Tue | Sep 28, 2021

Crawford tirade blamed on ‘political heat’

Azan, Hayles eat humble pie with apology

Published:Thursday | July 29, 2021 | 12:11 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
PNP vice-presidential nominee Richard Azan addresses party supporters at a constituency conference at Manchester High School on Saturday.
PNP vice-presidential nominee Richard Azan addresses party supporters at a constituency conference at Manchester High School on Saturday.

Councillor for the Royal Flat division, Donovan Mitchell, has described as unfortunate the barbs hurled by two People’s National Party vice-presidential nominees at Manchester Central Member of Parliament Rhoda Crawford,which drew national outrage and forced an apology on Wednesday.

Richard Azan and Ian Hayles used a partisan platform last Saturday to cast Crawford as a political upstart whose “bamboo fire” aura would soon fade, launching invectives against her political and mental competence for the job.

Mitchell, the mayor of Mandeville and chairman of the Manchester Municipal Corporation, who was present at Saturday’s constituency conference, expressed disappointment at the escalation of the rhetoric but sought to downplay the utterances as political satire.

“ ... It’s just the political heat of the day, and though a former leader says your brain should be working faster than your mouth, the comments that were made were in the height of the political heat,” Mitchell told The Gleaner.

He conceded, however, that Hayles’ and Azan’s reassessment and remorse were a step in the right direction and said they would take the high road in the future.

“We are a mature people and in the political arena. It is a heated kitchen, and when the kitchen gets hot, you will say something to score some political goals, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way, and so it is very unfortunate that it has reached this point,” he said.

The backlash against Azan and Hayles was swift and emphatic, with condemnation raining down from even high-profile women in the PNP like Patricia Duncan Sutherland and former presidential contender Lisa Hanna.

The men had characterised Crawford as a “benchwarmer”, hinting that voters had made a wrong decision in replacing then Member of Parliament Peter Bunting, a former national security minister, with a political rookie. Crawford thumped three-term incumbent Bunting in the September 3, 2020, general election by a margin exceeding 1,100 votes, with deep inroads into the PNP bedrock of Bellefield in a national swing that gave the Jamaica Labour Party 49 of the 63 parliamentary seats.

Wednesday’s apology was issued via a press statement by the PNP.

“Having reflected on our remarks last Saturday, we have come to greater awareness that the norms in our society have evolved. What was once cut-and-thrust banter on a political platform now constitutes an unacceptable personal attack on another politician,” read the statement sent on Azan’s and Hayles’ behalf.

“In particular, we realise the importance of creating an environment which encourages persons to serve through politics as our country faces unprecedented challenges.”

The apology acknowledged the growing engagement of women in parliamentary representation and was another in a series of faux pas that stoked perceptions of misogyny.

In accepting the apology, Crawford said hoped the about-turn represented a signal change towards a “better-cultured society”.

“We owe it to our country to keep our politics respectful and focused on the issues. I remain committed to representing the people of Manchester Central to the best of my abilities,” she said.

Azan and Hayles could not be reached for comment. Bunting responded to missed call with a text message to say that he was busy.

tamara.bailey@gleanerjm.com