Fri | Apr 12, 2024

Gordon Robinson | Two referenda

Published:Sunday | February 25, 2024 | 12:09 AM
Supporters of the PNP and the JLP seen at the Yallahs Primary School, St Thomas, on nomination day.
Supporters of the PNP and the JLP seen at the Yallahs Primary School, St Thomas, on nomination day.

As is new normal Panderson and Blue Dolt (relax; I joke) Polls were conducted during this Local Government Election (LGE) season.

At time of writing, Panderson numbers aren’t fully public but media analysts and political walkie-talkies have been all over Blue Dolt’s findings. They say trust in Government and PM is up despite PNP’s persistent promotion of corruption as a political hammer. Based on PNP pronouncements on corruption, its harangue doesn’t need proof to be viable as a mudslinging option. Blue Dolt’s uptick in trust result also comes despite its own poll finding most responders feel Jamaica is heading in the wrong direction.

One public affairs commentator, often unfairly branded a JLP apologist, suggested PNP was talking too much about corruption so people stopped listening. DWL! If that isn’t an egregious intellectual cop out call me Pearl!

One highly educated, sycophantic Comrade tweeted that, in his opinion, Blue Dolt wasn’t credible.

He doth protest too much. Methinks.

Lookie here. Solutions to the apparent paradox are self-evident. First and foremost we must appreciate media’s talking heads don’t represent the majority of voters especially both parties’ blindly tribal base. A high-falutin’ set, mostly benefiting from tertiary education, just don’t understand real life. Mark Golding is a congenital member of that set. Andrew Holness isn’t.

Get this into your highly qualified skulls. JLP/PNP bases care not one whit about corruption. While Mark and “Chatty Chatty” Dayton shout “corruption” from political platforms, PNP “die-hearteds” eat curry goat; drink beer; and anxiously expect more to be persuaded to jump in party-hired taxis on Election Day and get fingers dirty.

Corruption? A wha’ dat? Where’s my piece?

Corruption has never been a viable electoral issue in Jamaica and won’t be until governments start revolutionising Jamaican education. Until voters understand the link between corruption and daily strife, they won’t bother.

But, most importantly, despite perception that Jamaica is heading in the wrong direction, voters want to support the leader they believe can best halt the slide. Take crime for instance. Despite Government’s rolling SOEs’ obvious failure, voters see Andrew as the man who tried for them and Mark as the serial obstructionist.

Jamaicans have a saying “Nothing beats a trial (trier) but a failure!”

They see Andrew Holness trying, trying, trying. They see Mark Golding whining, whining, whining. Responders won’t tell pollsters this. Only those with ears to the ground and making empathetic eye contact will ever see, be told or hear this.

So: Polls, Schmolls!

My tedium with polls has nothing to do with credibility. I consider both current national pollsters credible. Experience, competence and philosophy can be compared and you can take your pick based on those. But it’s time to stop silly, inelegant, unworthy attacks on pollsters’ credibility. Polls can be very accurate (within the margin of error) as snapshots of responders’ views. These views can be scientifically extrapolated to give a national overview of some issues. But everything depends on when the Poll is taken; who responds; and how questions are framed.

For example I’ve always doubted open-ended questions like “for whom would you vote if given a direct vote for PM?” I’d prefer to see one on one contests put to responders even if multiple questions must be asked. Also polls can reveal responders’ preferences or current intentions but not whether they’ll actually vote on Election Day.

Speaking of Election Day, make no mistake, this is very much a national election disguised as LGEs. It’s a mini-general election and a referendum on national policy. On every Election Day it takes cash to care and logistical management to transport voters to polling stations. Nothing else matters. This isn’t a normal LGE where only the bases of both parties give a flying fig. I predict the proof of THAT pudding will be my anticipated higher-than-predicted voter turnout. Don’t forget voters have been starved of any real voting action for eight years. 2020’s COVID-blighted farce doesn’t count.

Still, party bases remain all important because, in every election, if you can’t motivate your base on Election Day, you’ll smell and look like cooked goose. Crowds, herded like cloven-hooved sheep with foot-and-mouth disease to be mind-slaughtered, at political rallies mean diddly squat.

Don’t believe me? Ask Michael Manley!

