Young politicians not shining through
Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
The vast majority of Jamaicans are not familiar with the young members of the country's two major political parties, the latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll has revealed.
Many persons were stumped when asked to identify one or two rising stars in the either the People's National Party (PNP) or the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
Eighty-nine per cent of those polled were unable to identify one such person in the JLP while 58 per cent could not do so for the PNP.
The poll, conducted September 6 and 7 and September 13 and 14, included interviews with 1,208 Jamaicans and has a sampling error of plus or minus three per cent.
"We asked 1,200 people ... and for the vast majority of them, they didn't have anybody to say," pollster Johnson said. "Many people are just not paying attention to politics. If we ask the people to name three or four rising, young resident DJs or entertainers, one could probably name them rather than rising young political figures."
Political commentator Dr Paul Ashley is blaming political shortsightedness for persons not being more cognisant of promising young persons in that arena.
"The Jamaican people are not interested in who is going to lead the party in the future; our politics is very immediate, what's going on now," Ashley said. "And if the current one (party leader) can't deliver, we try the leader in the next party, and it is (about) who can win election, nothing else."
Among those who were able to answer the question, the outspoken, first-time Member of Parliament Damion Crawford was the most mentioned.
CRAWFORD MOST POPULAR
The 34-year-old St Andrew East Rural representative, who is also minister of state in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, was named by 30 per cent of respondents when asked if they could name rising, young stars in the PNP.
Crawford, who it is rumoured will not be seeking re-election, is trailed by comrade Lisa Hanna, whose name was put forward by 18 per cent of respondents. The third most popular young politician, Raymond Pryce (four per cent), also hails from the ruling party.
Christopher Tufton was the person most readily identified as a young, rising star within the JLP, with three per cent of those polled giving his name. Tufton is followed by fellow Labourite Floyd Green (two per cent).
The PNP's Mikael Phillips and Julian Robinson, along with the JLP's Delano Seivright and Marlene Malahoo-Forte, were each selected by one per cent of those polled.
Johnson believes there are not many persons to choose from, where young, bright politicians are concerned because of the unattractiveness of local politics.
"I think a lot of people believe that there is just a lot of corruption in elected politics, whether it is true or not, and they just don't want to be part of it," Johnson said. "The ultra-strong party system in Jamaica doesn't make it possible for someone to come out of the blue, on their own, and just decide to run for office. Without the support of the party, you have virtually no chance of going anywhere."
Ashley supports Johnson's argument, adding that: "The current political landscape is not based on how you perform but the ability to attract significant amounts of money. The young people can't do that. And as soon as a young one (politician) looks too bright and uppity, they chop them down."
Sociologist Dr Orville Taylor, who believes that the political arena has "over the years not established itself as a good place to be for the honest young", is urging persons who have an interest in politics to achieve financial stability before putting themselves forward.
"While I like the idea of young people stepping forward and doing representational politics, what about their personal ambition outside?" Taylor asked. "Are they going to spend their entire lives being legislators? And if that's the case, then the salary of a legislator is not particularly competitive. So what kind of temptation would that be putting in the mind and the heart of a young man? So I feel that when you are getting into representational politics, you must have already carved out a path for yourself in your profession."