Growing up in Jamaica, children are often reminded what hard a ears pickney get. If you don’t know, dem get a beating. The beating and the memory of it can last a lifetime. And those who learn dem lesson, change dem ways. But, if di pickey hard a ears, you know dem get lick, morning, noon and night. If you grow wid traditional kuntry parents who believe inna some beating, den dem beat yu until di neighbor seh, dat di pickney learn dem lesson. Dat a di worse beating fi get. Cuz di neighbor always tek long fi chat. Madda an fawda always seh, a cause mi love yu why mi beat yu.
There is an abundance of love for the People’s National Party (PNP) across the length and breadth of Jamaica. The former PNP Chairman Bobby Pickersgill claimed in his now famous line that “It is PNP country”. At the heart of the reasoning behind the admiration for the PNP, Jamaicans have fell in love with their leaders and PNP’s quality of leadership versus the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). From Michael Manley, to PJ Patterson and the affable Portia Simpson-Miller; all PNP Presidents and Prime Ministers have a deep stirring connection with the People of Jamaica.
Today, you reason with Jamaicans in their 50s and they tell numerous stories of the political struggles our country has been through, the fight for social, economic justice and those memorable elections, some gut-wrenching. I too, am reminded by my father’s own journey, a young man watching Manley lead this country. And his connection to Manley is watching him love the People of Jamaica. That is the inspiration behind the People’s National Party, a movement created on defending the voiceless, the poor. Those descriptions of Manley walking Jamaica and interacting genuinely with poor Jamaicans are lost on the current body politic. Today, there are cameras to stage love and admiration for politicians. On the contrary, Jamaicans have come to dislike most things about politics. They say, it’s nasty, corrupt and self-fulfilling. Every general election cycle over the last decade has seen fewer Jamaicans turning up to vote. Voter apathy is not only real, it poses the greatest risk to our democracy.
The writing was on the wall for the People’s National Party to lose the last election. Albeit a close win for the JLP. Remember three full years or more of political infighting while in Government, the accusation of rushing Simpson-Miller to an early election and the nasty infighting to fuel the election campaign. The PNP could have rescued the economy some more from the brink of collapse, Jamaicans were losing faith, hope and love with Party known for solidarity.
While the People’s National Party has led Jamaica longer than the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) both have amassed loyal political basses. It is true, the People’s National Party’s base is older and larger than the JLP’s base. With the assent of Andrew Holness, their clear-as-day political strategy has been to appeal to a younger demographic. Plausible or not, it is a risk worth taking. Will the youth stand in long general election lines to ink their finger? That is the biggest question to be answered in the next election. Can the PNP energize its base to show up in a big way? Many political pundits believe the People’s National Party has not done enough to ignite the old PNP fire and energy on the ground. And that cannot be ignored going up against the well-oiled Holness administration.
By my own interpretation of local politics, Jamaicans appear to admire strength and resolve in their leaders. Portia Simpson-Miller heralded the “woman time now” movement and Bruce Golding had a “driver” theme. Even though Simpson-Miller was mature, she ran all the time when the cameras were on. At Grand Gala or on the political stage, Portia kept moving showing she was healthy and ready to take on the difficult tasks of leading Jamaica. While some may disagree with the term, Andew Holness may have found “it” with the “BroGad” reference. It is important, Jamaicans want to know you understand their struggle and you are indeed one of them.
For more than a decade the People’s National Party has consistently refused to listen to the People. Having the ability to check the political temperature of your constituents is the greatest challenge but the best political skill to hone. That is why political parties poll and shape their strategies from trusted data. Over the years, the messages of change have come in various forms, renewal had its moment in the PNP and Peter Murcott Bunting led the Rise United campaign to unseat Dr. Peter Phillips as President of the Party. That bid failed by 70 plus votes. Moreover, both messages have knocked on the traditional thinking within the Party to do things differently for a generation that wants to see change now. That is the substantial external battle modern political parties in Jamaica are confronted with. This swipe left millennial generation is challenging both political parties to do things different.
