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The curious case of Damion Crawford

Lloyd B
Smith

Thursday, August 30, 2018

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The People's National Party (PNP) vice presidential race has thrown up one peripatetic persona whom many Comrades believe can guarantee that political organization's “winnability” come the next General Election. He is the Dread who is not a Rasta (so some say), Senator Damion Crawford.

Bolstering this thought process is the view that Dr Peter Phillips, party president, notwithstanding his political savvy and managerial prowess, does not ignite sufficient excitement among the populace by his appearance. After all, in politics as in any people-focused activity, image is everything. Well, almost.

To his fans, Crawford is an idea whose time has come, a view that the eggs entrepreneur not only shares but fervently believes in. So much so, he has been vociferously blowing his own trumpet (no pun intended). His contention is that if the PNP is to be first past the post when Prince Anju calls it, then the youth vote will be a critical element, and who better to attract this demographic block than the man who can use words to mesmerise youngsters and, like the Pied Piper, lead them to the polling booth, dancing to his tune. What a Ras!

Crawford's resurgence has come about to assuage the underlining apprehension of many Comrades who feel that “Peter doesn't cut it.” Having the young Turk as the face of a new and hopefully different PNP will help to counter in a real way those detractors who point to the Comrade leader's age as a liability, they argue.

Ironically, prior to embarking fully on his illustrious political career, Peter Phillips was a full-fledged Rastaman, a Bobo Dread with flowing locks, sandals (and broom?). Now, the tables have been turned and the once shunned locks may well be Dr Phillips' redemption. Can the PNP have its cake and eat it?

In the run-up to the 2016 General Election, Crawford was among the casualties engineered by a cabal in the party that felt his style of political representation was running counter to the “man haffi eat a food” mentality, which in real terms is what wins votes in an environment where game-changing ideas do not matter and a “one day bellyful” is far more preferred.

I suffered a similar fate as from the very inception of my electioneering campaign in 2011 as candidate for St James Central I had, some say foolishly, declared that I was not into the “licky licky nyammy nyammy” approach.

Crawford opted, in the true tradition of a Norman Washington Manley, to focus on education to the detriment of mainstreaming the distribution of scarce benefits and spoils. Angry constituents soon asked for his head on a silver platter and got it. Yes, there was talk about his being arrogant and not paying enough attention to the political machinery but I do believe this was just a smokescreen.

In a real way, by turning a blind eye to this near-sighted way forward the PNP lost the election by the narrowest of margins. But Crawford, like a true Phoenix, has emerged from the agony of defeat and is now positioning himself as a major asset to the same party that blighted his earlier prospects and ambitions.

Of course, Crawford would be foolish as well as foolhardy to assume that the “night of long knives” will not return should his winning formula fizzle at the polls. Indeed, I do believe he has put himself out on a limb because if the PNP were to lose the next General Election he could be among the first to be crucified after his triumphant entry into the National Arena on September 15.

Politics is the art of the possible, so it is risky business. But Crawford now stands as truly an inspiring force that could become one to be reckoned with. Furthermore, if he is able to mobilise and generate much positive response from a largely lackadaisical youth population when it comes to politics, he would be doing not just the PNP but the nation on a whole a great favour.

Undoubtedly, the Crawford transfusion can be a major platform for the advent of transformational leadership in the country and could put the PNP on the cutting edge of change, a role that it has, whether wittingly or unwittingly, seemingly abandoned over the years after the heady days of democratic socialism.

At present, regrettably, there is much more fluff than substance emanating from Crawford, who understandably has to be playing mainly to the gallery. Known for his way with words, he has to be careful that he does not ultimately come across as a charlatan or snake oil salesman, which is why it is unfortunate that the PNP did not see it fit to have each of the vice presidential contenders participate in a debate of sorts. In this regard, Norman Manley's party, which was once the bedrock of deep intellectual thought and the fountain of new ideas, has become a reactionary outpost whose once vaunted political juggernaut is being scuttled by the cash-rich Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Of course, there will be those Comrades who will pillory me for my seemingly caustic remarks, but truth is truth, notwithstanding alternative facts. The PNP needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Thanks to Crawford, the pot is brewing. His energy, sense of purpose and “positive vibes” can galvanise the base if they are not bought out by those who want simply to gain or retain power in that 80-year-old bastion of democracy in the Caribbean.

In this vein, Dr Phillips and the PNP are to be commended for the comfort level they have afforded not only Crawford but the other young vice presidential candidate — Mikhail Phillips. Crawford and Mikhail Phillips are the future of the PNP, the others are gatekeepers. How this vice presidential race plays out at the party's annual conference will help to set the stage for a new and different or same old, same old PNP. It is up to the delegates. In the final analysis, it may well be “Forward with Crawford” or forward in reverse! Enough said.

— Lloyd B Smith is a veteran newspaper editor and publisher who has resided in Montego Bay for most of his life where he is popularly known as “The Governor”. Send comments to the Observer or lbsmith4@gmail.com.

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