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Polls and political propaganda

Published:Tuesday | November 17, 2015 | 12:00 AMMark Wignall


A few days ago, a JLP MP and a PNP propagandist were both feeding me the same line: The JLP had a poll showing that party ahead by three percentage points, while the PNP's conducted during the same period, last weekend, showed the PNP ahead by the same margin.

I learned two things from this. First, of all the times that one could express a hope that politicians would luck into honesty, election campaign season is foolishly the worst possible time to indulge in that hope.

Second thing: Three percentage points is fairly popular.

Come tomorrow evening when many are expecting that the prime minister will announce the date for the general elections, it will be conveniently forgotten by some that the PNP still has all of next year and an extension into 2017 as the extremities when the next election is due.

So, to recap, on the basis that under our system, elections are called either when they are due or a window of electoral opportunity exists before a window opens to economic despair for many, that opportunity is now being seized, but with obvious political risks attached to it like the losing of seats in an expected victory.

Another matter is brewing, but not many people are thinking about it. It is thought that in the immediate future of the PNP, it is expected that Simpson Miller will be stepping aside. Some in the PNP would like to see a seamless turnover to Peter Phillips, while another faction is looking to younger ministers of the Phillip Paulwell type.

Those supporting the leadership being handed over to Phillips are those more in favour of an early election because, should next year March and 'public-sector transformation', that is, sending home, say, 10,000 civil servants crash into each other, the PNP is likely to suffer huge electoral losses during and after. Phillips could be denied big time.

The other faction that would like the election held next year are of the view that sound arguments can be made to the broader electorate to frame the firing of civil servants as part of a wider social, political and economic change that will bring benefit to the nation in the medium term. They also expect that in next year, the country will begin to see rapid expansion in the BPO sector and a trending up in youth employment.

That faction believes that it can all come together in a message that can win the PNP the election in 2016. In the political propaganda of the moment, all of that is buried.

It has been part of the political thinking inside both the PNP and JLP that once Portia is fully wound up on various political platforms during election campaign season, she is a much more lethal electoral weapon than the man she had dubbed 'Baby Bruce' in late 2011.

That thinking, especially among the PNP, but curiously also shared by significant segment of the JLP hierarchy, points to Portia using that time to neutralise all of the negatives like the dead babies scandal and the chik-V fiasco involving the health minister and turn lukewarm PNP supporters into voting robots.

Add some roadwork, bushing and painting of verges by our public road network and another PNP victory is assured.

"Our internal polls are showing that the poor economy and the scandal in the health ministry will be hurting the PNP in the next elections. We need to be very proactive in reminding the people of the PNP failures, which they can see anyway, while we roll out our Poverty to Prosperity campaign," said an opposition MP to me over the weekend.

"Won't people see it as just a slogan?" I asked.

"Maybe so, but what we know is we can back it up by what we say on our political platforms. Plus, the people are seeing the general breakdown under the PNP. We have to keep hammering away with our message and show the people that there is hope."

Just when I thought that the PNP had seen the worst of its jitters at the constituency level, I see the PNP asking John-Paul White from North Trelawny, who was initially chosen to replace Patrick Atkinson, to step aside and make way for PNP 'star yout', Damion Crawford.

In a thousand dictionaries, 'politics' always comes before 'principle'. In making that trip from politics to principle, one result is possible. Principle becomes redundant.

I fully understand the politics of parachuting Crawford into North Trelawny. I can also understand the unease which must exist inside him as he considers the intersection of politics and the lack of principle that attended his dismissal in East Rural St Andrew.

- Mark Wignall is a political analyst. Email feedback to and