PNP Fight Club?
All eyes were on the pollsters last week, particularly Don Anderson, who published the "party standings". The results have the parties even, with 30 per cent each. It seems the message is abroad that national elections are coming, so people are paying attention to the great Jamaican soap opera.
For my own part, I have always found it surprising that a Government running a 7.5 per cent surplus could be anywhere within reach of the Opposition, much less running neck and neck. This could, in theory, be because of the magnificent performance of the Government across all sectors and their crystalline communication to the people about their plans and the work completed. But that's not so. So I more put it down to the "specialness" of the Opposition.
Incidentally, I have never supported the idea that the JLP stands no chance in the upcoming national election. That view seems to me based on PNP arrogance, and on a complete misreading of the last election result.
Less than 50,000 votes separated the parties nationally in 2011, and numerous seats were won by less than 500 votes. It was not a landslide except in seat tally.
So with that very close starting point, the fact that the PNP has remained even basically competitive while implementing the bitter medicine is remarkable.
I don't think anyone with even a passing familiarity with economics doubts that it's better for the country to have enacted these legislative, financial, tax and pension reforms. But they haven't been popular, for as much as people say they want change, the moment things actually begin to change you realise that they much prefer to talk about it. That's on the key point of the economy.
And when you add to all that some genuine failings, as well as the Government's atrocious communications, it's near miraculous that there's a real contest on, much less one in which the PNP is commonly spoken of as having an advantage.
I say all of that as prologue to commenting on the last few weeks of PNP infighting. Recently, the party seems intent on stealing defeat from the jaws of victory. What the JLP has been unable to do to it, the PNP may well choose to do it to itself. I speak, of course, of the PNP's Fight Club mentality that seems to have emerged over the last few months.
MEANING THROUGH CONFLICT
You will recall the cult classic starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, where a man goes psychotic and starts to assault himself and gathers a following of deranged people who find meaning through conflict. The fighting climaxes with acts of vandalism, which is the only way to describe the burning of the constituency office in North East St Elizabeth.
But well prior to that travesty, the PNP's plan was apparently to have disruptive constituency challenges purely for the fun of watching party-members campaign against each other and rip local organisations to pieces.
So an "indicative" contest was run in East Portland, only for the result to be nullified. Why was it run? Similarly in East Rural St Andrew, where a young MP who had obviously made some errors and probably deserved a rap on the knuckles, instead had a machete taken to his knees.
And what about his challenger, Peter Blake? He now has been very sorely treated, for he certainly doesn't deserve the whisperings that he cannot meet the requirements of the party's Integrity Commission. If not, why wasn't he and his supporters told this before?
Sometimes even when the contest has been run, as in South West St Elizabeth, the fun and games don't stop. North East St Elizabeth was already mentioned. South East St. Ann seems to have settled down, but who knows?
I'm tempted to say something about the fact that so many younger candidates were challenged, except that older ones were also challenged. Lloyd B and Patrick Atkinson wouldn't self-describe, I don't think, as "young", but I'm not prepared to make too many assumptions.
The terminology of "young" and "old" is proving to be very relative. It dawned on me the other day that people routinely referred to as "young" in both parties are contemporaries of President Obama (54) and older than David Cameron (49). This is a result of the local leadership cadre being septuagenarians and even octogenarians, which is in turn reflective of a kind of generational constipation caused by the long reigns of Messrs Manley, Patterson and Seaga.
On another point, the 'Integrity Commission' may want to have its name changed, as to hear that someone "failed" it seems to me to suggest an actionable offence. But the more important point is that it needs to do its work prior to the registration of paper-groups, the printing of T-shirts, the purchase of JB, and the stamping of placards. One would think that only made sense, but then there seems to be little pressure for any of this to make sense.
There are some who see grand designs and Machiavellian machinations in this rash of fires across constituencies. I don't agree. So much is due to pure indiscipline.
Finally, Lloyd B claimed to have grand revelations to make in the event of his ouster, and I want to invite him to please go ahead and do it. Some such would undoubtedly give me column-material for a few months. But also, why threaten instead of just making disclosure?
Remember that Lloyd B, as a one-time journalist, isn't minded to keep secrets, and so he entered Parliament by baring his buttocks to the nation. Never has a Parliamentary career started so gloriously. It would be a shame now, paraphrasing Elliot, for it to end, not with a bang, but with a whimper.
If some kind of primary system where challenges are common (as they have in the USA) is evolving here, it will have to be managed a lot better. Otherwise, the growing perception that there is one political party called the JLPNP will continue to gain ground, and with cause.
- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.