Mark Wignall | Crawford gone forward and Peter under pressure
Phillip Paulwell and Wykeham McNeill came to the battle armed with their long-term savvy among PNP delegates. Damion Crawford showed up with dreadlocks, a record of being unafraid to open his mouth and constructively criticise his own party, and a refreshing ear-to-the-ground newness. Mikhael Phillips had youthful energy, Daddy's implicit blessing, and MP status.
Fenton Ferguson and Angella Brown-Burke were wishing and hoping that the PNP would dish out another of its long-service awards to them. In the end, the man who had the least to lose, Crawford, gained the most and young Phillips scored a silver medal, while McNeill and Paulwell survived in their own PNP vice-presidential balancing act. Ferguson and Brown-Burke were seen as rejected blasts from the past.
Damion Crawford has long had star-status in his own party, but the PNP refused to acknowledge it. That is, until the feisty young man topped the VP field at last weekend's PNP annual conference and the party delegates crowned him as de facto king. And surely at another time, as the real deal, when it dawns on the PNP that its own leader is on shaky ground.
Crawford's ascendancy and dominance of the process have sent many messages. The first is to his own party that business-as-usual must be cast aside as a relic of the past. The second is to the JLP administration and the youthful JLP leader, Prime Minister Andrew Holness. That message is, 'yu don't have di ting lock. Wi deh pon you tail an' wi gwine ride yu back till wi wear yu down.'
The third message is by no means an unimportant one. It tells the PNP's base that even though the PNP leader is by no means an attractive magic act on the podium, there is hope and reason to believe in itself. Coming out of last weekend's PNP conference, the PNP's base is energised and confident but, like in all other matters, political relevance has a very short shelf life.
The PNP was presented with its opening act for the next two years. Everything it does from here on has to either top that act or perfectly complement it. That will not be easy.
A man who was once prime minister used to respond to crises in his government by asking at Cabinet meetings, 'How far are we into the nine days,' in reference to our people's short attention span on important matters. After Usain Bolt exploded on the global stage in 2008 he still had other worlds to conquer and new records to break. That is now the PNP's dilemma with the party trying to race on its leader's tired legs.
Goodies and giveaways if elected
PNP President and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips has decided to steal from the political playbook of the JLP and Andrew Holness by making promises from his party's platform that are suitably embellished with populist seasonings.
One assumes that Phillips, an academic at heart, is fully armed with empirical findings that the JLP win in February 2016 was more the message ($1.5-million tax giveback) than the messenger (Holness) or a perfect soup of both.
So, even if endowing the firstborn in each family with free tertiary education and providing $100 billion for small business are noble and worthwhile causes and policies, the believability may be suspect, and the realities of governance may scuttle them.
Dr Phillips can claim that Damion Crawford ascended under his watch, but Crawford will not be sitting back and waiting on political entropy to carry forward his own political dreams. Phillips is now in a pressure cooker.