Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Failure to keep promises would be JLP's undoing, says Ashley - PNP is a brand that people no longer want, argues political commentator

Published:Wednesday | November 1, 2017 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party supporters rejoicing together in Long Road during Monday's by-election in St Mary South East.
People’s National Party President Dr Peter Phillips (left) and Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament Olivia Grange embrace in Richmond, St Mary.
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Veteran political commentator Dr Paul Ashley said the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will earn the ire of South East St Mary if the very public promises made in the run up to Monday's by-election are not kept.

Ashley, in an interview with The Gleaner last evening, said the country is now witnessing imported political expectations, made worse by the promises of the JLP, which if not delivered will see their demise in the constituency.

"I guarantee that the residents all remember the promises, and if they don't deliver, the argument will be undone," he said, playing on the surname of victor, Dr Norman Dunn.

He defeated the People's National Party's (PNP) Dr Shane Alexis by polling 8,176 to 7,239 votes.

"They have to now immediately deliver on the promises made during the campaign. It means that resources that would have been put in other areas of the economy will have to be focused on the constituency. But we have a problem. Resources are very scarce and we have special zones that are in need of great resources and you cannot even satisfy one zone completely," argued Ashley.

 

IMPORTED EXPECTATIONS

 

"The constituency has been neglected for years. Rotting or non-existent infrastructure and joblessness. Underdevelopment has dogged the constituency for years. So if the Prime Minister and his government fail to deliver on the promises made, he must remember that the needs and wants of constituents are imported. They change every week, and they want instant fulfillment of those needs," reasoned the former University of the West Indies lecturer.

Ashley said the message to the Opposition PNP was not good. According to him, the PNP appears unable to fight to win any marginal constituency, and if that is so they could lose more, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

"Where is the well-oiled political machinery that the party often boasts that it has? Dr Peter Phillips was the party's director of elections in the 2016 general elections and local government election. So this is a message that machine is seized up, in need of oil and crystallised," he said.

He suggested that the party is suffering from "political laziness" and "an inability to interpret the changing political currents of either the constituents in South East St Mary, and across the country."

"I put it to you that the PNP is a brand that people no longer want, and are not interested in buying what it is selling. It means they need a rebranding, reactivation, and realignment," he warned.

... Loss not a blow-out of PNP

For senior lecturer in Political Psychology at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus, Dr Christopher Charles, some will view the win in South East St Mary as an endorsement of the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) campaign message of taking people from poverty to prosperity.

"Implications for the JLP is that it is framed as an endorsement of the government's policies. The positive implication is that governance will be easier, as it was a one seat majority and it gives the government some parliamentary breathing space. Governance will be easier when the margin is not razor thin," Charles told The Gleaner.

According to him, Prime Minister Andrew Holness now has a little more room to work, where the government's legislative agenda is concerned.

He suggested that it was not a total blow-out for the People's National Party (PNP).

"The win still falls within what is considered a marginal constituency. For the PNP, it is still winnable, as marginal fluctuates at election time. It also means that the JLP can maintain it in the next general elections, as the winning numbers do not suggest that it is going to become entrenched to any party anytime soon," Charles suggested.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com