Review: Portia Simspon-Miller – The Girl from Woodhall

Recently, Television Jamaica (TVJ) showed a documentary  “The Girl from Woodhall” which was a political biography of Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s first female prime minister (2006-7, 2011-2016) and first female president of the People’s National Party (PNP) from 2005-2017..

A documentary well worth watching. 

 “The Girl from Woodhall” was a very fair portrayal of Portia’s political career from her humble beginnings in the hills of St Catherine in a village called Woodhall (also known as Reds) and ending up at the highest office in Jamaican politics. A feat that is remarkable even by today’s standard of political development.

The programme was a good, enlightening and essential and was presented/narrated by Giovanni Dennis. The docu gave Jamaican viewers an insight to Mrs Simpson-Miller’s political career which spanned over  5-6 decades, a career which was at times controversial, contentious, challenging and inspiring.

The fact that an African Jamaica woman such as Simpson-Miller who from unfashionable circles rose to the zenith of representational politics in a society that tends to judge your level of credibility and acceptability by colour, gender, wealth and pedigree is a testament to her resilience, courage and longevity.

The documentary had a number of anecdotal contributions from the likes of Lambert Brown, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, Jennifer Edwards, Deborah Hickling-Gordon, PJ Patterson, Peter Phillips, Mark Golding, Floyd Morris, Julian Robinson and Paul Burke (all senior PNP colleagues) 

There were also contributions from the rival Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) including Karl Samuda, Andrew Holness and Bruce Golding.

Surprisingly there was no input from any of Portia’s (political) cousins such as Everald Warmington, Natalie Neita Garvey, Noel Arscott or Richard Azan. But then again it’s likely that some turned down the chance to appear in the docu.

Other input to the docu came from journalists Vashan Brown, Dionne Jackson-Miller, Milton Walker and Nadeen Spence as well as residents from Simpson-Miller’s former constituency of South West St Andrew.

We learnt from her aides how Simpson-Miller the MP was keen to maintain a dignified discretion of those families she assisted with their education expenses. Simpson-Miller’s reason was she  did not think it was right for the wider public to know private challenges faced by her constituents. Respect for that.

It was clear from some PNP comrades on social media that  they were not happy that Bruce Golding was given so much air time in the docu. But Golding and Simpson Miller’s political careers were aligned from the early 1970s. Plus he  made a number of salient points and his and Simpson-Miller ancestry goes way back to the same area in St Catherine. 

(Simpson-Miller godmother (Mrs H) and the Goldings were neighbours in the nearby town of Old Harbour. Mrs H and both Golding’s mum and wife were teaching colleagues at the then Old Harbour Secondary.)

The documentary reminded the viewer of the snobbery Simpson-Miller faced from some of her senior colleagues who felt she did not the educational pedigree to justify being leader of the party. 

(There has been a ridiculous trend in Jamaican work culture that to be worthy of senior management roles you have to have had attained a minimum of a master’s degree or a PhD whether you have leadership competencies or not. Hence many of the senior public sector heads are holders of Doctorates)

The docu also highlighted how Simpson-Miller’s leadership was mired by elocution smugness of her critics. Some comrades have never forgiven their own colleagues for their facetious behaviour towards Simpson-Miller. 

To me Portia – on the political campaign trail- was a ferocious and engaging voice of the people. The way she said the word “wicked” when describing a policy or action by the JLP was done with such vigour and fervour it energised her audience.

In the docu, Bruce Golding justified the JLPs elocutionary attacks on Simpson-Miller by saying the PNP started it. But Golding should have known better and not crossed that line given his own father’s ancestral roots was minutes away from Woodhall in Bellas Gate. 

(A testament to Simpson-Miller’s dignity was even after those personal attack by Bruce’s JLP she still attended the funeral of his mum a few years later and even hugged him)

But all agreed that Simpson-Miller was a unique and much loved politician who had cross party appeal and was well respected both nationally and on the global stage. The likes Jamaicans will never see again. 

The documentary revealed that then-PM Simpson-Miller’s absence from media interviews was influenced mainly by Simpson-Miller’s advisers’ attempt  to shield her from what they perceived as potential embarrassment. In the end such over protection proved counterproductive. As Karl Samuda said Simpson-Miller’s senior advisers should have “let Portia be Portia”. Simple.

There was little to no input in the documentary from the other key stakeholders such as the business community, civil society and sporting arena. Something that was glossed over was her role as sports minister.

But interestingly there was little input to the docu from those younger PNP comrades who came to prominence because of Portia’s influence over the past 2 decades.

[My 2 main criticisms of Portia’s full term premiership.

  1. The decision to amend that sacred law and withdraw $JM45bn from the National Housing Trust (NHT) coffers of many Jamaican contributors for non housing economic issues. There were no legal measures put in place for the money to be returned. The current JLP administration (who criticised the decision at the time) has continued this financial raid of the NHT with a total $57bn to be taken out by 2025.
  2. There were times when she should have shaken up things in her government by having a cabinet reshuffle. It was clear the Simpson-Miller’s administration was flagging in certain portfolios (crime, education, banking, transport) and dogged by allegations of poor governance.]

Simpson-Miller was praised for her creating a broad cabinet of ministers made up of the various warring factions (incl. those who didn’t support her) within the PNP.  Simpson-Miller was also commended for not micromanaging the cabinet. [But for me there were times when she should have stepped in and cracked the whip as the compliancy displayed at times was part of the PNP administration’s eventual downfall at the 2016 general election.] 

The PNP election campaign ahead of that 2016 general election was nonexistent and Simpson-Miller has to carry the can for that defeat. Simpson-Miller was certainly not her usual energetic and engaging self when she came calling in our area during the campaign.

Some in the PNP praised how Forbes magazine rated Simpson-Miller as one of the 100 most influential figures and yet in another line said in the docu she was not allowed to lead because of the muzzling by her closest advisors. 

For someone who has had such an extensive career spanning 6 decades I felt the documentary should have been in 2 parts. It seemed rushed or stuck too long on one subject matter.

Simpson-Millers body of work as just a cabinet minister alone was broad and thus the docu did not have the time frame to report on some of her achievements and pivotal moments as a government minister e.g. As Labour minister Simpson-Miller disclosed the audit findings of farmwork corruption that eventually led to the imprisonment of former Labour minister J.A.G. Smith (JLP). 

Shame the viewer was not able to hear from Simpson-Miller in her current mode. But I am sure there are valid reasons for her absence. 

When prime minister Holness slipped in the final segment of the docu that his government was working on steps to honour Simpson-Miller, Giovanni Dennis should have – out of courtesy  – gathered some feedback from current PNP leader Mark Golding on Holness’ comments. 

Especially as the PNP said recently that they were never consulted by Nigel Clarke (finance minister) who decided to create a new bank note with the face of PNPs Michael Manley next to that of JLPs Edward Seaga – both former prime ministers and lifelong bitter enemies.

Despite Woodhall being in the title of the documentary so little time was spent in Woodhall or the nearby villages of Browns Hall, Bellfield, Bartons, Marlie Hill etc where Simpson-Miller would have visited over the years and still had extended family relations in that area.

Unless I missed it, the viewer was not informed of the names of Simpson-Miller’s parents or how many siblings she had. We didn’t get any idea from the docu about who was Portia Simpson-Miller away from the public eye or her outside interests.

It has been great to see the number of documentaries, discussions, books and interviews in recent times focusing on some of the the women who were key to Jamaica’s development since 1944 e.g. the excellent  Beverley Manley Duncan’s 4 parter

Portia Simpson-Miller was a unique political juggernaut. I first had that impression as a kid in the 1970s/early 1980s when I’d seen her on our road. Even then I was staggered by the majority margins she won her seat by at the general election. Her appeal across party lines was there for all to see and she even developed a close friendship with former JLP leader Edward Seaga. 

