Trying to think of topics simply based on the sequence of letters of the alphabet is a challenge, but, it also allows for some creativity. Today’s letter is C.
My first thought–offered to me by my 12 year-old daughter–was to talk about the struggles of the new government: “Confidence in the JLP!” she suggested. I liked it. (In passing, it’s good that she’s sufficiently aware of her political surroundings to come up with that idea.) The new government, merely a month in office, is struggling to keep the confidence of the population, as it searches to find a way to implement a major election promise of a tax-break (see my previous blog yesterday on ‘Budget pressure’).
My second thought was cricket, given the manner in which both West Indies men and women won their T20 final matches. Somehow, I think that will already have taken up much space in the world, by the time I come with my few cents worth.
My third thought was captaincy, after Leicester City’s captain, Jamaica’s captain, Wes Morgan, rose and headed home powerfully to score, and then revert to being a rock that no one could pass to secure a 1-0 win for his team, which now sits 7 points clear in the Barclays Premier League.
But, this morning, I had another idea, as our current Opposition party (having lost the role of government) is doing what I said a month go it needed to do, which is some blood-letting (see my post Jamaica’s Election 2016: Rushing headlong to go nowhere fast), os more befitting of C, some cutting and caterwauling. Its National Executive Committee was meeting over the weekend, and it was clear from information circulating that knives were out. Confrontation is in the air, and its smell is acrid. One former Cabinet minister, Lisa Hanna, had been open in her criticism of the party’s general secretary, Paul Burke. Many, including Ms. Hanna, have tried to lay blame for election defeat at the feet of Mr. Burke (and she and others have openly had their past differences with him). He is not having any of it. One thing that I know from working with teams is that when they lose the blame game comes to the fore very quickly. So it is with the PNP.
One thing that’s quite interesting about the new Opposition (as it was while in government) is how it is a series of obvious contradictions that seem unobvious it. Take, for instance, its name, and the inclusion (my word) of the words ‘people’ and ‘national’. If one thing has been apparent to many (perhaps, excluding die-hard supporters), it’s that ‘people’ have not been the party’s focus for some time, nor things truly ‘national’ (other than in a flag-waving sense, sometimes). I mean ‘people’ and ‘national’ in the many touchy-feely senses of inclusion, consultation, cohesion, nation-building. But, also ignoring people, as in the way that delegate preferences for candidates were passed over and rejected. Why bother with the people and the idea of a nation? They are so bothersome. In that attitude lies the seeds of election defeat. Dress it up in as much crinoline as you like, but that’s the essence, in my opinion.
Some, both inside and outside of the PNP want to heap blame–and there’s plenty to go around–on one member of its leadership. I would argue, however, that the blame should fall on many heads, including the head of heads. You can’t lead if your standard position is near the back, or looking anywhere else but forward.
Good, strong teams, however, limit finger-pointing and catfighting when things go wrong, knowing that the blame rests with the collective, even if you can point to one person or action that seems like the proximate cause of defeat.
What my time with teams also taught me, and I strived to make my team members understand and follow, is that negative team business is not for show out-of-doors. That we deal with inside. Not that being secretive is the point: it’s just that infighting exposes weaknesses and you should never show that to those set to oppose you. The opposite is also important, that team positives are to be shouted from every roof top. That way, the overwhelming public perception of the team is more positive. Many don’t remember the difference, and are all too ready for the world to see the things that can pull a team apart–and, if the opponents are smart, they will be ready to exploit them.
Ms. Hanna is not necessarily going to win the day and see the back of Mr. Burke, and maybe that’s not the real purpose. Politics is often the art of deception, so one needs to understand if someone else is pulling strings, and what they are hoping for through their ‘puppeteering’. Political infighting is rarely a one-person show, so one needs to understand who is with, behind, beside, above, Ms. Hanna (or other open or covert opponents).
Mr. Burke has not remained passive. But, if news reports are to be believed he went for a soggy straw with which to flay Ms. Hanna, bring up the matter of the party not winning the youth vote and that this should be seen as a flaw of Ms. Hanna, who had the youth ministry portfolio. “What?!” you may say. Since when has a government ministry been an arm of political campaigning? Except in certain kinds of totalitarian regimes. Who are the ‘youth’ in voting terms, anyway? Surely not the 21-and-under crowd that is the focus of the youth ministry. That ‘comeback’ had the sound of school yard “Nananananah, I’m not your friend, anymore!” in it, as a response. I guess Mr. Burke was on a comfort break when he headed the decisions to decimate the party’s youthful candidates who had been important in cementing the previous election victory. My humble suggestion is for the PNP leadership to try to ask itself why would young people vote for my party when I treated young candidates with such disregard? It’s not School Challenge Quiz, but the answers are pretty obvious.
But, deep political operative that Mr. Burke seems to be, he could not resist digging into his box of ‘dark arts’ and pulling out a ‘I have some dirt on you’ card, by alluding to questionable funding and financial dealings of those who were standing up against him. (Those with any memory will easily recall that this ‘let’s look at the money trail’ strategy was also part of a less-than-stellar election campaign ploy.) Again, this smacks of the totalitarian. I’m not aware that Jamaica has a KGB (we have a KFC, but that’s different, no?).
Finally, Mr. Burke reached for the ‘victim’ card, claiming that he’s being targeted. Well, duh! That’s what being a leader means. ‘The buck stops with you!’ Read the big print!
Again, in good Jamaican fashion, the idea of taking responsibility for things for which one has been made responsible seems to pass us by. We are not like the Japanese and ready to fall on our swords as soon as failure comes near us. We shift and shimmy and start to try to blame others. We love to defend our right to hold a position in the face of mounting evidence that we have failed in it. We even dare those who challenge us to do so at their risk. The barbed notion of “Do I look like a loser?” is a mantra that those who fail throw at those who dare to question them with royal abandon, in Jamaica. The answer’s obvious, but clearly those who cannot see the length of their own nose cannot see what is right in front of their faces.