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Campaign comedy

Published:Tuesday | November 15, 2011 | 12:00 AM

BY Daniel Thwaites

There's a political campaign on hand, and if everyone commits to peace and goodwill, we may actually enjoy it. For there is nothing quite like it for entertainment. That said, great traditions must be upheld and not brought into disrepute.

Let's start with Mr Holness' promise that 15,825 new hotel rooms would be completed by 2013, bringing 21,648 new jobs. I'm attracted to the specificity of the room and job count. Notice that it's 15,825 new rooms, not 15,824. And it's not 21,647 new jobs - it's 21,648! Whoa! Just hearing those details, I feel as if the rooms have already been built, the count has been completed, and the jobs are in! Time for cake and ale! Well ... maybe not so much.

Upon reflection, this kind of promise brings the art of political promising into general disrepute. In response to it, Wykeham McNeill pointed out that "we (currently) have 30,000 rooms in Jamaica", so he wondered how the prime minister could be "talking about building half again of what we have in two years". He invited the prime minister to "come to the people of Jamaica and tell how he can make this promise. In the years that we (PNP) were there, we saw 5,500 rooms built by Spanish (investors); the prime minister has announced three times that in two years. It is a totally unrealistic pronouncement. I do not know who has told him to make that announcement".

On one view, Wykeham compounded the Holness error. He should have promised 15,826 new rooms and 21,649 new jobs from any incoming PNP administration. Raise the stakes! Instead, Wykeham got all serious and responsible on us. Bummer! His fact-based smackdown brings the art of political retort into disrepute! The game is over if one side fails to ramp it up and compete in wild escalation.

Dwight's appetite

Meanwhile, Dwight Nelson is to compete in SE St Andrew against Julian Robinson. Back in the 'old days' - earlier this year - when the enquiry into the 'Dudus' Cabinet's 'unanimous' sheltering of a criminal was in full flight, Dwight had asked Councillor Eugene Kelly, "You want a piece of me?" They were just about to 'bruk' fight in the conference centre. It was at least theoretically possible that Kelly could consume a piece of Dwight, or vice versa. Kelly and Dwight, like me, are 'mawga' men.

Now Dwight, who is really one of my favourite politicians, has surprised everyone by threatening to eat Julian. "I certainly think I'll have him for supper," he said.

This kind of threat brings the delicate art of political intimidation into disrepute. So I publicly invite Dwight to reconsider. Apart from the engineering difficulties involved in tackling Julian's grander frame, cannibalism causes a degenerative disease called 'kuru'. It makes victims shake, turn white, and be unable to recall things. I don't want that to happen to Dwight.

Regarding new candidates, The Gleaner reports that there are at least 50 first-time parliamentary candidates. This figure, though, included Nelson, trade unionist Vincent Morrison, and even His Worship Desmond McKenzie. Desmond is a new candidate? This is the kind of newness that brings the art of political renewal into disrepute.


Meanwhile, Sharon Hay-Webster waltzed across the House floor to those who had sued to remove her. In general, floor-crossings should be comical occasions, when the former naysayers become 'yeasayers', and vice versa. But it was far less enjoyable because the third-generation Comrade seems to have separated only through personal convenience. Her fight is not so much with a party as with an archaic constitutional provision that privileges Englishmen who want to de-bug our laws; flesh-eating Fijians, and Pakistanis over Jamaican-Americans. PM Holness has expressed a forward-looking view on this matter by endorsing reform.

The Hay-Webster kind of switch, without even the dressing of some policy difference, brings the art of political crossing into disrepute. It's more like political cross-dressing. Churchill would not be impressed. He was a Conservative before he crossed the floor and joined the Liberals. In-between the Great Wars, he re-crossed and left us the reflection: "Anyone can rat [change parties], but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat." The great Karl Samuda, uncrowned JLP leader, is Jamaica's most elegant double-crosser.

I pause to note that my champion of last week, Danville Walker, came bearing gifts for the Mandeville police. After complaints, the goodies were diverted to the police commissioner to handle.I'll try to think otherwise, but it appears that that kind of generosity brings gift-giving into disrepute.

Daniel Thwaites is a partner of Thwaites, Lundgren & D'Arcy in New York, and currently qualifying for the Jamaican Bar. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.