This Millennial Generation
From the moment millennials wake, they are focused on likes, comments and subscribing to content they want more of on their screens. And Oh, if they think you have done your time, they cancel you, which is tunning dem back pon you. Feisty set! From the minute they rise to their last few actions before they sleep are fueled by instant messaging and a life that can be edited for online validation. However, you paint this young generation, they represent the largest group to create a seismic shift in politics. A huge percentage of the Jamaican society and voting bloc that political Parties cannot ignore.
“We are going to be targeting social media because we know that a lot of young people reside right there, and our aim is to get them out of their homes to go and vote. We are going to emphasise the quality of Team PNP. We believe man to man, woman to woman, we have a far superior, younger and, at the same time, more experienced team than the Jamaica Labour Party. We are energised now to form a new government.
Philip Paulwell, PNP Campaign Director
A political party’s main purpose is the win elections to implement plans to better society. Since 2016, the People’s National Party has appeared to normalize losing. However, they don’t seem to learn. Back-to-back by-election losses have sucked every ounce of feel good energy and hope for Party supporters.
The Politics of Health & Wellness
In September 2016, while Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton paid tribute to the heroes of 9/11, something scary happened for the Clinton Campaign. Hillary, stumbled on entering her vehicle, surrounding by security detail attempting to hide the reality – an ill Hillary Clinton. As Clinton’s video went viral of her fainting, Trump made the case that he will make public his health records. Voters want their political leaders ready on day one to lead.
Victor Gedzi in his paper titled Societal Perception of Illness and Relationship with Ill Persons at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana analysed societal perception of major illnesses such as leprosy, cancer, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS; and how this perception influences people’s relationship with victims. The paper analyzed societal perception of illnesses such as cancer, TB, leprosy and HIV/AIDS. It discovered that the societal perception is influenced by benign beliefs or speculations. It is significant to note that the way people in society perceive a particular illness conditions the way they relate to the ill. In many cases the perception is negative.
Is a Politician’s Health File A Secret?
Jamaican politicians are experts at hiding their health record. A simple task like trying to find the date of birth to a Member of Parliament is a frustrating struggle. Over the years, the Jamaican public have only been informed of resignations when the politician’s back is against the wall, forced to resign. And others, die on the job. On March 26, 2020, a video surfaced on Twitter with Minister Audley Shaw dancing in a hospital bed. This video was not posted on his official Twitter account. Did he disclose the nature of the surgery or operation done or what made him dance in a hospital bed? Or was it a stunt?
Jamaicans are not unreasonable people. We all get ill! However, the Jamaican public should not be viewed as inconsiderate or inquisitive to be informed of the health bill of public servants and their ability to perform on the job. Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister was recently in the hospital after shaking hands with coronavirus patients. The openness to declare the facts on our leaders health is critical to have faith in Government.
Political Health Communication
From the onset, the published images of Dr. Peter Phillips suggested something outside of the ordinary. As a political communications strategist, it is in your DNA to portray a politician as strong and ready to lead. Even if they are only leading a constituency, there are certain values a politician hold dear. On March 29, Dr. Phillips’ handlers shared a photograph online of the PNP President in bathrobe post-surgery highlights their political naivety. Images are powerful and not only do they conjure up real emotions and perceptions, they can also be used by your political rival.
On Tuesday, April 7, PNP and Dr. Peter Phillips revealed to the nation that the Party President was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer.
Phillips’ medical and surgical teams are optimistic of complete remission based on the worldwide experience of managing this stage of cancer. Phillips underwent complete and successful surgical removal of the cancer on March 23 and is now recovering comfortably at home.
The Future of the People’s National Party
The PNP fails to consistently get one thing right, communications. At times, strategic communications involves shutting your damn mouth. Many sources believe Dr. Peter Phillips will stay on as Party President while he battles this medical scare. For the man who has been preparing to lead Jamaica all his political life, this is definitely a pothole in the road to Jamaica House. Phillips has to convince a nation he is ready to lead while receiving chemotherapy and fighting to beat cancer. Is it impossible, No!
At the end of the day politics is all about strategy and the PNP wings are filled with talent. The question to ask is, Is the PNP executive ready to say goodbye to the man who has always wanted to be Prime Minister.
If they are bidding Phillips goodbye, let the games begin.
As mi madda would a seh, who cyan hear, a go feel!