Month: February 2016

Can the young Turks make it?

The PNP have been in office for twenty two of the past twenty seven years, only interrupted in 2007, and have shown a strong and united front in both the constant victories and the rare defeats.

But something different is happening, something you can feel. Portia for all practical purposes is dead politically and everyone knows this now, especially after the defeat and jockeying for positions have already begun in the background.

The old guard refuse to budge, and if they do it is going to be at a time of there choosing so they are slowly coalescing around a single candidate. The old guard I believe know what a messy succession can do to a parties electability prospects, they will remember the JLP in the 90’s and want a quick succession. My personal view is that Peter Phillips, the media’s darling, won’t get it simply because the delegates won’t forgive him of this electoral debacle.

Persons on the ground say that Mr youthful exuberance is being touted as a candidate by the old guard and that must be shocking for the PNP and the Y.O. For a man as tainted as him to be touted as a potential leader shows you what a state the party is in, if he were to get it that would be to condemn the PNP to losing the middle class for at least a generation.

That then leaves the young Turks in a tricky position, they right now are not a united force as they have quite a few in those ranks who want the ultimate mantle. They need to realise that the division plays into the hands of the old guard. With so many young prominent PNP members having fallen afoul of party elders and delegates it’s hard to see certain persons making a push for it, worse still if they don’t have a seat they can comfortably call there own.

Step forward Julian Robinson, here is a man with youth, fresh ideas, untainted by the elders, gets along well with delegates and firmly in control of his seat. He is a person around which the young Turks can make a push for power. While Julian strikes one as the lecturer that no one wants to have, he is extremely bright and may have what it takes to usurp the young Andrew.

The young Turks if they are wise will come together around Julian and form a winning team. Imagine for a minute, a PNP ticket consisting of Julian, Raymond, Damian, Lisa and Mark? That surely is a team that can not only muster enough internal support to wrest power from the old guard, but also a team that is young, willing to listen and learn all while doing things in a new fashion.

Whomever gets the nod, the youngsters need to act fast. With the election still not over (recounts are ongoing), the political funeral has not really begun, the young Turks should take this time of confusion and map out a plan because certain dinosaurs will only leave if dragged kicking and screaming.

On a chalk line

With the dust basically settled on the elections we can talk reasonably about it. The JLP upset the pollsters and won the election, while pundits were even more dumbfounded by the anemic voter turnout.

Andrew can be proud of his win, he had an excellent ground game in the constituencies that we all knew would be the deciders, while running on a platform of positivity and upliftment. He should however not be too pleased, for two reasons in particular. With only a three seat majority, it is clear that while the people did not want the PNP, they weren’t quite sold on the JLP and there talk of prosperity. That should be a cause of worry as that means that any slip up, perceived or real, will be pounced upon by the PNP.

The other worry is the extremely low voter turnout. This should be a worry because it shows that his message still isn’t hitting home with the slice of the electorate that he wants. He is viewed by many as a replica of his JLP predecessor, big on words short on action. He is also viewed with suspicion as he builds up what is eerily looking like a garrison in his constituency.

These are issues that can be overcome, but to do so would mean showing some real political wisdom. He has come a far way since foolishly calling an early election in 2011, and has been forged by his leadership battle with Audley. Whether or not he is up to this new challenge, we will see shortly.

He can’t afford to renege on any promises, nor can he afford any walk backs, if he has learned anything from the last two elections it that the little who do vote are fickle. He is also going to have to walk a tightrope as it relates to the IMF, any perceived slip up on that front will see him strung up by the private sector and the economically literate.

His cabinet will have to be markedly smaller, younger and more diverse, or he will have lost the youth who voted for him in droves. And finally he will have to negotiate the tricky public sector reform, with the massive job losses that he has alluded to he will have a hell of a time appeasing the soon to be unemployed.

All in all it was a stunning victory but he will be walking a chalk line, hemmed in by a razor thin majority on one side and his promises on the other it will be interesting to see if he can pull this off.

The gamble failed, may the heads roll

Shock and stunned silence, that is what greeted us at the Hope Road headquarters of the PNP, they had made a bet, placed the house on it and they lost.

The gambles that they made were attacking Andrew’s house without all the facts and abandoning the debates. Attacking Andrew was always going to be sticky, but the view was that if he was attacked on his glaringly opulent house he would lose his position as a man of the people.

Abandoning the debates was more calculated. It was thought that with Andrew being a much better speaker and the media tellingly not bringing up the PNP’s many recent scandals, the wise move was to abandon the debates and take that flak, with the added bonus of lowering the voter turnout.

Well both gambles failed miserably or completely backfired on them. In the case of the house, while interesting questions were raised, they came with no proof. Andrew played them well and showed political maturity that he was lacking even last year. He waited till the best possible time to answer the questions (a week till election) and in turn ask some harsh questions of the PNP. Instead of people abandoning Andrew, they called the PNP badmind while then beginning to dig deeper into Andrew’s questions.

