Where’s my vuvuzela? …Announcing the Second Coming of Portia Simpson-Miller

A summary of what i think went wrong with the JLP’s 2011 campaign to get a second term and the conditions under which Portia Simpson-Miller returned to political power in Jamaica despite her embrace of gay rights.

The Jamaica Observer made this really useful interactive map available, with all sorts of information on constituencies at your fingertips if you hovered over it
Las May, Daily Gleaner, December 30, 2011

The December 29, 2011 general election was the fifth election in which I’ve voted, all in Jamaica, and this one was the most deeply satisfying. Not just because the candidate I voted for won, but because she won so decisively. It was also almost like a normal day, with no skirmishes or violence to mar it (well actually that’s not really normal in Jamdown, is it? But you know what i mean) At 6.42 pm yesterday when I tweeted, “I think Portia’s going to whip dem, this is going to be a rout…” I was in a minority of one who called it correctly long before the results made it plain there was going to be a landslide. Everyone thought it was too close to call, though my friends at Nationwide, like many others, had given it by a hair’s whisker to the JLP.

As Election Day came closer and closer I began to feel in my gut that there was going to be an upset. Unlike the highly touted pollsters with their ‘scientifically tested’ samples (99% of which turned out to be wrong) I was going by my own experience, by what i was hearing from close friends, associates and radio and what I was picking up on the ground so to speak.

Up to a month before the election I also thought that the JLP had it locked with their master-stroke of appointing a new leader, Andrew Holness, whose relative youth (age: 39) in a party dominated by oligarchs, signaled the beginning of something fresh and long overdue.

Lady wears both party colours so as not to be victimized by either?

Then unexpectedly one or two friends whose opinions i value highly, and who are both more Labour-leaning than PNP-types both said they thought the JLP would lose. The reasons they gave–the bleak economic landscape foremost among them–made sense. Still I didn’t really believe they were right and in the meantime the ruling party’s catchy election jingle Vote for Labour had bored itself into the nation’s skull, including mine. EVERYONE was humming it, I didn’t see how the JLP could lose, particularly as the PNP seemed to be mum on the whole judging by the lack of memorable jingles, TV ads or statements.

The much hyped debate did a lot to boost Sista P’s votability quotient. Widely portrayed by the JLP as being incapable of stringing a sensible sentence together the Leader of the Opposition came across as relaxed, friendly and totally in control in contrast to former Prime Minister Holness who looked like a rabbit caught in the horsehairs. He seemed visibly nervous whereas Portia came across as gracious and comfortable in her skin. These things speak louder than words, something the JLP seems to have forgotten even though they have the example of former Prime Minister Bruce Golding to hand. Golding was articulate to the point of eloquence, as sharp as they come and extremely knowledgeable. Did all this make him a better leader? Really? Then why are we even discussing why the man who prematurely succeeded him lost the election to win his own mandate yesterday?

So incredibly considering the negative publicity she received in advance of the debate, Portia took the debate. Another major blunder the JLP made was the scurrilous attack ad in which Portia was depicted as a raving lunatic. They aired it so often it began to be annoying and I started to feel resentful because it seemed like a cheap shot to me, using the most questionable editing tactics, freely re-arranging quotes, speeding up speech, distorting sound and generally altering and doctoring existing audio and video to suit their own purposes. To make matters worse the message they seemed keen to transmit was that Portia was loud, emotive, out of control and therefore not capable of being a good leader. It’s the kind of scornful, contemptuous portrayal women have suffered at the hands of men for centuries; poor people have suffered at the hands of the smug middle and upper classes; those who are not quick on the draw face from those who are considered bright; Muslims face from the West, etc etc.

Consequently anyone who has ever been the butt of such demonizing tactics would have and probably did, identify with Portia. I know I certainly did and I share very little with Portia in broad terms; imagine then how the hundreds and thousands of people who view her as someone who has risen from their own ranks, who feels she represents them, felt.

And that was the big miscalculation on the part of the JLP’s G2K. To make matters worse the Party lobbing such belittling take-downs is widely perceived as representing the ‘Mulatto’ and light-skinned segments of the population. Coming from them, or from anyone for that matter, the attack ads took on a racist dimension.

