The Ashes Delivered, Windies Crushed by Visitors & Gower/Beefy Dismissed

Tremendous Ashes series between England and Australia ended in a 2-2 tie following the host’s resounding victory in the final test at the Oval. The biggest winners has to be the bookmakers.

Although the Aussies kept the Ashes, England did not deserve to lose the series and came strong with an excellent team performance against a side poorly led by Tim Paine. It must be said that Paine is one of the luckiest skippers ever to tour England. He did little with the bat and his decision to bowl first at the Oval even baffled some of his coaching staff and former players. You just do not bowl first at the Oval, especially when leading a test series by such a slim margin of 2-1.

But overall the Ashes was a riveting test series where the sessions were full of high drama and tension. Much has been written about the exploits of Steve Smith’s Bradmanesque batting. The man is not normal and as cricket fans let us enjoy watching his unique excellence and his idiosyncrasies at the crease.

England’s Ben Stokes has proved once again to be his team’s talisman, their rough rider and a juggernaut of the sport. Nothing is lost when he is involved in the game whether as a batsman, bowler or fielder.

Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad spearheaded England’s bowling attack and the Aussie batsmen – with the exception of Smith –  had constant nightmares. Archer is the genuine article, such a smooth bowling action and when you can let the ball go at 96 mph..

Archer has great rhythm and coordination. For his sake I hope England protect the former West Indies under 19 cricketer (sigh) and not over bowl him to avoid serious injury.

Broad’s regular dismissal of opener David Warner (7 times out of 10)  must have made the normally aggressive opener wish he was still suspended from cricket (ball tampering). It was reminiscent of the 1980s Ashes when the great England opener Graham Gooch was dismissed so often by Terry Alderman that the former asked to be dropped from the side.

[Former West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding, will tell you that in 2018 he tipped South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada on how to dismiss Warner and since then the Aussie left hander has never been the same in red ball cricket.]

Aussie opening bowlers Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood deserve a special mention. They bowled with such consistency, accuracy and pace but the supporting bowlers could not match the quality of that opening pair. Overall the bowlers from both teams had the upper hand throughout the series.

Special mention too to the spectators who played their part in making the Ashes great television for those of us not lucky enough to attend. They brought an English Championship football feel to all the matches.

Test cricket will always be in a strong position as long as the Ashes remains this engrossing.

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Ball of the Ashes? Archer Targets Smith

Wobbling Windies

West Indies cricket seems to be heading downwards again. The recent touring Indian team – under the captaincy of Virat Kohli – went unbeaten and clobbered the West Indies in the tests, ODIs and T20 matches winning 7 of the 8 matches played (one match rained off).

Unlike the Ashes, this series this was so one sided and embarrassing for the West Indian players and fans. It was hard to watch.

Yes, we accept that India has a very strong team but they are normally beatable when on tour. West Indies captain Jason Holder and Kemar Roach bowled their hearts out but the local batsmen were just abysmal.

Kohli’s side rarely got out of 2nd gear and his fast bowlers were quicker than their West Indian counterparts. [Imagine that Michael Holding, 1976, Sabina Park?] Especially Jasprit Bumrah, whose clean bowling of the West Indian top order was a sore sight for local eyes. The current West Indies batsmen seem to have an acute allergy to occupying the crease whenever there is a red ball in play.

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Hat Trick for Bumrah at Sabina Park

Yes, us West Indian fans enjoyed rapturously when England lost the test series in the Caribbean earlier this year. We were hoping that victory was the stepping stone we have been waiting for since the 1990s. Some observers would say that it was the leadership  of Richard Pybus -then interim coach- that allowed the West Indies to perform so well against England. But West Indies’ series victory was assisted greatly in the first test, when England skipper Joe Root read the pitch so wrong and left Ben Stokes out of the team. Yes, the same Ben Stokes of Headingley.

Floyd Reifer – current West Indian interim coach –  has had a poor win record since taking over from Pybus ahead of the recent the World Cup. It is hard to see Reifer staying on in the post for much longer. The post of West Indies full time coach was recently advertised and the word is Phil Simmons is the clear favourite to succeed Reifer, having left a similar role at Afghanistan.

Quite rightly Jason Holder has lost the captaincy of the white ball West Indian teams to Kieron Pollard. Hopefully Brandon King will get selected for the next West Indies squad. He need a stint of county cricket in England to develop his career for the longer format.

To add insult to injury, India A also toured the Caribbean this summer and defeated West Indies A 4-1 in the ODIs and 2-0 in the unofficial test series.

West Indies Women 0, Australia Women 6

The state of the West Indies’s women cricket is also in a delicate position. The senior team was destroyed by their visiting Australian counterparts in 3 ODIs. In those 3 matches the Australians scored a total of 798 runs compared to the West Indians 469. The T20 results ensured a complete white wash by the Aussies.

Just like their male counterparts, the West Indian women batters have a problem finding the gaps to rotate the strike and thus their batting approach is either boundary, dot ball or dismissal.

West Indies women has very few stars to pick from but one of them is vice-captain Hayley Matthews. So it was disturbing to hear that Matthews was dropped from the series for disciplinary reasons just hours before the first match against the Aussies.