A certain JLP MP was known to throw out of his constituency office anyone who made disparaging remarks about Simspn-Miller. 

I do hope Simpson-Miller publishes her memoirs in time as her full story is worth sharing.

In the end, time restrictions meant “The Girl from Woodhall” was limited in content.

But well done to Giovanni Dennis and his production team.

Memoirs by Some Jamaican Women

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Lisa Hanna finally Jumps from her Perilous PNP Patch in St Ann

It comes as no real surprise that Lisa Hanna – the 15 year PNP representative for South East St Ann – is planning to walk away from representational politics.

For one, Hanna had little chance of retaining her seat at the next general election given she scraped through the 2020 election by just 31 votes. In 2007 Hanna first won the seat with 66% of the vote.

What made Hanna’s time in South East St Ann even more untenable was that during her PNP leadership race (2020) against rival and eventual winner Mark Golding her own constituency members-block backed Golding.

So it wasn’t a matter if Hanna would leave her current constituency but a matter of just when. No way a person of Hanna’s profile would allow herself to face definite defeat at the next general election and have that stain on her political résumé.

What really confirmed it for me that  Hanna was on her way out was her virtual silence on the controversial move by Kamina Johnson-Smith (foreign minister) to run for commonwealth secretary general and the political fall out that has since ensued. A scandal has since blow up over the cost of the Johnson-Smith bid drawing sharp criticism from various quarters.

Hanna is the shadow minister for foreign affairs and I kept wondering why  are others from the PNP’s front bench (Julian Robinson & Donna Scott-Mottley) being so vocal over the scandal and not Lisa Hanna? Something was up.

The Kamina Johnson-Smith CG expenses scandal is probably the biggest controversy to hit the Andrew Holness-led JLP administration since 2021 and nothing from the opposition lead on the portfolio?

Great Expectations 

When Lisa Hanna entered frontline politics for the People’s National Party (PNP) there was excitement and buzz as expectations were raised that she would bring a freshness and vibrancy to the party. Many expected Lisa Hanna to be a certainty for future party leader.

During the Portia Simpson-led administration (2011-2016) Hanna was appointed minister for youth & culture. To me that posting was a fluffy position lacking any substance. 

The portfolios lacked cohesion and didn’t make sense. The portfolios of education and youth should be joined together and culture should be alongside media or even tourism.

I felt Hanna would have best suited at tourism, sport or education and due to her strong communication & PR skills she should have been considered for minister of information.

But the PNP were keeping the big portfolios for the senior figures in the party some of who by 2014 had lost touch with reality and there based on loyalties and not competencies. It was hard to find a PNP MP who was not a government minister of some sort. Hence a bloated cabinet.

In the aftermath of the PNPs shocking knife edge lost to the JLP at the 2016 general election, Hanna immediately said her party needed immediate “renewal”. She was right.

But Hanna’s comments incensed key PNP officials, some of whom were determined to (successfully) prevent her being elected to one of the four vice presidents of the party.

Expectations were heightened that Hanna was going to make a run to succeed Simpson-Miller as party leader but in the end Hanna fell in to line and supported the anointed one Peter Phillips in an uncontested election (Karl Blythe). 

To me Hanna missed her chance then. In 2016 the PNP needed the energy, youthfulness, populism and charisma of a Lisa Hanna to revitalise their flagging fortunes. Whatever criticism there is of her, Hanna knows how to connect with the younger voters.

Hanna’s reward for “supporting” Phillips in 2017 was opposition spokesperson for foreign affairs & foreign trade. Again a fluffy role which lacks the media profile to put the party across successfully to a doubting electorate. 

In Jamaica, the opposition portfolios of substance that will get you media coverage and quick-wins against the ruling government are finance, agriculture, health, education, environment and of course national security.

For the 2020 general election Hanna was given a senior election campaign role and it’s fair to say she did not cover herself in glory as she rarely spoke to the media. That PNP campaign was chaotic, flat and abysmal. Leader Phillips fell into the trap set by the Andrew Holness administration and got a trouncing. Although over 60% of the electorate stayed home.

Following Phillips’ resignation as party leader after that election defeat Hanna lost out to eventual winner Mark Golding to succeed Phillips.

Hanna displayed herself as a sore loser by not being present on the platform for the announcement of the final result; despite being there earlier in the day. Whatever her excuse it looked childish and lacked leadership.

And that juvenile response didn’t end there as Hanna was absent from parliament during new leader Golding’s early days and did not appear at the new leaders swearing-in ceremony held at the official residence of the governor general. 

Again, Hanna kept the foreign affairs portfolio under the Golding leadership which was just ridiculous.

But since she lost to Golding you could see at times that Hanna seemed disengaged from PNP politics in body and spirit.

 In parliament under the previous leaders Hanna sat directly behind Simpson-Miller and Phillips. But in the current parliament Hanna sits as far away as humanly possible from Golding that even the TV cameras there can hardly pick her up on screen.

Hanna has hardly been vocal in her portfolio when expected to, especially with the Johnson-Smith scandal. 

For key speeches from certain PNP parliamentarians from her side Hanna was missing. She rarely does tuff interviews which is not good for someone who wants the highest office and reportedly turned down interview requests from certain male journalists during her leadership challenge. 

(After interviewing Golding on his popular entertainment show OnStage host Winford Williams made an unsuccessful public plea for Hanna to join the show the following week.)

But I must say since 2016 Hanna delivers the best speeches in parliament of anyone in the lower house or upper house.

Hanna’s speeches are so brilliant, rivetting, conciliatory, idealistic and inspirational that they gain plaudits from both sides of the aisle in the lower house.

Bumps Along The Road

At times Hanna did not cover herself in glory.

As youth minister she drew criticism for the government’s attempt to muzzle certain civil society groups such as Jamaica for Justice who were critical of her stewardship of certain issues. She also drew criticism from the civil service union for the way Dahlia Harris was fired in 2015 from her senior post at the ministry of youth and culture. 

A 2017 report by The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) slammed Hanna and her PNP constituent councillors over nepotism and “unethical management” in the awarding of contracts. The OCG did refer their findings to the Director of Public Prosecution as well as the Financial Investigations Division of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service for possible further action.

DPP delivered a stinging rebuke and recommended prosecution against an employee in Hanna’s constituency office and against (possibly) Hanna’s then partner/now husband – Richard Lake – but not against Hanna. What ever happened to that case?

“OCG recommends that criminal investigations be pursued and a determination be made as it regards whether the actions of Mr. Richard Lake amounts to interference and/or gives rise to an obstruction. Mr. Richard Lake persuaded Mrs. Joan McDonald to make a false statement and to mislead the contractor General by making the false statement.”

If the OCG had published the report while Hanna was a government minister there would have been strong pressure for her to resign from the cabinet.

Then again the OCG has filed equally scathing reports against previous and current government ministers over alleged misuse of public funds and nothing happens. 

If Hanna had defeated Golding and was polling well against the government you can bet the JLP media machine would have flagged the OCGs report relentlessly to embarrass Hanna and pressure the DPP into action. 

National Political Asset or Liability?

Despite these marks against her, the PNP can ill afford to lose someone of Hanna’s star appeal. But remaining in South St Ann with such a slim majority and major tension was pointless and a way out by Hanna was inevitable. 

