It's thought that how a political candidate conducts a campaign is indicative of how he would manage the Government. So when Audley possibly-slightly-maybe-kinda-sorta announced that he might-potentially-perhaps-conceivably-somewhat and, to some extent, throw his hat into the ring, we maybe-kinda-sorta-might want to pay attention. Indecisiveness was supposed to be part of the Andrew problem.
However, it's important to not be too harsh here. Audacious Audley is breaking new ground inventing a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) presidential challenge. Some scallywags are saying he's bringing these new-fangled innovations over from his days in the People's National Party Youth Organisation. But isn't this like when Audley possibly-slightly-maybe-kinda-sorta-potentially-perhaps-conceivably-somewhat and, to some extent, had an IMF agreement?
Well, The Gleaner identified some JLP members who were reportedly supporting Andrew, and others who seem-possibly-slightly-maybe-kinda-sorta-potentially-perhaps-conceivably-somewhat and, to some extent, willing to support Audley. You can't blame them. Who jumps out against an incumbent when the challenger hasn't jumped out himself! Nutten nuh goh soh! C'mon, Audley! It's called a leap of faith.
But according to a certain pre-modern logic, 'When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.' Truth is, Audley has crossed the Rubicon and, like Caesar, must conquer or, according to that mindset, suffer execution. And that mindset is prevalent. Listen to Pearnel Charles or 'Babsy' Grange at that recent meeting in South Central St Catherine, supposedly selling Holness as the consensual-type leader of the future, but doing it in such a way as to virtually incite civil war in the party. Imagine Tyrannosaurus rex fumbling with an iPad to instruct us about how it works.
Could young-blood Wheatley be serious when he said, "Nutten nuh de yah fi yuh!" to Audley, supposedly speaking for all his constituency delegates? One has to contrast that with Daryl Vaz's invitation to both candidates to advertise their strengths to the delegates of West Portland. Anyway, the analysis so far has focused on the MPs, and insufficiently on the other 42 caretakers.
Interestingly, no PNP MP would dare express Wheatley's sentiment. There, the delegates take it as almost an article of faith to revolt against their parliamentarians in these matters. Delegate revolt brought Joshua to leadership over Blake. Later, delegates had decided on P.J. Patterson, and efforts to install Hugh Small went nowhere. In the last presidential race, the delegates joyously thumbed their noses at the parliamentary group once again.
I want to say that I admire both these men, who are about to square off. It's no bed of roses out there, and both of them are holding themselves out to lead a critical national institution - the Jamaica Labour Party. I'm mindful that it's easy to 'chaw' fire and render harsh judgement from the luxurious sidelines of commentating.
But consider for a moment the stress and discomfiture that they are undergoing in this looming internal contest. External fights are easy compared to judgement by one's colleagues. It's why the internal fights are harder, bitterer, and have more lasting consequences.
Also, the nature and texture of this collision will have consequences for the country at large. As both major newspapers have pointed out, and everyone with more than half-dozen brain cells knows, the current fiscal containment (that is contracting the economy) is inevitable under whomever controls the Government. Jamaica has taken populist deficit-spending to absurd levels, and expanded Government dangerously.
Given the history of the PNP and the IMF, both in Government and in Opposition (including the grief given to Mr Seaga in the 1980s), there is ripe irony that it now falls to it to contain the consequences of past fiscal extravagance. After Mr Shaw's recent hide-and-seek game with the Fund, it would be fascinating to hear him and Mr Holness campaign on issues and ideas about critical tax, pension, and civil-service reform, rather than tripping over each other to criticise Peter Phillips, who has already gone far further with facing hard decisions than either of them seemed able to while at the helm.
GOAT MOUT 'GAINST GOAT ISLANDS
Battle lines between environmentalists and Government are drawn as clearly as those between Audley and Andrew, even though Government claims to be only possibly-slightly-maybe-kinda-sorta-potentially-perhaps-conceivably-somewhat and, to some extent, contemplating a mega port facility on the Goat Islands.
I don't know enough about the proposed project to judge whether, overall, it's a good or bad idea, but I do begin with enormous scepticism about letting developers go into what has already been designated a 'protected area'. It would seem to me that the burden of proof as to why development should take place there ought to be extraordinarily high. However, as I see it, environmentalists have already lost the battle.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that, in general, environmental sentiment is like protected mangroves: miles wide, but not particularly deep. So if there's a solid offer of 'development', promises to protect and preserve slip out the window. Also, who can doubt for a moment Omar Davies' statement that abject poverty is the environment's worst enemy?
But on top of all that, the environmental lobby tends to be populated by people who spurn the political process. They are, therefore, noisy but powerless. I don't observe this with any satisfaction. But I don't know of one PNP group focused on environmental protection, or of one JLP branch that is. Environmental lobbyists affect the voting pattern in no constituency. Nor in any parish council division. In fact, I doubt there's even one PD where that's the case.
This is without question a failure of our political system. But it is likewise a failure of the environmentalists. In general, they have chosen the undoubted and abundant pleasures of isolated righteous indignation over the complicated crosses of actual engagement.
I'm not saying they're not busy doing great work. We all profit from their exertions in ways that we don't even think about. But when Stalin asked dismissively, "How many divisions has the Pope?" he was identifying with great accuracy why Rome didn't factor much in his ground game.
While the Government is making a decision, why don't we have a referendum on whether to call the country 'Chimaica' or 'Jamaichina'? I jest. But let us just remember that the Chinese walk their cities with masks because of polluted air, and workers hand-pollinate the orchards because they've killed off the bees. To warp Tacitus: they create a desert and call it progress.
Daniel Thwaites is a partner of Thwaites Law Firm in Jamaica, and Thwaites, Lundgren & D'Arcy in New York. Email feedback to email@example.com.