Columns

Damion Crawford saying many of the right things

Mark WIGNALL

Thursday, June 05, 2014    

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It is said that people who make no mistakes tend not to make or do anything at all. So within an hour of Jamaica Labour Party Chairman Bobby Montague issuing a press release calling him out for using the offensive term 'dutty Labourites' to describe JLP supporters during a speech to PNP supporters in the East Kingston and Port Royal constituency, Damion Crawford, a People's National Party member of Parliament and junior minister, had issued his apology.

"I would like to apologise unreservedly for a most unfortunate comment that I made at a political meeting in East Kingston and Port Royal in reference to the Opposition. It is clear that I got carried away and reverted to negative language that has been used in the past by both political parties. This ought not to be part of any vocabulary, going forward, by me or anyone else. I pledge to never allow this kind of utterance to escape my lips in the future as I try to make a positive difference in my country."

A small but not insignificant irony is that, even before the apology was considered and digested, the CAPI Facebook page - made up mostly of Labourites - exploded in a most disgusting verbal demonstration of cussing PNP supporters who visited the site. Everything from one's presumed sexual preference to one's imagined lack of material possessions was fair game. The irony was, as the FB vituperation was taking place and the participants were giving full credence to the term used by the junior minister, someone had forgotten to tell them that CAPI meant Citizens' Action for Principle and Integrity.

I no longer visit Facebook, but as the nasty messages were being pushed to my iPhone, as soon as I deleted they kept piling on. The irony totally escaped those blissfully ignorant political fanatics.

Damion Crawford has been doing something that politicians are seemingly afraid of doing - laying out the unvarnished truth to his constituents, spelling out their individual responsibilities and challenging them to be better than they are. The typical Jamaican politician is quite uncomfortable with that, preferring instead to tell the people that 'nice times' will 'come back again', like Mr Crawford's party did in the campaign leading up the 2011 General Election, when not many of the voters under 45 years old knew what nice times meant - either socially or economically.

In a speech made since Crawford made his gaffe, he has been telling his constituents that if their children go to school and waste their time behind the school building "kicking box ball", they have no one else to blame but themselves. Contrast that with the typical politician always on a quest to placate the poor, make them feel sorry for themselves, and promising them that additional benefits will be available for the oversized brood of children some of them will produce.

Crawford challenged one of Jamaica's most sacred institutions — concubinage — when he made mention of two people, each paying $15,000 per month rental, obviously from separate residences, yet they are lovers. To Crawford, should they get married and share one rental, that extra $15,000 would be available for the children's education. Not quite as simple as that, but the principle still holds.

Crawford reached out to his constituents in an effort to make them see themselves as economic forces and financial giants when he said that each of them had the capacity to be the next Butch Stewart, in the Jamaican context - the most stunning example of a self-made man; moving from a man repairing second-hand AC units to being the holder of one the highest valued and rated resort properties in this side of the world.

It is said that when Andrew Holness, as prime minister just before the last elections, told the people the truth about "bitter medicine" to come, the people voted in significant numbers against him. To me, it was much more than that. The JLP was 'spoilt goods' after the Dudus matter and the highly publicised Manatt inquiry. In addition to that, Holness as prime minister was an unknown. How could he have prevailed against the "people's champion", Portia Simpson Miller?

And therein lies the difference. The thing I have noticed about Crawford is that he has that rare ability and capacity to hurl barbs at his own people but to touch their consciences in such a manner that they love him for doing so. Not all politicians are similarly blessed.

Holness cannot do it and get away with it. Portia doesn't have to do it because all she has to do is show up. But Damion Crawford has found a political recipe that he can take to every marginal constituency over the next few months and win the PNP the next local government elections. Well, it is still early days, but one senses that Crawford is not using his delivery as electoral ploy. One senses that he is saying what he has been saying because he senses that it is long overdue in saying. The geriatric politicians will not learn anything from him, but it doesn't matter. Their time is over. Crawford's time is now.

In pure electoral terms the JLP ought to be scared of the likes of Damion Crawford, because they do not have anyone among them that naturally has that political approach. Crawford can step up to his political podium, point out the shortcomings of his constituents; but in challenging them to be bigger than they are at present, they leave the meeting with new ideas and greater possibilities of themselves. Indeed, it may even egg them on more than usual, especially younger voters, to support him and the party of which he is a part.

I am not making out Damion Crawford to be the next great political messiah, but in a nation of people where we have grown used to seeing ourselves as underperformers in our own land, the time, I think, is ripe for Crawford's 'revolution of the mind'.

On Tuesday, when I pointed out to a low-level JLP activist that Crawford had warned his constituents that when he speaks of revolution he didn't want any of them to go out and "sharpen cutlasses", instead, he was talking of a radical change of mindset, my JLP 'bredrin' said: "A lie dat. Di country want some violence!"

"And if your children die in this armed revolution, what then?" I asked.

"Who haffi dead haffi dead!" he said in obvious frustration that his party just can't quite seem to find its political footing at the polls.

I said to him: "When I was in my 20s I harboured much of those thoughts. Right now, I prefer Damion Crawford's style of revolution. My only problem is that, in his party, he may only be an army of one."

observemark@gmail.com

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