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You would have thought: “ well okay, it’s Jamaica and what has it got to do with us?”  We are referring to a bye-election that was held in Jamaica on Thursday 4 April to replace a seat left vacant by Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament Dr. Lynvale Bloomfield who was murdered. The seat had been held by the PNP for 30 years.  The PNP chose Damion Crawford, a young Vice President of the Party, who had served in Parliament before under Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and had been deselected because of a row with her. Now was his chance at redemption.

Mr. Crawford is a young 30 something.  This therefore was the leadership future of the PNP and many think or thought that he would become Prime Minister of Jamaica one day. Instead on 4 April 2019, he crashed and burned, losing the seat to Ann-Marie Vaz, the wife of another Jamaican Labour Party MP, her husband Daryl.  The tally: 9917 for Vaz and 9611 for Crawford.

The pundits in Jamaica say that there were several issues with the election for the PNP. The feeling was that this was simply a bye-election that could not be won against the resources of the Government. There was also the feeling though that the Andrew Holeness administration of Jamaica is doing a  good job and the economy is trending in the right direction. 

Then they said that the PNP was clearly out of step with the electorate.  They failed to take advantage of the disgruntlement with the country at how the JLP is fixing up the business elites to the detriment of the poor and the fact that a scandal erupted which had just caused the Minster of Education his seat in the Senate and his job as a minister. The Leadership of the PNP was too wooden and did not represent the modern and up to date. For example, they said that where the JLP was using tablets and phones, the PNP was still suing paper and pencils in door to door canvassing.

Mr. Crawford himself didn’t help some argue by attacking Mrs. Vaz personally as coming from the manor born and a sense of entitlement because Mrs. Vaz came from the same deprived background as he did.  When Mrs. Vaz announced that she would give books out in the schools to the children if she won, Mr. Crawford responded that he would be giving out: “she goats” so people could raise food.  That went down with great mirth and became a caricature.  After the election, the headlines were that Mrs. Vaz was going to celebrate by eating curried goat. Mr. Crawford and the PNP were criticized for parachuting a city boy into a country seat and not putting a local candidate.

Needless to say, the PNP was in shock.  They had known that they were 10 points behind in the polls.  Their magic candidate of the future had imploded. They had hoped for the best but it did not happen.  Now the recriminations.  One suggestion is already that Peter Philips must go as Leader of the Opposition and of the party.  We don’t know how far that will get.

The point of making this intervention though and the story of what happened in Jamaica should give pause to every PLP.  We watch every day with wonderment and bafflement as this corrupt FNM Government we have continues to trip over themselves from one thing to the next. However, they continue to survive.  The fact is the people of this country voted for a man who could hardly string two words together and once they elected him continue to call him Mr. Prime Minister.  In fact, he is now “ Most Honourable”.   Who would have thunk it that such a leaden balloon would become the Leader of this county.

So we pause: every progressive party in the region from the Dems in Barbados to the  PNM in Trinidad to  the PLP up in Nassau: what does it mean for the progressive forces and the kind of messaging that must be crafted?  It appears that the people of our countries have shifted ground and are prepared to accept the doctrine of the old slave masters as the way to go. The racial theme even raised its head in Jamaica where it is normally suppressed and muted, disguised and described in polite society there as class consciousness, with some pundits arguing that in an election which contrasted the nice, pretty brown skinned Mrs. Vaz up against the very sub Saharan African, dreadlock wearing Damion Crawford.  In elite circles there were denials all around but this is the elephant in the room throughout this region.

Mr. Crawford went to school in Nassau, getting his degree from the UWI Tourism School here. He knows the city well. Perhaps he ought to come here and cool out for a while and collect his thoughts and plot the next move for himself and his party.

As for us in the PLP : A Luta Continua!

Number of hits for the week ending Saturday, 6th April, 2019 up to midnight:  205,823

Number of hits for the month of March up to Sunday, 31st March, 2019 up to midnight:  939,837

Number of hits for the month of April up to Saturday, 6th April, 2019 up to midnight:  131,945;

Number of hits for the year 2019 up to Saturday, 6th April, 2019 up to midnight:  2,855,991