The 'gospel' according to Mark

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The 'gospel' according to Mark

Friday, December 18, 2020

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I am offering myself for the leadership of the party at this time because I think the party is at a very low ebb and it needs to be brought together by somebody who can be a unifying force, somebody who has the experience and the capacity to lead the party through this difficult time.Mark Golding in an interview with the Jamaica Observer's H G Helps

And it came to pass that on the seventh day of November in the year 2020, one Mark Jefferson Golding, a renowned Jamaican attorney, investment banker, and politician, was elected as the sixth president of the People's National Party (PNP) after defeating Lisa Hanna, his 'Bring Back the Love' opponent, by 1,740 to 1,440 delegate votes in an election that saw a 96 per cent voter turnout.

One would have thought that such a decisive victory would have given Golding sufficient legitimacy to lead the 82-year-old party, but his ascendancy was greeted by some disgruntled Comrades with opprobrium and vitriol, much of which has been played out on social media.

Among the main concerns of Golding's detractors are that he bought the election by virtue of his perceived wealth. He is a part of a wider conspiracy involving his 'partner in crime' Peter Bunting to take over the party and run it for themselves and their RUM (Rise United Movement) followers. He is not widely known by the electorate and lacks a populist persona (charisma). He is a white man coming from the Jamaican upper class — an image which does not coincide with the ethos of the party, which is primarily based on promoting and defending the rights of the black Jamaican as well as empowering the masses (people power). And, finally, he is a capitalist, and the PNP is a democratic socialist party.

Before I explore some of these perceptions and allegations, let me make it quite clear that I hold no brief for Golding. During his campaign, he telephoned me asking for my support, which I unreservedly gave him, but no favours were offered or requested, and I stand by my decision which is a right guaranteed by the Jamaican Constitution and the Charter of Rights.

The first line of attack — that the election was bought — once again reveals an ugly practice of some in the PNP who believe that everything and everyone is for sale in an election, whether internally or externally. After the September 3 General Election debacle, rather than taking a dispassionate look at what were the real reasons for the loss, the easiest way out was to accuse the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) of “tiefing” the election. But, as Buju Banton has sung, “tief never like to see tief with long bag” (or words to that effect). The harsh truth is that there have been instances of vote-buying in all elections since the granting of universal adult suffrage in Jamaica, but as the late national hero and politician extraordinaire Sir Alexander Bustamante opined, no party has ever won by merely buying votes. When the people want change, they vote a certain way, and all the polls clearly indicated that the Dr Peter Phillips-led PNP was in for a walloping, which it got in a most dramatic fashion.

Regrettably, there is also a cabal of dissidents in the PNP who resent people of wealth and substance. These are some of the same people and their offsprings who helped to derail Michael Manley's democratic socialism path in the 70s and 80s by spewing hate against all “uptown” people without taking into consideration that not all “brown skin” Jamaicans are anti-black or despise the working class. How does the PNP explain a Frank Pringle, who rose to the heights in the party, becoming a minister of tourism? In any event, Michael Manley, for all intents and purposes, was half-white (his mother Edna was an Englishwoman) and did not come from the bowels of the masses. Indeed, it was felt that he betrayed his own upper St Andrew class and had to marry Beverley Anderson in order to legitimise his presence in the PNP. Golding's mother (Lady Patricia), who was married to his father Sir John Golding from England, grew up in Westmoreland, and Mark was born at the University Hospital of the West Indies. An interesting footnote is that the late Edward Seaga was born in Boston, USA, but renounced his American citizenship and ended up being more Jamaican than many black Jamaicans I know!

The Golding/Bunting nexus, which is seen to be divisive and self-serving, is perhaps the greatest threat to the survival of the PNP as a viable alternative to the JLP in the foreseeable future. Now that Bunting will be sworn in as senator and become Leader of Opposition Business in that august body which makes him and Golding, as leader of Opposition in the Lower House, the most powerful and influential Comrades, this creates a frightening and intimidating scenario for the “Onesies” (Phillips's supporters), who may see themselves as being permanently shunted to the doghouse.

It will be up to these two gentlemen, therefore, to ensure that the Onesies are not in any way isolated or ignored in the overall scheme of things. Indeed, the party leader must go out of his way, if necessary, to appease and court these disgruntled Comrades, all the while not kowtowing to their every whim and fancy. It is my opinion that, given his temperament and track record as a Member of Parliament of a garrison constituency who has displayed much compassion and visionary leadership, he will do a good job at unifying the party and whipping it into good shape to become election-ready. This means he must adopt an all-inclusive approach, not a divide-and-rule template. Bunting, on the other hand, must temper his role in such a way that he complements Golding's leadership because, as the old Jamaican saying goes, “Two heads better than one.”

As to whether or not Golding should fully embrace democratic socialism in order to make him “politically correct” in the PNP, it must be remembered that when Michael Manley returned to power in 1989, he shunned the 'bush jacket' and reverted to well-tailored suits, as well as embraced several aspects of a capitalist-run economy. I say this to say that there may well be room for a compassionate capitalist as leader of the PNP who embraces certain socialist principles and practices. In any event, it was the vision of Norman Manley, one of the party's key founders, that the PNP should ultimately be an alliance of all classes and a movement that can comfortably accommodate contending forces in the interest of the people, who should always be put first.

It remains to be seen, therefore, if, as the 'gospel' of Mark unfolds, there will be a resurrection of the PNP or Armageddon.

Lloyd B Smith has been involved full-time in Jamaican media for the past 44 years. He has also served as a Member of Parliament and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. He hails from western Jamaica, where he is popularly known as the Governor. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or lbsmith4@gmail.com.


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