But this is a superb Australian team. They had earlier outplayed England in all  3 formats on British soil and is setting a standard of dominance and excellence that is rarely seen in female team sport. If you have not watched Australia’s Ellyse Perry at her best you are missing a treat. I just love how Georgia Wareham bowls her leg breaks. Tayla Vlaeminck’s bowling is super quick and at times looks faster than some of the current West Indian fast/medium male bowlers.

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Antigua 2019: Perry celebrates reaching a century

 

Gower and Botham – Forced Declaration

Former England captains David Gower and Ian “Beefy” Botham brought their long commentating careers at Sky Sports to a sad close. I was fortunate to have seen both play live for England during their prime. Both took their on/off the field flamboyance to the commentary box and made it fun to listen.

Hopefully some other media platform will make use of these two marvelous raconteurs whose wealth of cricket knowledge and stories are too important to put on the back burner. But you could see a Gower/Beefy uncut tour of Britain and Australia on the horizon.

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Gower & Botham – never a dull moment

 

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Phillips Survives Curveball from Bunting – What Happens Next?

People’s National Party’s (PNP) President, Peter Phillips (One PNP), held off a strong challenge for the leadership to defeat rival Peter Bunting (Rise United) by 1,427 (51%) votes to 1,351 (49%). Just.

PNP delegates spoke on Saturday (96% turnout) and quite clearly this is a hollow victory for Phillips. Although the signs earlier last week was that Bunting did have the delegate numbers sown up to defeat Phillips.

If after 2+ years as leader Phillips has managed to garner only 51% of the vote from his own comrades, how can he convince the wider public to win a general election?

In other countries if a sitting party political leader won a similar race by such a slim margin the leader would be quietly pressured to resign. As UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher did in 1990 following a leadership challenge.

Imagine, Bunting mounted his leadership campaign in June 2019, had zero support or endorsements from the senior figures in the party; yet he lost to Phillips by just 76 votes.

(In 2014, Andrew Holness defeated his leadership challenger Audley Shaw by 692 votes – 2,704 votes to 2,012)

Normally after a political leadership, party members come together, have their kumbaya and get ready for bigger battles on the national stage.

It has to be said that Bunting ran an aspirational, pragmatic and modern campaign that galavnised PNP supporters and appealed beyond the party.  The messaging was progressive, dynamic and refreshing. Young people who had little interest in Jamaican politics were talking about Bunting’s Rise theme. Even some die hard JLP supporters were impressed with Bunting’s strategy.

On the other hand Phillips’ campaign was rather flat and littered with bitterness, envy and arrogance. It was so reminiscent of the 2016 PNP general election campaign for which Phillips was the campaign director.

If Phillips applies a similar campaign against the Andrew Holness-led JLP government at the next general elections, then the PNP might as well hold their position.

Shadow Shuffling

The victorious Phillips has promised to announce his new shadow cabinet in a fortnight’s time. But he has missed a real trick here.

Phillips should have announced his new shadow cabinet the day after the leadership race concluded. Such a move would have shown a rejuvenated leader who is decisive, well prepared and already moving forward. Surely Phillips must have decided upon the composition of the new shadow cabinet long before Saturday’s results.

It was back in April that Phillips told the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) that he will make changes to the shadow cabinet.

But this time Phillips needs to scale down to size of his shadow cabinet. He has ensure the most effective communicators are assigned to the most important roles. Phillips currently has up to 27 shadow spokespersons which is just too many mouths.

Dayton Campbell – Bunting’s campaign manager – was to me the star politician during the concluded leadership race. He communicates well and thinks on his feet when faced with tough questions from the media. For Campbell and his Rise United colleagues (such as Angela Brown-Burke, Fenton Ferguson and Mark Golding) to come this close to defeating Phillips was a remarkable achievement.

But elections have consequences and quite rightly Campbell tendered his resignation from the shadow health portfolio, which is bound to please minister Christopher Tufton. I gather all those shadow ministers who were in the Bunting camp have offered to relinquish their assigned portfolios.

Golding and Bunting have been solid contributors on the opposite benches and as members of numerous select committees. Golding as shadow finance spokesperson has chaired the powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) with aplomb. Surely a Phillips supporter would expect to replace Golding given the high profile nature and of both the PAC chair and finance spokesman roles.

In this current parliament, the top opposition performers who have kept the JLP government on their toes were mainly from Bunting and some his backers in the leadership. So if they all head to the back benches then the PNP and the wider Jamaica will be the loser.

Let’s be honest, Fitz Jackson – Phillips supporter/PNP chairman – looks out of his depth as shadow national security and has lacked the passion and vision needed for this pivotal portfolio.

Another Phillips supporter – Wykeham McNeil (one of the party’s 4 vice presidents) has shown maturity in shadowing the tourism portfolio in a non-partisan manner. He has  chaired of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) competently. Deserves a move to a more meatier portfolio.

You would expect those other senior parliamentarians who backed Phillips to be promoted to top positions, including the likes of Phillip Paulwell (currently shadow energy), Damion Crawford (youth) and Mikael Phillips (transport). All 3 are VPs of the PNP and clearly have their own leadership aspirations.

Lisa Hanna currently shadows foreign affairs and trade but must be destined for a more significant portfolio to enhance her own chances of succeeding Phillips as leader one day.