Maybe Hanna could have been parachuted into Peter Phillips’ seat given he stated from 2020 that he would retire from politics but is still there! Why?

Rightly or wrongly the PNP have developed a perception of not doing more to develop smartly the political careers of it younger promising  officials.. 

Something clearly went amiss in the development of Lisa Hanna’s political growth and that of colleagues Damion Crawford, Raymond Pryce, Krystal Tomlinson, Kari Douglas and Andre Haughton. 

As Hanna departs after 15 years as a MP I’d love her to disclose what were some of her proudest achievements as a MP, government minister and as opposition spokesperson for foreign affairs/trade. That’s how anyone can assess the effectiveness of Hanna’s stewardship as a parliamentarian.

I have heard Hanna speak proudly of the work she did to get UNESCO to add the John Crow Mountains to the World Heritage list.

I would say for someone of Lisa Hanna’s calibre and potential she has under achieved and that’s due to not being placed in positions that best suit her skills set and development on a national stage. Clearly her leadership of her constituency must be called in question.

But did Hanna push for more substantial portfolios under the 3 PNP leaders she served under? 

I found really found it strange that after losing to Golding that she settled back into the shadow foreign affairs role. 

What was the point Hanna (lower house) shadowing Johnson-Smith for 6 years when the latter was based in the upper house during all that time?

Is Hanna holding out for a safe PNP constituency for a comeback?

If Golding’s PNP performs dismally at the next local government election then the knives will be out for him to go and would make it easier for a Hanna to succeed.

Hanna has raised constantly via parliament and other platforms her frustrations to get government funding to improve a number of roads in her constituency.

Her perceived failure to get these road improvements completed has led to regular protests by her constituents. 

When news broke of Hanna’s intended departure from South East St Ann some constituents who spoke to the media were happy and blamed her for the lack of road improvements. 

But we  know in Jamaica when it comes to road improvements opposition MPs are at the back of the queue when it bids for such work ever since Public Works was disbanded 

The Lady and the Lake

So what next for Lisa?

For a few years now Hanna has carved out a career as a weekly columnist for the Sunday Observer and has written a few pieces for the British Guardian

Hanna’s Sunday column is interesting because it has given her the platform to reveal her views on a wide range of issues affecting Jamaica. A useful media platform for any elected parliamentarian seeking the highest office.

Hanna and Richard Lake are known to a take serious interest in the horse racing and logistics industries (Lyford Logistics Limited). 

The high profile businessman Lake has had a extensive career in real estate, construction, freight management, food, agriculture, hospitality and investment. The wider Lake family is the franchise owner of Popeye’s and Burger King outlets as part of Restaurant Associates Limited. 

For 3 decades Lake has owned Lakeland Farms which is a major player in the local racehorse breeding industry. 

So Hanna nuh short of money or other . But will Lake remain a key donor to the PNP?

Going before dem shoob her out.

Useful information

Hanna to miss Golding’s Swearing in ceremony – Flair November 2020

Cronyism claim – Lisa Hanna dodges charges but scolded for contract nepotism – Gleaner July 2020

OCG asks DPP to probe Lisa Hanna, St Ann councillors over contract awards – Gleaner November 2017

Hanna Calls for PNP Leadership Shakeup – Nationwide May 2016

Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains inscribed to UNESCO’s Prestigious World Heritage List – JIS 2015

Comrades divided in South East St Ann · Councillors desert Hanna’s constituency conference and mount protest – Gleaner July 2015

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Some Reflections of #Oregon22 (World Athletics) Going Forward

World athletics championship 2022 in Oregon was simply terrific.

There were so many outstanding performances by the athletes that it is impossible for me to even pick a top ten. There was the odd controversy such as the false starts and some overseas athletes faced last minute visa hurdles.

But some of the things I took away from the Oregon World Athletics Championship 2022 were

  1. 6 of the 8 women who lined up for 400m final came from the Caribbean with the eventual winner coming from Bahamas, runner up Dominican Republic and Sada Williams became the first Barbadian woman to win a medal (bronze) at the world championship. The Caribbean won 17 medals overall but surprisingly none from Cuba Many others performed admirably well for their respective island nation. Thus the Caribbean cemented itself as a powerhouse in track and field. It about time now the world outdoor championship is held in the Caribbean. Seb Coe (World Athletics president) is correct when he says that for Jamaica to host a world championship it has to build a new stadium.
  2. When Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won her first 100m world title in 2009 her prize money was $US60,000. When Fraser-Pryce won the 100m world title for the 5th time last week she received $US70,000. Scandalous. [First round prize money for the US tennis Singles Open in 2022 is $75,000 ($19,000 in 2009)] World Athletics must do better in the prize money stakes.
  3. On the last day of the world championship Tobi Amusan (Nigeria) stole the show when she broke the 100m hurdles world record in the semis and returned hours later to run a wind aided faster time to win the title. Amusan is trained by former Jamaican hurdler/jumper Lacena Golding-Clarke who has held a senior coaching role at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) for some time and now moving on to Auburn University. Golding-Clarke’s coaching achievement is a big step for the Jamaican female coaching fraternity.
  4. Qualifications for the world championship needs to be based on merit (top 16-32) and not restricted to 3 athletics per nationality. Seeing East African athletes running for non-African nations in order to just get a spot is archaic.
  5. If you followed the various US media platforms you would have hardly known that the world championship was happening in that country. This despite there being no NFL, NBA, NHL or EPL on show. US media (incl. ESPN) could care less about athletics and their coverage reflected it. NBC (rights holder) showed most of its coverage on their Peacock streaming platform. NBC did little to promote the sport ahead of the event and World Athletics must take some of the flak for that poor piece of planning and marketing. NBC’s commentary of the women’s 10000m final was embarrassing.
  6. Time for the world championship to be held on an annual basis (excl. Olympic year) and not biannual.
  7. The 2023 world championship will be held in Hungary in August. Given the numerous anti human rights stances taken by Hungary’s government led by PM Viktor Orban, will there be pressure by some western governments or human rights groups for athletes to boycott the 2023 world championship?
    1. Orban’s latest remarks “We [Hungarians] are not a mixed race … and we do not want to become a mixed race,” One of Orban’s own colleagues resigned in outrage describing Orban’s remarks as akin to Joseph Goebbels.
    1. Everything you need to know about human rights in Hungary

But if I am to pick one highlight from Oregon22 it would be  long jumper Malaika Mihambo’s (Germany) third jump to remain in the competition; a jump that took her into the lead and never looked back in retaining her title.

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Penny Drops for Sunak or Truss to Lead the Tories

Well it’s a Rishi Sunak vs Liz Truss face off for the Tory leadership.

Penny Mordaunt, the candidate I had picked to challenge Sunak in the final 2 for Tory members to decide, fell at the last big hurdle. But my choice of Penny was naively based on the premise that the race to succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister would be fair and above board.

But in the 4 decades I have followed UK political leadership races I have never seen a candidate such as Mordaunt so smeared by her own at every turn. Mordaunt faced the barrage of attacks and character assassination by their own MPs and most of the Conservative leaning media as well the BBC.

The biggest winners of this final 2 is the Labour Party and Scottish National Party (SNP) for different reasons.

Off all the Tory candidates Mordaunt was one person the Labour Party feared because of her crossover appeal in key marginal areas and in London.

With either PM Sunak or Truss the SNP will feel empowered of success with another push for independence from the United Kingdom.

But I don’t feel Mordaunt will be gone for long as if (as some pundits expect) either PM Truss or Sunak get well behind Labour in the polls then their Tory MPs will not hesitate to dump then.

