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It's the JLP's battle to lose now

Alexander
Scott

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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Political soldiers are on the move. All over St Mary one will be greeted with bunting, placards, billboards and, of course, flags representing the opposing parties and their respective candidates. But this was to be expected. With the slim margins of victory, coupled with the unfortunate and unexpected passing of Dr Winston Green, and the sticky issue that was the election petition, the campaign never really ended in this part of Jamaica. And I believe that will be to the Jamaica Labour Party's great benefit.

Anywhere one goes in that part of the world, from Castleton all the way to the border of Portland, as I said earlier, one will see campaign paraphernalia all over the place. But just a look at them will tell you which party is 'rolling in it' and which party can't afford a pot to relieve themselves in. Placards bearing the image of the PNP candidate, Dr Shane Alexis, are there, and in numbers too, probably outnumbering those of his opponent Dr Norman Dunn. However — and I may be reading a lot into this, but not too much — they are not of the same quality and make of Dr Dunn's placards. A small thing, but this is just one indicator of a party flush with cash, and using it strategically, and one that is running on fumes, as it relates to finances.

Dr Alexis, it is true, has been 'trodding earth', going to many communities and reaching out to many people, and it is true that he has brought a vim back to the People's National Party cadre in that constituency, who have been afflicted by the broader party malaise, but that is no surprise. The simple fact is that he has to go door to door and drum up support and name recognition because he is a totally unknown quantity in the regional party, and politics in general. As a result, he has to ingratiate himself with the constituents — a long and arduous process, as he will also, if he has sense, be looking for the 'swing' voter.

The fact, again, is that Dr Shane Alexis has his work cut out for him, if only for that one fact, though, I do believe that he does stand a fighter's chance, and could very well be the Member of Parliament, after the next general election, But he faces a likely (not certain, but likely) defeat this time around.

Dr Dunn has no such worries as it relates to name recognition and has no nagging questions about what his message is — he is a known quantity. Having run and only just lost in the last general election with such a narrow margin that a petition was working its way through the courts, and being born in the region, people know him. Couple those with the facts that both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), with its very good marketing, and most importantly he himself has never left campaign mode (by all accounts he has been operating as if an election could have been called there ever since he lost). They have the ground covered. They have the people canvassed. They know the local issues already. They understand the local mentality as it relates to politics. The JLP is, in a nutshell, well-oiled and prepared for this election and, personally, it would be bordering on an upset if the JLP lost. I'm sure Belmont Road would be fuming.

I don't feel this is a referendum on the Andrew Holness Administration, in spite of what PNP leader Dr Peter Phillips would want us to believe. This is, however, a serious test for the PNP, and could be the beginning of an Indian Summer for the JLP.

If the PNP lose and give the JLP even more breathing space (they already act at times like it's a Parliament of 53-10 rather than one of 32-31), then Andrew Holness would have a green light to either destroy them with policy measures that no well-thinking Jamaican could oppose, such as the zones of special operations Bill or, if he is wise (and he strikes me as politically adept), call a snap election whenever things bump back up and further weaken a PNP that is only now barely showing signs of stemming the cannibalisation.

The ball is in the court of the JLP, with the councils under their control, and with a candidate who has never stopped campaigning, the election is the JLP's to lose. They must avoid blunder, walk on eggshells, and stay far from a scandal at this point in time, and if they do that, then they have a hand on the trophy already.

The PNP must be in a frantic mad dash at the moment as they aim to retain the seat and continue to 'bite at the heels' of the Government; however, they shouldn't be too down if they lose and that shouldn't herald the resumption of the civil war. They should instead take stock, try to retain Dr Alexis as the caretaker for the seat (as he has built up some rapport and is very young), and aim for the long run. That is the only way that they can hope of having a permanent chance in that seat.

Alexander Scott is a political and social commentator, legal clerk, sports enthusiast, and proud graduate of St George's College. Send comments to the Observer or alexanderwjscott90@gmail.com.

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