The JLP also miscalculated how their attack on the PNP’s Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) would be viewed. In their haste to scoff at JEEP as being ” nothing more than another crash programme” that would burden taxpayers’ pockets the Labourites forgot that while this approach might appeal to the middle class minority, to the far larger group of unemployed, underemployed and unemployable, JEEP would be a boon. Most of them don’t pay taxes so what do they care about that?

So in general the JLP was seen as trying to win the election through slander and mudslinging; they had very few ads promo-ing their worldview, their plans for new and inspired governance, or their creative approach to the problems plaguing the country.

The 2011 Elections in Jamaica were notable for the comraderie displayed by supporters of both sides

The utter contempt and disdain displayed by the government concerning the Tivoli incursion in which 73 civilians lost their lives was another nail in the JLP’s coffin, coming on the heels of the JDIP scandal. Security Minister Dwight Nelson’s blasé denials and prevarications when questioned by the media about a ‘spy’ plane (see my previous posts on this), fortified by a truly callous campaign mounted by the de facto JLP organ, the Jamaica Observer, dismissing the role of the US DEA Lockheed P-3 Orion in the invasion of Tivoli was more than any citizen could stomach. Former PM Holness’s belated attempt to set the story straight by contradicting his own security minister was the final straw: here was a party whose ministers didn’t hesitate to lie when it suited them, for whom the deaths of 73 civilians mattered so little they would try and shrug it off as Nelson had done.

But the most laughable, most despicable strategy employed by both the Labour Party and the Jamaica Observer was (as @BalanceMan said on Twitter) to treat the election of 2011 as if it was a referendum on gay rights. Again they completely misread the mindset of so-called ordinary Jamaicans (who are anything but ordinary). They assumed that this was a life-and-death issue which would be a liability for the PNP following Portia’s gallant statement that her government would review the existing buggery laws and that she was not averse to having a gay minister in her cabinet. The Observer tried its best, with numerous cartoons and articles on the subject to turn the population against the PNP by playing on the well-known local hostility to homosexuality.

Instead it backfired on them. Out of 63 parliamentary seats the JLP won 22 and the PNP 41! As Trindadian writer/editor Nicholas Laughlin observed on Facebook after the results had become known:

To summarise: in Jamaica, widely considered the most homophobic country in the Caribbean, the ruling party runs a gay-bashing general election campaign and loses by what can only be called a landslide.

On a side note you couldn’t help laugh at the following wisecrack referring to the PNP’s promise to remove general consumption tax from our energy bills. RT @rushknot: Electricity tax gone! *turns on AC*

And that is where I’m going to leave this for now; let’s hope that these are not just empty campaign promises because the outcome of the 2011 elections in Jamaica, in which popular sentiments on gay rights played such a prominent role, must give all of us plenty of cud to chew on. It certainly demands a rethinking of the global view of Jamaica as ‘the most homophobic place on earth’. Let’s see if the PNP having gained such a huge nod from the electorate will now put its mouth where its money is and REALLY strike a blow for equal rights for all.

Author: ap

writer, editor and avid tweeter

36 thoughts on “Where’s my vuvuzela? …Announcing the Second Coming of Portia Simpson-Miller”

  1. I hope that this is a step towards normalising the political process, though some of the results I saw coming in last night (in Portia’s constituency for example) suggest that might not be entirely the case. Holness, obviously, was hoping that he would receive a mandate; that the people would see him as a new leader who deserved a chance to prove himself and give him that chance. Democracy, as my teachers insisted, is the institutionalisation of uncertainty. You takes your chances. In this case, bwoy pikni tek him chance wid big oman; with predictable results.

    Since 1989, the PNP has done something that no one would have expected before, but that Norman Manley, I believe had hoped for, established itself as ‘the natural party of government’ in Jamaica. It’s done this by being able to appeal successfully across class lines. The JLP, which started out as the small man’s party has managed to become the big man’s party and doesn’t seem to know how to find its way back.