As one Tory supporting friend of mine said “they’ve cocked up really bad this time”

But the smears on Mordaunt by her own was similar to the smear attacks that the Tory media had done to Jeremy Corbyn (former Labour leader) and Nicola Sturgeon (SNP leader). But this latest onslaught was just on another level as brilliantly explained below

  1. Attacks on Penny Mordaunt are fresh evidence of Tory Islamophobia – Peter Oborne, Middle East Eye
  2. Press attacks take toll as Penny Mordaunt misses out in PM race – Jim Waterson and Jessica Elgot, Guardian
  3. ‘The establishment have won’: Iain Dale’s attack on media ‘stitch-up’ in Tory campaign – LBC

Sunak vs Truss – Tories gift to Labour

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Boris Bows Out: All in for Penny to stop Rishi?

Boris Johnson is finally is leaving 10 Downing Street after 3 turbulent bizarre years.

Given the chaos, that he orchestrated Boris’ tenure as British prime minister seemed more like 5 years. Yet Boris should not have even lasted 3 months.

In the end Boris’ downfall was over his poor handling of assault  allegations against his colleague Chris Pincher which upset some senior members of the Conservative Party.

But no one can be surprised by Boris’ misleading reaction of the Pincher incident(s) given that when he was first appointed prime minister in 2019 Boris ended an investigation into Tory MP Mark Field’s manhandling of a female Greenpeace activist.

  • “Boris Johnson drops investigation into MP who manhandled protester says inquiry into Mark Field’s conduct was a matter for the previous PM” Guardian, 2019

Boris is the worst UK prime minister in my life time. I drew the same conclusion of his predecessor Theresa May in 2019. But we all knew a PM Boris surpass May given his disastrous time as foreign secretary.

His supporters championed Boris as the man that got Brexit done yet the way he went about was conniving and sticking two fingers at the constitution. Actions that should have had Boris removed from office.

  • 50 of Boris Johnson’s scandals – Daily Record
  • Scandal after scandal: timeline of Tory sleaze under Boris Johnson – The Guardian

If Jeremy Corbyn had done 1/1000th of the bad practices that Boris committed or enabled then the former Labour Party leader would have been stripped of his nationality.

One of the British right wing media’s regular smears against then-leader Corbyn was that he previously had links a former Eastern European spy network.

Yet last week at parliament’s liaison committee meeting Boris languidly informed his inquisitors that when he was foreign minister (2016-2018), he had met up with a  KGB spy/Russian oligarch, Alexander Lebedev, in Italy without any of his aides in attendance.

No wonder one of Boris’ advisors sitting behind him at the committee hearing slipped him a note to “shush”.

Boris – Self Centred

All Boris cared about was winning big elections and being centre stage. Cheerleading over detail.

Boris was Donald Trump before Donald Trump in the political arena. What does that say about British politics?

The minute he first became MP in 2001 Boris Johnson was already a popular figure in media land you just knew this new MP gig was a stepping stone to becoming prime minister. He smartly used his larger than life persona in the media to carve out a modern-day Terry Thomas-type character.

Johnson’s many friends and close acquaintances in the media all did their role to position Boris first as mayor of London and some covered up for his incompetence and lazy stewardship of both the foreign office and Downing Street.

But the PM version of Boris revealed incompetence that was so overwhelming that his supporters in the media and government just ran out of plasters to prop up his endless controversies.

It was funny to observe some of Boris allies in the media being apoplectic over his fall from grace.

Boris has received praise for his support of Ukraine in their war with Russian. Yet even then the PR bliss of Boris was at hand.

When Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) visited Ukraine on the 8th April I turned to a friend and said Boris will be in the Ukraine then next day (which he did). Knowing Boris-the-PR he would have been livid that of all people that someone from the EU had beaten him to a visit there.

Boris the Diverse

Credit to Boris for bringing in a diverse cabinet where people of all shades held some of the big offices of government.

Despite this achievement of a very diverse cabinet issues such as the Rwandan policy and the continued delays of Windrush compensation payments left a bitter taste in many including some current Tory MPs.

Now who will that next leader be?

Of the Tory names being banded-about I will narrow the strong contenders down to these names: Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Tom Tugenhat, Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak, Nadhim Zahawi, Anne-Marie  Trevelyan and – who I think will win – Penny Mordaunt.

  • Rishi Sunak (former Chancellor of the Exchequer) seems the clear  favourite. He’s enjoyed the highest profile so far. But history tell us that former chancellors rarely become prime minister or if they do, are effective in the role. The Boris camp feel a sense of betrayal from Sunak and the hard BREXIT/tax cutting wing of the party will go all in to clip his chances.
  • Nadhim Zahawi is facing some heat for turning on Boris a day after being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. No surprise to see media stories over the weekend about Zahawi’s businesses  –
    • Revealed: officials raised ‘flag’ over Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs before he was appointed chancellor (which he denies).
  • Sajid Javid is interesting given he contested the previous leadership race. But you have to wonder if he & Sunak have done a deal if only one of them gets into the final 2.
  • Tom Tugendhat came to public prominence last year after a moving speech in parliament over the bungled US-led evacuation of Afghanistan. Effective on the back benches and in the committee rooms and is a clean break from the other candidates who have served in ministerial roles under Boris. If he loses with a decent number of votes then could be the next foreign secretary.
  • Kemi Badenoch effective and has taken on the left head-on over equality issues much to the delight of the Tory right. One of the clearest Thatcherites in the race.
  • The colourful Grant Shapps is an excellent communicator. A long shot.

At the start of the year, I wrote that Penny Mordaunt was the person to watch this year in British politics as I could not see Boris the PM surviving the whole OF 2022. Then again I thought she would have jumped into previous leadership races going back to 2016.

I know Trevor Kavanaugh, the influential former Sun political editor, has played down Mordaunt’s chances but I disagree. If Mordaunt is in the final 2 and it goes to a vote amongst the Tory members then her chances would be strong given her journey.

Mordaunt brought back a degree of calm to the International Development portfolio after it was left in tatters by her predecessor Priti Patel.

What is also in Mordaunt’s favour is that she was a strong Vote Leave (from EU) long before even Boris was ever one.  Mordaunt has been one of the few Tory ministers to constantly wipe the floor of her opponents across the dispatch box in parliament.

After being appointed defence secretary by (outgoing prime minister) Theresa May in 2019, Mordaunt was sacked months later by new PM  Boris not of any incompetence but out of fear and some revenge. The last thing Boris wanted at the time was a smart street fighting Tory female politician who could outshine him.

But that sacking and eventual postings to junior ministerial roles did Mordaunt a favour as she was not close to the carnage of the cabinet.

But that launch video from Mordaunt was a blunder, so 1980s and unnecessary. Some of Mordaunt’s backers has stated – with a str8 face – that she is the one to unite the country. No candidate can unite the Tory Party much less the country. Unless they exclude Scotland.

Interestingly, Mordaunt’s current boss at the trade ministry – Anne-Marie Trevelyan – is backing Tugenhat.

As for Jeremy Hunt you get the sense that his time has come and went.

I’ll let others write about the slim chances of Suella Braverman and Liz Truss although the latter has been positioning herself for the role for quite some time.          

The Tory leadership race can be brutal for contenders. Just a couple of slip ups by any candidate and they’re history.  

I would narrow the final 4 down to Tugenhat, Sunak, Truss and Mordaunt then its:

Sunak vs Mordaunt

What Next  for Boris?

Boris intends to stay on until the next Tory leader is chosen, shredders are doing overtime in Downing Street – visitor logs gone!

If Boris decided to stay on as MP then revenge against his former cabinet colleagues is guaranteed.

