Sunday, June 30, 2019

Party Reformation: My Struggles with PNP

“We'd all like t'vote for th' best man, but he's never a candidate”
Kin Hubbard

For some time I have been uncomfortable with the inner workings of the People’s National Party. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between the PNP and the JLP. This to me is an issue of ideology and personality. Ideologically the PNP used to a socialist party and governed by a social democratic ethos, that is no more. Socialism used to be unfashionable so the party abandoned it somewhere in the 90’s while subscribing to IMF edicts. However Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Occasio Cortez and Kshema Sawant prove that socialism is alive and well even in the heart of world superpowers. Yet the PNP drifts ideologically and philosophically here in this 21st century. Then when we see candidate choice and selection for both local and central government elections are riddled with egomaniacs on both sides who treat the electorate as secondary or non-essential till election day while always courting the delegates of both parties who are stuck as die hearts to each party or victims of some kind of political Stockholm’s syndrome. This cannot continue.

Well the monomania media election blitz will soon be in full swing, and everybody will be vying for votes. Tribal politics has taken to social media and the factions there are always in electoral fever. In all this Mobay, the government’s bastard child always neglected for the media pet Kingston, it seems silly that we, major contributors to the nation’s economy, via tourism, foreign currency and remittance dollars (legal and via lotto scam), have so little say. I say we hold candidates to ransom; each community ought to kidnap the MP, until the community’s demands are met. Until there is a community centre in every community, till the roads are addressed, until drainage is solved and so on.

Dr Peter Phillips’ viability as party leader is in question, it is one of the central issues to the undecided voter. The party is confronting new questions about who it is and what it stands for. The more important question however,  is how this plays out in our next election. PNP hopefuls will need to test the “articulate minority’s” and the grassroot’s wish list on the stump and might feel pressure to outbid each other on how far left they can go. Those apparently pursuing an “adult in the room” or  “trying to stay tame and sound normal strategy,” such as the PNP has been fumbling along with, will not only face opposition from the modern PNP base and the unattached voters, but will also find the free media oxygen sucked from the room by the more colorful radical opponents.

The ideologically driven members of the party make for good television but bad politics where the conservative party members and delegates are concerned. But the ideas that are talked about by civil society organizations, popular movements and political radicals in Jamaica are neglected by the PNP extablishment. In a May 2016 article entitled “Portia Betrayed” O. Dave Allen contends that the PNP and Portia was betrayed by the country, I contend that it is the PNP that betrayed the voters and even he seems to admit that when he wrote in the article that:

“The opposition was broke, starved of donor funding from the private sector, the leadership of Andrew Holness was in question; and the JLP fractious. For the first time in the history of Peoples National Party, the party enjoyed the full and explicit support for its policies by the formal private sector, the international donor community and local and international financial intermediaries.Yet not much could be shown by way of social programmes in keeping with the historic characteristics, policies and programmes of previous PNP administrations.”

Grassroots leftist insurgency that has sprung up across the country, including in spots far from PNP strongholds. Today, ultimately, the most profound progressive leadership for the PNP is not being embraced at all. It’s in communities and movements across the country—nurturing diverse progressive political strengths in many aspects of social change, including at election time.

No matter how intense the top-down pressure gets from Party hierarchy, we should insist from the ground up that members of Parliament and Councillors stand their ground for progressive principles that the man in the street is seeking. If party members aren’t willing to fight for those principles, then the grassroots will mobilize: to create an outcry, to lobby and to consider launching challenges as is evidenced by Peter Buntings hat being thrown in PNP’s political ring. I think it is a good thing and no elected officials should be immune from scrutiny and accountability.