Et tu, Brute?
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke is chairing the 2023 Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Inter American Development Bank (IDB)

Dr Nigel Clarke strikes us as the Cabinet minister who — with the possible exception of the prime minister — has the most complete grasp of his portfolio at the head of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.

Moreover, he brings to the table a sense of urbanity, as a cultured and gracious man who is not a product of the old-fangled politics that has bequeathed to Jamaica our blind, iniquitous and crippling tribalism.

That is why we would most urgently urge Dr Clarke not to keep company with the likes of Mr Everald Warmington and his hapless sidekick, Mr Millholland Barker, both of whom seem to delight in keeping racial politics alive in our country.

Dr Clarke, in a parliamentary exchange, fell into a trap set wittingly, or unwittingly, by Opposition Leader Mr Mark Golding, who had recently referred to Labourites as "damn fool" and to which the finance minister responded by calling him "Massa Mark".

We don't know which of the two epithets is worse. But we are painfully aware that playing the race card has severely hurt our politics, notably during the 1970s when we were reminded that then Opposition Leader Edward Seaga was not "born yah".

With the 70s behind us, we thought that period was at an end when Mr Barker, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) vice chairman of the St Andrew North Western constituency, informed us in November 2021 that Mr Golding would never be prime minister of Jamaica because of his complexion.

Not even the national outrage and strong condemnation by the private sector could stop Mr Warmington, almost a year to the day in November 2022, from repeating Mr Barker's foolish assertion.

We are, of course, happy to see that Mr Golding has apologised for his ill-advised description of his opponents. He is the last person we had expected to hear that from, because we had always seen him as a man of class.

"I shouldn't have said that. I apologise. I never meant to say that. What I meant to say is that, that is totally ridiculous… I am sorry about the 'damn fool' comment, because I don't want to cause any offence to anybody, and the truth is, when you are in politics, when you are in my position, you have to try elevate the thing and set a good example for others. So, to anybody who, when I use the little 'damn fool' talk, if I hurt anybody's feelings, I am sorry, I never mean that," he said on Sunday.

That full-throated apology is commendable and we hope that JLP members will be able to accept it as sincere. We also hope that they would not follow Mr Warmington into the deep, dark pit in which he had sunk himself: "I don't toe party line. I talk from my heart, and now that I am on my way home, I can say anything I want to say as long as I don't embarrass the prime minister. Let them go to hell!" declared Mr Warmington who, at the time, pledged not to run in another general election.

It is arguable that Dr Clarke has spent too much time in the company of the likes of Messrs Warmington and Barker and some of their bad ways might have rubbed off on him. That would be unfortunate. We'll take this one as an outlier.

For Dr Clarke is one of our best hopes for a new type of politician who can lead us into the new Jamaica for which we all yearn. He can start to reassure us by an apology to Mr Golding.

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