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Holness must gamble on reshuffle

Published:Saturday | July 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM


David Cameron has decided to take the bold step and reshuffle his Cabinet. Some see the move as a PR stunt trying to woo the growing and increasingly powerful demographic of young upwardly mobile, and digitally connected youth, especially females in Generations X, Y and Z. The casualties of the Cameron reshuffle have all been middle- to older-age, middle- to upper-class men.

William Hague, former party leader of the Conservatives, and well-known foreign secretary, is probably the most prominent figure to be reshuffled. He would be the equivalent of a Bobby Pickersgill or an Omar Davies in the People's National Party, or a Karl Samuda or an Audley Shaw in the Jamaica Labour Party.

It's risky business to reshuffle heavyweights in any Cabinet, as one threatened, "There are 12 million voters in the conservative countryside of Britain and they won't like this move." Heavyweights ballast the ship of government through waves. However, they keep government slow and unresponsive, they appeal to the party base and may win in traditional constituencies where the party base is established. Unfortunately, they do not appeal to the constituency of new voters. Any party serious about victory at the polls must shed the heavyweights, because in the sprint for the victory line, their ballast effect is like deadweight.


The truth is that the demographic in the United Kingdom, United States and in Jamaica is changing, both in age, gender participation, socio-economy, diversity and political outlook. It is not that the populations are getting younger; it is more so that younger members of the population are growing in size, wealth, and influence and need to be captured now before the political competitor.

Women, in particular, after decades of gender-equality mainstreaming, are an important subset of this growing influential but increasingly unattached group.

It is unlikely that William Hague, Bobby Pickersgill, Omar Davies, Audley Shaw or Karl Samuda will be fashionable enough to attract that group. They may be respected and even loved, but only as a grandfather. The reality is that they will never be seen as a leader of the emerging generations of X, Y and Z.

Cameron has taken the gamble on a reshuffle. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller doesn't see the need to gamble; she already has larger established bases in the majority of constituencies. However, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness does not have this luxury. He, too, must gamble if he wants to win. He must go for the new voters.

The question is, will the old guys give the youth a chance?