Boris will get his own guest radio show either on LBC or the Rupert Murdoch speech radio platforms. Will be in demand on the US & UK chat shows.

Labour Stall

Given chaos in the Tory Party the Labour Party should have been double digits ahead in the opinion polls today.

If Mordaunt wins then Labour leader Keir Starmer will have a big problem at the dispatch box.

But a PM Mordaunt will have to watch her back from the plots from her own side.

So bye Boris for now. Thanks for the birthday present.

September 5th; the crates maybe in
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Johnson & Johnson-Smith loss to Baroness Scotland is a Win for Common Sense

Baroness Patricia Scotland retained her position as the Commonwealth Secretary General (CSG) after she fought off a Boris Johnson-led smear-fest mission to unseat her.

Scotland defeated her Boris-backed opponent Kamina Johnson-Smith (Jamaica’s foreign minister) by 27 votes to 24 in an ill-tempered campaign with the election held in Kigali, Rwanda that literally divided the 54 member nations of the Commonwealth right down the middle.

In the lead up to the vote by the 54 member nations it was stunning to see how elements of the Commonwealth media were used by number 10 Downing Street to discredit Scotland in the most heinous manner. Duplicitous acts that continued right up to the day of the vote.

This CSG vote was unnecessary given Scotland had just two more years to serve out her 2nd & final term. But Boris Johnson was hell bent on publicly humiliating Scotland.

Boris has long had tensions over Scotland going back to his time as Mayor of London when he was dismissive of  then British Labour government’s criminal justice team of which Scotland was the Attorney General amongst other ministerial positions.

For one critical reason, Scotland (Labour Party grandee) is not a BREXITER and this would made it impossible for her to gain any backing as CSG from a Boris-led Conversative government; unlike David Cameron – his former friend – who as PM in 2015 pushed Baroness Scotland’s case to be the CSG.

The only type of Labour Party politicians that Boris has appointed to serious positions of authority in his government were those who were pro-BREXIT such as Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston (appointed First Civil Service Commissioner in March 2022) and Baroness Kate Hoey (Trade Envoy to Ghana in August 2021)

The fact that the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party administration was happy to appease Boris Johnson’s just shows how little they know or care about the background of the creeping public humiliation of Scotland.

Plastic Smiles: Scotland vs Johnson-Smith

Part of the Jamaican media’s disturbing treatment of Baroness Scotland was as if she was not in Johnson-Smith’s class career-wise when in fact it is Scotland who has had a more illustrious career from the minute she left her home of Walthamstow, East London and was called to the Bar in 1977 at the age of 21. Not to mention Scotland’s numerous siblings who ended up having stellar careers either in the medical or scientific field. For a black family then to reach such heights in London was a big deal.

But just as in her early years when appointed baroness to the House of Lords there has been smirks and snide remarks regarding Scotland’s ennobled title. In those days and even today some of her critics did not even know that Scotland was her surname.

Only last week a Jamaican radio host was poo-pooing Scotland’s Baroness title without any explanation as to why Patricia Scotland acquired the title.

[When the Labour Party defeated the 18-year Conservative government in the 1997 general election, Tony Blair – then prime minister – had so few Labour members in the House of Lords (parliament’s upper house ) to ensure his legislative agenda would get the desired votes. Blair had to stack the House of Lords with new members who would support his agenda including Patricia Scotland who by then was a respectable legal mind.]

In recent weeks, elements of the media in Jamaica, the UK and Australia had already written off Scotland’s chances of continuing beyond June 2022.

The Holness administration seemed so confident of victory that a raft of government minsters, civil servants and media personnel joined Holness and Johnson-Smith on the trip to Rwanda for the Commonwealth heads of government conference.

If the media and Johnson-Smith supporters thought Scotland was not going to put up a fierce defense then they do not understand the latter’s tough upbringing, especially her early days in Walthamstow, then one of the most racist areas of London.

Scotland was up against a relentless Downing Street-led smear machine and she won. Some achievement.

Some of the supporters of the Johnson-Smith campaign accused any Jamaican detractors of disloyalty and envy (bad mind) but that is so far from the reality.

This is no anti-Johnson-Smith or some pro Baroness Scotland view on my part.  It is the poor judgement by Holness inc. in doing the dirty work of a British government led by Boris Johnson that was my beef.

I was proud to see Esmond Reid – a former classmate of 5 years in high school – as the Jamaica’s most senior diplomat on the African continent and accompanying  Johnson-Smith. But I just disagree with this particular flawed diplomatic endeavour.

Those “detractors” have witnessed what a dishonourable government the Johnson’s administration has been towards black immigrants and the idea of Jamaica standing by Boris was going to amplify strong emotions.

Given the resources and time spent this result was a humiliation for both the Holness and Johnson administrations. Both administrations can deny all they like that Johnson-Smith was not a proxy. But British scholars and enthusiasts will confirm the proxy claims whenever they gain access to the relevant documents from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office under the the Freedom of Information Act or later on from the National Archives.

The outcome was also a big win for Mia Mottley (prime minister of Barbados) who came out stridently to back Scotland.

The Scotland vs Johnson-Smith race was unnecessary and the Jamaican government must learn to read the international political room more astutely. Jamaican administrations for too long has allowed itself to be poorly treated by Downing Street which for decades has shown for a deep disdain for Jamaica.

Bad enough the Holness administration was taken for a ride by Donald Trump (Venezuelan oil deal) but Boris Johnson?  Not even 160 of Boris Johnson’s fellow MPs in the Tory Party (including some ministers) have any confidence in him.

Politically, Holness owes Johnson-Smith big time for taking on this gambit; so expect some major appointment/ reward that is beneficial to her liking.

Since I first came across Boris Johnson in the late 1990s  – both in London government and media circles – he has managed to always defy convention and get his own way.

As a public figure Boris has consistently shown a disregard for the rule of law, institutions, race, protocol, international agreements, British constitution and human decency. But Boris saunters through thanks chiefly to huge support  he gets from his friends in the British media. Many of these journos have spent stints working with Boris at Downing Street acting as his protective shield.

Thus it was no real surprise that Boris ignored a long held agreement that the Baroness Scotland’s successor would come from Africa and went all in for Johnson-Smith.

Only last week journalist Simon Walters wrote in the UK Times of how Boris – when he was Foreign Secretary – tried to get employment for his girlfriend (now wife) Carrie Johnson. The Number 10 media machine went into over drive and forced the Times pulled the article from its website and there the story died in media land  despite the severity of the claims made by Walters who stands by his report.

So just think, Boris Johnson – a journalist & politician –forced a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch to pull a story and there was no outrage in the wider (mostly conservative ) media circles of government interference. That’s British media hypocrisy on stealth who love to lecture other nations about press freedoms.

So this victory against Boris Johnson by Baroness Patricia Scotland is big. Very rarely does Boris lose such a political fight when he has the media doing his bidding.I do hope the other Labour Party learn from this; the British Labour Party that is.

But when it comes down to it the whole concept of the Commonwealth it is one big joke.

Of the 54 members just over 30 heads of government chose to attend last week’s conference in Rwanda but leaders from the likes of Australia and New Zealand chose to be elsewhere.

Draw Bad Card: Scotland chins Boris
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Fraser-Pryce vs Thompson-Herah 2022: A Trilogy Missed Ahead of Worlds

By ducking facing each other at the recent Pre Fontaine Classic athletics meet in Oregon, US, track sprint legends and arch rival Elaine Thompson-Herah & Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce missed a chance to enhance their rivalry and boost their financial coffers. 

