The history of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and its consecutive electoral losses under the leadership of Edward Seaga to the People’s National Party (PNP) led by PJ Patterson, need not be rehashed in its totality for context.  This article seeks to speak specifically to the element of internal feuds, fights and fundamental flaws which occur in political parties.

Over the time frame of approximately twenty years, the JLP found itself struggling to manage internal power struggles, dissension and an abundance of testosterone driven ego trips levelled at leadership.  In fact, it is fair to say several members of the party’s critical mechanism were prepared to see the JLP descend to Titanic levels, while drowning its chances at the voting booth.  It was simply a case of self-sabotage to prove personal points, and at the same time, demand changes that some politician perceived to be a prescription to win.  The consensus among the defiant was simple.  The plan to win a general election required removing Edward Seaga.

The public became a part of the daily doses of the divide and even the derogatory and demeaning were thrown into their domain.  This was never going to work well for a group seeking to gain support at the national level, but those intent on making mayhem cared little for the obvious outcome.  A party against itself cannot stand, but it took losing three elections for them to realise a well-known saying…”doing the same thing and expecting a different result..”…you know the rest.

The constant infighting brought what was seen as the ultimate result in Seaga leaving the position of party leader and another preferred person ascended the throne.  There are some who believed the mere changing of the guard a solution, but they failed to recall the tattles of the past.  The ghost of infighting reared its head from a barely buried past, and soon enough, that new leader, Bruce Golding was out.  It might be interesting to note that while PJ Patterson was not loved by all within the PNP, he certainly managed to create a public profile which led most to believe that his party was blissfully in love with him.  In many ways, he relied on the consistent imagery of the JLP being a less than ideal option, due to bickering and infighting, to reel off three consecutive General Election wins as  PNP President.

Today, the PNP faces its own saying that “same knife stick sheep, stick goat”. And the flames of history are being fanned with fervour.  They have been beset by internal problems for some time and as expected, they too seem to be paying little or no regard to political history.  The present leadership mechanism worked hard to rid itself of Portia Simpson and replace her with Dr. Peter Phillips. But that thirst for blood was not slaked for too long.  They took the same approach to Dr. Phillips and gave him the same treatment, notwithstanding the obvious damage such an approach would cause.  Interestingly, PJ Patterson never seemed to have much love for either Portia or Dr. Phillips. But he appeared to be partial to those who helped usher them out.

The fissures created by forcing Portia out the door, widened considerably when Dr. Phillips was eased through the door marked by the exit sign.  The present leadership seems to believe the same solution tried by the JLP that led to a long stint in the wilderness, will work wonders for them.  That is the same as thinking hobbled horses on hurting hooves need only shouting jockeys with whips to prevail in a race.  The discerning punter might want to place bets on the PNP, but it is difficult to trust trainers, horses and jockeys who are all at odds.  There is a big difference between lack of trust in a good horse and withering belief in the ability of the jockey and trainer. 

A champion horse that has already won the Triple Crown will still seem appealing heading into the Mouttet Mile, even if it’s to be ridden by a jockey highly unpopular with some punters.  But a maiden horse, limping in the parade ring, who’s ridden by a top jockey, will not sell many tickets especially if jockey and trainer are seen squabbling in the saddling barn. Politics on its best day, is similar to horse racing. And those intelligent to this will understand that it takes more than a jockey whipping furiously and to coax a winning effort from a horse.

In a race, the views of the owner of the horse is of no moment. Hell, the views of the trainer are also irrelevant once that horse walks onto the track to make its way to the starting gate. All that matters is the synergy between horse and rider. If that synergy is off then it would have been better for those who have wagered on that horse to take their cash and set it on fire on a strip of concrete. Then watch it burn. Slowly.

A wise man once said that, “infighting and internal feuds make for great icing on a badly baked cake” and who will choose that cake?  Certainly not horses or sheep.