In the It-Takes-Cash-to-Care Handicap, JLP is miles ahead. PNP should manage best with more urban areas in KSA, St. James and Portmore (still the heart of St Catherine Municipal Corporation) where its base is easier to transport. If PNP slips in any of these Parishes it slides….

Since JLP hasn’t yet managed to gerrymander Portmore out of the parish’s Municipal Corporation (MC) PNP should find a soft spot there. My moles tell me PNP is ahead in St Mary for reasons I can’t fathom. Junction Road fiasco? If election night media coverage evolves so we’re told counted boxes’ originating areas and demographics/voting history, I’ll be watching Richmond, Castleton and Annotto Bay (Norman Dunn territory) closely. If not, it’ll be the usual shock results masquerading as coverage.

Where’s Troy Caine and Tony Myers when we need them?

A crucial Poll finding is that, in his own Party, Mark Golding is running (or, more compassionately put, polling) a distance behind Damian Crawford and Lisa Hanna. Political pundits have taken that to mean this election is also a referendum on Mark’s leadership. So he’s fighting two leadership referenda – one against PM and another against his own more popular Comrades.

According to polls, he’s losing both.

It’s critical that Lisa, despite long ago announcing she’s leaving representational politics then fired from Shadow Cabinet by a seemingly politically inept or suicidal PNP Leader, is, according to Blue Dolt, polling only two points behind Damian. Horseracing analysts know this means, at level weights, Lisa wins on a canter as Comrades’ (not necessarily “Delegates”) most popular candidate for PNP President. Is this behind the delay in implementing Mark’s promise that all PNP members would vote in leadership contests?

I know. That’s for another day. Today, we examine where Lisa and Damian are campaigning. Tomorrow, we focus on those results. Damian returns to Portland where on-the-ground rumblings very much favour PNP while Lisa was reportedly seen walking with Julian Robinson in Nannyville and Waynette Strachan in Hagley Park. Also, in St. James, she exhibited Olympic-level pole vaulting display, without a pole, over the sort of fence one might well encounter at Becher’s Brook.

Since Mark can’t counter Andrew’s “fit and healthy body” campaign…

So, KSAC; St. James; Portland could be PNP’s future Leadership litmus test. Watch these results like hawks. If PNP wins these three but loses the overall majority, Rise United will be for the chopping block. The axe is unlikely to fall before an almost certainly imminent General Election but, if it did, that’d be what John Lennon might call instant karma.

If PNP should also lose the general…

Based on my observations and reports from remnants of my network of Moles after COVID, I put KSAC; St. Catherine; Trelawny (discontent with JLP off the charts); and Manchester in PNP’s must-win column.

In a similar JLP column, I’ve Clarendon; St. Elizabeth; St. Thomas; St. Ann (where Lydia can cause trouble for PNP).

So “safe” score: JLP 4; PNP 4.

Trappy contests loom in St. James; Portland; St Mary; Hanover; Westmoreland. Stats gurus would simply flip a coin to see who wins the odd MC in 5 but I suspect readers want more so here goes. In St. James, factors to concentrate on are:

• Lisa’s imported and Janice Allen’s hometown star power;

• anti-JLP rumblings regarding MoBay traffic and health care disasters;

• tourism recovery plus Ed Bartlett’s charm and popularity.

My narrow vote (pun intended) goes to JLP. Mister Ed is the key!

Damian should fall short in Portland. Mr. Portland wields immense political acumen and vast political resources to ensure victory on the day regardless of pre-election jitters.

I can’t get a grip on the St. Mary contest so I’m giving it to PNP. PM’s “marathon” late nighters there show obvious concern. But I expect JLP to flip a poorly performing, acrimonious Hanover MC.

Westmoreland hosts a tricky contest. Although PNP should win based on tradition and current disaffection with JLP, it’s also where PNP strategy more resembles a bull in a china shop than voter empathy.

But, if PNP GenSec can’t get PNP’s western base into PNP taxis to vote in the Parish into which he parachuted himself, things are gone to pot bottom in PNP. So let’s give Westmoreland to PNP.

Final score: JLP 7; PNP 6.

As I wrote on February 13: “JLP’s best hope is to cling onto overall majority with torn fingernails.” I should’ve written “torn and bleeding”.

Peace and Love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.