Fraser-Pryce has long hinted that she will not go head-to-head with Thompson-Herah in the 100 metres  until the world championship in July at Oregon. As defending champion Shelly has a wildcard to the world championship and Elaine is a certainty to qualify from the 100 metres at Jamaica’s national trials later this month.

Sadly, the athletics bosses are also losing a golden chance to create crossover appeal by not allowing this rivalry to develop over the season. It does not make any business or sporting sense for top sprinters to avoid each other for just a couple of races each outdoor season.

I don’t blame either of these great Jamaican sporting giants for this ducking move but I do slam World Athletics and its boss Seb Coe (and his predecessors) for allowing their top runners from facing one other in the build up to any major global championship.

No such drama in the field events though where competition amongst the athletes is fierce and constant.

In the lead up to the recent Pre-Fontaine gig there was little publicity in the US mainstream media. The meet had zero traction in the US even though arguably it’s 2 greatest female sprinters were on show but in separate races. 

Maybe there would have been some level of publicity beyond athletics media circles if both Shelly and Elaine were facing each other.

The meet was overshadowed on the day by Europe’s Champion League football final which was also shown live on CBS in the US around the same time. Thus the Pre-Fontaine meet came and went with little fanfare.

Athletics suits needs to understand that sustained rivalries are important for the sport to thrive in today’s very competitive sporting world. Sprinting is the linchpin of athletics.

The rivals-avoiding-each-other-trick in athletics goes back to the 1970s/80s when both Coe and Steve Ovett played hide and seek with each other in the middle-distance races. All Ovett &  Coe did was race against the clock to break world records without facing each other.

Even then it did not do the sport any favours as by the time those two guys got round to actually facing each other at a major championship – post 1983 – injuries or poor form were the victors.

In today’s packed sporting environment how can you have a sport such as athletics where it’s biggest rivalry (Elaine & Shelly) could only face each other for just less than 10.7 seconds in 2022?

The same track-avoidance-scheme is currently happening in both the men’s and women’s 400m hurdles.

Yes, both hurdle disciplines has delivered astonishing races at the last two global major championship, but it is a waste not having these rivalries across the outdoor track season.

Just imagine if this superb 400 hurdling trio – Sydney McLaughlin, Femke Bol & Dalilah Muhammad – were lining up at Zurich, Tokyo, London and Oregon in 2022?

We have never seen such great running at the distance by 3 women at the same period. But again a chance is been missed in allowing the trio to avoid one another.

World Athletics should have had at least 5 marquee well financed meets each year so that such rivals have to face each other outside from the major championships.

That’s why I have long been a fan of the world championship being held every year (excl. Olympic year) and participation is based on seedings/points accumulated. 

I’d get rid of the wildcard ticket (for defending champions or Diamond League overall  winners) for the world championship as some top athletes are just milking their advantaged to use the track season as fillers and time trials.

Coe is an administrator and former politician but he lacks the ringmaster/marketing skill set to generate interest beyond the core fans. 

The sport needs somebody at the top who knows how to transform the sport for greater income, competitiveness and media exposure. That person does not necessarily have to be a former athlete which is part of the problem now leading to conflicts of interest at the admin level.

Athletics need a ringmaster similar to EPL’s Richard Scudamore or F1s Bernie Ecclestone’s way of commercial thinking. I’d love to see what boxing promotor Eddie Hearn could do with jazzing up athletics.

In the 1980s/90s, Eddie’s dad (Barry Hearn) transformed professional darts, snooker and British boxing into high profile and lucrative products. In 2016, the men’s world snooker final held in England was watched in China by 210 million viewers. Yes, a compatriot of theirs was in the final but it was due to Barry Hearn’s ingenious leadership that China developed a real interest in snooker.

Back in Coe’s running days, athletics was arguably a more globally popular sport than NBA, NFL, international cricket, professional tennis, football, Formula 1 racing and MMA didn’t even exist.

There was a long time in the US and when the coverage of athletics easily out did the English Premier League.

Today, athletics has fallen way down the pecking order. It’s as if World Athletics continues to misjudge the potential value of their star rivalries that would be the envy of some other sports.

Despite her longevity of success in the sport Fraser-Pryce’s net worth from prize money/appearances is said to be around $US4+ million (who really knows?). Something must wrong be with athletics when Dutch darts star Michael van Gerwen’s net worth is said to be $US6 million. 

In top professional sports the main goal for any of the more successful participants is to ensure they are remunerated properly; in other words “get your money”. I feel both Shelly and Elaine do deserve bigger bucks if they faced each other more often. Agents and promoters get it together

Both Jamaicans have been running superbly over the 100 metres for the past 12 months but for me I am more intrigued when they race each other rather than the times they race elsewhere.

Surely with the right commercial direction the potential for Elaine and Shelly to make such millions (incl. appearance fees) and attract interest beyond core fans is there. If only these two superstars raced each other 4 times across the globe (London, Oregon, Paris and Kingston culminating in the outdoor world championships. Then the athletics world would be the winner.

I know they say less is more. But in a trouble sport such as athletics less rivalry means a lot of dull races acting as fillers whenever the main protagonists stay away from each other.

A blockbuster trilogy into Oregon 2022 certainly missed for 2 giants of today’s athletics.

Money Talks
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Is Boris Proxying Jamaica to force out Baroness Scotland?

It must come as no real surprise to witness a Jamaican government acting as a willing pawn in the UK government’s plans at elevating domestic partisan politicking to create a Commonwealth incident such as the besmirching of Baroness Scotland .

In pushing Kamina Johnson-Smith (Jamaica’s foreign minister) forward to challenge incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General (CSG) the Jamaican government seems proud at acting as – UK Conservative Party PM – Boris Johnson’s trojan horse to discredit Baroness Scotland, a former British Labour Party government minister.

Baroness Scotland has been CSG at the Commonwealth Secretariat since 2016 and she is the 6th person to hold the 4-year post which in recent decades is traditionally renewable once, unopposed.

Boris is backed in his mission to depose Baroness Scotland by the usual alliance of head of governments in Australia and Canada whose own current tenure in power have all been tangled by claims of corruption and bullying of the extreme kind.

The pressure to remove Baroness Scotland is said to stem from a number of concerns over her stewardship of the Commonwealth Secretariat such as poor leadership and spending breaches. Her job was on shakier ground following a 2020 KPMG report on that London based organisation.

Baroness Scotland also faced criticism by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s internal audit committee for awarding a contract to her friend Lord Patel valued at roughly £250,000.

The blatant public shaming of Baroness Scotland in this manner has Boris’ filthy political fingerprints all over it. The willingness of some Caribbean and African nations to join in with this public humiliation of her is lamentable.

What is heart of the saga is that Baroness Scotland’s Labour Party affiliation and this is driving Boris and his hardline conservative leaning allies nuts.

What has added to the co-ordinated negative media reporting against Baroness Scotland is that she had taken her role of CSG seriously and given voice to some of the smaller nations within the Commonwealth. She has also pushed for much needed internal reforms and faced resistance within an archaic institution such as the Commonwealth Secretariat. Just as it did 2 decades ago when others tried to introduce serious benchmarking and good practice techniques.

[“Because there are so many entrenched vested interests (at Commonweath Secretariat). And they will be out to get anyone who is serious about reform.” – 2017, former Tory Cabinet minister, Andrew Mitchell.]

Johnson, Morrison and Trudeau (Tricky Trio)

The current prime ministers of the UK (Boris), Australia (Scott Morrison) and Canada (Justin Trudeau) are the last people to lecture Baroness Scotland on good governance and bad practices.

