Everyone should laugh, but Lisa Hanna
NO ONE took Noel Arscott seriously when he was a minister of government. That is unlikely to have improved now that he is in opposition.
So, people are expected to have a good laugh about his prognostications on local government elections, whenever they are held, for which he is the People’s National Party’s (PNP) campaign director.
“We are going to retain all of them (the 12 parish councils, Portmore Municipality and Kingston and St Andrew Corporation),” Mr Arscott told this newspaper. “We will have some challenges in a few, but I am confident that we will be returned in all of them.”
When they follow quickly after a general election, the party that wins at a national level usually wins the majority of the parish governments. But Noel Arscott is apparently betting, or wants to convince people, that having captured the Government by a single parliamentary seat, and an overall majority of merely 3,000 votes, the electorate has already grown disenchanted with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
Moreover, the squabbles that marred the PNP’s candidate selection for the general election are not there this time round.
But more important, according to Mr Arscott, the PNP will campaign on its record. That depends on which one.
At the national level, the PNP can boast a decent record in economic management during its last stint in government. Its fiscal discipline helped to cauterise the national debt and establish a macroeconomic environment from which there is potential for sustainable growth. But at the municipal level, the performance of its elected officials was largely abysmal. They were weak on accountability and lacking in vision.
Nowhere is this more on display than at the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, the local government that covers significant swathes of the country, including the island’s capital, Kingston – a disorderly, chaotic, gritty city for whose development and oversight its managers appear to have run out of ideas. They, for the most part, don’t even attempt to enforce their own rules and regulations.
This is hardly a recipe for winning the majority of seats across the parishes.
There is one issue, however, on which no one is likely to see Mr Arscott as minstrel, and if we were Lisa Hanna, we’d view him as deadly serious with an agenda to our detriment. Ms Hanna, the former minister with responsibility for youth, is one of those who argued for renewal in the aftermath of the PNP’s defeat in February. She offered herself for one of the party’s four vice-presidential posts in last month’s internal election and received the least votes of the five candidates.
She has since been attacked by former Cabinet colleague A.J. Nicholson. Ms Hanna’s defeat was a decision by delegates, he claimed, not to “reward and elevate failure”, which is how he characterises Ms Hanna’s performance in government, her management of her constituency, and the political region she chairs. Others perceive the Establishment’s hoisting of the drawbridge on someone who had grown, for them, too presumptuous.
Mr Arscott, also one of the PNP’s vice-presidents, says Ms Hanna will have a major role in the campaign, and expects her to “demonstrate what she can do politically”.
In this scenario, Mr Arscott seems to possess the bearing of a Trojan horse, and Ms Hanna someone who has been gifted a bomb with a fuse already primed and charged.