I'm more than a little charmed by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness's excitement over his party's win in last week's parish council by-election for the Cassia Park Division. The Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) Beverly Prince defeated the People's National Party's (PNP's) Sheryn Bromfield by 410 votes. But it being his first time in two years since becoming the leader of the JLP that he has won anything, I understand his great enthusiasm, for as we all know, you never forget your first kiss.
But Mr Holness believes the victory for the JLP candidate is indicative of the message voters want to send to the PNP-led Government, and I think he readeth too much into this first-time victory under his party-leader belt. I note that Ms Prince is the former long-serving councillor for the Cassia Park Division. She had left the post to run against Dr Peter Phillips in East Central St Andrew (where the division in located) in the 2011 General Election and returned to Cassia Park after the sitting councillor, the PNP's Cynthia Burrell, passed away earlier this year. In other words, Ms Prince has returned home and has been welcomed back with open arms.
So it is not, as Mr Holness seems to feel, a sign from Jamaicans across the length and breadth of this island that they are ready for the JLP to take over the running of the country, and that "the national mood is changing away from the Government".
All this talk about a "mobilisation machinery" and "organisation", and concentrating resources on getting the voters to the polls is all very well and good, but I dare say that the work was already done during the 1998-2011 period when Ms Prince was the sitting councillor and she knew her electorate by their names, faces and needs; not by their number in the voter's registration book.
On the contrary, it is a reminder that the members of the JLP need to come out from behind their desks, and clamber down from their SUVs and walk foot to meet and greet and get to know the electorate on a local level. That one-on-one contact was essential to the win in Cassia Park, just as it was in Shahine Robinson's 2001 historical win for the JLP in the North East St Ann by-election: all hands on deck, all members of the party's hierarchy from the 'battam to di tap' out in force in the field, supporting a candidate who knew the people in the constituency as friends, family and community members, not -- as I am concerned that Mr Holness looks at the electorate -- as mere votes, numbers and pieces of paper in a box that can be counted.
And may I suggest also, based on the current suss, that there is a brand new challenge afoot for the leadership of the JLP, that when Holness utters statements like: "Clearly, the people have sent a powerful message that they are not endorsing the prime minister, and certainly not endorsing the finance minister," they only serve to make the power-hungry within the party start to lick their lips and champ at the bit for the chance to wrest power away from the current leader.
A further reminder to the party is that -- while Mrs Robinson's victory was a major signal to the ruling party and country, in that she was resoundingly victorious in a traditionally PNP seat, in a constituency election, not a parish council election -- the JLP lost yet another general election thereafter.
So, please, men and women in green, don't get so smug and ahead of yourself and start selecting your wardrobe for Jamaica House just yet.
Speaking of Jamaica House, and inauguration ceremonies therein, I recall watching on television the brilliant elocution of a little girl dressed in a bright yellow dress and performing at the inauguration ceremony of the Hon Andrew Holness when he became prime minister of Jamaica in 2011 for the short three months to follow. It wasn't clear to me at the time why the little girl had been asked to perform such a morbid piece, nevertheless I was compelled to note the words she spoke, which were:
"You beat down on me everyday
You slaughter me
You curse me
You find all the negative things to say
All the reasons you must run away
You never stop to build me, embrace me, help me to develop
I give thanks to the faithful few
Who have helped me to keep my head
All it takes it time."
Her performance perhaps foreshadowed what Mr Holness is facing now, and so I say this to him: Hold strain. Keep your head. Get to know your fellow Jamaicans all over the land and give them good reason to vote for your party. Do the work. Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.