Fri | Apr 12, 2024

Mark Wignall | More power for Andrew Holness

Published:Sunday | February 25, 2024 | 12:08 AM
Jamaica Labour Party party leader Andrew Holness and Candidates Mayor Delroy Williams Seivwright Gardens Division, Christopher Townsend Olympic Gardens Division and Glendon Salmon Molynes Gardens Division arrive with JLP supporters at the St Andrew West Ce
Jamaica Labour Party party leader Andrew Holness and Candidates Mayor Delroy Williams Seivwright Gardens Division, Christopher Townsend Olympic Gardens Division and Glendon Salmon Molynes Gardens Division arrive with JLP supporters at the St Andrew West Central Nomination Centre located at the Waltham Park New Testament Church of God.

“Yu nuh si how the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) just set like modder hen. It dey pon di egg dem now. Dem a go hatch pon February 26,” she said.

It was last Tuesday. She had given me a cardboard box of green plantains, bananas, dasheen, cho cho, and turmeric. And I didn’t even know her name. “Mi just come back from country. Mi name Sandy. Mi spirit tek yu. Put di box inna yu car now.” she said.

“So yu is a Labourite?” I asked. “What yu name?” she asked.

On a late Thursday afternoon as I write this I must resist the temptation to come across like a scatter-brained tout outside a noisy off-track betting shop instead of someone who has been following Jamaica’s politics since 1972.

Since I presume that the most newsworthy thing that someone like me can give now is whether the JLP can retain a majority of the island’s council seats or whether the People’s National Party (PNP) can wrest control from them, let me say that I believe the JLP will hang on to them.

In other words, I believe that the JLP will win the local government elections tomorrow.

The Jamaican electorate loves a winner, and over the last 10 days, the JLP has been fitting neatly into that winner’s slot. The polls have been showing only a little more than a whisker’s length ahead for the ruling JLP, but momentum may be there.

It also seems to me that based on the physically observed enthusiasm gap, the JLP utilised timing to make its final and most important sale. And that sale was convincing its diehard base and those who stuck around notionally in 2021 to believe that the party can and will win an election.

The way I see it, like Alice’s stare into something magical, an autopsy of the post-February 26 situation may show that Golding’s saturation point reached its zenith either weeks before February 26, or it needed, say, two more weeks after that date. So for me, the JLP would have had the better timing.

Many pundits like me have observed that local government matters have taken a back seat in this campaign. To me, the JLP knows that its best shot in any political campaign is to highlight its best feature. Amid the continuation of ferocious killings, garbage pile-up, rural and urban road disrepair, etc. the JLP has little choice but to grab for the low unemployment rate and other positive macroeconomic metrics.

Those are actual runs on the board while the PNP has still not faced one ball. Those runs didn’t come from fancy boundaries but from steady stroke play.

Let me mention a caution. Especially to me. Many pundits and pollsters saw favourables for the PNP in the 2016 General Elections until the JLP scraped home and then eventually solidified itself for September 2020. Even as I speak to you now, I must bear that in mind.

If a magical thunderclap bursts through Jamaica’s electoral rib that makes the PNP win on February 26, a more granular autopsy may reveal either that many troubling local government matters were found annoying and disturbingly negative to many voters, or the PNP leader, Mark Golding, finally made the sale on himself at just the right time.

A low turnout, of course, is more likely to favour the JLP, who will have more oil to grease the party machinery and keep the party massive energised right through to the early morning hours of February 26.

DANGERS AND SMART USE OF STREET JUDGMENT

Two businessmen in their mid-50s. And obviously no friend of the JLP. On the edge of an economically distressed and sometimes explosive residential area. Drinking beers. One recognised me. “Holness does not deserve to win,” he said, without a brake on his insistence that “the prime minister’s arrogance” is slowly leading us to a bad place.

“It can be difficult to measure leadership strength without seeing arrogance in it,” I said. “I understand what you mean, but what have you seen in Mark Golding that indicates to you he may not suffer from the same complexity?”

“Right now I am concentrating on Andrew Holness. He has the power. He can abuse that power. He is the danger,” he said.

Again it came home to me that local government matters were taking a back seat in the upcoming electorate contest.

A memory. In the crucial and most violent general election campaign leading up to the October 30, 1980, contest, Carl Stone had published a poll indicating an easy win for the JLP. But the professor was also a street man. Something humming in the streets told him to get some of his interviewers back into some key communities.

It was more than a stroke of luck. The new, last-minute poll showed that the JLP was not only on the way to an easy win, but was firmly poised to wipe out the PNP.

I am still convinced that there are insufficient numbers of voters in the mood of eagerly wanting to see the political motions of PNP President Mark Golding play out on a bigger stage.

RENEWED LISA HANNA?

The long-time PNP member wrote me this last week. “I am not certain if you are aware of this, but a while back, Lisa Hanna announced with great fanfare she was exiting representational politics. But you may notice she is as active as ever.

“The PNP chose a successor. Ms. Hanna did not like the successor and has been quite active in the constituency. Who has she been promoting? Could it be another person as a candidate for the party in the next general election?

“I wonder if she is staying active to see what happens in the local government elections? If the PNP does not do well, she may agitate to challenge for the leadership position. I am told that some senior PNP officials are not pleased at her current actions in South East St Ann (SESA), but they are letting her be. To me, her actions are curious.”

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