Crawford defeated but not disgraced, says Henry-Wilson

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 07, 2019

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Maxine Henry-Wilson, campaign manager for Damion Crawford in his unsuccessful bid to hang on to the Portland Eastern constituency in last Thursday's by-election, says the young politician can hold his head high despite the 306-votes loss to the Jamaica Labour Party's Ann-Marie Vaz.

“Damion came in four weeks before the by-election and was embraced by the constituency. In four weeks we were able to make up whatever deficits there were, because we knew there were deficits.

“We had done polls previously on the state of the constituency when we were trying to settle the matter of candidacy, and they showed that we had fallen off and that we were behind. He made up the deficit almost totally and we could say 'if only we had another week',” Henry-Wilson told the Jamaica Observer.

She argued that the by-election showed that there is still energy in the PNP and its ground forces as they were able to pull out 9,611 votes, the most the PNP has ever polled in the 17 parliamentary elections in the constituency.

According to Henry-Wilson the task for the PNP is to now organise its ground forces in the constituency to capitalise on the energy shown in the lead-up to the by-election.

The veteran political organiser further admitted that the defeat, in a constituency it has held for the past 30 years, was painful but argued that this did not reflect a rejection of the party.

“It was not a congratulatory note for the party, but I'm not sure it was a slap in the face. I think it was more an organisational deficit, not necessarily the party as a movement.

“Things that we should have done previously, things that we should have done in the campaign, questions relating to the capacity of our workers and their ability to carry the movement forward. All of those things, but I really don't think it is a slap in the face of the party,” added Henry-Wilson.

The former PNP general secretary said that while the by-election showed that the PNP's machinery in Portland Eastern is not as creaky as some people believed it to be, though it is not at the level that it used to be about a decade ago.

“The fact is that Dr (Donald) Rhodd built a vibrant organisation and that was carrying on, but in some ways it was carrying on by momentum, so we have to now put back the foundation and carry it forward,” said Henry-Wilson.

In the aftermath of last Thursday's defeat, several political analysts have criticised Crawford, and the PNP, for the campaign they conducted. The critics have also accused the party, and the candidate, of failing to present a coherent message while turning off voters with personal attacks on Vaz.

“I think that some people, certainly the establishment, were uncomfortable (with some of the campaign comments by Crawford), but we are judging Damion by what he said on the platform, what about judging other people by what they said on the platform and what they did during the campaign,” argued Henry-Wilson.

She added that those criticising the campaign and arguing that this caused the defeat, are not taking into account how far behind Crawford was when he entered the race and the impact of money on the outcome.

“The conversation has to be about the role of money. I won't say anything more, but the role of money, particularly on election day, must be a part of the conversation. That's a question for the people of Jamaica, are we going to accept that it is how much money that you have that is going to determine the result of an election. If it is money then the democracy is gone to hell,” declared Henry-Wilson.

“I think some of the money spoke on Thursday, but I'm not one of those people who will say that it was resources that cost us to be where we are, because I think resources is not only about money, it is about political capital, political organisation and recruiting.

“There is a base below which you can't go but I think we could have prevailed with what we had,” said Henry-Wilson.

She said that the defeat should not result in any loss of political capital for Crawford inside the party. He had polled the most votes in the PNP's latest vice-president contest and Henry-Wilson argued that he still has a major role to play.

“He made a significant contribution to the future of the party by running in this by-election. He was reluctant but he agreed to put himself on the line and I think that Comrades appreciate that,” said Henry-Wilson before she responded to the impact of the loss on the future of PNP President Dr Peter Phillips.

“As any party leader in defeat he is going to be reflective but I don't think we need to do anything precipitous,” said Henry-Wilson.


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