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Crawford outlines strategy that knocked Bunting out

'Daughter of the soil' first-time candidate looks ahead to big things

BY KASEY WILLIAMS
Staff reporter
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 06, 2020

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The name Rhoda Moy Crawford will never be forgotten, as the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) political neophyte created a big upset in Manchester Central booting People's National Party (PNP) heavyweight Peter Bunting by almost 1,000 votes in Thursday's parliamentary election.

The now Member of Parliament (MP)-elect Crawford, who campaigned heavily with her slogan 'Daughter of the soil', achieved what her predecessors of almost 30 years of trying failed to do, wrestle the seat from the PNP.

In the preliminary count on Thursday, Crawford got 8,097 over Bunting's 7,112.

She told the Jamaica Observer on Friday that her success can be attributed to lessons learnt from her predecessors.

“I engaged former JLP candidates. We looked at their strengths [to see] what they did right, and we capitalised on that… We looked at the mistakes they made and were sure to avoid the mistakes,” she said.

The Bellefield Division, which had been Bunting's stronghold, saving him from defeat previously, was heavily concentrated by the JLP this time around.

“Our strategy was very clear. From early out we did an analysis of all polling divisions in all four divisions of the constituency. We looked at our strongest polling divisions, our weakest polling divisions and our marginal polling divisions. We knew that the Bellefield Division had always been a challenge for the JLP…We were deliberate in being present [there],” Crawford said.

Manchester Central has four divisions namely Bellefield, Royal Flat, Mandeville and Knockpatrick.

“From early we knew that we had to compromise the votes for the PNP in the Bellefield Division while maximising our support in the other divisions. Another part of the strategy is we know that we usually enjoy the support of the Mandeville Division. We know that we usually enjoy the support of the middle class, but that support was not always translated into actual votes in the ballot boxes, so we devised a very clear strategy to target the middle-class groups to get them to come out to vote,” she added.

Crawford's victory over Bunting came as shocking to many as he had succeeded the PNP's John Junor who held the seat for four terms from 1989 to 2007.

Bunting staved off the JLP's Sally Porteous in 2007 as he polled 8,453 to her 8,338.

The JLP pressed harder at attempting to wrestle the seat in 2011 with Danville Walker losing to Bunting by 539 votes.

Crawford had the full support of Walker who had told the Observer on nomination day that she was the face of the future.

“Rhoda is the face of the future. Peter Bunting is the face of the past and that is what you have to understand about these elections. The JLP has enough people on the voters' list to win this seat. You can either vote for the past or vote for the future. The future is the Labour Party. The future is Rhoda Crawford,” Walker had said moments after Crawford was nominated.

Crawford, who secured one of the 49 seats for the JLP in a massive landslide victory, said she had always been contributing to the constituency.

“The fact that I am a daughter of the soil, the people know me. They watched me growing up and long before entering representational politics, they knew and have seen me as someone who was always giving back to my community, so it wasn't difficult. For me it was more of me getting myself out there in the community and responding to the needs of my people,” she said.

Crawford disclosed that among her priorities is to continue the distribution of water to communities and the rehabilitation of roads.

“We definitely will continue with our water distribution initiative while we have begun discussions with representatives at NWC [National Water Commission]. WRA [Water Resources Authority] and the Rural Water Supply until we can get actual piped water to the communities… We will continue to truck water to [those] communities. There are some roads we intend to start resurfacing and there are some in the inner communities that require urgent bushing,” she said.

Social development is also big on her plans which she says the foundation has already been laid for as well as assistance for small farmers.