Natalie Neita was the outstanding campaigner from the Phillips team. Will she stay as the shadow for sports?

The stellar shadow portfolios up for grabs could include finance, education, national security, health and environment.

But Campbell, Bunting and Golding  would be wasted on the backbenches.

Phillips Upgrade

Jamaicans at all times expects the leader of the opposition to be politically astute, visible and inspiring beyond their political base. But since Phillips took on the role in 2017 he has not been that person to hold the government to account the way his predecessors have done in the past. He does need to beef up his inner circle with advisers who are steady, shrewd and dedicated to winning.

Phillips needs to move quickly to modernise the PNP’s outdated structures, procedures and its policies/messaging in order to appeal to the 50% of the electorate who have stayed away from the polls.

e.g. 4 vice presidents for a political party? Is that really necessary?

Media Matters

Since Bunting launched the leadership challenge in June the PNP has captured most of the local news coverage on the airwaves, social media and in the press. It has been relentless. Prior to June the PNP -especially Phillips- as a political force was hardly covered that much in media circles with the exception of soundbites from select committee hearings.

The PNP top brass and their key advisers will have to develop a strategy to maintain this level of media publicity going forward – for the right reasons.

2019 or 2020?

For now, the only way the JLP loses the next general election is if Andrew Holness and his colleagues get into a severe state of chronic complacency. That could happen. Thus the PNP must be so well prepared in order to capitalise on any howlers from the govt and push to inspire the wider electorate with their own plans.

If not, then comrades may have another PNP leadership race on their hands far sooner than they would envisage.

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Smile Orange

 

 

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PNP Leadership Race: Parting Peters

Peter Phillips, the current leader of Jamaica’s People’s National Party (PNP) should send a thank you emoji to his rival in the leadership race, Peter Bunting.

Bunting’s challenge for the leadership has certainly given the PNP the impetus it has so desperately needed since the party lost the local govt and general elections in 2016.

Phillips himself has finally put to bed his Rip Van Winkle mode and found his leadership mojo that many of his colleagues and supporters have been crying out for since he became leader in 2017.

The Peter 1 vs Peter 2 leadership race has also galvanised media houses and the growing number of social media observers, who are all playing a crucial role in analysing the leadership race in real time. Thus the PNP is getting the kind of media coverage that it has not had during this decade.

Bunting still faces an uphill task to unseat the incumbent leader. But the challenger has started his quest in a determined fashion, with a campaign launch the likes of which has never been seen in Manchester much less the wider Jamaica.

Bunting has come out of the blocks quickly and done the rounds of interviews across media platforms long before the Philips team could get their act together. But Phillips is catching up fast in the PR stakes.

The lack of vigorous media interviews by Phillips over the years has shown in his discussions with journalists. As some of his answers seem take on a life of its own and gets very long winded. Phillips does need to be sharper, succinct and punchier in his responses. Phillip needs to loosen up in how he comes across in the media.

Lately, Phillips is more aggressive and vocal in his attacks on the government over the economy, crime and corruption. He has also made significant strides in his social media messaging which was lagging light years behind Prime Minister Andrew Holness and other more savvy politicians.

If Phillips had been this active, vocal and visible from 2 years ago then Bunting may not have felt the need to challenge.

Although not widely covered, Phillips gave an impromptu speech in Kingston on nomination day. It was excellent. Full of passion, grit and determination. It was acome if yu tink yu bad type of speech.

The leadership race has understandably divided senior members of the PNP. But that’s to be expected when the stakes are so high. But the PNP is used to this rough & tumble given the number of contentious leadership races it has had going back to the late 1960s.

PNP leadership race has highlighted a flaw that the party needs to fix if it has desires to attract new members in the future. The current process to select the leader on 7 September will be based on the votes of approximately 2900 delegates.

According to Julian Robinson -PNP General Secretary – the term delegates goes as follows..

“To be a recognised constituency, you need a minimum of 20 groups, plus a Youth Organisation and Women’s Movement group, Constituencies are not allowed to have more groups than the number of polling divisions, and where such breaches occur, the party will take the necessary action to correct them. It is a new rule, and there are some constituencies in breach and they are working to bring it back in line to the number of polling divisions.”

“Each recognised group with 10-19 members is entitled to one delegate. A group with 20 or more is entitled to two delegates,”

Robinson’s deputy Wentworth Skeffery added..

“For example, in the party’s Region Five, there are eight constituencies. That region is entitled to no more than eight delegates. Depending on the state of a constituency, in a particular region, no delegate may be chosen. So all eight delegates may come from one constituency,” – Source: How the PNP chooses its delegates

The PNP must move its internal election process to a simple one-member-one-vote.

[For decades the British Labour Party had a similar complicated voting process, where the trade union bloc had a sizable influence on who became leader. But in 2014, then leader Ed Miliband brought in the one-member-one-vote process. The Labour Party’s  membership then shot upwards. In 2014 the UK Labour Party had 192,000 members today the membership stands at roughly 512,000.]

Interesting times ahead for the PNP until leadership election day on 7th September. But some of the party’s mouthamassies need to think more strategically before they step near a microphone or use press send on their smart phones.

