Crawford needs extra lessons

Henry J

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

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In talking to people, don't begin by discussing the things on which you differ. Begin by emphasising — and keep on emphasising — the things on which you agree. Keep on emphasising, if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and that your only difference is one of method and not of purpose. — Dale Carnegie

Winning elections, in my view, is about how well political parties could use the 3Ms (messaging, machinery and money) to their advantage. The People's National Party's (PNP) defeat was no surprise to me, I was the first person to call the election, long before Cliff Hughes did on election day. Unfortunately, I have no proof that I called it because I was driving to work listening to Damion Crawford's speech the morning after he was officially presented as the standard-bearer for Portland Eastern. I called it because I knew Crawford had barked up the wrong tree. It was a message for a different kind of tree planted some time in the 70s.

Political messaging is everything, and less about how many academic degrees — nothing wrong with that — and letters you have behind your name, or how bright you are. Just think how many bright people with degrees of the thermometer melting temperatures were beaten by Donald Trump.

If I were to grade the 3Ms of both campaigns the results would be:

* Messaging (PNP 3/10; JLP 6/10)

* Machinery (PNP 7/10; JLP 9.5/10)

* Money (PNP 4.5/10; JLP 10/10)

What really was Crawford's message?

In commenting on Crawford's message, Cliff Hughes said: “He's all over the place.” Mark Ricketts, in The Sunday Gleaner, April 14, 2019, describes it this way: “...yesterday's message that has little relevance today.” Columnist Gordon Robinson, in the same publication, said: “The result exposed the PNP's message as irrelevant to a new, tech-driven Jamaica, especially youth… The PNP must craft a new message/ensure that messengers stay on message.”

Crawford's good ideas got lost in his bad messaging. I believe he failed the messaging test even before he sat the exam, especially at the launch of his candidacy as the PNP's man to preserve the 30-year-old seat. Crawford played right into the hands of the media, who ensured that the off-lines in his speech got amplified.

For example, Crawford said, “East Portland people say they want tourism. I have a [bachelor's] degree in tourism, I have a master's in tourism. I lecture tourism, and yet still, because of her class and her colour, some people say this lady is more qualified than me.”

It was the great American leadership guru John Maxwell who said, “People, don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.” According to Crawford, he was simply trying to entertain the crowd when he made some of these remarks.

He continued, “If you look at potential, the furthest this lady will go is Mrs Vaz. If you look at potential, how far can I go and how [far] will you come with me?... So when dem a seh mi soon gone, it is a lie, because the west already have a prime minister, and it is now time for the east... This lady said that she is Action Ann, and yet don't have a plan. Action without a plan is failure. How come a lady with three helper a walk and a tek off clothes off a line a seh she a Action Ann? She is Acting Ann.”

Still, he continued, “Therefore, it is no surprise that big money popping everywhere dem go, because the scamma dem deh ya.”

I was disappointed, and that's the very reason I decided to 'call it' — no ounce of humility.

For me, it was just talent mismanaged and wasted at an important event that would have set the tone for the rest of the campaign.

But, hey, Crawford is 38 years old. He is still maturing politically. That's one of the very reasons I have arranged some free extra lessons for him and the rest of the PNP, not leaving out Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips, on sharpening the political message for the next political campaign season, possibly the general election.

Reframing Crawford's message

So Crawford wants people to work hard and be self-reliant. He is tired of the inequality in Jamaica, in which some people eat once and other people dog eat twice. He wants a kind of balancing of justice — economic and social, but more economic. Well, okay, nothing's wrong with that message, but let's reframe it.

People of Portland Eastern, we are on a journey together. I have come not as your messiah (dash weh the rod Damion) I have come as one who understands that in this country we need to balance the economic scale of justice. It's the kind of scale that symbolises equal justice under the law for every young yute, every single mother, every farmer, every father who goes out every day struggling to make it. It is the kind of scale that says, “You too need opportunities, you too need investment, you too need tertiary education, etc. In this progressive party we believe that the role of government is to help balance this scale when powerful individuals or organisations compete against weaker ones. Instead of the other side running a corrupt government with scandal after scandal, they should function as a counterweight on the scale of justice. But, make no mistake Portland Easterners, the greater the disparity of power between competing interests, the greater the weight the Government must provide in meeting your needs. That's the very reason I am putting myself forward to be your Member of Parliament (MP).

I will defend your cause in the House of Parliament and ensure...

It is not the Government's job to ensure that everyone wins a big contract or earn a $10 million a year salary; that will never happen, that would be a logical impossibility. Instead, as your future MP I will ensure that, whenever possible, whatever Portland Eastern needs is given fairly and humanely. In other words, justice is the purpose of government, and in Jamaica balance is the means of achieving this justice. We need a system in Jamaica where balance rewards hard work, efficiency, and innovation, which benefits all of society and discourages nepotism, crime and corruption. Straight!

Portland Easterners, I implore you to join with me, Damion Crawford, and the PNP in this quest of retaining the Portland Eastern seat. The future of endless possibility and opportunities are stretching out before you. If you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber, correct our mistakes, wake up all the sleeping Comrades. Pass the message on to the undecided. Tell all the Labourites that I am ready to take up the cause of Portland Eastern, and march to Gordon House on your behalf and demand and advocate for you. Who is ready to bring it home for the PNP and Damion Crawford? Then let the work begin. And let it begin now...Thank you! Respect!

This disrespectful and disgraceful “dutty” politicking that Jamaican politicians, both young and old, think is the secret sauce to political wins has outlived its time. This generation wants new kinds of engagement. Crawford claims that he has a new brand of politics (again nothing wrong with that); however, at extra lessons he will learn that the new brand of politics needs to be repackaged and the message reframed.

Extra Lessons Curriculum

Unit One: Clinical Message Framing (especially if you are two years behind working in the constituency)

Unit Two: Message Baptism and the Messenger's Image (how to change one bad message and still win with your image)

Unit Three: The Mechanics of Political Persuasion

Unit Four: True talk + Arrogance = Noisy Chat (how to recognise arrogance and practise humility)

Unit Five: Use of Ideological Language in Promoting Institutional Values (how to clarify and amplify the message and values of the PNP)

Unit Six: Jab jab Move — Punching and Ducking (how to counter bad-mouthing by the opponent)

Unit Seven: Balancing the Passion (how to ensure emotions don't run away and how to stay emotionally rational)

I urge Crawford and the PNP not to allow this opportunity to slip by. The last time I offered the JLP extra lessons on ethical leadership Andrew Wheatley and Ruel Reid refused to attend. You know what has happened since.

Old people seh, “Yuh mus tek sleep and mark death.” See you in class!

Henry J Lewis is a lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Send comments to the Observer or

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