Tue | Aug 11, 2020

Mark Wignall | PNP has two options – defeat and devastation

Published:Sunday | July 5, 2020 | 12:30 AM
People’s National Party Co-Campaign Director Peter Bunting (left) chuckles with party President Dr Peter Phillips at a meeting of councillors and councillor caretakers at The Mico University College.
People’s National Party Co-Campaign Director Peter Bunting (left) chuckles with party President Dr Peter Phillips at a meeting of councillors and councillor caretakers at The Mico University College.

All opinion polls in the latter part of 2019 and in the months before COVID-19 crashed into Jamaica with a loud bang showed the Opposition PNP lagging way behind the ruling JLP. When both leaders are compared in various areas, Andrew Holness stands out far in front while Peter Phillips creeps up the rear like a late-minute afterthought.

In a recent Mello TV-Bill Johnson poll, a few numbers from a question jumped out at me and had me muttering obscene words to myself. The question was, ‘Which party would do a better job of rebuilding Jamaica after COVID-19?’

The answers were JLP, 52 per cent; PNP, 13 per cent; and ‘don’t know’, 35 per cent. The seemingly apathetic responses of ‘don’t know’ would, if pressed, from my experience in polling, break close to the JLP-PNP ratio. Added to that is 77 per cent of the 1,200 respondents/registered voters who say that the JLP administration is doing a good job handling COVID-19.

Certainly, from just talking to people at street level and hearing the words of those working at the top of high-rises, that 77 per cent is not a surprise. What must send the JLP hierarchy and the ‘working massive’ who live and breathe JLP into a season of cheer, delight, and nuff rum drinking is that 52 per cent who believe that the JLP, having proven its COVID-19 chops, is ideally suited to lead us through the next phase of building the difficult road ahead.

My human principles have led me to sympathise with the PNP and its leader, Dr Peter Phillips. A look back to 2005/2006 will show then prime minister and PNP president P.J. Patterson sniffing out his own staleness and recommending a woefully unprepared Portia Simpson Miller for his post. P.J. must have had his personal reasons for not, at the very least, giving Peter Phillips equal billing in that race in February 2006.

After that, I was always of the belief that Peter Phillips was more deserving of the PNP leadership than Portia. In the 2011 to 2016 run of the PNP, I saw Peter Phillips as the de facto PM. But all that is now gone.

Many of us, and that probably includes Peter Phillips himself, in peering into our best crystal balls in early 2016, never saw this version of Andrew Holness coming. The version that exists in 2020.

PAIN FOR PETER AND PNP

When a pollster sends out his team, there is always a bigger work that exists just to ensure that the veracity of the responses can be tested. There is, however, a downside. That happens when two responses are close to one another. If A is rated at 30 per cent and B is rated at 29 per cent, it is likely that a follow-up poll could show B ahead of A. It’s close and within the margin of error.

In the Mello TV-Bill Johnson poll, those problems do not show up. When 52 per cent of likely voters say the JLP would do the better job of rebuilding post-COVID-19 and a puny 13 per cent say the PNP would do the better job, the yawning gap in the numbers leaves no room to consider the PNP as having even a remote chance in the next election.

Even before we pundits get to the stage of looking at individual seats, and as we apply the factor of the huge islandwide swing to the JLP, we can see the not-so-secret parade of weeping and gnashing of teeth among the PNP party faithful that will take place on the morning after the next election.

Phillips has made himself out to be the unassailable firm PNP leader who is most fit to call out the JLP leader and the administration on corruption and in fighting crime. The PNP leader has to tread carefully now. We all know that our political past is littered with the morbid partnership of criminals and JLPNP politics.

In 2001, Dr Peter Phillips, Dr Omar Davies, and Dr Karl Blythe, all PNP government ministers, attended the funeral of ‘Willie’ Haggart, a man closely allied with the violent street politics of the PNP garrison.

We do not, of course, know what was in Dr Phillips’ heart on that day. It is quite possible that as he bowed his head in prayer in the church, it was instead in silent homage to the shame he could have felt.

We don’t know because he never explained away the embarrassment.

RICHARD CREARY SAYS ‘HELL NO’

Of all the voices that have complained that they have been done wrong by the Integrity Commission report on Petrojam, mayor of Port Maria Richard Creary seems to be the one who has placed his credibility out in the open marketplace for all to see.

Usually, after reports of this nature, there are individuals whose names were mentioned in various ways that paint them into a corner of embarrassment. When these persons respond in public, we can easily know who are the noisemakers, those headed for court, and, in other instances, those who were never even at the ‘scene of the crime’.

The report says that Creary was part of a panel that interviewed former general manager Floyd Grindley for the position. According to Creary, the impression is given that he, Creary, was somehow appointed to the Petrojam board to enable corruption.

Creary has told me, and I have seen him write it in sections of the media, that he was not present at the interview.

According to Creary, he was, in fact, invited to the meeting, but he indicated that he had other commitments and could not attend. He further states: “At that time, I had never met Floyd Grindley and did not meet him until his employment as general manager.”

Creary is either playing with the truth, or he is correct, and the report got it wrong. With him coming out so loudly, I would expect the Integrity Commission to similarly shout that it stands by its reporting, or the report got it horribly wrong. Not rocket science.

We wait with bated breath.

Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.