  • For senior figures from one campaign to publicly accuse the other team of vote buying is just political suicide for the PNP and manna for the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
  • It is never a good idea for a senior member of one campaign to publicly state that the opposing contender (and party colleague) is unfit to be the leader of the PNP. What if that person wins? It will simply turn off independent voters.
  • Damion Crawford  needs to be measured and smart in his criticism of the Bunting camp. As at times he seems angrier at Bunting than the Jamaica Labour Party. Phillip Paulwell who in trying to blame members of the Bunting camp for the ousting former leader Portia Simpson-Miller (2017) is simply on “don’t even go there” soil. Mikael Phillips (the leader’s son) has also put his mouth in it and has had to apologise. All 3 of the above are vice presidents of the PNP and showing the lack of diplomacy that is required for such lofty positions.
  • Some of the utterances from Ian Hayles (Bunting supporter) has bordered on being melodramatic and comical.

 

 

In such an intense internal leadership contest the smarter tactic by senior party members would be to praise your preferred candidate to the hilt but add that both leadership contenders would make a better PM than the current incumbent.

Yes, Bunting is not a well-liked figure by some of his senior colleagues. Some have described him as disloyal and a backstabber. I am sure Holness still has his detractors who sit with him in his cabinet. Winning is all that matters.

At least Bunting stepped up where others were too scared (or playing a long selfish game) to come forward. For that Bunting must take most of the credit for this upsurge in activity amongst the PNP supporters. From his actions you can tell this move was well thought out and being executed with professionalism (mostly). Bunting has shown clarity in his answers on how he plans to modernise party if victorious.

PNP local councilor- Kari Douglas – recently described the current PNP leadership as tired and uninspiring. Hence her support for Bunting.

As I have stated before Bunting (or anyone else) would have been in their right to challenge Phillips for the leadership. I was looking for others to jump into the race given the polls early this year had the PNP a distant second to the JLP. Something significant had to happen to the party’s leadership to shake it out of its complacency mode.

But we are still  to hear from Bunting or Phillips the radical plans they have to tackle corruption in their own party and the wider Jamaica. What examples are they willing to set to clean up corruption?

Corruption has thrived under the current JLP government and has caused them much embarrassment. But the previous PNP government had their own fair share of corruption scandals and very few were ever brought to book. e.g. Government contracts issued to PNP party supporters were slammed by the Contractor General.

What ever happened to the PC Bank scandal where $J665m went missing?

It is worth remembering that both Bunting and Phillips were in the previous government that tabled the Integrity Commission Act which today has caused confusion and anger about its ineffectiveness to bring public officials to book. Even Phillips is now dismayed.

In 2015 Bunting and then Justice Minister Mark Golding (Bunting supporter) were criticised for not taking on Sierra Leone’s definition of corruption as the benchmark for Jamaica. Sierra Leone defines corruption in more broader terms than even the United States.

Phillips in his 2+ years as leader has failed to connect with the public in a manner that is expected of any potential prime minister. He just lacks that emotional intelligence. Up to June this year Phillips had not captured the imagination of even some die-hard PNP supporters.

When Bunting initially announced his challenge many senior party supporters and media commentators quickly dismissed his chances of even coming close to defeating Phillips. Some even told Bunting to his face that he would not get much support from fellow MPs. But Bunting kept saying “one at a time”.

Today, of the 29 current PNP MPs, 12 have come out in support of Bunting and 9 for Phillips. Excluding those MPs who are part of the secretariat and likely to support Phillips.

Whatever the outcome of the race, the PNP’s secretariat/leadership must use this exercise to fine-tune their plans, strategies and operations ahead of the next general election. The party needs to take stock of the many lessons learnt from this leadership contest in terms of communications, personnel, preparations, technology and organisation.

The PNP needs to agree quickly which senior members are the most articulate and inspirational communicators to use during the general election campaign. Who needs more training in the art of effective decent communications?

The party has to take a hardline stance on those who brought both campaigns into disrepute with their rash comments and warn them that such behaviour will no longer be acceptable going forward; whatever their seniority.

If Phillips retains the leadership then I expect Mark Golding and Bunting will take their seats on the backbenches. But if Bunting is the victor then Jamaicans will see a summary of this major banker’s statutory declarations.

Now that would make for interesting reading.

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Bunting Shuffle? (photo:gleaner)

 

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One Love to Phillips? (photo:gleaner)

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Boris the PM – Bust by Halloween?

When Boris Johnson first became Mayor of London in 2008, I was dismayed. Imagine my disbelief now that he is the UK’s new prime minister. Undeserving.

Boris has been around UK media circles for decades. His clowning personality made him a popular figure around the London social bars. As a journalist Boris was never scared at throwing incendiary remarks in his articles.

But Boris’ appearances on shows such as Have I Got News for You gave him the kind of street cred few Tory supporters – even today – could ever achieve. He was indeed different from his political allies. Some of the liberal media mob also found him infectious. Now today Boris is indeed the PM. Unbelievable.

As Mayor of London, Boris was really good at surrounding himself with personnel who had solid skills in planning, administration, organisation and communications. Boris’ transport adviser, Kulveer Ranger, was a perfect example of this. The weak link was always Boris. But his bumbling personality was a great decoy to some of the political scraps he got into as mayor.

