Columns

Andrew Holness would make an excellent school principal

Mark WIGNALL

Thursday, August 28, 2014    

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ON Monday, when JLP leader Andrew Holness moved outside of his comfort zone, actually stole some time from behind a safe desk, went out into the sunlight, and spoke to a shrunken community of his own political people in Half-Way-Tree, and did so outside of a real upcoming election season, it occurred to me that it was the very first time in his political life that he had ever agitated at the public level for anything.

And he is Opposition leader?

What is it that made Alexander Bustamante the founder of the JLP? His agitation at the level of penning strident letters to newspaper, and his lack of fear in actively and physically standing up at the political podium long before he was 'party political' on behalf of the poor, dispossessed, and voiceless, challenging the ruling authority existing at the time.

What is it that made Norman Manley? The timeliness of him living at the same time as Busta. Let us face it. As much as I believe Bustamante, the consummate rabble-rouser, was the most successful political opportunist that this country has ever seen, had he not been there while Norman Manley, the erudite lawyer, was in his prime, there would have been no need for Manley to be anything other than the best lawyer in the country and make a fortune out of doing so.

But Manley and others founded a political party in light of Busta's activism, practised the art of political posturing on the stage and, with the socio-political synergy which resulted, he was never afraid to give up his professional calling and dedicate his life to something much bigger than himself, but which needed his active involvement in the ultimate outcome.

In other words, in considering our list of heroes, Manley and Busta mutually fed off their respective energies and created their larger-than-life pictures.

But here it is that, with our country once again in economic trouble and mired in social tensions, Andrew Holness and remnants of active Labourites — probably about 1,200 of them — met in Half-Way-Tree to say some things about the increase in fares in public transportation and talk about the evils of the ruling party, and after that many people found they had no interest in what Holness had to say.

Why is it that with such abysmal leadership of the PNP prime minister constantly on display, the JLP leader, younger and said to have the potential of more enlightened ideas, is not able to make even a dent on the political conscience of a majority of Jamaicans?

As the leader of a political organisation who has never fought for any executive position in the party and has never put himself out in the front in any fray in the public domain, should it be a surprise to any of us that he has been as politically impressive as oats porridge is soft and only hot where we can't taste it?

As much as I have believed that our present prime minister has been ill-suited for the job — which she got in her own right in 2011, by way of a majority of voting people endorsing her party — the fact is, her entire political history is one of agitation.

In her youthful days during the 1970s, she was on the streets as a party activist, as a councillor, and as an MP, when guns, ammunitionsand the loud and bloody combination of both made all the difference between an enjoyable political win and an unforgettable, tearful loss.

With a disgusting, sickening and destructive political past of the 'old guard' inside the PNP and the Opposition JLP, it was the hope that a bright 'youngster' like Andrew Holness would have signalled that the country is ready for those who have the capability to take our people to another level of political development.

But how can he do what many people expect him to do when, in fact, the way he was raised politically has made him a political monk.

I use the term political monk not in mockery of the Opposition leader's private or domestic life. I know little of both and I care less about what he does or doesn't do in either.

But Andrew Holness pretty much made his political life in the office of former leader of the JLP Eddie Seaga at the time when Seaga owned a company called Premium with offices in New Kingston. It was there, I believe, I first met David Panton — who long left the party and is now living abroad — and Ian Hayles (who has since crossed the floor to join the PNP).

I may or may not have seen Andrew Holness there in the times when I visited to have brief confabs with Seaga, but even if I did not see him it would not have changed the fact that Seaga was his mentor and Holness was politically made behind the shades where the sun never shone.

Let us face it, Seaga was an agitator par excellence. He knew the streets, understood the language, and although I found him to be a cold man in his relationship with his second-tier leaders, very few of those who criticised him, outside of, say, a Pearnel Charles, could play the public stage like he could.

I say all of this not to endorse a debased politics but to state the hard reality of party politics. Seeing that Andrew Holness was brought up in the privacy, silence and educative gloom of a political library, what should we expect as the next political campaign starts and the politicians in his amorphous party, and those in the ruling PNP, hit the stages, do their best stand-up comedy routines and fight for spaces in our heads?

I expect that at the next election, considering the political trajectory of the PNP leadership, many people will be unhappy. I expect that at the next election, considering the inability of the JLP party leader to inspire the party workers and transmit an energy he never had to the JLP core, many people will be unhappy.

Between those unhappy people I will not necessarily be happy, too, but I expect a PNP win.

Why? The errors made in a not-so-long-off past (2011) to 'parachute upwards' Andrew Holness to JLP leadership at a time in the life of the JLP when its leadership quality and trustworthiness were at their worst. It is my belief that in that panic mode the JLP made an awful choice.

The JLP and Golding took a bright man who would have made wonders in the principal's office and propelled him to lead those who, in other times, would have been leading those mounting a justified demonstration outside the principal's office.

Wrong move!

observemark@gmail.com

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