Peter Phillips's PNP of promises, power plays, and pretenders

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Peter Phillips's PNP of promises, power plays, and pretenders

GARFIELD HIGGINS

Sunday, January 12, 2020

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The young antelope danced itself lame before the main dance was yet to come. — Igbo proverb, Nigeria

“I'll give the sun

The rain

The moon

The stars and the mountains

I'll give you the world

And all that you wish for

And even more

Girl I love you more than you could know

And that's for sure

I'd climb the highest hill

Cross the widest sea

Nothin' could discourage me...”

The above are lines from the classic R&B song Ready or Not by After 7. It was the group's first number one R&B single. The song reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1990. I am sure scores of Jamaicans remember the evocative voice of Melvin Edmonds belting out the amorous lyrics.

Be warned! 'Tis the season for promises; that is, highfalutin political promises. They will surpass even those from Ready or Not. It is not a winning strategy.

Two Fridays ago, Jess Phillips, who is running for the top job in the British Labour Party, was interviewed on a British Broadcasting Corporation programme. Recall that, following a humiliating defeat by Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, Jeremy Corbyn announced that he will not lead the Labour Party in any future election.

Anyways, Jess Phillips made a very important point that both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) need to factor very seriously in the design and construction of their manifestos for the upcoming general election campaign.

Among other things, Jess Phillips said: “What we have to do going forward is convince the people in this country that they can trust us to deliver for them. It's as simple as that.”

I was not surprised.

Three Sundays ago, I adumbrated many of the predictable factors that contributed to the British Labour Party, a fraternal party of the PNP, getting an epic political 'whuppin', as they say in the streets, from the Boris Johnson-led Conservative Party on December 12, 2019.

I said, among other things in this space: “Labour's manifesto itself had some very good ideas, but people were not convinced Corbyn would be able to deliver without massive increases in taxes. The Labour Party did not convince voters that they had done their 'sums' properly.” ( Jamaica Observer, December 22, 2019)

Corbyn's Labour Party constructed its election scaffolding on 12 promises:

1) increase health budget by 4.3 per cent;

2) hold a second referendum on Brexit;

3) raise minimum wage from 8.21 to 10;

4) stop State pension age rises;

5) introduce a National Care Service;

6) bring forward net-zero target;

7) nationalise key industries;

8) scrap Universal Credit;

9) abolish private schools' charitable status;

10) free bus travel for under-25s;

11) give European Union (EU) nationals the right to remain; and

12) build 100,000 council homes a year.

Corbyn's entire building crumbled because, among other reasons, Britons did not believe he could deliver his promises without the excruciating pains associated with significant increases in taxes, reduction in the general standard of living, and economic fallout.

There are very huge lessons here for the JLP and the PNP.

I anticipate some myopic thinkers will immediately say, “Oh, those are sophisticated British people, Jamaicans have not evolved to that level just yet.”

Those who suffer with inferiority complexes of the kind are wrong, very wrong.

The games they play

Last Sunday, among other things, I spoke here about the current spate of disgraceful baiting and bartering by the PNP. The JLP would do well to walk wide of this dud of a political strategy.

PNP President Dr Phillips, in his new year's message, promised to increase the national minimum wage from the present $7,200 to $12,500 per week if he were to become prime minister. Where is the mathematics to prove that a minimum wage of $12,500 can be immediately afforded by employers, Dr Phillips? Without that, I believe his proposal qualifies as more baiting.

In an interview that was broadcast on TVJ, Dr Phillips defended his $12,500 per week minimum wage proposal. He said, “A sharp increase in the minimum wage will not disable most operations. No one has provided evidence that it would. We certainly think it will help create a better base for equality, especially in the circumstance where many are earning very comfortable profits, and will provide a fillip for the economy, because it will boost production and demand, particularly among the poorest elements among the population.”

Stick a pin, as we say in local parlance! Does Dr Phillips understand that he has the prior responsibility to support his proposal with the necessary facts. It is the PNP which needs to convince folks that it can be trusted to deliver a minimum wage of $12,500 minus the excruciating pains associated with significant increases in taxes, massive job losses, reduction in the general standards of living, and economic fallout.

The PNP seems not to have learned much, if anything, from the massive defeat handed to the Corbyn-led UK Labour Party last December. It was Labour's biggest political shellacking since 1935.

There is also the consequential matter of Phillips's record on a near facsimile proposal from the then Opposition spokesman on finance, Audley Shaw, in 2016. Weeks before our 17th parliamentary election, Shaw called for the minimum wage to be increased to $11,600 per week. Dr Phillips, the then finance minister, vigorously opposed the proposal in Parliament.

Phillips, who is now on the hustings for political power, says he will vigorously support his New Year's Day proposal in Parliament. Here, again, the matter of whether 89 Old Hope Road can be trusted to deliver a $12,500 per week minimum wage floats to the surface.

The PNP is riding the tiger of rank political opportunism. I am not surprised.

Recall, former PNP chairman, now Chairman Emeritus Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill said publicly: “We believe that it is best for the People's National Party to form the Government; therefore, anything that will lead or cause us to be in power is best for the PNP and best for the country.” “Anything” excludes nothing.

Like Corbyn, Dr Phillips continues to make some massive miscalculations. I believe they will cost the PNP dearly at the polls.

Just over a year and half ago the PNP announced that, were it to form the next Administration, it will enable some 700,000 Jamaicans to own a piece of this rock — effectively putting an end to squatting. To date, the PNP has not provided any operational specifics on how this promise will be fulfilled. Can the PNP be trusted to deliver its numerous promises?

