Will the die hards have the run to decide the fate of the administration as the last election reflected?
Has voter apathy increased badly since 2011?
Questions I and seemingly others are now asking and even as I had visited my constituency office recently to renew my national/voter ID card I noticed that the fact that it was the last day for registration to be on the voters list (September 30) for this election cycle the office was not as full as times gone by with green or orange clad folks seeking a smalls or waiting to see their candidate or representative.
And now we have yet another poll that now shows us results that the Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who was described in times past as the most popular politician even above her predecessor Perceval James Patterson is losing national popularity as members of the public in the midst of austerity have said they are losing confidence in Mrs Simpson Miller and her team of most of them. Miller is seen as too aloof, not communicative indeed poorly gifted in that arena and needs to be explainer in chief as fast as possible as others in similar position act at this time of the heightened season. Mr Patterson’s intervention via an open letter in the reparations/prison deal/Cameron insult and the raging debate ensues albeit a teaching moment hand timely intervention (credit to Andrew Holness for saying openly the matter needed to be dealt with) has only sought to show up Portia’s lack of statesman or womanship and taking command on an emotive issue. His intervention may help the party’s blushes and harm as it resonates with the public. Patterson correspondingly will also have some questions to answer in my book, such as will he apologise for the Finsacing of this country in the nineties lead by one of his ministers Omar Davies which led to suicides and such? He may need a nicely crafted lecture himself and as for the traitorship by PJ in 2002 or thereabout in the election campaign when he turned his back on us in dodging the smear campaign by the JLP of him being gay plus the push for the buggery law reform at best or debate at least and to save his career and winning the election the machinery used of all things a murder music track (TOK – Chi Chi Man) at that last lap political meeting in Half Way Tree disturbingly with gay persons in the crowd cheering on seeing the PNP enjoy far more LGBT support than the JLP. So forgive me if I do not join the throng in wholesale support. Older leaders have been on this post political life reformist image such as Edward Seaga as much as he is respected, Bruce Golding as of late suddenly been hit by some late in the day epiphany or suddenly filling some piss-bowl of righteousness; we saw it with the buggery Professor Bain matter and pontificating to the religious right and effectively serving the conservative ideals of the JLP as well.
Miller was seen at one time at 76% to a low of 38% in the latest poll while Opposition leader has also fallen, 48% saw the opposition unfavorably by Don Anderson and 49% for Miller, will campaigning and right sizing efforts help in time for both parties is yet to be seen, there may have to be some repackaging of the PM, the poor girl from St Catherine narrative won’t fly this time around as she has been leader for some time; I don’t see the machinery building around her being poor and black and with the articulate minority’s growth especially since another seeming non performer but powerful party secretary and Minister of Water Bobby Pickersgill barb has only sough to backfire as said minority now controls opinion on social media spaces.
The Patterson letter, the poll results, the crime issues, the economic stagnation it seems, media aloofness of the Prime Minister screams leadership please.
National Security Minister Peter Bunting though seemingly trying seems to be more bark than bite as his banking and public relations skills has been used by the gentleman time and time again when he is on his feet but as to policy and reduction of crime he has failed and has become exceedingly efficient at explaining reasons for failures while nicely avoiding culpability. His recent attempt to separate his party/administration from a murdered gay activist and accused lotto scammers via a CNN article on the issue supported by a video on a police raid in Montego Bay earlier this year as I carried on this blog HERE (LGBTQ image/credibility takes another hit ...) The other ministers seem to be occupying space due to party loyalty or job for the boys and Mrs Simpson Miller has said she still has confidence in the team despite challenges.
Her performance at the Cabinet press briefing is abysmal as it amounts to her presenting written briefs to the press core and her handling of questions seems by her attitude as an inconvenience and the journalists are annoying opposition activists while she is far friendlier to those considered more sympathetic to the administration.
The papers carried the polls issue and the response from the PNP machinery in the damage control effort, the Gleaner carried Portia Plunges - PNP President Hits All-Time Low In Voters' Opinion In the latest Gleaner-commissioned polls, only 36 per cent of Jamaicans have a favourable opinion of Simpson Miller compared to her all-time high of 78 per cent which was recorded in 2006.
Johnson's latest poll was conducted from September 25-27 among 1,200 Jamaicans. The poll, which has a sampling error of +3% or -3%, was conducted shortly after the governing People's National Party (PNP), which Simpson Miller leads, held its 77th annual conference in Kingston.
Not only has Simpson Miller's favourability ratings plummeted, but the number of Jamaicans who view her in an unfavourable light has increased nearly fivefold.
In March of 2006, only 11 per cent of Jamaicans had an unfavourable opinion of Simpson Miller. That number has grown to 51 per cent.
The portion of Jamaicans who see Simpson Miller in a favourable light has fallen 14 percentage points since the Johnson poll which was done on the eve of the December 2011 general election. Then, Simpson Miller had a 50 per cent favourability rating, which may have played a role in her party securing a 2:1 margin of victory in that election.
Of those persons who view the prime minister in an unfavourable light, a combined 33 per cent say she is either not doing a good job or not doing anything. Another 14 per cent says she is too vulgar.
"Her problem is that she only speaks when she feels that she should and many people feel she is not giving the leadership that she should," said a former organiser in the PNP who asked not to be named.
He said that it would be a headache if the party's and its leader's favourability is down going into the next general election.