Boris – The Foreign Secretary That Never Was

As foreign secretary (2016-2018) in Theresa May’s government, Boris was a disaster of the highest order. Back then he showed little interest on the issue of BREXIT. Despite such a dreadful performance Boris’ main supporters were still lining him up to succeed May as PM.

Boris’ First Cabinet as PM

The first thing that struck me about PM Boris’ cabinet appointments was who will be gone before Christmas? Or even Halloween?

Some of Boris’ cabinet appointments defies common sense. Especially the appointment of one Priti Patel as Home Secretary. Just cannot see Patel lasting that long at HQ’s Peel building.

Patel as International Development Secretary (2016-2017) ruined the reputation of her department. She was eventually fired by Theresa May over unofficial and undisclosed 12 or so meetings she held with leading Israeli government officials.

Yet Boris has given Patel oversight of crime, policing, immigration and (most worryingly) national security. To me Patel is the John Bolton of the cabinet; an accident that will happen. She can’t help herself.

Since Patel’s new appointment she has made all sorts of outlandish tough promises that will eventually come back to haunt her.

Given Patel’s long standing back channels to the Netanyahu government in Israel, it is poor judgement by Boris to allow Patel to have control of MI-5 and other counter terrorist units. Some of the leadership of the security and police services have long had serious misgivings about Boris from his time as mayor. Just think back to the Damian Green incident in 2009.

Michael Gove’s move to the Cabinet Office is the ultimate revenge for Boris against his former buddy/then-backstabber. Cabinet Office minister is one of the worst jobs in government as it has no power or influence. It used to be a powerful cabinet position but its significance in government started to wane from the Tony Blair years.

Keeping Stephen Barclay as BREXIT Secretary is a reminder of his abject failure in that role. It is also a reminder of when Barclay pulled off one of the most bizarre moments ever seen in the House of Commons when he voted against his own proposed BREXIT legislation; and still kept his job under May.

Matt Hancock’s presumed elation at being appointed Secretary of State for Health must have been dented at the news that Nadine Dorries will be one of his deputies at Richmond House. Lucky civil servants.

Amber Rudd is turning into the great survivor of dodgy Tory governments. I do not know how she does it. But remaining at Department of Work and Pensions means she will not enhance her popularity with the public.

Boris’ choice of James Cleverly to be Conservative Party chairman was a surprising move. But they have links back to their days in City Hall.

How Boris and Cleverly handle the surge of islamophobia within the Tory party will test whether the appointment of a BAME chairman was superficial. But Cleverly is right on one thing when he states

“Jeremy Corbyn has said that only his Labour party can be trusted to unlock the talent of minority ethnic people. Yet it is the Conservative party that has appointed twice as many BAME people to the cabinet than Labour has ever done.”

Mark Sedwill’s time as cabinet secretary (UK’s top civil servant) must be under some pressure. As a number of the new cabinet members and their advisers have had a deep distrust of his time working with May. Plus new PMs tend to prefer a cabinet secretary of their own choosing.

What Now for Corbyn’s Labour?

In the short term Corbyn is in trouble if he does not respond smartly to these latest political developments of Boris-the-PM and the appointment of Jo Swinson as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Labour’s toxic infighting since Corbyn became leader in 2015 is a key reason why Boris is ensconced now as PM today. Had Labour stayed united during the dark days of May’s government then they would have been negotiating BREXIT today.

The Labour Party thus cannot get too complacent and assume their chances of defeating bumbling Boris at the next general elections is a foregone conclusion. Boris knows what it is like to defeat Labour twice in liberal-leaning London. Thus Labour itself needs a pragmatic shakeup of the its senior ranks and front bench. Corbyn also needs to revamp his support team.

To begin with, Corbyn needs a more vibrant and supporting person as his deputy and not the current one in Tom Watson.

I am amazed that Watson has not resigned or being forced to relinquish his post.  Watson abused his parliamentary privilege to smear a number of former senior politicians which we learnt were false following the conviction of serial fantasist Carl Beech.

Beech had accused a number of high Beechle former politicians of being part of the Westminster child sex ring. Watson made similar claims in parliament and on his blog. He should pay a heavy price politically.

The headlines over Boris-the-PM has overshadowed earlier calls for Watson to resign but pressure must be applied again for his removal. If Corbyn/Labour does not dump Watson then the Tory party spin-machine and their media pals are going to have a field day targeting Watson’s lack of credibility. They would be so right.

Your move Jeremy. But act quickly and smartly. Time to make Labour’s front bench and campaign team a broader church and not totally far left leaning.

Will Boris call for an election before 31st October just to wrong-foot Corbyn and play on the chaos in Labour?

Boris the Champion of Immigration Amnesty?

Corbyn could move quickly to ask Boris if he still believes that there be should an amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been in the UK for a certain amount of years. Boris has been campaigning for this approach to immigration for years.

As it contradicts what the new home secretary has been blabbering on over immigration.

 

Boris the Bouncer

Boris is bound to get a positive bump in the polls. His media friends and contacts will ensure that he sucks up all the positive publicity in the lead up to October 31st. Boris’ braggadocious belief that deal or no deal the UK is leaving the EU is based on a belief that Donald Trump will come to the rescue with an promising trade deal.

