'PNP expected fallout'
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Reporter
Denial and disbelief overwhelmed People's National Party (PNP) supporters on the ground yesterday as news emerged that their perennially popular leader, Portia Simpson Miller, was, for the first time, trailing her opposition rival, Andrew Holness, in national polls.
At the same time, the leadership of the governing PNP, reacting to the Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll conducted on September 6-7 and 13-14, conceded that they had expected a mid-season fallout.
The poll was conducted among 1,208 residents of Jamaica and has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.
With scheduled political activities on a lull over the weekend, the emotions of Comrades, triggered by the first results published since Johnson's return from the field, were on full display on social networks, ahead of tonight's executive meeting.
The Johnson poll results, published in The Sunday Gleaner, revealed that Jamaicans, by nearly a 2:1 margin, believed Holness, who leads the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), would do a better job as prime minister than Simpson Miller.
IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
The poll results also showed that just over seven out of every 10 Jamaicans believe the Simpson Miller-led administration is steering the country in the wrong direction.
Yesterday, PNP activist Allan Rickards and a host of Comrades reacting to the findings on Facebook, questioned the accuracy of the poll and credibility of the pollster.
Rickards, however, acknowledged that the PNP machinery had been found wanting and the poll signalled a wake-up call for his party.
"Among other things, our information/PR is inept and virtually non-existent," Rickards charged, while arguing that some of the successes of the Government's economic programme were the greatest fear of the JLP.
"We should not help them to focus on sideshows. Arrogance is now becoming clear in some of our ministers and it's usually those doing the least effective work."
The PNP leadership in a response issued to the media through Deputy General Secretary Raymond Pryce, steered clear of the blame game, asserting that a mid-term poll was timely.
"As a course of our regular political work programme, the party has also commissioned internal polls, the results of which will be used to refine and define the political work programme on which we are now embarked," Pryce said.
Well-placed party insiders, with whom The Gleaner spoke, indicated that the findings of the PNP-commissioned internal polls are just as disappointing as those of Johnson's.
They said that Simpson Miller's mettle would be determined by how she leads from here on.
In suggesting the party was not surprised by the Johnson poll numbers, Pryce said some fallout had been anticipated from its commitment to the ongoing economic programme.
"We are not unmindful of the negative impact; nor will we be dismissive of public opinion," he said. "We are, however, optimistic that in a relatively short period of time, more Jamaicans will register a more positive outlook on the future. This is already being seen in investor, business and consumer confidence indices which are trending up."
Pryce said the Government remained grateful to the Jamaican people for their patience and perseverance as it continues to build out the necessary infrastructure that would support an economy which would be built on sustainable growth and development, as well as fiscal responsibility.
He promised that such an economy would be inclusive and would generate more and better paying jobs.