Editorial

SOE: The unpalatable truth Dr Peter Phillips cannot face

Sunday, April 14, 2019

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People's National Party (PNP) President Dr Peter Phillips is too bright a man to seriously think he can befuddle us with his contrived excuses that the press, polls and payouts to East Portlanders caused his party's loss in the April 4, 2019 by-election.

He might try to console himself and PNP supporters thus, but he certainly isn't fooling anybody else. It is easier to do this than face the reality that the people in Portland Eastern held the party to account and found it badly wanting.

Mr Damion Crawford might still have lost, but any prospect of his winning the seat was blown up by Dr Phillips long before it was conceived that there would be a by-election, or that the popular politician would be the candidate.

The PNP's demise in Portland Eastern started with the party's neglect of the constituency, even when in government, over 30 years. But it got worse when Dr Phillips signalled there was a sort of intellectual bankruptcy in party thinking as seen in the vote against extending the states of emergency (SOEs) last December.

With crime literally 'murdering' Jamaica, the Opposition leader led his party to end the SOEs, which had been paying big dividends in cutting murders, declaring he was willing to pay the political price. And he certainly did, both nationally and in Portland Eastern.

In his January 21 to 24, 2019 poll, Bill Johnson found that 83 per cent of Jamaicans supported the SOEs, with a sizeable portion indicating they would punish the PNP for the vote against. Crime was one of the big issues for East Portlanders in the by-election campaign.

Since the end of the SOEs, crime has returned with a vengeance to the front pages. The year started with 20 murders in the first seven days of January and has not let up since. Yet, that does not factor among Dr Phillips' excuses.

“...When you calculate the political propaganda coming out of some sections of the media; when you calculate that poll seh we going lose by 20 points, some seh 10, some seh six, some seh it's climbing every day; and when you look at the result, you realise that it was just propaganda…pure, simple propaganda directed against the People's National Party and the candidate,” he told party workers in the constituency last week.

He threw in that Mr Crawford had worked against several disadvantages, including time, money, and vote-buying by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), ignoring what former PNP General Secretary Mr Paul Burke said was a lack of political work on the ground and a gradual and systematic breaking down in its group structure.

Dr Phillips, in castigating the polls, was referring to the three that predicted a JLP win. No word about the PNP-commissioned poll that showed his party winning. He must rue the day he did not spend that money more wisely on the campaign.

For sure, he couldn't blame the candidate who, despite some fatal blunders which cost him dearly, was the right choice as measured by the Johnson polls, with 32 per cent of PNP supporters in the constituency preferring him against nine per cent for Ms Andrea Moore and one per cent for Dr Donald Rhodd.

It is hard to lose three consecutive by-elections but Dr Phillips should learn that if something is not broken, don't mess with it, as he did with the SOEs.


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