Wed | Feb 26, 2020

Mark Wignall | There will be hell to pay

Published:Sunday | January 26, 2020 | 12:21 AM
Peter Phillips must hammer home the point that he was an integral player in scripting the plans for the major road works for the country.
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips
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It is my understanding that the People’s National Party (PNP) was badly blindsided by results of a privately commissioned, still unannounced poll in addition to the ‘unkind’ numbers published by NNN/BlueDot.

That is quite understandable. Political parties are always in the business of publicly playing nice, rough and being wary of polls. In private, they are either joyful, dejected or puzzled.

The PNP’s bus tour was predicated on the understanding and fervent hope that it would gin up public voting support for the party. More importantly, a wish was launched that the numbers captured after the travel fest could face harsh scrutiny should they be published.

Like any other political party whose star is fading in a long cosmic night, the PNP is hoping that post-tour opinion poll numbers are not too devastating, requiring the party being forced to deny that any poll was done.

It is always difficult to fund a political party when it is in opposition, and big funders are always seeing only its dying light. On that basis, the PNP, en bloc, would not have the luxury to be hitting the streets and lanes and townships as the need arises. So each trip must earn an immediate benefit to the party and the leader.

The NNN/Blue Dot party positions indicated that in a likely 56 per cent turnout at a supposed election held now, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) would snatch 56 per cent and the PNP would be left with a paltry 44 per cent and marbles scattered all over the floor.

“I can’t tell you who is funding it,” said a PNP MP, who would prefer that his name not be mentioned. “What I know is, some of those in NEC have criticised me for suggesting that if is only a bus tour that can get us back to seven or six points behind the JLP, we are focusing on the wrong things.”

“And you still believe that Peter Phillips is the big problem?” I asked.

“Yes, definitely yes.”

The MP told me that with funds scarce, whoever convinced the party to source and fund the post-tour poll had better be able to face the music if the numbers were either static or worse.

“Many agreed with the concept but they had no choice. If the PNP party standing goes down, the party will be further split. The faction that told them that bus tour can’t replicate on-the-ground party work will be sitting out the next elections. Many will not be leaving their constituencies,” he stated.

HERE’S WHAT PETER PHILLIPS SHOULD DO

Opposition Leader Peter Phillips does not have that political oomph to connect with the Jamaican population to the same degree PM Andrew Holness does. But this is not a perfect world. He has to speak publicly, and in the political campaign season, in paid political ads.

Road infrastructure is in completion stages under the watch of the Holness-led administration. Phillips must drive home the point that it was under the PJ Patterson administration that modern highway infrastructure in this country started. It was under the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration that it accelerated. He must hammer home the point that he was not only there in both instances, but was an integral player in scripting these major works for the country.

He ought to do the same for the economy, the stock market, and the BPO expansion. I am not for one minute stating that if he does this, he gains a guarantee of a rise in the polls, but what else is there left for him to do?

Phillips was the de facto PM while Portia Simpson Miller had her run from early 2006 to late 2007 and from late 2011 to early 2016. Is he afraid to claim this? Or maybe the opposition leader is deathly scared of reopening old animosities from the challenges in 2006 and 2008.

To roll over and play dead ought never be part of Peter Phillips’ plan going forward.

And then, the coup de grâce: “I started it. I know best how to carry on and make it better.”

WAS THERE A BACKDOOR POMPEO MEETING?

At a time in the 1970s when then PM Michael Manley was openly in support of the Cuban intervention in Angola in its struggle against the apartheid South African army, America needed the support of Jamaica in a UN vote.

Manley told then Secretary of State, the hawkish Henry Kissinger, the valid reasons driving his support of the Cuban intervention.

In his book, Struggle in the Periphery, Manley stated, “ the American government punished Jamaica by withholding a line of credit that was being negotiated at the time, and further, that it fomented activities to undermine the stability of the country for a period.”

Mike Pompeo, the present secretary of state reporting to the highly unstable President Donald Trump, is an intelligent man, but his hawkish foreign-policy outlook seems subject to the whimsies of his presidential boss.

Pompeo has recently visited Jamaica, and he has continued on the predicable American version of “America is, has been, and will be good for Jamaica. China, bad.”

It need not be drummed into us that America is Jamaica’s largest trading partner. Or maybe there is a strategic reason for Pompeo to be mouthing this. Could this be the big stick behind the loud whisper?

The JLP has more than a fraternal relationship with the Republican party in the USA. To me, regional votes in the Caribbean and Latin America are from the Jamaican standpoint, and bearing in mind the JLP’s political stance, navigable.

What is really troubling is this constantly amped up testosterone fight between American foreign policy and the Chinese aggressive push in the region. China is effectively trying to neuter the tough-talking Americans. The Americans are still waving the big stick, but it must know that Jamaica has no choice but to openly welcome the Chinese works in Jamaica.

Certainly, at some stage, America may wish to move beyond mere words. We know that Jamaica may not be much for America to focus on at this time, but Washington could want to introduce Jamaica as the whipping boy and the example for America flexing its muscle against China’s global expansionist push.

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