Given the after effect of the stormy constituency run-offs, the barely recognizable PNP conference as it looked in previous years with the feeling in the air it doesn’t smell right at all to me; the die hards seem to be just that loyal to the core and with accusations of covert bribery via Kentucky chicken purchases, cash payments though operatives and other promises and gifting the old ways of doing business continues whilst some members or former members of parliament lose their position for trying to make change in their eyes such as Damion Crawford as I highlighted in previous post in this series. I have mixed feelings on Mr Crawford as his attempts to reform his former constituency (tenure ends at the election) via enforced education programs and rushed poorly strategized behaviour change given our political culture for decades is commendable but the down the throat approach is wrong hence he faced a backlash while on the other hand his dismissal of the suggested/promised (depends on how one sees it) buggery review in 2011 just two months after the administration came to office; he saw it as not relevant at that time and that gays would not come forward in parliament and otherwise.
Also see: Promised (I mean suggested) Conscience vote on Buggery law not a priority right now (yet again) says PM, Promised Conscience Vote on Buggery in Jamaica was a fluke, Sexual Offences Bill to be updated 2014 and
What about the LGBT vote if there is any in large enough numbers?
The conversation (hardly any) on the election or voting or mobilization of the population seems absent when compared to the 2011 lead up especially after the dupe shaped as a promise in the eyes of some of a buggery review moves were afoot on social media to galvanize some support but how many LGBTians are eligible to vote and will they do so given the public relations from JFLAG and others that there is grave disappointment from the non-fulfillment of the so called promise. More sensible folks like me I dare say realized from very early given the political culture over these many a year and promises or statements made on the hustings yet when in power the realities come to the fore. I still see the PNP indeed any administration are afraid to touch this issue of law reform on buggery as too hot an issue and they won’t go near it not even with a long stick as it may mean being sent into the political wilderness. Appearing to be tolerant works for purposes of international imaging and literally grant funding in the positioning of Jamaica as still a third world county so such automatic aid can flow.
" ........The Party Leader has proposed a review of the Act, and not a repeal of it. During the review, every Member of Parliament will be required to bring to bear on the discussions, the views and the opinion of his or her constituents. At the end of the review, if a vote is to be taken, the vote will be a conscience vote, which means each Member of Parliament will vote according to the directive of his/ her constituents......"
Let us also bear in mind that in 2009 Ms Portia Simpson Miller as opposition leader sided with then PM Golding on the no to gay marriage ploy, an invented sidebar during the Charter of Rights Bill debate in the lower house she said on October 20th 2009 - "Mr Speaker when we accepted the final report from the joint select committee that were looking at the bill we were completely satisfied with their recommendation of a provision to restrict marriage and like relationships to one man and one woman within Jamaica and that the provision should be specifically spelt out so that there could be no ambiguity ………. yes one man one woman (laughter in the house) and if you are Jamaican and go overseas the same applies ……….."
Any hint to lift us to middle income category is vigorously refixed via diplomatic speak refashioned as was done by that speech by Foreign Affairs minister Arnold James Nicholson aka AJ at the 70th United Nation Session and before him the PM herself in another speech where the use of language laced with words such as ‘small island states’ ‘requiring development aid’ and others. Then the dance the Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson also seen as damaged goods and his mishandling of previous crises used the same hapless small island state presentation in his speech in Geneva at that Global Fund meeting but we got the bacon in the amount of some twenty one million US dollars. So if it works so be it.
also see: Portia's UN call for debt relief
General Secretary Paul Burke speaking on Nationwide on October 12 he contradicted his own quote or misquote by the Gleaner where he said that the polls internally suggested issues while being careful that he was not rubbishing the Don Anderson and others the results he said are inconsistent with his findings albeit they were done in June & July. He also said the water issues, unemployment, certain policy development not yet off the ground; the murder rate and accountability matters may have affected the look of the entity. He claims to take some responsibility but communication is needed to right size the public’s understanding; he says jobs are being created but just not fast enough and the IMF test passing but no actual improvement of lives is not manifest. Frankly Mr Burke has been a good spin doctor over the years but he seems to have lost steam in recent times. He said there maybe a weakness in the network in terms of carrying the news (what news I do not know) and explanations (explain aways in my eyes) of the policies and time needed. There is a perception by some that there is less currency for the PM to be so public in the media as she does not have the skill which I believe. Mr Burke admitted “Perhaps more media engagement needs to be done” and “we are concerned with any negative findings ....... are we panicking? Absolutely not.” He also said social media is a substitute for ground work.
Lastly not to be outdone is young Andrew and with the JLP’s fifth poverty to prosperity series in Black River via multiple platforms including Twitter (articulate minority) which is obviously electioneering the groundswell seems not forthcoming which also has me thinking of the die-hards as well carrying the party and not those seeking a government in waiting or the uncommitted; an image problem they have struggled with for years. Party General Secretary Dr Horace Chang said the party is not entirely happy especially when the voting population votes for a ‘leader’ he said the PM has fallen more dramatically than his leader. He said the fall was within the region of the margin of error so their growth agenda may need to be pushed forward alongside a message on the policy framework for the country’s growth. Why have the numbers have not grown more despite the lengthy for all intents and purposes campaigning just to have a good image, Chang spoke to the fact that the leader had to take steps to consolidate his hold in the party. Bread and butter issues tend to block the very messages to convince persons but he also said that may change as it gets closer to the elections but he seemed unsure as to the level and quantity of possible votes. As to the unity and distractions and trust in the entity Dr Chang said there have been distractions and the party is clearing that up in the next few weeks the messages carried are consistent by all speakers of the party as the goal is to win the uncommitted. I wish them luck in that as people are simply turned off from all sides.
Definitely more to come.
Peace and tolerance