427. Telegram 538 From the Embassy in Jamaica to the Department of State1 2

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  • Jamaican National Elections What Happened


Overwhelming victory by People’s National Party was clear expression of the wishes of the electorate of Jamaica that it was time for a change. Jamaica Labour Party was severely defeated, and even in areas where they retained seats, their victory margins were surprisingly narrow.

1. Issues that influenced voters included high cost of living, unemployment, crime, problems in agriculture, and many others, but it was generally conceded that the overall swing was caused by a desire to give reality to the PNP campaign slogan that it was “time for a change.” A number of Jamaicans were also tired of the bickering within JLP cabinet and aloofness, arrogance, alleged corruption and influence peddling of some JLP leaders. JLP failed to field really effective election campaign management compared with that of PNP. The JLP relied too heavily on the machinery of the voting system, which was certainly in their favor. Open support of many [Page 2] church leaders in this religiously sensitive country, coupled with Manley’s own dynamic personal charismatic image were very important factors in PNP victory. Shearer’s good work in international affairs did not seem to help much in this inward looking island. PNP has clear mandate to implement its programs.

2. The new Jamaica Labour Party parliamentary opposition, whose current 18 seat strength may even fall as low as 16 after recounts, will have problems sorting out its internal leadership. Only four or five of the JLP MP’s returned appear to be really effective leaders. One might expect a power struggle between arch rivals Wilton Hill and Edward Seaga to take over party leadership from Hugh Shearer. It is also possible Lightbourne may make another bid for this position, although that seems unlikely. Of JLP members who were retained, long time Shearer supporters include at least seven. Mclaren, former Minister of Rural Land Development, will no doubt back his old friend Seaga, and Hill and Lightbourne may team up.

De Roulet
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 12 JAM. Confidential. Repeated to Bridgetown, Georgetown, Port-au-Spain, USCINCSO, and CINCLANT.
  2. The Embassy reported on the outcome of the Jamaican national elections, concluding that the incoming Manley government had a clear mandate for change.