Sometime ago, around the late 80s to early 90s, Bruce Golding left the JLP, when it became obvious to him that he was never going to defeat Eddie Seaga for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leadership, and helped to form the NDM, the National Democratic Movement, a party that was supposed to be a serious alternative to the PNP and the JLP. In subsequent elections, the NDM did not win any seats and the notion that they would/could be a balance of power in local politics was seen for what it was: a pipe dream. I mention this to make an observation and to otherwise comment on what I see happening in the PNP following the events of this past weekend.
It is now clear to one and all that this is Portia Simpson-Miller’s party. She is the undisputed leader of the PNP even if she got only 54 per cent of the delegate vote. After all, all she needed was to get 50 plus one other delegate vote more than Peter Phillips and she would still be the winner. Peter Phillips and his slate for the VP positions in the PNP all lost, except for one of his VP candidates, and all have resigned their positions as Opposition spokespersons and have now become backbenchers.
They all cited the same reason in their resignation letters to the party hierarchy: it’s Portia’s party and she should be free to put her stamp on it. I would hope that as part of putting her stamp on the PNP, Portia will get rid of the stigma of corruption that has attached itself to the party and she could start by getting rid of Phillip Paulwell and Colin Campbell. I deliberately did not mention Kern Spencer as I’ll wait to see what happens when his trial concludes.
Another thing is that she may want to muzzle Roger Clarke so that he doesn’t keep exhibiting “foot-in-mouth” disease and end up making himself and the party the subjects of ridicule. That the the PNP is divided is true and we all know the saying that “a house divided cannot stand” and I would hope that Portia and her supporters keep that in mind.
Peter Phillips and his supporters who tendered their resignations have said they were not leaving the PNP but only resigning their positions within the party. According to both the Observer and Gleaner newspapers, in her victory speech and in her mannerisms, Simpson-Miller took on a tone/demeanor of stridency and borderline meanness and if that is indeed the case, I don’t think it bodes well for the party in particular and for Jamaica, as a whole.
As a winner, it would have been nice of Portia to show some class and exhibit magnanimity in her victory speech as it would/will go a long way in soothing bruised and hurt feelings. What Jamaica needs from the PNP now is a vision of where this iteration of the party will take it. It’s not enough to resort to sound bites and talking about empathizing with poor folk. People and the media need to demand that the PNP put forward their plans/ideas to address the problems and predicaments that Jamaica finds itself in and drop the excuse that the government will co-opt and otherwise steal the ideas and claim them as their own. Jamaicans are not that stupid.
Disillusionment among a significant portion of the voting public is testament that people have become fed-up with business as usual as far as politics and governance in Jamaica are concerned and they are yearning for better from their leaders. As I said at the beginning of this article, Bruce Golding exiled himself from the JLP for a while and came back when it became clear that he would become leader of that party and the rest is history.
I don’t expect Peter Phillips and any of his supporters to do as Golding did but I do not rule out the fact that if the PNP were to lose the next general election with Portia at the helm that another challenge to her leadership would not arise. Someone once said “you can fool some people some of the time but you can’t fool all the people all the time” and that’s something that the politicians in Jamaica might want to always keep in mind.