Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding continues to struggle to unite the party. The party has been divided since Portia Simpson Miller took over as leader in 2006 and the disunity continued under Peter Phillips. Fifteen years is a long time to be fighting over the leadership. The central issue of who has the right to lead Norman Manley’s party is apparently a matter of both credentials and electability. Portia was electable but lacked the middle class credentials, Peter Phillips had the credentials but was ultimately poison at the ballot box. Mark Golding is a lawyer, a banker and, like Bob Marley, has an English father and a Jamaican mother. He needs more time to demonstrate whether he can appeal to Jamaican voters.
It’s not clear why Golding is causing so much dissension inside the party. There are no policy or ideological issues at stake. It seems that just as Peter Phillips refused to accept Portia as leader, some members of the PNP are refusing to accept Golding on no better grounds than he was not their choice. He and Dayton Campbell were key figures in Peter Bunting’s Rise United faction that attempted to unseat Peter Phillips in 2019. The argument that the Risers caused the PNP to lose the 2020 election ignores the fact that the PNP and Phillips were never ahead in the polls after 2016. In any case most of the Risers lost their seats and the prime culprit, Peter Bunting, is sidelined in the Senate alongside another PNP leader wannabe Damion Crawford. Supporters of Lisa Hanna can’t deny that she has major problems in her constituency, with the resignation of another councillor. Until she can sort out her home turf, she continues to lack credibility as a leadership contender. However, Golding has not yet found his feet. He seems to have retained the same inept communications team that made Peter Phillips a laughing stock on social media, and he is a long way from remaking himself as a man of the people.
Until Mark Golding has been at least a year in office and the pollsters can go in the field, the question of his electability may best be answered by observing the current Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Nationwide’s 2020 Blue Dot poll found him to be enjoying historic levels of popularity. Can he sustain this until the next election in 2024/5 ? The success of the weekend lockdowns (since March 2021 ) in reducing the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations suggests that, right now, the Prime Minister and the government continue to enjoy the confidence of the majority who are willing to endure the very considerable difficulty and inconvenience of the lockdowns. There are many gripes about corruption, the indifference to the environment when mining or a new hotel is in the balance, crime continues unabated, vaccines are running short, and more than a hundred thousand children have not attended any form of school since the pandemic began, but nothing has yet happened to cause the nation’s hearts and minds to turn hopefully to the warring PNP.
Violence against women is a problem for both parties: George Wright’s resignation from the JLP still leaves him with a seat in Parliament (and he is insisting he will not only not resign but will run again) and Dayton Campbell’s defamation lawsuit against Karen Cross et al will be winding its way through the courts for months to come. As usual, both parties will hope for other less vexing issues to take over on social media and the front pages of the newspapers long before they are forced to do anything substantive.
Golding has appointed Tony Bogues, formerly Michael Manley’s right hand man, to chair the party’s Policy/Vision Committee. This is apparently in response to those who feel that the party has lost its way and needs to find out what it stands for. Arguably neither the PNP or the JLP have stood for much of anything since the end of the Cold War. Both parties run on promoting growth in a market economy, a slate of competent candidates, policies that favour both business and the working class, with a little something thrown in for the poor. Who wins appears to depend on the popularity of the leader and their supporting cast. Right now Holness, Tufton et al are winning the race.
Your feel good tune of the week is Go Down Deh.