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Mark Wignall | No easy way out for the prime minister

Published:Sunday | May 28, 2023 | 12:54 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

“First, the increase is announced by Mr Clarke,” wrote my lawyer friend. “Then the public outcry and then the refusal to accept the increase by the PM and Leader of the Opposition. Either the increase is warranted or not. But the comedy routine is not good governance. This looks like feeling your way out in a dark room. That is not leadership.”

The basic reasoning behind the massive salary increases as put forward by Prime Minister Holness is that the attractive salary levels will be a pull factor in getting quality candidates into the many levels of political office. Surely, not even the very prime minister issuing those words could actually buy into that reasoning.

Most of the people I know over the last 50 years who have ‘served’ in the political field are one, those constantly dragged along by oversized egos [fitting for the task]; or two, those scoundrels who have fallen in love with the smells from the trough; or three, the eternal optimist who will be mentally burnt out in five years. And then those with a little touch of all of the above.

Any person who genuinely believes that he or she can make a real difference is likely already on the way to financial stability when he is bitten by the bug to ‘serve’. What an attractive level of salary will do is ensure that the person will not unduly suffer just because he is serving

The type of politician who will say to his small circle of friends that he is not leaving until he has two or three houses in the suburbs will be a scoundrel if the pay is 10 cents or a few million dollars.

Another argument that apologists for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and firm diehards have advanced is that the governmental administration led by Andrew Holness did much for the nation in taking us through that most problematic period of the COVID-19 pandemic. I agree that the JLP government did well, but guess what. The responsibility of every government is deeply tied into formulating the leadership to extricate this country from whatever may crop up.

So at all times, the main duties of every government would be the normal day-to-day routine on top of dealing with whatever card is suddenly dealt out. In mid-2010, the Manatt matter and the Dudus extradition cards were dealt out. Bruce Golding and the administration he led flubbed it royally and miserably and the party lost at the next election.

The prime minister and his JLP Cabinet and those 2020 supporters must all know that as long as Jamaicans from the urban towns, the two cities, and the rural settings continue to discuss this salaries matter, a comfortable political future for the JLP in the short term and towards the next elections will be an uncertain one.

At the time that many of our people look inward at their personal economic conditions, which is now, and realise that our politicians have used the power to economically insulate themselves from the price increases of cup soup and veggie chunks, the people will turn their backs on them and plan a great punishment for the JLP at the next elections. Mark my words.

WHO IS OUR IDEAL POLITICAL LEADER?

Andrew Holness comes close to mirroring what many of our people would say is the ideal political leader. First, we have always admired leaders who are worthy of being admired. In other words, he is seen to be economically sound, has a big house on a hill, and is married to a woman who is also economically sound and much more attractive than he is.

He talks tough, and in doing that, he is still seen to be talking with the people instead of down to them. Wait, hold on. That part of it may have shifted as the PM finds himself increasingly painted into corners and fighting from embattled spaces.

As I look across at Opposition leader, Mark Golding, I find it difficult to identify much about him that makes it quite easy for me to go way beyond the usual, “... but him is a roots man”.

But it seems to me that as much as the People’s National Party (PNP) really doesn’t have much more to do than wait on the great unforced error of the governing JLP to fester and head to A&E, in the coming weeks and months Mark Golding may find himself being forced into a place that he is unfamiliar with.

Coming out of the many lockdowns and the tentative steps in opening up back the country and the economy, it seems to me that the last set of polls, which showed the PNP closing the gap and tentatively creeping ahead, must have landed a painful blow and a deep political wound to Mr Holness.

Surely this cannot be what led him to this suicidal political move. He has had a little more than a week to realise that this matter is not going the way of the usual nine-day wonder.

DAMAGING OPINION POLLS AHEAD?

Polls coming from Blue Dot and Don Anderson that may have been commissioned by the PNP and the JLP before the salaries debacle would be expected to show that not much has changed since the last ones showing the steep fall off for the ruling JLP.

But if indeed such polls have been privately commissioned by, say, the Opposition PNP, I would advise the party to keep them under lock and key. Considering what the expectations would be in, say, June or July and the additional body blows that would be painfully applied to the JLP, the publication or release of any polls done prior to the salaries debacle would be politically useless.

It is quite obvious that it would suit the JLP to stay far from engaging in any polls that would be seen by any set of persons outside of a small band inside the PM’s office. The worst thing that could happen to the JLP at this time is for its supporters to begin that dark period of political doubt that usually descends on the ruling party before the painful march to defeat sets in.

And, of course ,that is just what the Opposition PNP is waiting on. The JLP needs some strong obeah. ‘Bring-back-the-joy’ oil is available.

Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.com