We all know Trump cannot be trusted. The current trade war with China is a testament of the uncertainties that could harm UK markets. Today’s trade retaliation by China against US interests must be worrying Treasury and Bank of England officials if the no deal BREXIT goes through.

Boris is right to have pledged £2.1 billion in preparations for a no-deal BREXIT. But it’s just a pledge with no real guarantees. And that money would not make any real effect on the UK public services until late 2020. Where will the billions come from in order to deliver on this pledge?

With the Liberal Democrats winning the recent Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, Boris’ chances of going for the no deal BREXIT option is virtually nil.  A nominal Tory majority of just 1 in the Commons means Boris is already in lame-duck territory. It is up to Corbyn’s leadership and actions on whether Boris gets out of this log jam.

One option for Boris would be to call a snap general election for early October to see if the Tories would win more seats. They could also rely on Nigel Farage’s BREXIT Party taking seats from Labour in the north of England.

Corbyn must take stock of Labour’s dismal 4th place in the said Brecon and Radnorshire by-election and act accordingly. Even though Labour has failed to regain this seat since 1979.

But I will not be surprised that when the 1st November comes round, the UK will still be in the EU and then those sharp political knives will be out for Boris. From all sides.

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Told You

 

 

 

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HOPE for Danville Walker and Others

Jamaica’s leading anti-corruption watchdog  – Integrity Commission – recently published its 1st Annual Report. One of the telling areas of the report – not mentioned widely in media or political circles – is on page 45 and what it says in relation to Danville Walker.

Walker is a leading figure within the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). He ran unsuccessfully for the JLP at the 2011 general elections. In 2012 Walker became managing director of the Jamaica Observer.

From 2008- 2011 Walker was Commissioner of Customs, but in December 2011, he was charged by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) for “obstructing its efforts to investigate breaches of a cabinet directive on scrap metal exports”.

Page 45 of the Integrity Commission annual report included the following statement…

“In addition to the foregoing, the Integrity Commission is undertaking the recovery or payment of costs related to litigation in the following matters:

Danville Walker v Contractor General – recovery of costs in the amount of $JA3,703,520.70 at the Supreme Court on September 9, 2016 and the Court of Appeal costs (which is to be determined) which was awarded to the Contractor General”

Walker was found guilty  in 2017 of breaching the Contractor General Act and fined $JA5,000 or 14 days imprisonment. So paying legal cost for both sides (especially at the Court of Appeal level) is bound to be astronomical for Walker.

Walker resigned from his Jamaica Observer post in April and was appointed national director for a government initiative which is being administered under the Housing, Opportunity, Production, Employment (HOPE) programme. Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement of Walker’s appointment.

But Walker’s reappointment as a senior public official must give optimism to those ex-public servants who lost their jobs following similar breaches of the law. Current public servants take note.

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Walker & Holness: bailed out of a scrap?

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ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: Winners and Losers

WINNERS

The Final: Classic.

Commonwealth of England – The most consistent team for the past 3 years. They had a long term plan. Were willing to change their own strict guidelines on residency to get Barbadian Jofra Archer in the team weeks ahead of the tournament. Winning was all that matters and not sentiment. A lesson for other nations to take note.

New Zealand – Constantly overlooked by pundits and opponents. But the black caps showed their mettle. Team work and discipline under Kane Williamson’s leadership was admirable.

50 overs cricket – With the rise of T20 cricket many were righting off the future of  this format. How wrong were they?

Host England and Wales – The infrastructure of the hosts allowed sports fans to get to and from games with ease.

Attendances – Unlike previous world cups not one game in this tournament had a small turnout. Even the game between Afghanistan and Bangladesh drew a decent sized crowd. The noise from 19000+ Pakistani fans at the match against New Zealand in Birmingham was like something you would normally hear at a Turkish football derby in Istanbul.

(Sunday’s world cup final was played on the same weekend as the Wimbledon finals, netball world cup (Liverpool), British Formula 1 Grand prix (Silverstone), and the July Cup (racing) at Newmarket. All packed to the rafters with fans. Kudos to the UK sports fans.)

Pitches – Prior to the start of the world cup there were fears that this tournament would be a feast of batting. Thankfully the pitches prepared by the ICC gave bowlers a fair chance of competing.

ICC – Round robin format was excellent.

Left arm fast/medium bowlers – As a former club-grade left arm fast bowler myself it was great to see the likes of Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Amir (Pakistan); Mitchell Starc, Jason Behrendorff (Australia), Sheldon Cottrell (West Indies) and Trent Boult (New Zealand)  make it awkward for the top class batsmen.

Breakout Players Shaheen Afridi (Pakistan) and Alex Carey (Australia)

Stars of the World Cup: Ben Stokes (England), Kane Williamson (New Zealand), Rohit Sharma (India), Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh) and Jofra Archer (England)

Sheldon Cottrell – The only West Indian cricketer who consistently played with heart and passion. Deserves to be on my list for this piece of magic

 

LOSERS

West Indies – My pain from the 1983 world cup final when we lost to India continues. The fact that Jofra Archer played under 19 cricket for Barbados in 2014 and ended up starring for England sums up the poor state of planning in West Indies cricket.  Coaching and mindset needs overhauling.

