“It’s a black eye for the PNP (People’s National Party), and they’re going to feel the political fallout from it.”
That is the reaction of Professor of Culture, Gender and Society at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Donna Hope, to the shock announcement by Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern Lisa Hanna that she is walking away from representational politics.
The four-term MP and former Minister of Youth and Culture told PNP President and Opposition Leader Mark Golding in a lengthy letter on Tuesday that she will not be contesting the next general election that is constitutionally due in 2025.
Among other things, Hanna, who turns 47 later this month and who first won the safe St Ann seat in 2007, said she is making way for future generations.
However, Hope is not buying that argument.
“There are people on social media I see who are actually trying to run with that, but we have geriatrics in the Parliament who are in their 70s and 80s,” said the professor.
She said that, as a woman, she’s not surprised by Hanna’s decision to quit.
“When you’re working in Jamaica as a woman, a professional or otherwise, there’s a point where you get to where that patriarchal glass ceiling becomes unbearable, and I understand where Lisa is probably making some decisions in that regard,” she said.
Continuing, Hope said: “The truth is that her future in leadership in the PNP is slim to none. There are a lot of men there jostling for the positions of primacy, and that’s just what it is. So while the people of Jamaica, and people like myself, see her as one of the potential leaders and one of the better fit-for-leadership type, especially in the current era, the PNP apparently does not see it that way.”
“And, I don’t think they see her the way they saw a Portia Simpson Miller’s ‘winnability’ for the party and, therefore, allowed Portia the opportunity to go ahead because they wanted Portia to provide them with the win,” Hope added about the former PNP President and Prime Minister.
She congratulated Hanna for waiting until a lot of the discomfort and discord had died down around the party’s massive defeat in the 2020 General Election and in-fighting around leadership challenges before making her announcement.
“She waited very carefully as a good communicator and as a person who understands marketing. She waited until things calmed down and had settled, and then she decided to move on from politics.
“If it was done during the carryings on and the chaos, it would have looked bad on Lisa. But now that she has waited until everything has calmed down, the leadership races, the general election and the ‘cas cas’, everything is very calm, right after Independence and everybody feel happy, and she sneaks her move… she will come out smelling like roses…the PNP is suffering another black eye for this,” said Hope.
Lisa Hanna, Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern
Hope argued that the PNP is losing one of its trump cards.
“She is well recognised internationally. She has a lot of favours among the Jamaican people. She’s a beautiful woman. She’s graceful and very savvy politically, with a lot of time ahead of her to make a mark in any area that she chooses because she’s at the peak of her career, and she’s now going to continue to move forward. The PNP has lost a trump card.”
Yet, Hope noted that with Hanna winning her seat by a mere 31 votes in the last general election, it “means that her political career in South East St Ann is very weak”.
Additionally, Hope said the PNP has not made great strides as a political Opposition to set itself up for a general election that is at most three years away.
“It’s not a lot of time for a general election, and we’ll soon start to see winds of it, and I believe she’s assessing all of that and decided to make her move. Whatever that move is, we don’t know, but this thing about making way for another generation, Lisa is 47 this year, she’s not yet 50 and there are people in Parliament who are like nearly twice her age and who haven’t given any indication that they’re going to allow a younger generation to get an opportunity to sit in those seats.
“So, Lisa using that line. I think it is a part of her, perhaps, understanding that it would ring a bell in the minds of people because ‘it’s young people time now’ has been a part of the rallying cry for a couple of the general elections that have gone on”.
Meanwhile, Public and Social Commentator, Dennis Chung, said the people speculating about why Hanna has decided to walk should be reminded that it is difficult to be in politics and public life, generally.
“I know it must be difficult for her because I just sit as the chairman at NSWMA (National Solid Waste Management Authority) and some of the things that you hear people say about us being at the trough and all of that, they don’t realise that it’s a personal sacrifice because it actually cost you more to be there, but these things are (in) service (to country),” he said.
Nevertheless, Chung argued that in looking at the letter Hanna wrote to Golding stating her decision to quit, “it’s obvious there was some discontent”.
“I don’t know if the discontent alone would’ve been enough to walk away from politics if she still had a passion for it, so it could suggest that, based on what’s happening, she’s really just tired and wants to leave it or it could also mean that there’s some disagreement, which doesn’t necessarily have to mean that she has a problem with Golding as people are saying but rather a problem with the direction of the policies and how the party is moving, which is a separate thing,” Chung reasoned.
He said he would not want to cast a shadow on Golding because of that.
“The best thing to do is really understand, from her point of view, but it certainly requires more understanding in terms of what happened,” he said.
According to Chung, “When you look at the current political landscape, the general feeling out there is that the Opposition is still trailing in the polls.
“And when I think about what Hanna says that we have to think about new ways of doing things…and the call (by Golding) for $40 billion more to be spent on social welfare, it betrays our knowledge or memory of what happened in terms of the fiscal irresponsibility years when we were constantly putting on new taxes and borrowing money and the country almost dropped off a cliff,” he said.
Chung said: “I don’t want to cast any aspersions on what she has said or her intent, but certainly there is more to look at. In terms of what drove her there, it must have been some personal reason because you just don’t walk away from something that you love like that if you still feel the fire burning and you feel you can still do something about it.”
For his part, Public Commentator, Kevin O’Brien Chang said: “Lisa Hanna is a mixed bag. She has her good side and her bad side.”
On the good side, O’Brien Chang noted that many women in Hanna’s privileged position would not bother to show the level of commitment to country that she has shown.
“She could easily be travelling the world, but she has, instead, devoted a lot of time and energy to her country and being in politics is not an easy thing. You have to give her credit for sticking with it for 15 years. She has tried to give back to her country though she could be living a Kim Kardashian lifestyle,” O’Brien Chang stated.
He noted further that not many even think about serving or giving back to the country.
“They’re not interested; they just want to live life. It’s a small pool who are willing to go through the hassle, go into the system, and try and help to run the affairs of the country,” he said.
The commentator added: “Every time we lose somebody prominent and intelligent enough, it’s a setback for the country. Every time we lose somebody who’s prominent and has the respect of the people, and the attention and the qualifications, the pool shrinks a bit.
“It’s a bit worrying that the pool may shrink one day to nothing, or the PNP might shrink to nothing,” he said.
On the negative side, O’Brien Chang said it is obvious that Hanna is not the best people person in the world, based on the numerous public spats she has had with her councillors over the years.
He also highlighted that she has taken the seat, which she first won in 2007 with a majority of more than 2,700 votes, shrinking the margin to just a 31-vote majority in the last election.
In the context of the PNP, he said the prospects for party leadership look bleak.
“If Golding loses the next election and the people say, ‘Let us get fresh blood’, where’s that going to come from?” O’Brien Chang questioned.
He also said the PNP seem to have a problem with women.
“It’s not a good thing for the country; the talent pool is shrinking, the PNP is shrinking. Hopefully, maybe she can reconsider and come back and use her obvious appeal to contribute more to nation building,” said O’Brien Chang.