Fri | Mar 23, 2018

If Peter Bunting should challenge Portia

Published:Wednesday | March 30, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Will Peter Bunting be ballsy enough to challenge Portia Simpson Miller as president of the PNP?

In the PNP trying to unravel the elements that led to its shock defeat on February 25, I thought it best to listen to the sound of blips under the radar so that, at the very least, I could determine the possible new alignments being planned.

It is certainly no secret that former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, having lost two elections, would be seen as a softer target than before, and factions would be pulling together like iron filings near a magnet.

The PNP president would have lost her pre-2006 sting and there would be more than a few in the party's second tier who would want to see the top leadership move towards a more intellectual centre that existed under the Manleys and the non-charismatic, ever-winning P.J. Patterson.




By mid-March, it was my understanding that an exploratory committee had been formed to float more than the idea of Peter Bunting's viability as PNP leader. It would be as natural as a sunset following a sunrise that others with ambitions to PNP leadership such as Phillip Paulwell, a Portia favourite, and Lisa Hanna, not so long ago, a Labourite, would also want to send out their feelers.

With Julian Robinson, himself being future leadership material, being given the charge to analyse the loss and present a report on the way forward, all chose to be mum instead of uttering even the bare words of plausible deniability.

It is my understanding that there is a small but effective group within the PNP pushing Peter Bunting to challenge Portia and emerge as PNP president. I posted such on Facebook on March 14 and the silence from those who really matter has had its impact felt quite loudly.

It would be senseless politics in light of the recent loss if people like Bunting and Hanna would not now be busy within the parliamentary grouping and critical ground leaders across the PNP seeking to enlist the widest possible support.

I would not be surprised if people like previous challenger, Omar Davies, a friend and supporter of Peter Bunting's claim to bigger things inside the PNP, would not be playing a critical role, with Bunting's business partner in Proven, Mark Golding, being close to the action.

Had I been giving them advice, I would write a memo to them and set out the terms of political endearment in the most perverse but politically pragmatic lines. I would, first of all, advise them to seek to discredit Paul Burke and challenge Paulwell about his role in the handling of the finances of the campaign.




Of course, I would not be able to slow them down if they chose to blame Peter Phillips about his leadership of the campaign and seek to force Portia to either retire or face a challenge.

The best in Machiavellian advice would be for Bunting to develop a strategy to remove Paul Burke as the gen sec so that the secretariat loses control over the possible manipulation of the delegates' list.

Were I Bunting and his support group, I would be worried about Peter Phillips, as many are seeing him as the best-suited leader for the PNP after Portia to get the movement intellectually grounded, to return the PNP to a strong, progressive movement, bringing all the millennial leaders and ideas around building a modern political organisation.

I am certain that Robinson's report will determine that aspect as one of the crucial ways forward. Another fact staring many in the face is the reality of fearing Peter Phillips because, outside of Portia, he's the only political leader within the PNP who controls a significant following nationally within the PNP, and can call across every region of the party for raw political support.

It would, therefore, not surprise me if non-supporters of Phillips seek to maintain the attack on him on the basis of his leadership of the campaign. So far, however, it is my understanding that this has not gained any momentum, as though it was understood that this was one of the worst campaigns ever by the PNP, many are now realising that after December 2015, Peter Phillips had no control over the central campaign, as I stated in a previous column.

Should Bunting stick out his neck, many would need to know what really is his political philosophy. Can he really cut it in the PNP alongside the intellectual presence of Peter Phillips and even the youngster Julian Robinson?

- Mark Wignall is a political analyst. Email feedback to and