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Tufton left us no legacy — Buchanan

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 02, 2014    

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THE man who wrested South West St Elizabeth from Dr Christopher Tufton insists that the former Member of Parliament left no legacy in that constituency.

Hugh Buchanan, member of parliament for St Elizabeth South West, argues that while Tufton made efforts to get certain things done, and had senior Cabinet responsibilities, he failed to leave his mark and, in effect, made some decisions that were ill advised.

Buchanan, son of former MP for the same constituency, Donald Buchanan, who also served as Cabinet minister in previous PNP administrations, defeated Tufton by 13 votes, the second-closest election since the constituency was created in 1959.

The Jamaica Labour Party's Charles Wright shocked the PNP's EV Allen by a mere six votes in the parliamentary election of 1959. Wright had 4,398 votes, to Allen's 4,392, in a 64.1 per cent constituency voter turnout.

"His legacy? ... I can't really point to it," Buchanan told the Jamaica Observer in a midweek interview, following Tufton's resignation as the JLP's constituency chairman and effective general election candidate.

"There is a factory in Hounslow that Grace operates and yes, it is an additional option to farmers to sell their produce to them. But, really and truly, it hasn't impacted that much, so it wouldn't be any legacy really," Buchanan argued.

Buchanan, 32, a sports specialist and teacher by profession, said that Tufton's inability to rebuild the Black River market detracted from his "limited" achievements in the constituency.

"In terms of the market, a lot of people would have said that the Black River market would have been his legacy. But what I have found and what a lot of people have found, and the mayor (Everton Fisher) can back me up on this, is that the market should not have been torn down before all of the funds were found to bring it to its completion and moving the vendors in the bus park.

"That is what has us in this state right now. It was a working market and should not have been demolished. But we are going to finish the market. Minister Arscott (Local Government) will visit it ... it has been high on my priority, high on the priority list of the mayor to complete that market as soon as possible. But the funding that was there was not enough," Buchanan insisted.

Commenting on Tufton's decision to leave the constituency, Buchanan said that the move appeared inevitable, as the former MP, who served the constituency in that capacity from 2007 to 2011, was losing ground.

"I have never seen him at a public function in recent times, like, civic functions — National Heroes Day, Independence Day or even Easter functions.

"The JLP is normally represented by a councillor or someone else. He had really made himself very absent, especially before the JLP leadership race. During that time there were some sightings ... the reports would come to me that 'we have seen Dr Tufton here and there', but it was understood that it was just because of the leadership race. Even though the leadership race was just concluded in November, you could have seen that his visibility again retracted since," Buchanan said.

Regarding Dr Tufton's replacement, Buchanan said that he had been hearing names mentioned, but was not overly concerned about who would get the nod, as he would have to defend his political turf regardless.

He suggested that a new candidate would make it harder for him to retain the seat in the next general election due by 2016, but hopes to deliver on some of his promises to constituents.

"Looking back at the seat, historically it is one that always goes with Government, apart from 1959. Even when there was a little swing against the PNP in 2002, which was the last election that we won before the 2011 election, South West St Elizabeth hung on.

"We even got a larger victory, although it was small, than South East St Elizabeth at the time, but those two southern constituencies always go with the governing party. I have to keep my visibility up. I really don't know who the candidate will be for the JLP, so it would be silly of me to say it's going to be a walkover now. Yes, Dr Tufton is out of the way. He had resources, he had a certain popularity, but I now have to go out there and perform," Buchanan said.

Facing the electorate for his second term, he maintains, will be tougher than the first.

"Not knowing who the next candidate is going to be for the JLP, I can't say it is going to be an easy task," he stated.

"As an incumbent, it is always harder for you to win. The second term is always the hardest term of your career and Dr Tufton has proven that for himself. So talking about a legacy and me being there for a long time, a lot of that depends on whether the election is called 2015, 2016, or whenever.

"Winning that election is going to be very key to me being in the constitucncy for as long as my father was. No one had stayed in that constituency for more than two terms before Donald Buchanan won it four straight times," Hugh Buchanan said.

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