Friday 30 October, 2020

'Seriously' Speaking: Will Lisa be the ‘Last Woman Standing’?

Lisa Hanna

Lisa Hanna

Lisa Hanna, the four-term Member of Parliament (MP) for South East St Ann, recently announced her candidacy for the presidency of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP).

Cue: earnest here-we-go-again handwringing by the PNP patriarchy.

Cue: the political detractors anxious to bring up Hanna's past history of association with the rival Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Most people, like me, are not too concerned about all that hullabaloo. I know I love me some Lisa.

Some may argue that her exotic Afro-Indian looks - that wonderful sweet collision of ethnicities - are a hindrance. But I disagree. It would give Jamaica's diplomatic ambitions some much-needed swag. After all, not to sound sexist, but a man can get lost in those hazel almond eyes if he is not careful; those high cheekbones and that perfect symmetrical face, those well-proportioned lips... but I appropriately digress. 

The delegates of the PNP will select a new president on November 7 of this year, and Hanna, as far as opinion polls are concerned, is a clear frontrunner.

Good looks do add to one’s political capital, but Lisa is clearly more than that. She is an ambitious, astute woman who has her eyes on the prize, which is the transformation of Jamaica via the political route.

Hanna

Her rise through the ranks of the PNP has been significant. She was handpicked by Portia Simpson Miller to represent the safe seat of South East St Ann, and has represented it well over the years, but it would be remiss of me not to say squarely, that she barely squeaked home, by a meagre 31-vote majority, in the shellacking that the PNP received in the recent elections.

Has this ‘little stumble’ dimmed her shine a bit? Or has it simply made her seem more fallible and more appealing to us regular folks?

She has accomplished a lot as a four-time MP. Hanna has held a Cabinet position, she has served as spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade amid an embarrassing ‘condolence’ gaffe, as well as party treasurer and chairman of Region One of the party’s national structure.

Lisa, despite what many will say, is the very definition of a winner, and she has made some astute decisions in both life and love.

She married and acrimoniously divorced David Panton, a political rising star as his fortunes waned in the JLP, and then upgraded by eventually marrying an infinitely more wealthy and prominent businessman in Richard Lake.

This course of love and marriages has allowed her time and space to pursue political ambitions. Told you she has been smart.

Marry those smarts to ability, accomplishments and personality and you have political TNT. She may very well be the perfect antidote to the Clarks-wearing Most Honourable BroGad. She, more than anyone else, could be his political kryptonite.

But first, she will have to get by the long knives of the fractious PNP, and the Neanderthals who wield them.

She remains a polarising figure within the PNP itself.

Julian Robinson, the outgoing general secretary, has done a disappearing act a la Harry Houdini, while vice president Phillip Paulwell is, in my personal opinion, which I am infinitely entitled to, like a cheap iron from a Chinese sweatshop: damaged goods.

Mark Golding who, like Hanna, is seeking to become the sixth president of the 82-year-old political organisation, is perhaps her strongest opponent.

Mark Golding

Intriguingly, some have dubbed the upcoming battle as 'Beauty vs the Beast', but Golding is no typical ‘beast’. However, I saw a video of him dancing the other day, and the man's moves are innocent of anything resembling grace or rhythm. He looked like a hapless water buffalo, honestly! 

Still, Golding is a brilliant man with an affable personality and great political chops, and the delegates of the PNP may well lean towards him. The smart money is on him, but as the Latin proverb goes, ‘Man has one thing in mind, fortune another’.

Golding

 The trouble with Lisa is that one really doesn't know what she is thinking. She always seems so guarded in her public appearances, and economical, almost austere, in her utterances.

What does she really believe in and care about? Other than that moment on social media when she repeated a snatch of Spice's naughty song, what does she really think?

Is she an Ice Queen? Does she have the fortitude to, as US President Teddy Roosevelt suggested, 'speak softly and carry a big stick' while still looking glamorous?

Jamaica is an island state where the most unruly slaves, most cruel governors and hardened slave masters, collided. Does she have the steel hand under that velvet glove to govern our Mad Island? Jamaicans love gladiators. Can she be our Xena, our warrior queen?

But maybe this is a new era. With this new self-obsessed generation who can spend hours wading through Snapchat and Instagram and gossip feed on YouTube, Lisa may be able to wrest away some of BroGad's stranglehold on social media where the young electorate resides. Who cares if she can go to Parliament and "oppose, oppose, oppose" like Edward Seaga did even in the face of a huge majority?

In the age of 'likes' and 'hits', who wants to bother with stuffy historical figures like Norman Manley, Michael Manley and a hobbled PJ Patterson when you have political catnip like the impeccably coiffured Lisa Hanna?

Who can forget the photo of her wading through the surf in her Bob Marley T-shirt and little more? She is undoubtedly a social media darling and here’s the thing, my friends and neighbours – that’s where the young electorate resides.

Lisa has gained a well-manicured foothold onto that last impregnable turret, but first, she will have to gain the support of the PNP delegates, power brokers and other apparatchiks. That remains to be seen.

Lisa may yet well ascend to the top of the Jamaican political landscape join the pantheon of female Caribbean leaders, including Dame Eugenia Charles, Kamla-Persad-Bissessar, Jennifer Smith, Portia Simpson Miller and Mia Mottley. If and when that happens, I, for one, will be cheering for her from ear to ear, cheek to cheek…

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