Thu | Aug 22, 2019

Sam Anderson | Pigs in the parlour, dogs in the house

Published:Wednesday | May 15, 2019 | 12:24 AMSam Anderson/Contributor
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

“When we do not listen to the lies that demons whisper into our ears, they will attack us with lies in the mouths of men.”

– Pigs in the Parlour

 

There appears to be a faction of members of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) who believe that the measure of effective policy and productive discourse must always involve mud-slinging and war. Frank Hammond made it crystal clear in his book Pigs in the Parlour that the lies of men can oftentimes be the last resort of evil intentions to attack and persuade the mind of the masses.

Approaching 57 years of Independence, I hoped that the maturity of our politics would have evolved past the stages of believing that it is who shouts the loudest and whoever plays the dirtiest emerges the victor. Naïve perhaps, but I hoped that we would have evolved past the days of promoting an iron fist over a steady hand.

Looking back at the East Portland by-election, it is safe to say that the country has accepted the composition, communication and strategy of the Andrew Holness-led government. Ann-Marie Vaz was able to turn back a 2,276 deficit and win by a 319-vote margin.

To put this into perspective, the leader of the People’s National Party (PNP), Dr Peter Phillips, won his seat, considered a PNP safe seat, by 36 fewer votes than Dr Lynvale Bloomfield. In other words, the Eastern Portland seat had a greater voter turnout and a larger margin than the constituency of the Comrade Leader, and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was still able to defeat the most popular PNP candidate, Damion Crawford, convincingly.

Ironically, the mud-slinging did not prove effective in Eastern Portland, where the PNP candidate Damion Crawford came under heavy fire for it. There is a time and a place for everything and our politics currently must move past this thinking and prove that there is no place for it.

The polls have unanimously shown that the public holds the Government highly in regard to favourability, and even more so the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, Andrew Holness. The unemployment levels are at record lows, investment is flowing into the island and foreign direct investment continues to increase. Business and consumer confidence are at all time highs and the national debt continues to decline. This sounds like good governance.

What then would persuade supporters of the Jamaica Labour Party to seek to rock the boat? Why is there a clarion call for a reshuffle of the Senate? Whispers in the ears?

The Upper House must live up to its expectations. I recall the days when Nigel Clarke sat as a senator and was not by any stretch of the imagination an attack dog. Just look at us now. Singing his praises for a masterful Budget presentation and beaming with pride at every presentation he makes, both locally and internationally. He is by far not the animated character that his predecessor was, but make no mistakes, his efficiency, creativity and critical thinking have brought a certain hope and pride to Heroes Circle.

Do we need attack dogs in the Senate? I would certainly hope not. I, for one, enjoy the level of maturity and discourse that takes place in the Upper House. It is far less colourful than the House of Representatives and we must protect this culture. Persons who serve in the Senate must command more than just the respect given for being an attack dog, but must be seen as acting in the best interest of Jamaica and void of partisan politics.

This hogwash about Senator Delroy Williams being silent in the Senate must be addressed. The contributions of the mayor on the State of the Nation address and the Building Act were quite profound, where he proved quite knowledgeable of the creative industries and the built environment. Both acts were successfully passed, with Damion Crawford, an opposition senator, lauding the presentation of a government senator and offering himself for support. This is the level of politics we want to see, where debates motivate bilateral support rather than be divisive.

BARKING DOGS SELDOM BITE

The Parliament is not there to entertain or promote house attacks and I beg Teddylee Gray respectfully to find his entertainment and bloodlust needs satisfied elsewhere. A circus or kennel perhaps. Barking dogs seldom bite, and what the Andrew Holness-led government needs to continue doing is biting. Keep sinking its teeth into the growth and prosperity that has captivated the majority of Jamaicans at home and across the diaspora.

The JLP must be careful to not lose seats playing musical chairs and fall into the trap that crippled the Edward Seaga led-opposition in the ’90s, forcing them to be perennially defeated.

We have seen that the abrasive approach is not what has been working for the JLP in this stint of government. Look at its most popular and effective members. They are not the attack dogs and the bullies but the silent and effective workers who communicate effectively and organise efficiently. That is what has been the secret sauce.

It would serve the supporters well to keep the dogs on the leashes and focus on delivering on the many other manifesto items that the administration has outstanding. Rome was not built in a day but through humility and patience were Remus and Romulus fed by the wolf.

With the PNP thirsty and eager to catch members of the administration and supporters alike with their snouts in the proverbial trough, I would urge Prime Minister Holness to continue to carefully select public servants with humility and diligence over effervescence and charisma. If you lie with dogs, you will rise with fleas.

A senator should be a worker and none of the current sitting members should be offered up for the slaughter solely that the JLP can have a louder bark in the Senate. The loudest mouth is often the emptiest mind and we must be more methodical in our measurement of efficiency.

To quote Ann-Marie Vaz, “Beautiful speaking cyaa put food pon table”; in the same way attack dogs cyaa put bills pon table. Action do that. Let us focus on getting mules and oxen in the House rather than the proverbial attack dogs.

Sam Anderson is a blogger/writer. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com