  2. Annie also bear in mind the majority of which she won is only a fraction of the eligible voters, the rest basically stayed away which could be interpreted as the PNP not fully representing the people as they were aloof to this important process.

    Question needed here why did the other 50%+ of the eligible voters just never gave a dyman fi come out?

    Happy New Year when it comes


    1. yes absolutely but at least we can conclude that half the population is not homophobic and the other half didn’t care enough to come out and vote against them!

      1. Doubt that we can conclude that so much as half is not homophobic, I think the buggery issue was a late and low factor in the mix despite the traction it is slowly gaining, the die hards wanted to see the back of the JLP even though there has been some noise about the suggested buggery law review …. I get the impression the Dudus, Manatt, JDIP (despite Mike Henry’s seat retention) and the plane in the air bits were the cause in some parts, Desmond McKenzie’s small lead in what is a major JLP West Kingston seat from back-a-wall days is a crucial sign, although as u rightly hinted the sheen from Andrew wore off … and those overplayed ads.

        The Pink vote is also a factor but how to measure its impact is difficult.



      2. Sure, you sound sanguine about this but we were all very concerned and not at all sure how this would play out especially with the PNP becoming the target of further propaganda by the JLP and Observer on the gay issue. So forgive us if we think it’s meaningful; i maintain that you can’t any longer claim without a shadow of a doubt if you ever could, that Ja is the most homophobic place on earth. A failure to acknowledge that there is some change here is in the end detrimental to the overall struggle for gay rights. I know its hard to admit but try no? Let’s not quibble about what percentage of the population is or isn’t homophobic, the fact is that this electorate panned the homosexuality issue. you have to acknowledge that, don’t diminish its importance either…

      3. OK but I never ever subscribed to that notion that Jamaica is the most homophobic place on earth, I know better. There are other parts of the world that make our experience look like kindergarten

    2. You do realize that to have a turnout of over 50% is considered HUGE anywhere in the world? What percentage of the US populations votes in presidential and congressional elections, do you think…? And why do you assume that those who do not vote don’t give a damn?? Can you not think of other reasons which might cause voters to stay home?

  3. glbtqja said “. I get the impression the Dudus, Manatt, JDIP (despite Mike Henry’s seat retention) and the plane in the air bits were the cause in some parts, ”

    Let’s not forgot the JLP’s high-handedness/outright arrogance. You can’t get away with dragging out pay disputes for public sector workers for years, burdening teachers and medical staff with more work (free education, free healthcare) but the same or fewer resources and resorting to calling teachers “extortionists” and THEN expect these same groups to come out and vote for you.

    The JLP so perfectly managed to alienate so many that I’m now wondering if they weren’t actually trying to lose the election from as far back as 2009. Just about everything they did seemed geared to ticking off key groups: public sector workers, the honest public (lies, lies and more lies), women (attacks on Portia and the PNP’s other female candidates while at the same time presenting their women candidates as basically being just pretty faces – a smack in the face to intelligent women on the island), “non-mulattoes”, old people (remember the emphasis on youth for the campaign? how do you think that went down with old people when they were basically saying “out with old people”?). The fact that they seemed to find money to pay Manatt and to pay for a Commission of Inquiry but couldn’t find money to pay what was owed to workers must surely have rankled.

    I’ve even heard from more than one source that money had been offered for votes (to the tune of $5,000 a person) but that persons simply took the money and voted they way they wanted anyway or just stayed home. It’s like the JLP is stuck in the 80s but the electorate has wised up to their ways and now plan to just milk them for all they are worth and cast them aside when they are finished.

    As the fledgist said “The JLP, which started out as the small man’s party has managed to become the big man’s party and doesn’t seem to know how to find its way back.”