Recently, Dr Phillips said his party would reduce General Consumption Tax by two per cent if it got State power. One of his political lieutenants then notified the public that this was not a prudent move.

The PNP says it supports the states of emergency (SOEs) and zones of special operations (ZOSOs) programmes. The Gleaner then reports that the PNP wants to 'marry' its support for the SOEs to the passing of the Opposition's banking Bill.

Incidentally, two of my readers took me to task in relation to last Sunday's column. They argued that The Gleaner had misrepresented the Opposition spokesperson on national security, Fitz Jackson, when it printed this banner headline: 'Banking ransom for SOE — PNP to leverage support for trade-off against 'exorbitant fees' '. ( The Gleaner, December 23, 2019)

I, therefore, went digging to see if the Old Lady of North Street had published a correction or retraction. I found this instead. Headline: 'Jackson denies SOE-Banking Bill trade-off — but criticism of policy proposal forces walk back, source reveals.” ( The Gleaner, December 27, 2019)

The news item said, among other things: “Jackson's views, however, contradict assertions from a reliable source, a ranking spokesman and leader in the PNP, who has been a long-time lobbyist against high transaction fees and an advocate for the passage of the banking Bill. Jackson himself retweeted the December 23 lead story and affixed to it a copy of an advertisement that he and the PNP had earlier promoted in a bid to name and shame Government members of Parliament who had voted against the banking Bill.

“The Gleaner source disclosed that the Opposition intended to twist the arm of the Government in pushing through the banking legislation by leveraging its support for the SOEs in seven police divisions, spanning six parishes. The SOEs will lapse between February 4 and 27, 2020.

“That barter, the high-ranking party officer said, was crucial to the party's aim for a quid pro quo on the security crackdown. However, resistance and criticism of the policy move, both from the private sector and in political circles, have caused a walk back of the proposal, a source confirmed yesterday.” (op cit dated December 27, 2019)

The leadership of Norman Manley's party is under severe pressure to make a greater impression on the country's electorate, in particular the youth.

Plus, the severity of the internal party squeeze is getting tighter by the day. The birds, those reliable Black-bellied Plovers, Bananaquits, and John Chewits are again tweeting that Comrade financiers are very unhappy.

He says he's no hypocrite

In August last year, campaign manager for Peter Bunting's 'Rise United' team and Member of Parliament for St Ann North Western Dr Dayton Campbell told a media outlet that Dr Phillips's low popularity rating in a Don Anderson poll should have led to his resignation. For 90 days Campbell relentlessly campaigned in the highways and the byways of our country telling folks that Dr Peter Phillips was unelectable and could not lead the PNP to a general election victory.

While on the political hustings at a St James Central constituency conference held at Mount Salem Primary and Junior High School, for example, Campbell delivered some vicious political body blows to the septuagenarian frame of his skipper. Campbell said: “ '...The PNP has a tradition. Norman Manley left the PNP when he was 70. Michael Manley, as prime minister, left the PNP when he was 70. P J Patterson, as prime minister, left the PNP when he was 70. Portia Simpson Miller left the party when she was 70. This year, Dr Phillips a 70,' disclosed Dr Campbell.”

Campbell did not stop there. For good measure, or otherwise, he rained a flurry of bone-crushing upper cuts to the political chin of Dr Phillips. Campbell said: “ 'We want a leader that can take the party out of Opposition. So now, to come and look at the PNP and say that the man is at 12 per cent, but we must let him stay, is not acceptable. They are being hypocritical, because even when [former Prime Minister] Bruce [Golding] had to resign from the [Jamaica] Labour Party...his rating never go down at 12 per cent,' Dr Campbell stressed.

“ 'All yuh phone, when it reaches 15 per cent you see something start going on it and tell you say you have to go and plug in a charger because it needs life. At 15 per cent, your phone done tell you already and give warning say, 'Look here, this something soon lock off,' and dem deh at 12 [per cent] and make it sound like something nuh wrong with we,' Dr Campbell continued.” ( Jamaica Observer, August 27, 2019)

These political invectives against Comrade Leader Peter Phillips by Campbell are but the tip of the iceberg.

Last Tuesday, it was announced that Campbell had been reappointed to the shadow Cabinet. The shadow Cabinet headed by Dr Peter Phillips.

On Tuesday also, Campbell was repeatedly pressed on Nationwide News Network's Cover Story to definitively state whether he now thought Dr Phillips, as leader of the PNP, could win a general election. Campbell jumped all over his political see-saw, but eventually slipped.

“Yes,” he said, “Dr Phillips is electable.”

The tensions that are boiling at 89 Old Hope since the return of Campbell to the shadow Cabinet have burst wide open old political wounds. The birds sing that the PNP is way out on a political limb, and some from within who have very sharp hacksaws are busy cutting away.

But just how is such a political Jekyll & Hyde switch possible? Easy! Dr Campbell told us how when he said: “You understand how hard it is when you are Opposition? You see me, I rather sit down on the back bench of the Government than to sit down on the front bench of the Opposition. I rather come out of the PNP and the PNP win, than stay in it and it loses. I want the PNP in power.” ( Jamaica Observer, August 27, 2019)

Napoleon Bonaparte famously said: “Power is what they like; it is the greatest of all aphrodisiacs.”

Dr Campbell says, 'I'm no hypocrite'. ( Jamaica Observer, January 8, 2020)

What a guy! Here borrow a favourite expression from ace actor Al Pacino.

Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.


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