Andrew Holness one has to admit it is a damn good politician. That I can say that would, of course, stun those who know me, but one has to pay the devil his due, and Andrew Holness in spite of what I and others may think of him has shown himself to be a first-rate politician. People see him as pompous, as a man in love with himself or as a man who is so power hungry that he will stab anyone in the back, but that couldn’t be further from what I see.
I see a man who was handed the mantle of power in a most precarious time (and that is putting it in such airy words it is not funny) for both his part and his nation and was tasked with ensuring it didn’t sink. Now when faced with the options of either 1. maintaining power and then dealing (in the short time) with the economic issue that had to be addressed and then lose your (personal) shine, or 2. call an early election, tell the nation of the inevitable suffering that will be done by whoever wins and lose (shunting the unpopular reform burden onto the PNP). He chose the bold move, lost the general election (as expected) and then faced what seemed to be a long political exile.
With knives out for him and his position he walked a tightrope and manoeuvred some tight corners, he was roundly embarrassed and scandalized by the resignation letters scandal but even that scenario showed a man who in political terms anyway is always trying to be a step ahead of his opponents, for by demanding that type of action demonstrates that 1. you and you alone run that show, and 2. total fealty is a must and anyone who runs afoul of you will suffer the consequences (ala Arthur Williams or Dr Tuffton). Then when Mr Shaw challenged for the JLP leadership it was thought by many that Andrew was done. Instead, he won that internal battle, and he won convincingly silencing Audley Shaw and his acolytes for now.
That, however, pales in comparison to what must surely be called one of the most unexpected electoral results in any nation recently. The election of 2016 was amazing, this was a man who managed to reduce the PNP to a mere shell, an embarrassment of its former self. This was a campaign that saw the then governing party (PNP) that not only righted the economy, brought actual investment and liberalized the ganja policy getting trounced (and yes the PNP bears some blame for the defeat but that doesn’t take away from Andrews shine) in such manner that they still haven’t found their bearings after almost two years.
He has shown himself to be an excellent campaigner, he has a campaign machine that is always in action and humming, a machine that I am sure one PJ Patterson would even begrudgingly admit is in tip-top shape. This can be seen in the way that the party trumpets any and all achievements (even ones that are not even half met), how often, for example, has one seen an advert in the paper with the JLP banner talking up their policy achievements, how often has one gone online and been bombarded with the ‘prosperity gospel’ of the JLP? He has simply revolutionised the way campaigns are done in Jamaica with the way his party used technology and social media in the last campaign, and this by-election shows that. A surprisingly (if you have awakened from a slumber that began in the early 2000’s) large amount of this key by-election (SE St Mary) fight is being done online. Canvassing groups, discussion groups, groups that look to get the party talking points in order are all to be found online as well as the lengthy and (sometimes) witty statements that emanate from the campaign trail, all of this is as a direct result of the way in which Andrew Holness and his JLP team went about campaigning during the general and local government elections.
The composition of his cabinet also showed a man who has come far in terms of political growth. Take the positions of Bobby and Chris at MoH and National Security, now to some these ‘high profile’ positions show how much faith and trust he has in these people, and that may be so, but those appointments coupled with his (Andrew) statements on nonperformers and the positions (or lack thereof) they took during the internal election, one can also see these placements as nothing short of punishment. For realistically, who in their right mind would want the National Security portfolio, one that is almost always bound to leave your political reputation in tatters? Which sane person would want to manage our health ministry with its anaemic budget and its dilapidated or nonexistent infrastructure? This is a man who clearly while not discarding of his political opponents (as they all have their uses) is going to punish them and ensure that any route to his throne is fraught with obstacles.
The policies he has implemented or carried on with since taking office have also been rather impressive. I know I’m not the first, and I surely won’t be the last to make a comment on it, but the way that he has stolen some critical (really the only ones they spoke of anymore) left-wing policy pieces from the PNP (such as the free health care and education) coupled with his thrust at the housing question has left the opposition reeling and unsure of just how to tackle this administration when it comes to ideology (though the PNP seem to be re-aligning and regaining their socialist core). That march has been impressive to watch and watching how he handles the captains of industry within his party will be key, it will be an interesting balancing act and a most impressive feat if he can pull it off.
One doesn’t have to like Andrew Holness personally, or even his political policies, lord knows I don’t (policy-wise that is). But for me to say that I am not impressed by how he has operated in the past few years would be a barefaced lie, by all accounts he should be dead and buried, instead he is sitting pretty as PM and is looking to extend his parliamentary majority. I don’t like his policies, but he has some while the opposition dithers, I don’t like the roadmap to the national vision, but at least after nearly three decades of going around in ever decreasing circles at least, we have a roadmap. He may not be my cup of tea or even the majorities cup of tea, but he is no fool, he is very adept and is a survivor, love him or loathe him he is the most complete politician in the island at the moment, time will tell if the PNP can dislodge what is fast looking like a titan in a field of shrinking violets (see Peter Bunting et al in the PNP front-running).