Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Westminster stunts political leadership

Published:Friday | April 29, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I enjoyed Gordon Robinson's column 'Swapping white Queen for non-executive monkey' in The Sunday Gleaner of April 24, 2016, though I objected to the racial connotations of the 'non-executive monkey' phrase.

Here in the United States where I live, many of the inimical aspects of government he outlined in the piece are not nearly as evident and/or debilitating as in Jamaica.

The reason has to do with the thinking of the founding fathers. They realised that human nature is essentially selfish, and so they designed a system around our foibles that make allowances. Through checks and balances and a well-funded and independent judicial system, they achieve that objective.

The Westminster system, in addition to the built-in problems of its design, which Mr Robinson ably outlined, also stunts the development of effective leadership. What do I mean? An essential characteristic of the system - and its most debilitating in my opinion - is its adherence to succession, seniority, tradition and process when it comes to hierarchy and leadership ascension.

What you essentially have in Jamaica is an entrenched kleptocracy where politicians, in both parties, protect each other and their respective fiefdoms.

An honest, patriotic - but unknown - citizen would be hard-pressed to navigate its Byzantine party rules, tradition, friendship-privileged and crony-influenced system of succession. Consequently, the country is deprived of great but languishing talent year after year.

The Republican system, as practised here in The United States, is superior in that regard. All you need to become eligible to run for president is to get on the ballot in all 50 states. And how do you do that? You collect 500 signatures per state on a petition and fill out an FEC form 2.

There are also some ancillary rules, like how you get on the mandatory debate circuit, but essentially that is all you need! The only reason it requires vast sums of money here is because of the vastness of the geography and the population.

It doesn't, however, discriminate against you by virtue of age, party seniority, or wealth. In addition, assuming you satisfy the requirements, you automatically become eligible for federal matching funds. With that you can take your fight directly to the people and solicit their support on your journey.

This is the closest you can come to pure democracy.