    Not sure when it happened, but it was probably after Bustamante when moneyed interest took control of the party. As others have said to me the very name “Jamaica Labour Party” is now an oxymoron because it seems increasingly anti-labour. The JLP might be better served by splitting into two parties – a Jamaica Conservative Party for the money interest which can contest in those few seats it is sure to win, and a Democratic Labour Party for the trade union section which will then be free to win back the small man to the party. They can then both form a coalition in parliament in order to govern when they collectively have a majority. As it is now the JLP looks set to become a permanent opposition party unless it can either (a) shed it’s image as an arrogant party for mulatto big-business or (b) make so many Jamaicans filthy rich that they come to naturally support the JLP (having become “big men” themselves). The only other hope it has is for the PNP to screw up so badly and to be riven by internal division that the JLP becomes the government by default.

    1. Thanks Jon, for filling in the blanks that i didn’t address at all, such as the disaffection of public sector workers, aging and aged etc. Yes when you examine it like that it really does look as if they were trying to lose the election doesn’t it? thanks for reading and leaving your commments on my blog.

      1. No problem. Your blog is quite interesting. There was still more that they did to alienate people than I wrote. Remember the dispute with the teachers over Mr. Holness’ adviser (Mr. Davis) having an official role in what was supposed to be an independent educational body (The Teachers’ Service Commission)? Or Holness taking his kids out of a school and home schooling them and labelling some schools as “failing”? I’ve heard though this may or may not be accurate, that he took his kids out of a school that he then subsequently labelled as failing.

        Looking back there was also the refurbishment of the Tourism Ministry’s office for $8 million including a chair bought for Bartlett that reportedly cost $77,000 (all during a time when the government supposedly had no money for back-pay due to workers); Mike Henry refurbishing his house using Port Authority funds and claiming he can’t live in “squalor”; Shaw breaking his promise to the nurses while in Opposition to increase their pay; Mr. Robertson rescuing a wanted man from police custody and appearing on stage with a man wanted for violating bail and implicated in murder; Warmington basically declaring war on the fairer sex; Golding flippantly telling reporters he knew about the dual citizens being illegally elected to Parliament but that we couldn’t seriously expect him to do anything else lest the government collapsed (so much for law and order); The JLP welcoming Sharon Hay-Webster despite the fact that they were fighting for her ouster in court because of her dual citizenship (incidentally I believe she actually had a case as her situation WAS different) so they looked like hypocrites; the JLP then welcoming Danville Walker which put his entire career as director of elections and head of customs under a cloud and at the same time not rebuking him for openly defying Mr. Tufton’s requirements for the export of scrap metal during the ban; the JLP campaigning for dual citizens (specifically Jamaican-Americans) to be allowed in parliament (which would further alienate them from potential constituents since most constituents are not dual citizens and lots of dual citizens are big business men); G2K sounding like the Brown Shirts when they talked about removing PNP-sympathizers in the public service and “going after” the media that didn’t give pro-government messages; The UDC scandals; Golding’s fight with the Public Services Commission over Vacciannie being appointed to the post of Solicitor-General; firing Latibeaudiere and then bringing in Mr. Wynter as BOJ governor with an increased salary and benefits (even as Mr. Wynter was initially acting part time and having to fly between Barbados and Jamaica I think) again while public sector workers were being told there was no money; the failure to reduce the Portmore toll as promised; ignoring the doctors and nurses on the blood bag issue until it was too late (I know a couple of doctors who found the government very unresponsive in this regard as warnings were sent to Mr. Spencer that the blood bags would be an issue only for the letters and calls to be ignored until the issue hit the papers and then Spencer was all fire and brimstone with the call for “heads to roll”); Joseph Hibbert being implicated in bribery with a British firm; Shahine Robinson being caught lying about her citizenship status and dragging out court proceedings at taxpayers expense and then being rewarded by being allowed to run for election again and then being given a minor ministerial position under Golding and then being given a full ministerial position under Holness; the LNG debacle with Robertson as indications turned up of bribery and the project potentially not being viable…..