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Not even Rhianna could inspire the West Indies to defeat Sri Lanka

South Africa – Their failure was a complete mystery. But the continued lost of so many of their top players to English domestic cricket – under the Kolpak rules – must finally raise alarm bells for their fans and board.

ICC – For trying to restrict any harsh criticism of the umpires by the commentators.

ICC – For giving India time to “rest” and recover from their Indian Premier League (IPL) exploits. Thus played their first match in the tournament days after some teams had already played 2 games.

Umpires – Some were just dreadful. Umpire’s call is frustrating.  They blew some big decisions. [ However, sad to see umpire Ian Gould retire from the game. One of the good ones.

Phil Simmons (Afghanistan) – Bad timing by coach Simmons to disclose to the public and players – ahead of the world cup – that he was leaving the team after the tournament. Poor decision by him to change captains just before the world cup. Spent too much time in the buildup talking about his time as West Indies coach.

India – India’s losing run chase against England was weird, given they batted for the whole 50 overs and hit just 1 six. Was this to prevent Pakistan from qualifying for the semi finals?

Had India defeated England then the latter would have had a tough task making the semis. Ironic that New Zealand benefited and knocked India out to face England in the finals.

 

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Marvellous Finals

 

 

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PEP & CMU Just Not Adding Up

If Apple Inc. removed its CEO, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Design Officer right in the middle of the launch of a major product, then shares in that company would fall sharply and shareholders would demand immediate answers from the chairman for such major staff upheavals. Such a dramatic shakeup would also affect the credibility of the launch of that new product.

So in Jamaican news that the newly designed Primary Exit Profile (PEP) programme for grade 6 primary school students (aged 11-12) entering high school has had caused controversy is not surprising. The PEP results has been released and has generated mixed reactions from key stakeholders. Some teachers have called out the government for rushing through this new programme.

The big problem on the messaging by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government on PEP was that those senior figures who championed PEP in its buildup are not the ones speaking today.

  • (March 2019) Ruel Reid was relieved of his duties as Minister of Education,Youth and Information,
  • (February 2019) Floyd Green was transferred from his junior ministerial role supporting Reid to another portfolio and
  • (February 2019) Dean Roy Bernard – the most senior civil servant at the ministry – was transferred to the Ministry of Finance.

Thus their political successors in the government – Karl Samuda (oversight minister) and Alando Terrelonge (junior minister) – have lacked the authority and clarity to speak on PEP. Prime Minister Andrew Holness is currently the Minister of Education but has said very little on PEP.

Approximately 42,000 children sat the exams, 59% were not proficient in mathematics, when proficiency required a grade of between 50 and 79 %.

“An average 40% of students who sat the first Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations did not achieve the required competency. The results were particularly poor for Mathematics and Science where more than 50 per cent of the students did not achieve proficiency.” – RJR News Online

But should PEP have gone ahead? Especially as the public first got wind of potential scandals circulating the Ministry of Education Youth and Information (MOEYI) from as far back as the spring of 2018.

Newstalk 93

During a discussion on Newstalk 93’s “The Evening Edition” hosted by Lambert Brown (Opposition senator) on the Petrojam scandal, listeners were forewarned of a much bigger scandal looming at the MOEYI.

Not long after that show was aired “The Evening Edition” was cut, so too all the other political talk-shows on the UWI-funded radio station. The listeners has never had an explanation for this major change at Newstalk 93, but it’s worth noting that a number of contractual staff at the Ministry of Education also presented shows on Newstalk 93.

All this happened around the time when questions were being raised in parliament about the salaries being paid to government advisers – which included some who had shows on Newstalk 93. Programme manager at Newstalk 93 then was Marlon Morgan who is currently senior technical coordinator at MOEYI.

So given the chaos that came from PEP since the results were released, we have to ask if the launch of PEP for grade 6 students was done in the most professional and effective manner.

Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) Scandal Continues to Drip

The saga at the CMU continues and in the past 10 days the public were given some more stunning revelations.

  • In parliament we learnt that two persons linked to the disgraced former minister Ruel Reid had catering contracts from CMU; namely, Maureen Blake (Reid’s former helper) and Kim Brown Lawrence (Councillor in north west St Ann where Reid became the JLP caretaker candidate.)
  • Opposition senator Lambert Brown revealed to the senate that he knew Doreen Miller ( another “household helper” of Ruel Reid) and she denied any involvement in the alleged corruption linked to her name.
  • Fritz Pinnock – the beleaguered president of the CMU – decided to take 6 weeks leave whilst the investigations and probings continue.
  • Doreen Miller spoke to the Sunday Gleaner and revealed more of her banking dealings with a family member of Ruel Reid.
  • Ruel Reid and Balfour Peart were business partners in a company called Baltree Investment along with Reid’s wife, Sharen Thomas-Reid. [Peart indirectly paid for the infamous yacht birthday party for Ruel Reid. Sharen Thomas-Reid also worked at CMU as manager of legal affairs.
  • Ruel Reid’s former driver, Devon McQueen, was mentioned in parliament in relation to catering contracts. But McQueen has spoken to the media (and the police) and feels his name was being misused for scrupulous means by others.
  • Dean-Roy Bernard filed an injunction to prevent any substantive replacement of his post at the MOEYI.

