Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Westmoreland on JLP radar - Holness targets green sweep in PNP country

Published:Monday | February 24, 2020 | 12:21 AM
Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness believes all Westmoreland seats will be in play for the next general election.
Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness believes all Westmoreland seats will be in play for the next general election.

Having trounced the People’s National Party (PNP) in the last local government elections in Westmoreland Central, where four out of five divisions were won by his side, Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness has given notice that he will be moving to paint the constituency green at the next polls.

In fact, Holness, who is also prime minister, said that he was confident that the Labour Party would be able to expand its footprint throughout the western parish that has become synonymous with the term ‘PNP country’. The JLP leader said that loyal supporters and those prepared to think independently could sway the balance of power.

“As it stands now, all seats in Westmoreland are in play!” the JLP leader charged, a declaration that appeared to excite his supporters, who responded with bell-ringing and cheers.

Westmoreland Central has been a PNP bastion, but the JLP swept the Petersfield, Frome, Savanna-la-Mar, and Cornwall Mountain divisions in the 2016 municipal polls. Only the Savanna-la-Mar North division was spared.

Since then, the JLP has had its tail up and has been searching for a candidate to run on the party’s ticket at the upcoming general election due by 2021 but widely expected to be called later this year.

Yesterday, Holness, who was addressing an Area Council Four meeting at the Rusea’s High School in Hanover, said the people had got a taste of what the JLP had to deliver.

“Even with limited resources, I know those councillors are praying people, they are loving people, they are accessible people, they are people who serve their community, they are people who go house to house, yard to yard, person to person, and they do what they can do.

“So, I am confident that the people of Central Westmoreland have been exposed to a better type of representation [in comparison] to what they have got in the last 30-odd years,” Holness asserted.

The PNP saw significant falling majorities in Westmoreland seats over the last general election.

Wykeham McNeill, a PNP vice-president and MP for Westmoreland Western, haemorrhaged 2,261 votes in the 2016 poll compared to the out-turn at polling divisions in 2011. He tallied 6,679 ballots to the JLP candidate Dixeth Palmer’s 5,186 less than four years ago, a far cry from the 8,940 he churned out in 2011.

In Westmoreland Central, Dwayne Vaz also fell out of stride with the now-deceased Roger Clarke, his predecessor. Clarke had notched 11,564 votes in 2011, but Vaz shed 1,586 ballots to win with 9,978 in 2016.

Luther Buchanan’s Westmoreland Eastern seat has also ceded ground to the Labourites – almost 1,400 votes in 2016 – but his cushion of almost 2,900 over his last challenger might be a steep challenge to overcome by 2021.

Holness said yesterday that constituents have been satisfied with the performance of the Government.

“There are many people who are happy that not just the Government, but the political party that forms the Government, is also showing interest in the (Westmoreland Central) seat, and we want your vote and your support because it means a lot to us,” he said.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com