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Mark Wignall | Whither goest Peter Phillips?

Published:Friday | May 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMMark Wignall

Dr Peter Phillips is a rare gem in Jamaican society. His academic career has taken him to the very top where some still quote his earlier studies in various social fixes for our troubled paradise called Jamaica. 

He has a PhD, which means that those just encountering him for the first time and forewarned who he is, and those who knew him from his Rasta days, still call him ‘Doc'. But, as much as Peter has studied, nothing has come to the public domain that informs us that he mastered any brief module he did in law. 

Were he a defence lawyer, he would totally bomb out. I say this because Dr Phillips, president of the People's National Party (PNP), posted on his Twitter page a poll asking broadly if Jamaicans were better off than they were two years ago. 
Stay with me. Two years ago was when the PNP lost an election that just about all pundits predicted would have been a big grab for the PNP. So, our dear opposition leader dearly wanted the answer he suspected would arrive. 

With fewer than 500 people responding, more than 60 per cent said they were better off. Online polls are notorious for misreading opinion on pressing matters. Add to that the fact that Dr Phillips ought to have known before he floated his suspect, paddle-driven canoe into the expanse of the political sea that he should have tested it first in the lab. Something pollsters call pretesting. 

Dr Phillips has his political back against the wall. Granted, things economic, social and security centred are not all hunky-dory. But the ruling JLP administration is headed by a man, Andrew Holness who could easily call Peter Phillips, ‘Daddy’ while admitting that the time of the son and his governance is threatening to throw off the political plans of the father. 

The PNP has countered that polls done on Instagram and Facebook have shown that the majority of those responding have stated that they are worse off than two years ago. So, what is new?

In many polls that have been done since the time of the master pollster, Carl Stone, there has never been established a correlation between what respondents say are their states of ‘betterness’ in comparison to a time in the not-so-recent past. 

I have seen and conducted many polls where respondents say they are worse off and yet they elect the very political administration that has governmental power. People are very obviously multiplayer faceted, and while some may believe, know and feel their loss of economic clout, it doesn't necessarily mean that they place all of that responsibility and blame on the government of the day. 


Personally I prefer Facebook to Twitter, so I guess I am not all that articulate and silent. Most of social media have those who desperately wish to state their views on what they see as pressing matters, and many times, those viewpoints are quite valid and in the ‘game-changer’ lobby. 

At the same time, places like Twitter and Facebook are where batches of people who want to tickle each others' ears or who wish to engorge their appetites from the menu served out by the mutual admiration society they have fostered, expect responses that give then a moment's high. 

In the Jamaican context, Twitter is middle class and mostly made up of people who will not just survive but do quite well, year after year, no matter which political party runs the government. 

When Professor Carl Stone just began to establish his polling in the 1970s, there used to be a correlation between those who said they were worse off as those likely to vote for the party in Opposition. As time elapsed and people began to appreciate that Government was no longer a handout agency, voters saw the picture much bigger than the 2018 version of Dr Peter Phillips has still not seen. 

In time, poor roads, unemployment, youth and idleness, and violent crime (and bad-mind) became, unfortunately, markers for the society instead of attachment to any one of the political parties. Dr Phillips knows this, so why did he go on Twitter to embarrass himself?

The PNP finds itself in the politically crazy situation that all of the successes that the present JLP administration is eking out are being claimed left, right and centre by PNP bigwigs. The question is this: What if the present JLP administration had messed up something envisioned and implemented by the previous PNP government, would the Opposition PNP stand on the mountain top and shout that out too? 

The petty politics of the opposition PNP is understandable. A political party without governmental power is like a pretty lady with broken high heels. It constantly needs to carve something out that can sell in the public marketplace. 

Employment up, crime up. What then?

We are constantly bombarded by numbers indicating that over the last two years, in excess of 30,000 people have found work. Plus, in the last quarter, it has been stated that we have recorded 1.2 per cent growth. Good, but certainly nothing to crow about. 

Violent criminality will not be dying down anytime soon, as many more of our sorely misguided young men seek out a bigger slice of the pie. These young men know that the country is awash with cash and they want their own piles to purchase fancy cars and fete pretty girls. Just like many of our politicians. 

The big problem is, these young men at no time in their lives had anyone telling them that education, hard work, perspiration and getting back up after failure were options. The gun solves all of those damn impediments. 

Our well-respected economists have told us many times that we are not short of funds. But, it seems to be locked into floating between Kingston 6 and environs. I believe that Jamaica’s growth rate is much higher than the official numbers simply because the underground economy cannot be measured and counted. 

That, to me, is what keeps this country alive and humming. Oftentimes, to the beat of a violent drum. Last Thursday, I travelled to the airport to pick up a journalist friend of mine who has relocated to South Florida. 

‘We don't know what we have here. People in Florida are working two, three jobs and here I am with you in a bar in Harbour View drinking beer. Sounds simple but, back there, it is a constant hustle. It is not a life. Just day after day.

"So, let me ask you di fool-fool question that I have been asking now for 40 years: What is the solution?" I asked. 
He bowed his head, scraped the top of it with one hand then said, "We need to leave here if we want to love here. Then we can come back with more love in our hearts."

"So, how do you deal with the violence here," I asked. "Can normal policing solve our problems?"

We went off into a discussion about forging agreements between the JLP administration and the opposition PNP on crime. "Dr. Phillips, to me, can't seem to find his footing," I said. "The economy is heading in the right direction but the criminality is a constant. What message can an opposition leader send at this time?"

He scratched his head again. "Going to be difficult. The people done read di ting. They are dealing with fi dem ting. Government may supply likkle growth but di people know that they are the ones to supply dem development."

"OK, I hear you. Is there a political solution at this time. PNP versus JLP?" I asked. 

‘’From where I sit, Mark, the people are basically tolerating whichever governmental administration is in power. At this time, the JLP is lucky that that is the prevailing mood."

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