        As a matter of fact what the JLP did between 2007-2011 could be written up in a manual of “How NOT to win an election”. They did their best to destroy public trust in them and what’s worse is that with a little thought they could have avoided most of those issues entirely. If they really couldn’t afford the wage increases contractually due and or promised whilst in Opposition then being open about it (and not contradicting themselves by spending oodles of cash elsewhere) would probably have gone a long way to keeping public trust in them. They were just way too secretive though and showed little urgency to push through critical legislation that would have fulfilled some of their promises (note for instance that the Special Prosecutor bill has been left to languish for months while other bills have passed and it will now have to be reintroduced and re-debated). So folks saw little reason to vote FOR them. Even their campaigning was more about reasons to vote against PNP than to vote for Labour, but just because someone doesn’t vote for PNP doesn’t mean they will automatically vote for Labour. All that might happen is that they don’t vote at all (I suspect the negative ads by both parties contributed to the lower turnout).

    1. @Mad Bull: “Jamaica has a love affair with the PNP”? Oh come on now, is that the best explanation you can come up with? Have you read Jon’s penetrating analyses? Have all the points he made come as news to you? If not, why not acknowledge them as legitimate reasons for the outcome of the elections?

      Secondly, you say that the PNP does not have a history of good economic management of the country, or words to that effect. Really? Any data to back that up? It is true that – like all left-leaning parties, e.g. the British Labour Party – the PNP is constantly accused by the opposition of economic mismanagement, just as the Democrats in the USA are constantly accused by the Republicans of not being able to handle national security… The question is, though, is there any truth in these accusations?

      Thirdly, you pray to god to intervene in the affairs of the country… Is this likely to happen, in your opinion? Do you think that an appeal to supernatural forces is useful, and would you argue that this can take the place of vision and effective policies? What about YOUR vision for the country, and what policies do you see as necessary, in order to achieve the effects you seem to expect from a Higher Power?

  4. And a rout it was!

    The JLP made me a comrade (as did Portia’s articulate defense of the human rights of gay people). I was incensed by their nasty election campaign which (un?)skillfully wielded sexism, classism and homophobia to appeal to the Jamaican masses. And I thought they were winning. 4 out of 5 ads that I saw and heard during the last three weeks were JLP ads. While I thought Portia won the debates, many social media and online polls gave Holness the edge. It never made sense to me. Were we watching the same debate?

    Why is there consensus in many quarters that Portia is “dunce”? Every time Portia opens her mouth there are people waiting for evidence that she is unintelligent and incapable. Some have even argued that a vote for the PNP was a vote against the JLP, not a vote for Portia, because that, apparently, would be masochistic. Self-hatred at its most glaring. Someone like us should not represent us.

    My intuition that the low-blow ads of the JLP were gaining traction was affirmed by commentary on twitter. Many of my followers mocked Portia’s elocution during the debate in a manner reminiscent of the G2K ads. I was furious! But alas, my politics savvy followers are not part of the masses. And the masses are far more intelligent than we like to acknowledge.

    I was in HWT yesterday and I overheard lots of commentary from JLP supporters. They are bitter. And the scapegoat for their misery is, as usual, the batiman. “Mi ago migrate…batimanism ago legal a Jamaica,” a woman hysterically claimed. While the Jamaican people voted decisively against sexism, classism and homophobia, almost half of those who voted did not. They were duped by the retrograde messages of their party and are now propagating those messages in their communities.

    1. Hey Chatimout,

      welcome to Active Voice, and thanks for the RTs and interaction on Twitter…interesting to hear the responses of embittered JLP supporters. yes i notice that the line now is to stress that half the population didn’t vote as if this somehow diminishes the victory of the PNP…but in that half that didn’t vote were plenty of JLP supporters…they need to find out why they refused to come out and support their party…honestly…!

    2. @Javed: hear, hear! Especially what you said about the skewed reporting of the media (though it seems to be becoming less successful in manipulating public opinion), and the very real intelligence of the masses. Re the trend on Twitter and in blogs: don’t forget, it’s often the same kind of people, with the same kind of views, from the same kind of backgrounds, talking to themselves and to each other. No connection with the reality out there.

