Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Don’t blame me, blame the PNP - Buchanan - Discarded MP says party did not do enough to hold bellwether seat

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2016 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris

For decades, voters in St Elizabeth South West have signalled the direction of the general election by electing the candidate from the party which the country will give the nod to form the government, and this time was no exception.

The People's National Party's Hugh Buchanan entered last Thursday's poll defending a wafer-thin majority, and was given a sound thrashing by the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Floyd Green.

But Buchanan is excusing his defeat by pointing out that he was trying to retain a bellwether seat.

"It doesn't have to do with the performance of the member of parliament. I think it more has to do with the election itself, and how the parties approach the seat before the election, not just the individual candidate," said Buchanan, who lost by more than 2,000 votes.

"The evidence was there from before, so, therefore, it stands true," added Buchanan, who argued that the battle for the seat should have been waged by the party and not left to the member of parliament to try to take it home.




South West St Elizabeth has voted for the winning party in every general election except 1959, earning it the reputation as one of the weathervane or bellwether seats in the island and signalling a JLP victory last Thursday.

But Buchanan doesn't believe the PNP's loss of the constituency is his fault.

"The party could have done other things, not just leading up to the election, but from the beginning. The seat is not one that is accustomed to having a backbench member of parliament," he said.

Political historian Anthony Myers agreed that given the track record of the constituency, it is one which the two major parties must pay particular attention to.

"In the 2011 election, despite Christopher Tufton having won in 2007 by a wide margin, somewhere close to 2,000, he ended up losing by 13 and the PNP won the election 42 to 21, and now Hugh Buchanan ends up losing by more than 2,000 and the JLP won the election, although it's a very close election," said Myers.

But pollster Bill Johnson, who projected Buchanan's defeat, has not bought into the idea that this constituency determines the fate of the country.




Using the results from a poll conducted a few days before the February 25 election, Johnson said Buchanan's defeat was almost inevitable.

Johnson reported that 42 per cent of the electors in the constituency said they would cast their vote for Green, while 34 per cent found Buchanan more favourable.

"The poll is right on. It could not have been more accurate. I wasn't surprised by the outcome," Johnson told The Sunday Gleaner.

Johnson, who has conducted pre-election polls in at least nine other Caribbean countries, said every country seems to have a bellwether seat.

"I don't dwell on that stuff. I just think it is a statistical anomaly," he said.

"That legend will continue until it is broken." He argued that the likeability of a candidate is more important in determining who wins the constituency each election.

"Buchanan's problem was that he was disliked by the people," said Johnson.