  • Boris Johnson’s time as a government minister, Mayor of London and prime minister has been so dogged by claims of corruption, as well as bullying, smearing political enemies, bending the constitution and law breaking.
  • Scott Morrison was recently described by one of his own senators in Concetta Fierravanti-Wells  as an “autocrat [and] a bully who has no moral compass”.
  • Morrison has publicly attacked the anti-corruption government body in the New South Wales (NSW) known as Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for its investigation into one of his senior Liberal party allies – Gladys Berejiklian – who had to resign as premier of NSW over strong allegations of corruption and conflicts of interests
    • “A corruption hearing has heard former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian telling her secret MP boyfriend Daryl Maguire that a public servant’s “head would be gone” but only after he “fixed” a grant proposal in his electorate.”
    • Legal experts condemn Scott Morrison’s continuing attacks on ICAC as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘stupid’
  • Then there is Trudeau whose premiership has been mired by corruption, from holidaying on the Aga Khan’s private island to the SNC-Lavalin scandal. That latter scandal stemmed from Trudeau’s attempts to interfere in a corruption case. Trudeau eventually removed his own justice minister and attorney general (Jody Wilson-Raybould) for standing up to his interference. Wilson-Raybould was kicked out of Trudeau’s Liberal Party even though an ethics report did confirm that the PM broke conflict of interest rules

Trudeau broke rules in SNC-Lavalin affair, says ethics tsar – BBC  

Worth noting the rush by the Boris to reveal damaging findings on Baroness Scotland unlike his refusal to publish the full report of bullying by his Home Secretary – Priti Patel – at the Home Office.  Even when Alex Allan (Standards chief and brilliant former UK civil servant) found that Patel had broken the code over ministerial behaviour Boris backed his Home Secretary. Allan resigned over Boris’ decision.

Baroness the Brave?

The playing of the patriotic card to back Johnson-Smith by some in the Jamaican media shows a level of ignorance, short sightedness and bias by many who have become subservient echo-chamber-pots for Boris.

Where Baroness Scotland has come from in her early days in then racist village of Walthamstow, East London to reach where she has today is nothing short of stunning. Yet I feel at critical stages of her career in public office she has faced smirks and undermined by too many envious influential figures. I saw that for myself during her time as a Home Office minister.

During her time at the Commonwealth Secretariat there have been moments when Baroness Scotland may not have covered herself in glory.

  • “Commonwealth (Ojiambo) deputy wins compensation for dismissal” – BBC
  • “A senior civil servant (Venuprasad), who was subjected to an aggressive press campaign to damage his reputation, has won his employment claim against the Commonwealth Secretariat” – Leigh Day

One of the issues I have long had about Baroness Scotland since she became a public figure in British politics in the 2000s is her low media profile and rarely does media interviews especially tough ones.

In the aftermath of the KPMG report, internal audit findings and negative media briefings, Baroness Scotland should seized this opportunity to raise her profile and challenge the accuracy of these claims. Prior to her appointment as CSG the position was such a toothless role at Britain’s beckon call. Why now Boris?

Baroness Scotland should have opened herself to media scrutiny not just in the UK but also across the media houses of the Commonwealth nations that have become some of her harshest critics i.e. Canada, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, India & indeed Jamaica.

Baroness should have publicly questioned the cost of the KPMG report, demanded that KPMG report be published in full to the public along with her written response to each claim.

It is worth noting from media reports that some of the procurement breaches highlighted at the Commonwealth Secretariat occurred prior to Baroness Scotland’s appointment.

Boris Rules?

The four key pillars of the Commonwealth – UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada – always stick together on such inter-governmental issues. India is now a big player too. Indian government’s decision to join the anti Baroness Scotland camp is not surprising given the tribunal of Venuprasad did get decent coverage in the Indian press.

British government’s decision to suspend funding of the Commonwealth Secretariat (£4.7m per year) was no surprise. Boris’ is not a fan of funding such inter governmental organisation unless he has full control and he has taken a leaf out his hero’s (Donald Trump) book who had a habit of withdrawing funding from international groups if he did not get his own way.

The UK political right wingers have zero time for the Commonwealth unless they have absolute control.

One of first decisions Boris did when he became PM was to get rid of the Department of International Development.

  • “Patricia Scotland has been given a tough time, unwarranted and undeserved,” “You expect it to be difficult when reforming something like the Commonwealth secretariat, but she has received a barrel load of prejudice and backstabbing. She will see it through, though.” Peter Mandelson (former UK Labour Party government minister)  in 2017
  • “#Commonwealth gets a strong new Secretary General in Baroness Scotland. I back her reform efforts. Many global challenges ahead. #CHOGM2015” – Phillip Hammond, then British Foreign Secretary, November 2015 whose role included oversight of the Commonwealth.

Who was Hammond’s successor in 2016?

Boris Johnson.…. who in 2002 wrote in the Daily Telegraph “The Queen loves the Commonwealth… “partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.”

In 2016, Boris (then foreign secretary) did not even know that a Commonwealth flag existed when answering questions from the UK parliament select committee.

The general consensus was that Boris Johnson’s performance at the Foreign Office (2016-18) was the worse in living memory.

Despite the harm to Scotland’s reputation over the Lord Patel deal, the same cannot be said of the noble Lord himself. He has – with the backing of the Boris government – pitched up as the new chair of Yorkshire County Cricket Club following the racism scandals that has engulfed that vaunted organisation.

What Next for Scotland?

In the end this Baroness Scotland affair is all about a duplicitous British conservative prime minister trying to remove a CSG whose political ideology is out of synch with his own. It is also an attempt at blocking her attempts at making the Commonwealth Secretariat relevant for all 54 member nations and not the usual handful. 

Yes, there have been questionable concerns over her time there but this plot by Boris is just bias politicking.

It’s not as if the Baroness has tried to change the how misconduct investigations of MPs are done, or cover for endless scandals by a UK health cabinet minister, or allow Tory donors to covertly pay the cost £60k  of a flat refurbishment or holidaying in Mustique, or host illegal parties during lockdown and pinnochioing about it or unlawfully porouging parliament to suit his BREXIT agenda. But that’s just a smidgen of the scandals that has been the hallmark of Boris the PM.

The “crimes” of Baroness Scotland are minor when compared to the scandals of her accusers. If the same claims used against the Baroness were applied to her political accusers then none of them would be in office. Not even the Jamaican prime minister.

Shame on those Caribbean and African nations who have fallen for this treacherous move by Boris. The Jamaican media and public sector trying to use Johnson-Smith candidacy as some positive step for so-called brand Jamaica is equally laughable and embarrassing.

The short sightedness of the current Jamaican administration to back Boris is so reminiscent of when in 2019 they ripped up their oil deal with the Venezuela government to backed the moronic antics of then US president Donald Trump.

The current global economic crisis now means the Jamaican govt is having to scurry around to secure oil deals whilst the Trump’s successor -Joe Biden’s administration – is in talks with Venezuela to cover for the oil short fall from following recent sanctions against Russian oil.

If Boris does get his way and removes Baroness Scotland it would confirm that – despite independence and recent bruhaha by some members nations to remove Queen Elizabeth as its head of state – when it comes to the Commonwealth, London will forever call the shots.

No matter how repugnant the holder of the keys to 10 Downing Street is.