The debates while an understandable gamble, was turned on it’s head and cost them a lot. While the people were turned off by the parties stance and a lot more people than expected stayed home, those who did vote were so upset with the PNP that they voted against them en mass.

With both gambles now seen as epic failures some deep introspection will be done by the PNP. Paul Burke may not have a party job for long after this debacle, while Peter Phillips can now kiss his chance of leadership goodbye after overseeing such a shamble of a campaign. It won’t end there however, Portia knows her days are numbered and that knives are sharpening.

The internal election and the heads that will roll will make for some interesting viewing. The old guard is hanging on for dear life and Mr youthful exuberance wants it bad, however the young turks will not sit idly by. If the PNP do not play the game correctly they may falter, all they have to do is ask the 90’s JLP what infighting can do to ones electability, in short this parliamentary term will be one for the ages.

Time for a third party push

The last two general elections have shown a fast downward spiral as it relates to voter turnout, mid fifties in the last election and forty seven percent in this election. This may say to some that the electorate are uninterested and immature, but I say different.

The low turnout in both elections brought us two one term governments, this shows to me that the electorate is maturing, no longer beholden to one party or the other. They are starting slowly to base choices around the issues and as such forcing issue driven campaigns, this is a green shoot for any new party.

With the campaigns fast becoming issues based, the prospective new party must have a raft of good ideas that they can articulate to the masses. This is tricky because while one wants to get the ‘diehard’ voters, one also wants to get the detached middle class that so far has refused to vote.

This means that the party must do wall to wall campaigning in the traditional ‘diehard’ areas with the message to get it across, so that they know that they have an option.

What is needed in the disaffected areas is a permanent post in those areas. They must be on the ground, constantly egging on the middle class to vote. They must provide them with a plan that can ensure the stability of the working and middle class. They must hammer home the fact that they, the fifty three percent that does not vote holds the key to reform.

A new party must flood the airwaves and cyberspace, not with slander and innuendo, but instead with issues and solutions to the problems we will face. They need to be a constant presence and thorn in the side of the two parties.

They must act like pressure groups when they get on an issue, but be organised as a political party can be. They must ensure that they are at the communities every bek and call, that they campaign on the people’s behalf.

A new electorate is emerging in Jamaica, the prospective new party can’t afford to sit idly by and do things the old way. They must awaken those who stay at home and influence those committed to voting. Not to do that would be to play into the hands of twp parties that are desperate and will do anything to gain and retain power.

Only a virgin once

My mother always used to tell me that you are only a virgin once, that is to say what is done can not be undone and may in fact be repeated, that is what we have seen in this recent general election.

Two thousand and eleven was history making, not because Andrew was the youngest P.M. but instead because, for the first time in our history we had a one term government. People now remember just how incensed people were at the JLP, but they forget that in that year the JLP had a massive throng of ‘supporters’ wherever they went. The PNP on the other hand played a damn good ground game and as a result of that and dissatisfaction with the JLP swept them to office.

It seems that the pollsters and pundits forgot that along with the PNP campaign machinery. They were caught up in there own hype so they forgot the lessons of the recent past, and now they must suffer the consequences of what may prove to be a tumultuous opposition.

One set of people who clearly remember the past are the electorate, all forty seven percent of them. A low turnout was expected, but hardly anyone predicted one this low, as such we got the diehards. Now general wisdom says that the PNP has a slight advantage as it relates to diehards when compared to the JLP. With the JLP winning and with the low turnout, that means that a large enough portion of ‘diehards’ switched as that is the only way they could garner enough votes. That to me says that the diehards aren’t as loyal as before, it also says to me that the electorate, the ‘diehards’ are getting more savvy and aren’t voting solely on what party they like.

It says to me that we are slowly but surely becoming a nation whose elections are becoming based around issues. That is heartening, but as we have seen more needs to be done. The media must start asking the hard questions, they must probe more deeply and not rest till the government and opposition grow weary of them.

Doing that I believe would not only empower those currently voting, but would also give more reason for those who stay at home to get out and vote.

This was an interesting election and the JLP will have to run a tight ship and not because of the seat count. Because as seen during the last two elections you are only a virgin once, and damn was it easier to do it the second time round.

The media has let us down

The media has a responsibility to society, some would say a sacred trust, to keep the general public informed of what is going on in society in general and politics in particular. Therefore it is sad to see that in this election cycle instead of in depth discussions we have party propaganda.

This is sad but unfortunately not a new phenomenon, some of my earliest memories of politics in this country are not of bills being debated but instead of aspersions cast upon various politicians and the trumpeting of the respective parties past achievements.

Fast forward some fourteen years later and the situation is the same. We have a Prime Minister who has done no interviews of merit in her nation for four years and the media sat back and did nothing to call her out on it. We have parties releasing plans and instead of a rational debate on it to break down the pros and cons, we get puff pieces where no in depth analysis is done.

How can we chastise the electorate for not voting on the issues when a lot of media houses refuse to ask the probing questions?

The whole point of an independent media is that it keeps the politicians on there toes, right now and for quite a while, they have received a free ride. This leads to arrogance, as we have seen with the PNP’s withdrawal from the debate for trivial reasons.

