Fri | Sep 21, 2018

Editorial: PNP: transition and legacy

Published:Sunday | April 3, 2016 | 12:00 AM

A noteworthy observation of the United States presidential primaries on the side of Democrats is how Hillary Clinton casts herself as the inheritor and protector of Barack Obama's legacy.

It is not that Mrs Clinton doesn't have differences with some of Mr Obama's policies, such as the proposed free-trade agreements with the European Union and Pacific Rim countries. But their differences are largely on emphasis. In the fundamentals, they are mostly at one.

So, Mr Obama can be reasonably assured that if Mrs Clinton wins her party's nomination and the presidency, she will attempt to build on his signature programmes and assure his place in history. The quid pro quo for Mrs Clinton is that she also inherits Mr Obama's considerable support among Democrats in the primaries and in a general election.

This is an example of the workings of realpolitik, which, we believe, has relevance to Jamaica, in particular the leadership of the People's National Party (PNP) at this time as its members contemplate how to renew their party in the aftermath of its defeat in the February general election. Such issues will not be lost, especially on the PNP president, Portia Simpson Miller.

Mrs Simpson Miller remains an active, vibrant and seemingly fit 70-year-old. Had her party won the general election, there could hardly have been a question of her ability to continue as prime minister, even as she arranges for a transition of leadership.




But, as is inevitably the case when political parties lose elections, there are analyses of the causes for the defeat. Mrs Simpson Miller is now subject to this kind of attention. There are even suggestions that she might even be challenged at the PNP's conference in September.

We believe that Mrs Simpson Miller would win any such contest, even as we assert, as she has done, the democrat right of anyone to pose such a challenge. The issues for Mrs Simpson Miller to contemplate include how, and in what role, she considers herself to be the best asset to the PNP; the likely impact of an open contest on the party; the best way, if such things are important to her, to protect her legacy; and who, if she is not in the leadership race, would best do so.

If she remains the party leader, Mrs Simpson Miller will be 75 when the next general election will be due, which, of itself, is not a problem. She will, however, have been at the helm of the PNP, in a global environment of rapid change and shifting paradigms, but with little change of personnel at the head of the PNP. On the other hand, some of the PNP members might be on an early transition to youthful leadership, giving the party the ability to compete, on that front, with the Jamaica Labour Party, whose leader is a generation younger than Mrs Simpson Miller.

Another potential transitional scheme is a kind of interim arrangement where the party achieves this sense of renewal, without leadership passing immediately to the most youthful aspirants. In that regard, supposing a voluntary departure by Mrs Simpson Miller, Peter Phillips, the finance minister in the last administration, would be the likely front-runner.

Mrs Simpson Miller's greatest legacy would be to have presided over the major transformational period for the Jamaican economy, and no other person's legacy is as bound in that as Dr Phillips'.