Mishandled messaging and a lack of listening


WHEN it comes to politics, I keep my own counsel over who I vote for. But when I discuss the political landscape with others, I listen. And listening to what people have to say, things are not looking good right now for the party in power.

We are roughly halfway through the Davis administration’s term in office – and if it is not to be one and done, it seems there will be a lot of convincing to be done.

To start with, the spike in BPL prices hurt the government more than it perhaps realises, or admits to.

The back and forth that surrounded that over whether the minister then responsible, Alfred Sears, had received advice on the fuel hedging certainly suggests the government is aware of the hit it took, and lord knows all our bank accounts are aware of that hit.

But while that was an early knock to the government – and let’s face it, a hedge is really just a bet and it could have gone either way – it is not that which I hear people talking about in terms of a lack of confidence in this administration.

No, instead it is a familiar combination of complaints I hear – that the government isn’t getting anything much done, and that it is too aloof from the people.

Too arrogant. They ain’ listening, is what I hear.

Take a look at some examples from the past week.

The Transport and Energy Minister, JoBeth Coleby-Davis, who does not seem to like to be questioned closely at the best of times (did she ever give an answer on licence plates being issued for taxis?) was at a town hall meeting for bus drivers on Thursday as the government rolls out a 25 cent rise in bus fares.

Now, there’s two sides to any bus fare rise, of course. The drivers want more to cover their costs and boost their income. The passengers don’t want more coming out of their pockets. A rise of 25 cents might not sound much, but many of those using the jitneys will be going to work as maids and gardeners, to work in hotels and restaurants, and will not be the highest of earners generally. The extra adds up.

That said, the minister did not leave the bus drivers feeling she was showing much sympathy for their side of the scale, telling them “you can’t be ungrateful” over a rise of just 25 cents. In fact, when she announced that the increase could be in place by May 1, the response prompted her to ask: “Ain’t no one clap for that?”

When the audience complained about the size of the increase, she answered: “We know you asked for more. Yeah, I know the grumbling and the mumbling but that’s okay.”

It’s fair to say that more than a few of the assembled drivers could most certainly feel ungrateful – and the minister’s attitude does not seem likely to have won any of them over, particularly as several spoke about feeling insulted by the move.

Now, whichever side of the argument on fares you fall on, politically it’s a loser all round. Passengers won’t be happy with any rise, and the bus drivers will be aggrieved not just by the modest size of the increase but the attitude with which it is delivered. The government has won no friends on this one.

Then take a glance over at the annual fiasco over public disclosures, where Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said he thinks “none of your business” when asked by reporters as to whether he met the legal deadline for his declaration. It’s nothing personal for reporters – they ask everyone, but Mr Mitchell bridles at the question. He referred reporters instead to the chairman of the Public Disclosure Commission, Bishop Victor Cooper, not that the bishop was around to provide answers as the deadline arrived, it seemed, being away and referring reporters to his office instead, where no answers were forthcoming.

Again, make of disclosures what you will. Former Prime Minister Dr Hubert

Minnis is right that too many elected representatives treat disclosures as a joke. This latest chairman seems the worst yet in terms of serving the public and keeping them informed, but things were not much better under the Minnis administration. The Davis administration might well say ok then, things are the same as they were, but they might do well to remember that the public threw the Minnis administration out. People do not want the same, they want better.

These things add up to a feeling that the government is remote, or unfeeling. And that will count in votes in the long run.

Even such things as the record tourism numbers have not made much of an impact in political opinion with many, as the trickle down from visitors doesn’t trickle far enough. Getting visitors to spend more sure isn’t helped by stories of tourists being told to leave their wallets on the ship for safety.

One man I spoke to told it straight – he said in the election campaign, he was promised this and that, but when the party came to office, no one takes his calls. A familiar story heard before in previous administrations, sure, but they were all one and done too.

Now perhaps all of this is just the midterm doldrums – and this administration can count on a strong run-in.

But lying ahead are such things as the corporate income tax, which despite assurances that it will only hit big companies, will also likely hit the employees and contractors serving those big employees. Factors that affect the bottom line tend to get passed on.

Then there are creeping factors such as the cost of shipping seemingly likely to move up because of a new handling company imposing fees.

And then there is the rise – or is it multiple rises – coming for NIB? The story for that one still isn’t straight either.

There are lots of factors that are preying on people’s minds right now. And that ought to give the government pause.

Its best bet at the moment is that the FNM cannot seem to pull itself together to offer strong opposition, be it that Michael Pintard doesn’t seem to be able to land a punch politically or the in-fighting that really needs to be resolved at conference.

But this administration should not count on that if it expects to stay in office. And right now, plenty of people are not convinced.


birdiestrachan 1 month, 1 week ago

Mr Strachan you do carry the torch for the Fnm party pseudonym Mr Pintard or doc Minnis I take It must be dr Minnis Mr Pintard comes across as a desperate man here there and every way trying to make God knows what , points, who is worse the doc or the toggie and boggie man six of one half dozen of the other the FNM party has very little the actor or the miserable doctor have you noticed their performance in the house , as oppose to persons like mr Jamal Strachan


Sign in to comment