Mon | Oct 16, 2017

Rat race in PNP implosion

Published:Wednesday | September 16, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Gary Spaulding

There are few lessons to be learnt and a plethora of observations made from the unprecedented number of challenges to incumbent members of parliament in the People's National Party (PNP).

Despite the yarns being spun by party gurus, including PNP President Portia Simpson Miller, Chairman Robert Pickersgill, and General Secretary Paul Burke, the challenges are too many for comfort.

A foremost observation is that MP for South East St Ann Lisa Hanna, a Cabinet member with an enviable national profile, is being challenged by a mere councillor from her constituency.

It is noteworthy that the jostling for a leadership position cannot be ignored in the battle for supremacy.

Hanna's name is among those being bandied about as a likely successor to President Simpson Miller. So, too, are the MPs for Central Manchester, Peter Bunting's, and East Kingston and Port Royal, Phillip Paulwell's.

Both men attended Hanna's constituency conference, but tangible support is still to be detected as Hanna struggles on, seemingly on her own.

Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, the MP for North Trelawny, is also engaged in the battle of his political life.

It is quite an abnormal occurrence for an MP who is a Cabinet member to be challenged by a neophyte or political minion. That there are two cases is extraordinary.

While the head of the organisation trumpets the values of democracy, there are those in the underbelly who are proclaiming that no Cabinet member should lose in a constituency election.

For them, this sends the wrong signal.

Damion Crawford, the charismatic MP for East Rural St Andrew, is a junior minister. After a turbulent four years in the constituency, the 'mystical' approach of the dreadlocked MP has employed a "trick" to call a contest on to himself.

Raymond Pryce, the troubled MP for North East St Elizabeth, is an officer of the party. He is one of four deputy general secretaries of the PNP.

Pryce, on the face of it, was thrown to the wolves in a bid to give him a place in Parliament. But he was too arrogant to realise this.

It's an open secret that from 2013, or before, constituents warned that if Simpson Miller didn't withdraw Pryce, they were going to send him back to her.

Lloyd B. Smith, the deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, in the absence of a challenger, failed to garner the two-thirds delegate support in Central St James to guarantee a place on the party's candidate slate.

As the big guns await their fate, backbencher Hugh Buchanan, son of the late Comrade Donald Buchanan, escaped the guillotine after a fierce challenge in South West St Elizabeth. Not so for Buchanan's colleague backbencher and first-term MP Lynvale Bloomfield, who collapsed under the pressure of Andrea Moore.

Challengers are demonstrating that they are no respecters of persons with portfolios and titles in the PNP.

The spate of challenges is not being taken too kindly by the challenged. The inevitable upheavals are deafening in a party that brags about its cerebral propensities.

Such is the strain that is being brought to bear on some Comrades in an organisation that brags about its democratic proclivities.

Another observation is that many who are being challenged did not receive the blessings of the constituents. There is some amount of bad blood because some Comrades believed Simpson Miller foisted the likes of Hanna, Pryce, and Atkinson, among others, on the people without their say.

It is left to be seen how the party president's obvious face-saving antics in parading the beleaguered incumbents on the platform of her South West St Andrew constituency conference will pan out.

Surely, the experience of Simpson Miller, who secured a seat that was once a JLP stronghold, nearly 40 years ago, would have detected the uprising on the horizon.

It must be recalled that about six months ago, Simpson Miller summoned first-term MPs in marginal seats to meet with her to work their magic. Despite that, the fireworks cannot be contained.

For many, if Portia was more proactive, things would not have got to this stage.

The arrogance in the PNP may be playing out in the unseemly conduct of young Comrades, who have made it into what is purported to be a democratic environment but are unwilling to accept defeat.

Indeed, the question has been asked by some Comrades: Can the JLP defeat a weakened PNP? Implicit in this query is the conceited proposition that there is no way that the JLP can defeat a PNP at full strength.

Is this why there are so many challenges? The opportunists are crawling out of the woodwork because the PNP cannot lose an election?

- Gary Spaulding is a parliamentary and political affairs reporter. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com.