In recent times, the supporters of the Jamaican Labour party have been placated by the media with the misconception that Andrew Holness could not lead the Jamaica Labour Party to victory because the ‘Money bags’ that fund the party would not support his election campaigns. His victory came as a shocker. I have spent my whole adult life as a supporter of the JLP; second to my family the JLP is the single most important thing that occupies my passion and consciousness. So when Andrew Holness recently became the New Prime minister of Jamaica, after a closely contested election victory, as a left leaning liberal I was overwhelmed with inexpressible euphoric joy.
At his swearing in speech he vowed to increase growth and cut taxes in a reversal of the previous government’s austerity program. Many political pundits attribute the Portia Simson Miller led PNP demise at the polls to arrogance, failure to participate in debate and focusing narrowly on the dubious ownership of Holness swanky house in a middle class area in Kingston Jamaica. This was a vile lie that backfired on the PNP, subsequently it was debunked when he presented blow by blow evidence of how he legally came into possession of his house. Many have over looked the fact that Mr. Holness victory is a win for every working class Jamaica who aspire for political office and a blow to establishment politics. He won the election on a shoe string budget and will be the first Jamaican politician not beholden to the money heeled colonial cavorting class.
I met Andrew Michael Holness in 2011. He was then Education Minister and I was seeking a selection as JLP caretaker for the Western Westmoreland constituency. At the time I was fundraising for my political campaign and I came upon the party establishment who objected to my candidacy on the basis that I was not from a big enough JLP family. I asked a number of leading JLP figures to attend as guest speakers at my fundraiser; they all distanced themselves, with the exception of Andrew Michal Holness who turned up at the fundraiser. We talked for about three hours and I spoke about my political aspiration for the constituency and general reform of the JLP. Throughout our conversation I was very impressed with his vision for the Jamaica labour party. He understood the problem of class privilege in the selection of JLP candidates. What personally endeared me to him was that he came to support me because he felt that the Jamaican electoral representatives should be a reflection of the society that they come from; not from a privileged set of elites.
I lost selection at the time, as I was not the Party’s preferred Candidate, but gained massive respect for Mr. Holness. During our meeting he spoke with a deep genuine conviction about making Jamaica a better and more even society. I vowed after to be loyal to Andrew Holness led JLP administration, despite his flaws. I saw in him what I saw in myself; a starry eyed liberal from a humble background who is determined to shatter the glass ceiling of Jamaica entitlement political class.
In 2015 I received a second opportunity to represent Western Westmoreland as a JLP caretaker under Andrew Holness leadership. I admitted to the Central Executive committee that I was not religious and not from a wealthy background. Unfortunately, this stint as caretaker was shot lived due to an illness that I was struggling with. It became obvious that I needed six months of treatment to recover I did the honourable thing of resigning to make way for a successor. It was a decision that weighed heavily on my conscience as the JLP is the theatre of my dreams. In my resignation letter I made clear that I was fully supportive of Mr Holness leadership of the JLP and this restored my loss of confidence and reinvigorated commitment to the JLP. I should also add that Desmond McKenzie, Heroy Clarke and Robert Montage have also restored my confidence in the JLP, purely on the basis of their enthusiasm for their jobs as Officers for the JLP and the courtesies they extend to newcomers of the party.
The road to political ascendancy of Andrew Michael Holness has been a very difficult one. Leading up to the elections he staved off three internal attempts to unseat him as Leader of the JLP. It was infuriating that on the night of his election victory speech on a platform at Belmont road, Delroy Chuck, his shadow Justice Mister was seen celebrating at his side. Yet it was Delroy Chuck, more than anyone else, who caused Mr. Holness the greatest Political discomfort. He called for his political decapitation during the Senate resignation letters saga in February 2015. It seems as if Politics in Jamaica is an organised hypocrisy.
In contrast, Andrew Holness presents as a more amenable and accommodating politician. He is no simpleton. He is an astute political strategist who swims with political sharks and is staying alive. His aura is decent and his validity is arresting. While establishment politicians, in and outside of the labour Party, were berating him for the loss of the 2012 election he sought to build his political stock by ignoring them and focusing upon anti conquest narratives: wooing the poor and the squeezed middle to his cause. Former PNP Leader, PJ Patterson is skilled at the art of winning with the distribution of political scarce benefits. Andrew Holness is skilled at the art of winning political control with the clever distribution of scarce political resources; he knows that the political talent pool was low in JLP. The East Rural seat became vacant due to the deselection of PNP candidate Damien Crawford so the PNP selected their best political talent, Imani Duncan, to represent the constituency. In response, the ingenious tactician Andrew Holness selected his wife Juliet, his most trusted lieutenant. At the election she mowed down Imani Duncan, from the hugely influential and wealthy Duncan Political family, by winning the East Rural St Andrew constituency. The end result was a comfortable win for Mrs Holness by 690 votes. Surely this made the difference between the JLP and the PNP as they won the election by a razor thin majority against the Bill Johnson poll that predicted a comfortable win for the PNP.
I joined the JLP in 1980 primarily to change Labourite thinking. There is a false consensus that we are conflict driven and we draw our membership from the upper echelons of the Jamaican society. The only way for the JLP to improve as an organisation is to draw analysis of our problems though post-colonial lenses. At the heart of the conflict within the JLP is the fight between the old colonial guard, aligned to the money class, and the new millennials who are seeking to assert themselves. I believe that the road ahead for Andrew Holness is challenging; Jamaica is a country that is under the dictates of the IMF. Austerity does not grow an economy. The squeezed middle will receive a tax bail out and hopefully it will kick start growth. On the political side of the equation a lot has to be done. The old political guard in both the PNP and JLP should give way to new thinking; establishment politics are under attack by the new millennials. The overworked and tired excuse that the old guard must remain because we need experience is no longer plausible, although I do not set out to devalue their contributions.
A new world is emerging where technology is circumventing the manipulation of political funding with the use of social media. Governments are required to be tech savvy in order to create efficiencies .This technological advancement is way beyond the scope of the political dinosaurs who are fixated on the analogous mode of operating politically. Andrew Holness win is a testament to the fact that the old ‘Money bags’ cannot hold the body politics hostage any more. The old religious arguments of ‘God waiting to touch Mama P and deliverance is near’ do not hold traction with the new electorate. They are suspicious of the charismatic establishment politicians. It is my fervent wish that Andrew Holness will have a successful premiership that will meet the needs of the long suffering Jamaican People. I hope also we will have the patience to give him time and support to deliver on his election promises.
This article was written jointly by Donovan Reynolds CEO and edited by Ann Smith Managing Editor of Kingston-Mouth .com. Donovan Reynolds is an Independent Blogger and Human Rights Activists who is of a Jamaican descent and a legal academic that has an interest in Human Rights, Culture and International Development Issues.