The media needs to take heed and do better. You reap what you sow and this was sown a long time ago, hopefully with this bitter taste in there mouth, the media will get teeth and do better by the public.

Short term gains, long term pain?

So the PNP finally laid it to rest, they will not debate Andrew due to his ‘malicious and dangerous’ remarks about Portia and the shooting in Sam Sharpe square.

To the outsider this looks foolish, but I hold that this is a brilliant short term strategy by the PNP, allow me to explain.

Now Madame Portia is not the best of public speakers when things are favourable to her, while Andrew composes himself well and is a pretty eloquent speaker. The PNP has under it’s four years rarely been grilled by the media and I believe the PNP honestly thinks that not only would the questions be hostile, but that the respondent also can’t articulate a decent response.

So they prudently decided to take the flak for missing the debates, rather than face a perceived hostile media and a revved up Andrew. This also has the added benefit of turning off independents and in the PNP, because conventional wisdom says (in Jamaica anyway) that upset independents don’t vote, so the low voter turnout should boost the PNP.

Over the long-term however, this will haunt them. Having lost the independents, they will struggle to recover them, and will suffer dearly if and when they, as a voting bloc awake from there slumber.

JUTC issues

JUTC is the state run bus company, and boy what a shambles it is. Some two hundred years after the slave trade was abolished our government sees it fit to cram us into some mobile contraption and people say nothing.

The rank hypocrisy and careless standards of the company leave us to ask, were they ever after a profit? The buses are clearly filled to over capacity and drivers still pick up more people, what are they training them?

We see JUTC buses speeding like they are at Silverstone, overtaking like they are shotta taxis all while putting people in cramped spaces, is it any wonder they are hemorrhaging money? I must say that I personally as a user of the transportation system, that when given a choice I take coasters because at least they are as advertised.

Half the things that JUTC gets away with we pillor the non state owned entities for. We ticket them for speeding, JUTC gets away with it. They get tickets for over loading, well we all know JUTC does that. They also get ticketed for letting passengers off wantonly, well guess what, JUTC does that too.

JUTC will always be second choice until they live up to there motto, as things stand right now they are a hot mess and only seem to be getting worse. Buses breaking down, spontaneously combusting and a clear shortage of buses, how do they expect to handle any increased passenger intake?

The bus company needs urgent shaking up, for too long it has been used as a comfortable position for political appointees and sycophants who never enact real change. Free WiFi is a good start, but more buses and equity under the law is needed, until then JUTC will always have issues and be second best.

Paranoid PNP

That the PNP may avoid the debates is not surprising, Portia Simpson-Miller unfortunately I feel believes the jibes that K.D and Peter said in the internal elections and as such refuses to expose those supposed weaknesses.

What is surprising is the reasoning behind the parties apparent withdrawal. To be called an Anansi politician is nothing new, people have said since time immemorial that politicians are crooks, and I can’t believe that the P.M., a lady of over forty years of political life hasn’t heard worse.

Politics isn’t for the thin skinned and we are fast seeing that while the PNP can dish it out as seen in there crusade against Andrew personally as opposed to his obvious political failings. Calling him an enemy of the state was over the top but no one sued the P.M. so why sue Andrew for his over the top comments? It stinks of juvenile behavior.

The independent voter is left flabbergasted, with polling looking like a PNP wave one is left to wonder, with wonton withdrawals and asinine lawsuits, are we living in a de facto one party state? The JLP is spouting populist rhetoric that they are yet to properly spell out so that unfortunately leaves the PNP, the party muddling along as the clear leader, since we see there plan, bad though it may be in action.

The PNP is paranoid of losing power and will do anything it seems to cling to power, even avoid levelling with the people they hope to elicit votes from. With no viable alternative this time around, unfortunately it seems they will have there way this time. But be warned, people, especially the young are moving past apathy, and that will be the biggest shock to the two parties.

Beautification of Jamaica

Jamaica is a land of many wonders both natural and manmade, however we have taken to abusing these wonders or let them fall into a state of disrepair.

Take for example the old capital, Spanish Town, it has the potential to be lovely and the fact that we have let it sit and rot is a total disgrace. The old governors mansion is in shambles, as is anywhere that is near it including archives.

One could say that is just the old capital, and that we have a new capital. Well downtown Kingston is a mess. So many beautiful buildings left to waste away and now downtown looks like one big hovel.

All of the old capital and Kingston proper need sprucing up, not just to bring in tourists, but to make ourselves feel better. With Kingston being one of the first cities in the new world built on a grid it would be criminal to let the storied capital crumble.

I am calling for a concerted effort by both the public and private sector to revitalize Spanish Town and Kingston. If this is done, I believe businesses would again flock the areas while attracting a different type of tourist, the cultural tourist.

Jamaica has a rich history but we constantly under value it. We need to take care of our enviable heritage, we need to ensure that our children can see the places that make Jamaica special and one of a kind. Let us in short take care of our heritage before we lose it.