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PNP's Damion Crawford majoring in the political minor

BY SHALMAN SCOTT

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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Just about every media platform that one visits there is something about the recent People's National Party (PNP) vice-residential race and how Damion Crawford got the highest number of votes among his colleagues.

This analysis of the outcome of that contest is superficial at best, tenuous and relativistic.

Accordingly, too much political weather ought not to be made of the exercise, even as the complement of delegate votes on the list, which stood at 3,100, saw 1,137 who did not vote for Crawford. Unless that number of 1,137 of approved delegates did not attend the conference, which is highly unlikely, and which tells us, therefore, that Crawford did not 'run the board'!

This 1,137 non-support for Damion is no small number within the context of a full voting delegates list of 3,100. And the antics by his handlers and public relations agents could backfire, as it did in the constituency of St Andrew East Rural when he positioned himself as the arbiter of the needs of the constituents and therefore failed to listen to the people who had other needs outside of Crawford's personal “priorities”.

Tthat attitude and his penchant for media appearances, in which he conveyed and portrayed an impatient attitude of adversarialism between himself and the constituents, resulted in him having to beat a hasty permanent retreat from St Andrew East Rural. This constituency was left by Crawford so divided that Juliet Holness of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had an easier walk to political victory.

Private talk with constituents and the detailed nature of those talks, particularly where they did not coincide with Crawford's “education” agenda, would become the subject on the airwaves, creating the impression that the constituents, most of whom are older and more experienced than Crawford, did not know what is best for each person's particular circumstances.

This penchant by Crawford and his public relations handlers, of the need for constant high visibility, audibility, and competitiveness most often seemingly, unthinkingly, is now being transported from the constituency of St Andrew East Rural straight into the corridors of the PNP top-level leadership, including the other vice-presidents, and the nation is being fed on a unceasing and steady diet of how Crawford got the most votes of them all.

So he is to be seen as first among equals or at worst, better than the rest. Crawford's response, in part, to his victory was this: “I was nowhere two years ago (due to the work of his own hands and mouth in St Andrew) East Rural… and now I am a vice-president of the PNP”!

But the PNP, like the JLP, is not a private exclusive club and is therefore answerable to Jamaicans from whom each party needs their votes to form a Government in the country from time to time.

This new role as a vice president of the PNP requires Crawford to be less self-absorbed at the expense of his colleagues and others, and since the “magic number” 1,973 delegate votes of his VP victory is expected by him and his handlers to be considered most impressive by the nation,… then I invite them to look at some other numbers relevant to Crawford's new role and stewardship responsibilities.

The first set of numbers is the 344,629 votes that the PNP received to lose in the 2016 General Election. And while doing that exercise, to look also at the number 49! Not for the purpose of what may become of him, as used in our Jamaica parlance, but to confront a political reality that of the 63 constituencies across Jamaica, 49 of those swung away from the People's National Party in the 2016 General Election. Among those that swung from the PNP was St Mary South Eastern, which in a by-election very shortly thereafter, was won comfortably by the Jamaica Labour Party.

The next number that Crawford must zero in on is 47.7 per cent — the voter turnout, in the General Election of 2016 also. This is the lowest voter turnout in all contested general elections since the advent of Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944. And if this trend continued in a “down draft” in the next General Election, how will the PNP fare?

And finally, compare, objectively, polling division by polling division, his margin of victory in the 2011 General Election in St Andrew East Rural with that of Juliet Holness in 2016. And tell us what has he discovered? How did his tenure of incessant media appearances and the berating of constituents help or hurt the PNP in that constituency, particularly in the divisions of Kintyre and Dallas?

The fact that this article will not further massage Damion's ego and competitiveness at the expense of others of his colleagues and supporters, may I remind him that good medicine is sometimes unpleasant to taste.

Listen again also to excerpts from Louis Moyston's article entitled 'Euphoria, Mirage and Youth in Politics,' dated September 23, 2018: “Yes, there was a 'Crawford euphoria' prior to and during the 2018 VP election in the PNP, but it was a campaign characterised by extensive and massive expenditure. How can democracy survive in a setting in which the vast majority live on the edge and below the poverty line?

Moyston continued: “After examining Crawford as a potential Member of Parliament and so-called bright, young political mind, I describe Damion's victory as a political mirage and a costly error by his puppeteers and those delegates that sold their souls.”

“Truth is”, Moyston asserted, “Crawford seems intoxicated by his own hype and this may make him dangerous and useless very soon.”

These are profound comments by Moyston. And it is of interest to note that of the nine elected Members of Parliament in that constituency, starting with Keeble Munn in 1959, from both the JLP and PNP, Damion Crawford is the only one to not finish his first term before he signals that he would not seek to represent the people of St Andrew East Rural anymore.

Most of the others served a minimum of two terms, including Oliver Clue of the PNP who kept himself politically humble, clearly mindful that as leader and head of a large and diverse “constituency family”, confidentiality in conversational exchanges is key to mass comfort level and therefore the consolidation of political staying power. My word to Crawford is that those politicians who become, consciously or unconsciously, a victim of their own political propaganda or self-mesmerism never last long. I wonder if this is what Moyston has discerned using adjectives such as “dangerous and useless…very soon”?

My mentor, the late Rt Hon Hugh Lawson Shearer, told me to watch out for those considered, socially, the least and who are often referred to as the “little people”— their incisive capacity for destruction. Even if you are considered brighter than them all!

And so I suggest that Damion refrains from majoring in the minor, including how much more votes he got than the other vice-presidents. This will lead to grievance and conflict, and among the outcomes is resistance and lack of cooperation, even subtly, with him. He should play and leave his set, to use a gambling metaphor! For, indeed, the business of politics is a gamble. He is becoming too predictable and can be easily trapped politically. He should watch it. There is a thin line between political attraction and political distraction, and politicians fool themselves far too often in respect to their location on the attraction/distraction continuum.

In 1980 it was with the PNP's shock question ”Where are the poor people votes?”(D K Duncan) And in 2002 in St Elizabeth South Eastern a JLP anxiety declaration: “If I don't win this general election God is asleep” (Seaga)! This election was lost by an eight-seat margin. In both scenarios these seasoned politicians felt confident they were somewhere, but the election results showed they were nowhere.

Words to the wise — or is it wasted words to a young political bird too anxious to rigorously flap its naked wings even before the feathers grow, — and before being able — to stand firm?

Time will tell as usual.

Political historian Shalman Scott is the first Mayor of the city of Montego Bay

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