Baroness Patricia Scotland – One of Eastern Caribbean/East London’s finest

Notes

Baroness Scotland: UK suspends funding to Commonwealth Secretariat

Baroness Scotland criticised for awarding contract to friend’s firm – BBC

Stay or go? Baroness Scotland asked to explain as Commonwealth scandal grows – Sydney Morning Herald

Boris Johnson’s 50 lies, gaffes and scandals as PM’s future hangs in the balance – Daily Mirror

Scandals and sackings: why critics say Boris Johnson is not fit to be PM – The Guardian

Romford MP Andrew Rosindell stumps Boris Johnson with Commonwealth Flag question

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Fortnight of Old Harbour Stories in Media Land

It has been a newsy 2 weeks for the Jamaican St Catherine town of Old Harbour for an array of mostly positive reasons.

Negatively, there was a murder on Marlie Avenue, some kind of execution, not far from the new swanky constituency offices of MP Everald Warmington. The residents heard a barrage of gun shots at around 7.40pm and found the dead body of a man who was not from the area.

Days earlier the new local fire station (photo below) had its official opening back at its original home on South Street. It’s been a long time coming and the wider community is relieved at this development.

Old Harbour Fire Station

Last week, a news report by Dwayne Anderson (TVJ news) featured discussions with local business and community leaders in Old Harbour about the poor planning and development of the area. They spoke about decades of traffic congestion in the area and lack of proper infrastructure planning by local and central government officials to match the growth in housing and population. 

Anderson spoke to Adrian Samuda, owner of the popular restaurant Kaluga restaurant and also Andrew Hancel, CEO and founder of the essential Old Harbour News magazine.

These endless housing developments in the community has never been closely matched by the appropriate levels of investment needed for its infrastructure. The poor facilities such as limited sidewalks/parking and poorly designed shopping plazas means many of those who migrate to reside in Old Harbour do most of their shopping elsewhere thus harming the local economy.

[When the first housing development was set up in Marlie Gardens in the late 1960s, Old Harbour had 1 high school (built to accommodate 700ish students). 50 + years later and with tens of thousands of homes built since then, Old Harbour still has the 1 high school]

Anderson’s report also covered government plans for a new public health clinic/tier 5 hospital which is also long overdue and promised since the 1980s. The current clinic on the above mentioned Marlie Avenue is an embarrassment and an eyesore. Patients having to sit outside on the sidewalks (no shelter) for hours waiting for their names to be called is just wickedness.

In the 1970s many of us in the area found it bizarre that just 50 metres from that  public health clinic was a pipe machine factory (now closed) over run with asbestos dust some of which was dumped casually all over the immediate area.

The new public health clinic will be constructed on the grounds behind the local post office leading on to Walkers Road and close to the new fire station. Now that post office structure needs serious upgrading too as does the local library.

Today the grounds behind the post office is occupied by residents who have resided there for decades (some illegally) and will be served eviction notices by the government.

Last Sunday evening Old Harbour was featured 3 times in a 90 minutes period on TVJ.

  1. The Business Review (TVJ news) focused on Princess Richards, a young entrepreneur developing her catering business within the community. The report was filed by Javaughan Keyes of TVJ/RJR.
  2. The popular weekly interview show, Profile, showcased Dr Rohan McCalla who grew up in Old Harbour. McCalla talked about his school days (Claremont Basic, Old Harbour Primary, St Catherine High) and his time at UTECH etc. McCalla completed his PhD studies -correct me if I’m wrong- on education psychology and is a senior HR executive at the utility regulator – O.U.R (Office of Utilities Regulation). It was a strange interview though as McCalla did not mention a single specific name of those who assisted on his career journey. Maybe the names were edited out of the final cut of the show. McCalla was also interviewed earlier in the week on TVJ’s breakfast show Smile Jamaica
  3. A commercial ad about the vocational HEART NSTA Academy featured comments from a plumbing student from the Old Harbour campus.

The Jamaica Observer on Tuesday highlighted an article on leadership featuring Cheriese Walcott, CEO and commissioner of lands at the National Land Agency.

“Walcott grew up in Lionel Town, Clarendon, then moved to Old Harbour with her parents in order to complete secondary education at Clarendon College.”

3 May was World Veterinary Day and The Gleaner carried a message from Dr Osbil Watson, the government’s chief veterinary officer, who resides in Old Harbour. During a media presentation Denzil Miller, race secretary, at Caymanas Park sang the praises of Dr Wintorph Marsden, senior veterinary officer, for the sterling work he has done to support the horse racing industry. Marsden is also from Old Harbour.

How can I forget, local cricketer Rovman Powell who is developing a big hitting reputation in this season’s Indian Premier League for the Delhi Capitals. While Powell’s Jamaican team mate Andre Russell – who owns a restaurant (Russell’s T20) in Old Harbour – is still swinging hard for his under performing KKR team.

Old Harbour has its challenges and has been stifled by poor planning & development as well as violent organised crime and high unemployment.

Despite those pressures of violent crime, the above stories proves that Old Harbour continues to nurture Jamaicans who go on to make a transformational impact on societies both at home and abroad. 

[Congrats to the fastest man alive and his better half on the christening of their children at a local  church in Old Harbour over the weekend when local athletic fans were focused on the Penn Relays in the US. His partner is from Old Harbour and part of the great man’s ancestry is rooted 2ish miles away at Davis District.]

The local primary school at Davis, Bannister, Old Harbour includes former alumnis Adrian Samuda, Rovman Powell and Javaughan Keyes.

Davis Primary and Infant School - Home | Facebook

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CARIFTA Games 2022 Delivered But Needs a Refresh

The recent 3-day CARIFTA Games  was concluded in Kingston, Jamaica and was a tremendous occasion for both the athletes and the exuberant spectators in the stands.

The fans in the National Stadium were just epic in their support for the junior athletics on show which was appreciated by both local and other Caribbean athletes who competed.

There were many colossal performances from the athletes, with the junior world record set by the Jamaican girls under-20 team in the 4 x 100m relay being most people’s defining moment of the Games. Just stunning.

As usual, Jamaica came out on top of the medal table and that winning streak goes back to the mid-1980s. In fact, since the CARFITA Games began in 1974 Jamaica has finish top all but 5 of the years.

Given the investment made at the junior level in Jamaican athletics it is no surprise at the island’s sustained success compared to the other Caribbean islands at this regional event. Population also plays a part given there are some high schools in Jamaica who have more kids in attendance than the entire island of some of the other participating nations.

Despite the perceived success of the CARIFTA Games just like any sport the event needs fresh thinking.

Just like any long standing sporting event the CARIFTA Games needs a injection of participants to attract greater coverage, more competition and increased revenue streams from within and beyond the shores of the Caribbean.

For one thing the CARIFTA Games organizing body should lobby hard for the participation of the larger non-English speaking Caribbean nations such as Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti.

But I would go even further to make CARIFTA Games a more global attraction and invite one, maybe 2, guest nations from other continents.

Just imagine the interest and revenue stream if the CARIFTA Games hosted the top juniors from Qatar one year, then South Africa the following year followed by Japan, Brazil, England and so on?

The CARFITA Games is largely considered as one of the most successful development events in all of sports. It’s success at being a critical launch pad for future sporting stars is part of its ongoing appeal.

The fan expectations from last week’s CARIFTA Games means that the likes of Brianna Lyston, Tia and Tina Clayton, Serena Cole (Jamaica’s sprint relay world record quartet) and Adaejah Hodge (British Virgin Islands) are considered favorites to reach the pinnacle of athletics whenever they step onto the senior stage.

The Caribbean is a powerhouse in athletics today and adding more nations to a major junior event such as the CARIFTA Games will just keep the region’s dominance on a sound footing. And boost the local coffers as well.

CARFITA Games 2022 is one event many who witnessed it will never forget. It delivered and set a platform for what is to come from those who had competed.

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