Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Mark Wignall | PNP needs a downtime

Published:Sunday | July 19, 2020 | 12:15 AM

Dr Peter Phillips (centre) with Peter Bunting (left) and Fitz Jackson at the PNP councillors/caretakers meeting at Mico University College in June.
Dr Peter Phillips (centre) with Peter Bunting (left) and Fitz Jackson at the PNP councillors/caretakers meeting at Mico University College in June.

In the 1950s when I was a child growing up, it used to be the norm that during summer holidays, children would contract all sorts of bodily undesirables. Ticks, lice, ‘bruken out’ (a scaly condition of the scalp), worms, foot conditions (most children attended school walking barefoot), and internal unknowns.

It was standard that in the week before back to school, parents would mix a four-inch cylindrical box of ‘herb’ – essentially a box of dried, finely grounded senna leaves in hot water – and force the children to drink it. At that time it was called purgative, or in a decent living room discussion, a laxative.

By the next day, the toilet and the child would be in unforced proximity.

Recent polls done by Bill Johnson for Mello TV have been capturing, in numbers, what many people know are their own sentiments.

Last Thursday morning, a group of workers – tyre men, car washers, gas station operators - told me they were hurting. When I asked them, openly, about their views about the political landscape, they were highly pessimistic.

But when I pressed them just a little more, even if they thought the present JLP administration was not immediately addressing their plight, most of the times that the PNP’s name came up, it was mostly dismissive and sometimes seen as little but an annoyance.

The Mello TV/Bill Johnson polls are telling me that the PNP needs that 1950s laxative. Indeed it is my view that the moment has prepared the PNP for this. Let me explain.

From about sometime in June, the PNP has been on high alert about Holness planning an August election. While the PNP gave the public the impression that its internal divisions were solved and that Phillips and Bunting were dancing to the same beat, when the Mello TV polls came out, it indicated major differences.

Phillips was slow-stepping to Last Dance with You while Bunting was jigging to Baby Goodbye.


Political parties win elections and sometimes they lose. What is facing the PNP at this time is something in its life that may change it forever. Some people call it a monumental moment.

At most times that political parties are getting themselves ready to face off with the electorate and make the case that one party is better than the other, the first order of business that is kept away from the eyes and ears of the public is shoring up the base of the party: the diehards.

The party diehards constitute the workers, small centres of influence, and those who would be willing to support the party by ‘spreading the word’ to others. It seems to me that that part of the PNP’s machinery has gone offline.

Based on the poll numbers, only 58 per cent of those who voted for the PNP are indicating that they intend to vote for the party in the next elections. What makes this 58 per cent so humiliating for the PNP is that those who are supposed to love the party the most and want to embrace it the tightest are not supporting it this time.

On the JLP’s side, 81 per cent of 2016 voters are indicating that it would vote for the party again. Simple deduction, based on these gargantuan gaps, would lead to an early conclusion that the PNP is about to get blown away at the next elections.

I believe that this ought to be a learning mention for the PNP. First, for those who believe that the PNP would do something quite radical and replace Phillips with Bunting, I say to them, relax and wake up out of your dream.

At the mention of Bunting, have we conveniently forgotten that in the same Mello TV poll, Bunting has bettered Phillips in being seen as the favoured leader of the PNP? Does it matter that young people between the ages of 18 to 35 support Holness over Phillips, and, as I have repeatedly said, when Holness talks, younger people listen, and when Phillips talks, most people go to bed.

Years ago, I used to work on the docks. Whenever an expensive gantry crane would break down, it would be obviously classified as ‘downtime’ for that crane. If the downtime per 24 hours added up to too much, and the repair bill per month was straining the entire system, it made sense that the purchase of a new crane matched with future profitability.

Peter Phillips’ downtime has been adding up, and it is time for the PNP to cut its losses, but I can quite understand that it cannot do it now. It is going to be forced to accept the back-siding that it is going to feel at the hands, the energy, and the machinery of the JLP at the next elections.

After that, the new leader of the PNP, whoever that person may turn out to be, will rise up as a ‘yute’ like Holness rose up in the JLP after being kept underground as a secret political missile for about three years.


The Mello TV polls have shown me numbers on corruption that I have long suspected. I must confess that I have never seen numbers that compared our two political parties on this metric, with the PNP perceived as more corrupt than the JLP.

The sad thing is that corruption as a big issue is not likely to boost one party’s chance over the other in Jamaica, and it is highly unlikely that it will take a party out of power.

Why is this so? We Jamaicans subscribe to it and practise it in our daily lives, and we expect our politicians to dip into the taxpayers’ purse.

If they don’t, we laugh at them.

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