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O, how the times are a-changin'

Lorenzo Smith

Sunday, November 05, 2017

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The dust has settled and the people of St Mary South Eastern are now with the Member of Parliament of their choice. Congratulations to Dr Norman Dunn on his victory and, to Dr Shane Alexis, good try. I don't think this is the last of you.

I also want to congratulate the Electoral Office of Jamaica for stellar execution of another election. It highlights the fact that the Jamaican democracy is ever maturing to be considered among the best.

As an educator, I try to see every incident as a teachable moment, and the by-election in St Mary South Eastern is one such. Both the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) have homework; the PNP, however, needs extra classes. How so?

I watched keenly the campaign of both parties and I can say, unreservedly, that the JLP ran a better campaign than that of the PNP. The JLP's electioneering machinery was well-oiled with a clear understanding of the task at hand and how to execute and achieve this task.

As Trinidadian pollster Derrick Ramsamooj stated in an interview with Nationwide News Network: “What we are seeing is new leadership emerging that is using data to guide policies that will shape the country's future, as opposed to the narrow perspective of protecting turf in the traditional type of politics.”

It is clear that the JLP is changing the political landscape. A brief examination of the progress of the JLP in 2011 to the JLP in 2016/2017 can only bring one to conclude that the party has found its purpose and its members are working assiduously to fulfil same.

Political scientist Dr Hume Johnson argues that “The JLP's prosperity platform, albeit flawed, resonates among the base and new voters.” She further states that, “The PNP needs to quit attacking it and develop its own platform. The JLP were organised, there was a clear message that was trumpeted by Daryl Vaz. It can be easily argued that Vaz is a key strategist and tactician in the political arena at present. Vaz and Robert Morgan were vital in developing the message and ensuring that the party was consistent. In essence, there was a collective voice coming from the JLP; you get the feeling that all hands were on deck.”

Where did the PNP go wrong?

@HumeReports argues that the PNP no longer has a platform the people can get behind, so they resort to mudslinging. She reasons further that the party is no longer seen as the “People's Party”. She then concludes that party needs rebranding.

Come gather 'round, people, wherever you roam

And admit that the waters around you have grown

And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth savin'

Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin'

Bob Dylan, The times they are a-changin'

The PNP must awake from its slumber and answer the call. It is yet to acknowledge that its opponent has changed and the political landscape has changed and thus has remained the same. The PNP has not demonstrated any understanding and appreciation of the shift in the political landscape, and as such not much is happening in opening up the party to discussions, or even making the party more inclusive.

The party is in dire need of a revival. The PNP is preoccupied with waiting to retake office whilst remaining unaware of the political change that is taking place. Former president of the party P J Patterson warned that if the party does not engage in renewal it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant and would lose its place in history. The party should heed those words.

In all, the PNP ran a weak campaign. It allowed the JLP to dictate the narrative of the party. A solid and coordinated message was absent, the optics and sounds of the PNP remain old and out of touch with the times. The video with the party's president, Peter Phillips, coming out of a helicopter en route to a visit to St Mary South Eastern was a clear sign of disconnect, particularly seeing that the officers of the PNP were whining over the proposed Junction road project to improve the route.

The PNP's secretariat was very sloppy with how it handled the matter of Dr Shane Alexis not having Jamaican citizenship. It allowed a non-issue to take centre stage. It lost the struggle even before election day.

The PNP should resist offering excuses and engage intense interrogation of self. The blame game speaks to a level of egotism and entitlement consistent with proclamation some time ago, “This is PNP country.” This mentality is rather repulsive.

Come senators, congressmen, please, heed the call

Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall

For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled

The battle outside ragin'

Will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin'

Bob Dylan, The times they are a-changin'

Wake up, PNP, the times are a-changing.

Lorenzo Smith is an educator with interests in social justice. Send comments to the Observer or to lorenzsmitt@gmail.com.

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