Michael Abrahams | Not enough ‘powa’ to stop the ‘showa’
The Jamaica 2020 general election is now behind us. And speaking of behind, the People’s National Party (PNP) had theirs soundly whipped by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). It was not just a beating – it was a shellacking.
The Jamaican public has spoken and has shown the PNP the door. Anyone following the political scene in the country, and with a sound grip of reality, would have expected a JLP win, but the margin of victory was astounding. The PNP was decimated, like a Jenga tower hit by a bowling ball. The PNP today, as was the case after the 2016 election, must now introspect. It has to rebuild – it needs to rewind and come again.
The PNP’s behaviour is perplexing. After the last election, they promised renewal, but failed to fulfil their promise, and now they have paid dearly for it. Instead of renewal, we just kept seeing more of the same. The same old faces. The same old style of politics. It was as if they failed to learn from their mistakes, or the mistakes of the JLP.
For example, personal attacks just do not work.
The JLP used that strategy against Portia Simpson Miller in 2011 and it backfired. Peter Phillips tried it against Mrs Simpson Miller during an internal power struggle and it failed to help him. So, when the PNP’s Damion Crawford faced the JLP’s Ann-Marie Vaz during the Portland Eastern by-election last year, his decision to launch derogatory, verbal salvos at her was a bad idea. Even more bizarre was the fact that Peter Phillips chimed in, joining Crawford in calling her a “dunce”. Crawford subsequently lost.
FRACTURED THE PARTY
Peter Phillips was an excellent minister of finance. He wanted leadership of the party but failed to unify and galvanise the organisation. The challenge by Peter Bunting did not help, and the fracturing of the party continued.
It is understandable why more Jamaicans voted for the JLP than their opponent. They liked what they saw. They saw roads constantly being fixed and repaired. They saw buildings, including homes, being constructed. They saw a Ministry of Health reaching out to the populace like never before, engaging them about sugary drinks in schools, about increasing their physical activity and exercising, about ending mental health stigma, and, of course, about COVID-19. The PNP said many projects that we are now seeing come to fruition were in the “pipeline”. But why was their pipeline so long? Or was it clogged? Why did so little drip from it under their leadership? Under the JLP, however, the Jamaican people saw things flowing.
In the JLP Jamaicans saw a leader leading a cohesive team. On the other side, they witnessed a motley crew. One would have thought the PNP would have learnt from the mistakes of the JLP, who was kept in the wilderness for many years as they fought and squabbled under a despotic Edward Seaga who stubbornly refused to release the reins of leadership.
Every organisation will experience internal politics, disagreements, and power struggles, but their dirty linen does not have to be washed in public. However, the PNP washed, rinsed, hung out and ironed theirs in full view of the Jamaican people. They were loose with their grievances, and today, in the age of the Internet and social media, leaked WhatsApp messages, voice notes and emails will spread like wildfire, and the Comrades’ ‘mix up an’ blenda’ certainly did. Disharmony does not inspire confidence. The Jamaican people saw it and were uncomfortable.
The PNP griped about the JLP being all about public relations (PR). Yes, the JLP does have an excellent PR machine, but so what? A good organisation will have good PR. Instead of complaining about the magnitude of the JLP’s PR machinery, why didn’t the PNP fix their own, or better yet, get one? The optics are important. But no matter which lens you used to view the PNP, it was just not a good look.
SHUFFLING OF THE DECK
The PNP needs renewal, and this requires an infusion of fresh new faces and bright, innovative minds, as well as a significant shuffling of the deck. Peter Phillips announced that he is relinquishing his position as leader of the party. He has no choice, really. But others need to step aside, too. Many Jamaicans are uncomfortable seeing Philip Paulwell up front. There are some serious trust issues there. He has never been convicted of a crime, but has garnered a reputation as a scandal magnet; and there are more question marks beside his name than there are on a CSEC multiple-choice exam paper. Seeing him calling out the JLP for corruption is laughable.
Not that the JLP is short of scandals, either – that is part of the reason why the PNP’s massive defeat is not good for Jamaica. The JLP may not be a paragon of virtue as there were scandals aplenty in their term in office. The allegations of corruption are unacceptable and are a cause for concern.
But, with a weak Opposition that lacks looks like it is lacking unity, who will call them out and rein them in?
Comrades, you all have some serious work to do.