  5. The PNP began as a middle-class party committed to alliance with the working class, represented in 1938 by the BITU. When Bustamante decided that he could do without the ‘brown man party’ he struck out on his own leaving Norman Manley to rebuild the class alliance, which he was able to do successfully. Since the 1940s, the PNP has been able to present itself as committed to working for both middle and lower classes; that is as a party that brings brown and black people together, and then, in the 1970s, under the clearly brown (in fact, to many foreign observers, very un-Jamaican, as a Spanish employer of mine observed of him in the early 1980s ‘Pero es muy “British”‘) Michael Manley, to reframe itself as the party that represented the interests of the working class above all.

    For all that the JLP has retained its connection to the BITU, it has, increasingly made itself over as the party that is not the PNP. In large part that’s because the PNP is the party of ideas in Jamaica, and the JLP is not. The JLP has always operated in reaction to the PNP. When the PNP has carved out a political space, the JLP has either taken ‘wha lef’ or imitated the PNP’s strategy. When the PNP became the party of the lower classes, and thus the blacker party, in the 1970s, the JLP became the browner party, at first by default and then, I suspect, with some deliberation. I doubt very much that it can, at this point, find its way back to its bustamantine roots.

  6. Annie, I’m not new to Active Voice. I am ‘Fiyu Pikni’. I retired the monicker recently.

    Sign of the changing times? 🙂

    The JLP was too confident of victory. They believed the nation would rather forgive the transgressions of the Bruce Golding-led JLP administration than have a PNP government with Portia at the helm. Oooh, they miscalculated.

    1. oh it’s you! yes, times they are a changin…

      really makes you realize how out of touch the JLP was! They must be completely demoralized now. can they ever come back?

  7. “can they ever come back?”

    I think so. But for a start they need to retire these people from politics: Everald Warmington, Shahine Robinson, James Robertson, Andrew Gallimore, Daryl Vaz, Desmond McKenzie (he who claimed he worked with Dudus to lower crime…yeah right), Dwight Nelson, Mike Henry, Derrick Smith, Sharon Hay-Webster and Danville Walker. These people have too much baggage. Move them out of the picture (and out of leadership roles in the party) and it might just reinvent itself into something that can get back in touch with the electorate.

  8. Reading all the comments etc very interesting indeed.
    I do believe that if the elections were held after Christmas the turnout would’ve been much higher and the PNP victory margin would be bigger.

  9. These comments are so interesting, especially those written by Jon and Fledgist. It’s a mini-history lesson!

    For myself I too thought it would be closer but there was a *small* niggle in my mind after getting home and finally seeing the Portia Papers ad; it was horrible. Then again I have, lately, deliberately not been as attentive to Jamaican politics. Toward the end of the year I just became overwhelmed.

    Good post, Annie.

  10. I find it interesting that in all of this talk about how the JLP targeted Portia, that people seem to forget that their biggest weapon in the attack was the PNP’s own reaction and attitude to her. From KD’s scathing remarks, to Omar’s embarrassment, to Peter Phillip’s damning remarks. I find it amusing to hear people say they voted PNP because they were turned off by how the JLP treated Portia, when she has come in for at least equal scorn and disdain from her own party members. I get that the JLP ran in some cases a despicable campaign, and made a mess of things for 4 years – and for that they are to be held accountable. But I am bewildered at how easily people forget those 18 years and the overwhelming evidence of the very same things in the PNP that the JLP is being blasted for. You will find it less inconsistent to just do like me and hate them all equally.

    The rest of this comment has been removed because it violated the norms of civil and fair commentary.

    1. Sorry friend as your email monicker suggests your mind is absent, so please take your prejudiced views elsewhere, had to severely edit your vitriol…its true that in 2007 most of the big males in the PNP had contempt for Portia, but in this election they worked with her, try and figure out why they changed their minds. They also weren’t foolish enough to trumpet their contempt for the rest of the population by the kind of public attack campaign undertaken by the JLP which was then shown roundly what the population thought of them.

      Nor does this blog accept hearsay as evidence of one thing or another, especially when it comes from someone as blinded by prejudice and naked hatred as you appear to be. Also why not express these views under your own name if you want to be taken seriously? are you afraid?

      One final thought–we’ve had eminently intelligent people leading this country since before independence so why is Jamaica in the mess it’s in?

      So your party lost–get over it! and try and get your mind back…

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