In discussions with the Gleaner, Bernard rejected comments – made by his successor and former colleague Grace McLean – that he had authorized certain payments to CMU.

Bernard told the Gleaner “She (McLean) was intimate with CMU matters. I have no intimacy with CMU matters. She is the chief education officer. She liaises, she oversees Caribbean Maritime University matters,” he said, challenging McLean to produce one shred of evidence that he instructed her to stage the $317,000 party with public funds for Pinnock.”

Bernard has a point. Given Grace McLean’s husband Eron McLean is vice-president of university advancement and development at the CMU. Why would prime minister Holness allow Mrs McLean to have oversight of the CMU given her personal connections there? Mrs McLean worked closely with Holness a decade ago when he was Minister of Education.

But Pinnock may need to be recalled to the PAAC from his leave of absence to answer further questions on the recruitment to the CMU of  Sharen Reid-Thomas as manager of legal affairs and also the hiring of Owen Ellington, commissioner of police until he sensationally retired (at 52) in 2014. Ellington is Director of the Centre for Security, Counter Terrorism and Non-Proliferation and his deputy at CMU is former assistant commissioner, Assan Thompson.

According to Thursday’s Jamaica Observer…
Caribbean Maritime University Council (CMU’s Board) has reported that it was not notified about the engagement of four individuals, including former Jamaica Labour Party caretaker Othniel Lawrence, consultant Gail Campbell-Dunwell, and a company…a small team from the counci” conducted the “independent investigation” at the request of the chairman after a special meeting of the council on March 25 at which the allegations were discussed.”
This report sounds hmmm from the CMU Council given that members of the Council includes CMU staff Fritz Pinnock, Noel Brown, Devon Gardner and Ibrahim Ajagunna (currently acting CMU president in Pinnock’s leave of absence).
This ongoing scandal at CMU makes you wonder if the institution did deserve the university status it gained in 2017. In any scandal that affects an adult educational institutions, tuition fees write-offs always raises its ugly head.
[2015 Auditor General report on CMU when it was known as CMI: “CMI’s receivable management system proved ineffective in collecting outstanding tuition fees. As at March 31, 2015, 3,102 students owed $326.4 million in tuition fees.

 

PAAC- Bipartisanship Can Have Teeth

Credit to the current Public Administration & Appropriations Committee (PAAC) for their sterling work in holding public officials to account. Credit to both the PNP and JLP members who – over the past 18 months – have displayed a desire to get government bodies to spend wisely and deliver best practice.
Let us hope these public bodies (incl. Auditor General) will delve into the operations and processes of other established colleges, universities and education related agencies. Because it cannot just be the CMU that has serious flawed procedures and practices.
These exposures are good for Jamaica and shows that bad practices and poor governance of the public’s money will no longer be tolerated. Long may that continue to be the norm for the PAAC.
More Questions
  • When did the other senior staff members at CMU (incl. acting president Ajagunna) first know about the controversial hirings flagged in the media and parliament?
  • When did the JLP secretariat first become aware that its former caretaker for north west St Ann, Othneil Lawrence, was employed at CMU?
  • Why was Floyd Green moved from his junior ministerial role at the MOEYI? [Green was long regarded in media circles as a rising star destined for the cabinet, but instead he ended up at a much lower profile government department, still a junior minister.]
  • What is the current status of the ‘Ruel Reid Transformational Leadership Scholarship’ valued at $US3 million under the sponsorship of BAU International University in Washington DC?
  • Will Dean-Roy Bernard be asked to appear before the PAAC?
  • Did the set of scandals and bad practices at the Ministry of Education impact negatively on the government’s delivery of PEP?
Auditor General Raised Concerns in 2015
We await further revelations.
But warning signs of poor governance, significant staff failings and resource management inadequacies at CMU (then known as CMI) were flagged by the Auditor General from as far back as late 2015 in the below report.
which included comments such as:
  • “CMI engaged 253 part-time adjunct lecturers at a cost of $135.6 million, without the relevant approval from the Ministry of Finance and Planning”
  • “We found that CMI did not have in place a documented receivables policy in place to properly manage the Institute’s outstanding tuition fees. CMI did not provide any evidence that appropriate steps were taken to recover outstanding fees from delinquent students.”
  • “a review of CMI’s annual customer/student surveys showed students concern regarding perceived weaknesses in the delivery of training offered by their lecturers”
  • “Contrary to Ministry of Finance policy, CMI Board approved the purchase of 13 computer tablets for Board members at a cost of $317,500.”
  • “In March 2014, a student met in an accident while driving one of the entity’s motor vehicles. CMI records indicated that the vehicle was insured for $3.45 million and was assigned to a Senior Lecturer. CMI did not report the accident to the Attorney General, Financial Secretary and the Auditor General”
Yet by 2017 CMI was awarded university status.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid (centre) receives a plaque from Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) Chancellor, His Royal Highness Drolor Bosso Adamtey I (left) during the CMU’s 2018 graduation ceremony on Thursday (November 8) at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston. Sharing the moment is University President, Professor Fritz Pinnock. This year, approximately 350 students were conferred with master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees and diplomas in a wide cross section of programmes.

Captains of genalship? Ruel Reid (centre) & Fritz Pinnock (right)

 

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