The fickle nature of politics

Monday, September 17, 2018

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Even a few days can turn out to be a very long time in politics, much more so three years.

Back in early October 2015, Mr Damion Crawford, among the brightest young sparks in the then ruling People's National Party (PNP), sustained a staggering setback. He was beaten in an internal party run-off as most party delegates in St Andrew East Rural chose little-known Mr Peter Blake as their standard-bearer ahead of him.

Back then, PNP delegates who voted against Mr Crawford accused him of “disrespecting” them, failing to listen to their concerns, or to properly communicate with them.

That meant that Mr Crawford, then the MP for St Andrew East Rural, suddenly found his political career stymied; his future uncertain.

But, with the passage of time, circumstances changed and so have the fortunes of Mr Crawford. On Saturday, he not only won the support of PNP delegates for vice-president of the party, he topped the list of Messrs Mikael Phillips, Wykeham McNeill and Phillip Paulwell by virtue of delegates' votes.

Just to underline how rapidly change can come, Dr Fenton Ferguson, who topped the vice-presidential list two years ago, has now found himself sixth and out of the frame. And Mrs Angela Brown Burke, elected among the four vice-presidents two years ago, ended up fifth — much as had been predicted by those who routinely watch politics.

The available evidence suggests that his relative youthfulness and charismatic personality have much to do with Mr Crawford's resurgence. PNP delegates have apparently accepted the suggestion from Mr Crawford himself that he, youthful, energetic and attractive to young people, represents the perfect foil for the 68-year-old party president and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips.

Thoughtful, studied and usually careful with words, Dr Phillips has been a success in every Cabinet position he has held down the years as part of PNP administrations. He also has a squeaky clean image. Yet, his persona and his age place him at a disadvantage in any popularity contest among Jamaican politicians.

Hence, Mr Crawford's assertion that he is best able to complement Dr Phillips as the PNP seeks to wrest political power from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and that party's 46-year-old leader, Mr Andrew Holness, come the next parliamentary election.

Note his comment to the Sunday Observer: “I … believe that within the party I am the greatest complement to Peter Phillips, and the PNP has always ran with a complement. When they said Michael Manley was white, P J [Patterson] was his complement. When they said P J wasn't energetic, Portia [Simpson Miller] was his complement. When they claimed Portia wasn't smart, Phillips was her complement. And so now they are claiming Phillips is an old person, I think I can become that complement.”

There are senior Comrades who agree with Mr Crawford. Note the active support from Messrs K D Knight and John Junor among others during his campaign. No doubt he will tread carefully going forward. For, as he discovered on Saturday, in politics much can change in a very short time.

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