In the last three months, Jamaica’s political landscape has undergone a dramatic overhaul; engineered and led largely by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). From the resignation of Prime Minister Bruce Golding to the ascension of a 39 year old to the top job; the message is clear, Jamaica’s politics is changing.
However, one cannot help but wonder if all this is simply flash and no substance. What I mean is, does all of this amount to a brilliantly crafted strategy by the JLP to retain state power amid unprecedented economic challenges? Former Prime Minister Golding said as much at the 68th conference of the JLP. He likened the move to a game of football, he had called the play. What this all amounts to is perception. How is it perceived? The polls give the answer, the JLP is ahead.
The recent uproar about the Jamaica Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) is the next brilliantly engineered perception campaign. For months, the Opposition PNP has been clamouring for action in relation to the project which the Auditor General raised serious concerns about. For whatever reason, the former Prime Minister largely ignored the calls of the Opposition; Andrew decided otherwise.
After the damning Auditor General’s report, PM Holness cut short his trip to the U.S., returned to Jamaica, requested the resignation of the NWA CEO Patrick Wong, stripped Transport Minister Mike Henry of all responsibility of JDIP and set it firmly under the Office of the Prime Minister. The effect was instant. Civil and private sector groups praised Mr. Holness for quick and decisive action; he was lauded for being firm and seeming in charge of the conduct and management of the Government. This again is perception. Having acted so swiftly, PM Holness was able to steal the thunder of the Opposition. He wasn’t done yet. In the dead of night, word came that the Transport Minister Mike Henry had tendered his resignation from the Cabinet with immediate effect. This sent the PNP scrambling. What do they do next? Again, the Prime Minister had stolen the wind from the sails of the Opposition; what we’re seeing now is a desperate PNP, calling for the resignation of Finance Minister Audley Shaw. In my estimation, the JDIP controversy has done the Prime Minister a favour. It has tested the his resolve and commitment to transparency and he has come out shinning. If the PM can rein in Audley Shaw, he’ll be in the safe zone.
Slowly but surely, an interesting contrast is emerging between the PNP & the JLP. We are seeing a JLP which promotes women in politics, we are seeing a JLP which is taking action and taking responsibility, we are seeing a JLP with an impressive slate of candidates, young bright professionals, we are seeing a Prime Minister who is calm and level headed, rarely combative or cantankerous. It is a brilliant PR strategy, it has undoubtedly changed the perception of the JLP. Can this win the election though? Can Holness really succeed in having the Jamaican people believe a new dawn is at hand in Jamaica’s politics? I think so. The contrast is startling. The PNP seems stuck in the politics of the 1980′s; presenting in large part the same team the electorate rejected in 2007. Apparently the PNP President has not realised that the winds of change are sweeping our political landscape. She risks becoming an irrelevant footnote in the line up of Jamaican Prime Ministers.
The Opposition Leader has not matured very much; she is still so reckless and tactless. I do not mean to attack the character of the Most Honourable Opposition Leader, but I’ve heard some very worrying comments coming from her. It is reckless for the Opposition Leader to threaten investors that she will be undoing sales or agreements made under the Labour government, should she be returned to Jamaica House. The perception is poor. Mrs. Simpson Miller could seriously damage investor confidence in Jamaica. Then there is the matter of JEEP. I am seriously baffled by the silence of the PNP on this venture. With elections a matter of weeks away, what exactly is Jamaica voting for? What is JEEP about? Is it simply another vague concept coming out of an increasingly desperate Opposition? Another ‘Progressive Agenda’ maybe? The perception is poor. Jamaica’s politics is faced with a serious Opposition deficit. One would have thought the PNP would have spent time selling itself as a credible Opposition, the Opposition that demanded and received the resignation of a powerful Prime Minister, the Opposition which raised the heat on JDIP and received the resignation of a powerful Cabinet Minister; that’s the message we should be getting from the PNP. Instead, we have an Opposition Leader who takes cheap political shots. The perception is poor, very poor.
It is my considered opinion that perception will take Holness a long way. I wouldn’t be surprised if the December polls see a landslide victory for the JLP. Holness understands that perception in politics is important. He has succeeded in creating a stalk contrast between himself and the Opposition Leader, a contrast between the PNP and the JLP; I predict at the very least 40 seats for the JLP. The very least. Now we wait, all eyes on Mandeville Square this Sunday.
“Call it Anju, Call it!”