Marlon Morgan, Contributor
The last time I featured in these column inches, I penned an article headlined, 'Will the real Audley Shaw please stand up'? As it turns out, he has.
In my previous column, I sought to highlight the fact that the ongoing race for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had caused leadership aspirant Audley Shaw to move away from his customary rambunctious profile and attempt to cast himself in the mould of a conscious, thoughtful and sober statesman.
The case was effectively made that Shaw was attempting to become something, or better yet, someone he is not, because the image he was attempting to project bore attributes that are more closely associated with incumbent JLP leader Andrew Holness than Shaw himself.
One can hardly begin to imagine, therefore, how astounded I was when I observed Mr Shaw, by way of platform pronouncements, taking a 180-degree turn by signalling that he not only intends to be the People's National Party's (PNP's) worst nightmare, but that the country could expect to get "ray-ray" and "lay-lay" from him should he emerge as JLP leader following conference in November.
DID HE BLUNDER?
I thought for a minute: has Mr Shaw totally lost it? Did he blunder? Or was it a case of his handlers having led him astray? Has he not realised that even the prime minister herself has toned down and is no longer operating in her classic 'ray-ray' mode? But then it dawned on me that this was simply a case where someone who was seeking to become something he is not ended up being totally confused. That is to say, having moved from one end of the spectrum where he sought to project a statesmanlike countenance, Mr Shaw seems to have now reverted to his usual self. Like that leopard that never changes its spots, Shaw has come full circle and has gone back to being the overly confrontational, impulse-driven, and rambunctious political figure he is.
It is evident that Team Shaw has become so confused in this intense leadership campaign that they have not quite worked out what exactly it is that they want their candidate to represent, and are in a quandary as to which Audley they intend to sell to delegates of the JLP, and ultimately, the Jamaican electorate. Apparently, the high road was just too high for them.
As outsiders looking in, we can only make an educated guess as to what is really going on inside that Shaw camp, but what we can be certain of is the fact that whenever an aspirant for high office steps forward and ends up moving from one end of the spectrum to the other in his or her bid for office, it is usually a telltale sign of insincerity and a paucity of credibility.
Overly Pious and Mundane
There will always be a place for entertaining rhetoric and a kind of political engagement that is aimed at energising a crowd and mobilising grass-roots support. Were that not the case, we would be at risk of being overly pious and mundane in our politicking.
And so, riling up the crowd every now and then has to be seen as a natural part of the process. Given our political culture, the witty platform jabs and humorous rhetoric is part of the cut and thrust of Jamaican politics. But at the same time, this must never take precedence over the more substantial aspects of political engagement. In other words, riling up the crowd is not the be-all and end-all. The ecclesiastic approach is the right approach, for there must be a time and a place for everything under the sun.
While it is yet to win a place in the Oxford dictionary, this notion of straight-up 'ray-ray' politics should be seen as denoting a kind of political engagement that is characterised by heated exchanges, political one-upmanship, empty rhetoric, and fanfare aimed at engaging emotions rather than intelligence.
Now the question is: How far will this kind of politics take the JLP as a party and Jamaica as a country? How much further down the wicket will 'di jump up and prance', 'tekking it to the political opponent' and 'nightmare' politics take us? How much closer towards achieving the outcomes set out in Vision 2030, in addition to: increasing productivity, reducing unemployment, attracting investments, earning more foreign exchange, improving our trade balance and growing our economy, will the 'ray-ray' and 'lay-lay' politics take us?
Let me highlight the dangers of 'ray-ray' and 'lay-lay' politics. First and foremost, Mr Shaw doesn't quite understand what he is actually saying when he indicates that we are going to get 'lay-lay' as well, because the expression 'lay-lay' in Jamaican vernacular actually denotes delay and inaction on the part of those who should actually be carrying out certain actions. Has Shaw been thinking through his statements?
As far as 'ray-ray' politics goes, it is instructive to note that it has three main features: aggression, empty promises and deception. As one would readily imagine, these are all deleterious and have nothing more than a debilitating impact on a country and the development of its people.
The Portia Simpson Miller-led PNP has clearly mastered this brand of politics. Between 2007 and 2011, they made good on the then opposition leader's promise to be the JLP administration's worst nightmare. They engaged in destructive gamesmanship, took to the streets, engaged in numerous bus tours and created a generally unstable political environment. As it turns out, that promise of being the then government's worst nightmare is pretty much the only promise they have managed to fulfil.
In making a bid for office, the PNP promised: an IMF agreement in two weeks, a solution to the chronic unemployment problem (a la JEEP), a generally safer society, lower tax burdens, reductions in the cost of energy, and a more favourable business environment. Needless to say, they have failed to deliver on those promises, and it is Jamaica and ordinary Jamaicans who are now suffering as a result.
The kind of politics we have come to describe as 'ray-ray' is highly opportunistic and deceptive by nature. It is geared towards impulsive behaviour and appeals to people's emotions rather than their intellect.
Having regard to the facade this kind of politics creates, one can hardly blame that lady who, on the night of the elections back in 2011, signalled her delight at the PNP's victory because "shi tiyad a chicken back, shi can now eat hoxtail and curry goat". Sadly, we can only commiserate with her at this time, for while many of us knew better, she was apparently terribly misled.
It is with this reality in mind that Mr Shaw needs to wheel and come again. It is offensive and downright belittling to JLP delegates, and the Jamaican people at large, to be offering little more than 'ray-ray' politics at a time like this.
We are in a dispensation that requires those who aspire to lead us to proffer more compelling and substantial things than that. By promising 'ray-ray' politics, what Shaw is in effect doing, much to the annoyance of well-thinking JLP delegates, is signalling that he either doesn't have the time to engage them on real issues, or that they, the delegates, just do not have the requisite intelligence to sift through issues and make a clinical assessment of pertinent matters. Either way, this is downright unfortunate and highly offensive.
Marlon Morgan is an aide to Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and former vice-president of Generation 2000 (G2K).