister Audley Shaw, who will be a formidable opponent. The finance portfolio is demanding, and Mark's success is not guaranteed because he is bright and has been a successful businessman. He will have to stick close to Peter Phillips to get guidance with this portfolio.

Phillips has brought in one of his loyalists and long-time PNP activists, Donna Scott Mottley, an able and respected attorney-at-law. But here again, she is facing a very strong and capable minister who is not short on ideas and meaningful programmes. It is not the easiest task shadowing him. Donna will not be as strong as Mark Golding was, but I am prepared to wait and see.

Lisa Hanna has been given foreign affairs and foreign trade. Lisa is smart, articulate, and driven and is not averse to reading. She will need to do a lot of that in this portfolio if she is to be taken seriously. I think she is ambitious enough to do the work. This is a portfolio in which you can't fake it or wing it. You either know it or you don't. I think Lisa is cosmopolitan and intellectually curious enough to do well here.

 

MASSIVE BLUNDER

 

Anthony Hylton, of course, would be the most experienced and most intellectually competent for the foreign affairs portfolio, but there's nothing wrong with appointing a woman like Lisa, who can do a good job. I disagree with Nationwide that Hylton's position is a demotion. (But Cliff Hughes might have been told that by insiders. In that case, I defer to him and his usually impeccable sources.)

But Hylton has developed quite an expertise in the development area, particularly logistic-centred development. He is very passionate and knowledgeable about that. And physical planning is not something to sniff at, Cliff. Development and physical planning are important even if we, in our short-sightedness nationally, have not taken them seriously.

Young, dynamic, hard-hitting Dayton Campbell is excellent for health. Good choice both strategically for PNP politics and nationally. Dayton, like Damion, can speak the people's language. Dayton will make an impact on that portfolio. Excellent choice!

Phillips' biggest, inexplicable blunder is not giving information to Julian Robinson. Massive blunder. Natalie Neita is a warm, endearing person, but it will take far more than that to marshal that portfolio. We journalists are not the easiest to deal with. We are fastidious, cantankerous, mischievous, and demanding. Julian has the political savvy, the masterful communication skills, the likeability combined with the depth and nuance to handle information. He is skilled in communicating with the press on sensitive, delicate issues and is the diplomat par excellence. His style is to be measured, temperate, balanced, and credible. He has strong appeal nationally, with formidable middle-class credentials. Phillips missed an opportunity to strengthen his arsenal and bolster his stakes by having Julian as his spokesperson. Don't tell me Julian could not handle information along with science and technology.

The chess player, Andrew Holness, is just sitting back and watching. Tonight, he is expected to announce the St Mary by-election. He has already signalled that he is reshuffling his Cabinet. He has allowed Peter to play his hand first. Now, Andrew will know what to do. It is his draw now, and he knows this game called politics.

Andrew is even more constrained by internal party politics than Peter Phillips. He won't be able to do all he really wants. Politics is the art of the possible, and his possibilities are severely restricted. The elephant in the room, of course, is that these two parties are merely reshuffling the deck on the IMF ship. The sail is already set. When all appointments are made, how will the pie be increased so that we can truly have an economy that works for all?

- Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist working with the Jamaica Information Service. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ianboyne1@yahoo.com.