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Carolyn Cooper | No exit strategy for PNP president?

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

Portia Simpson Miller should take a leaf out of David Cameron's book. Cameron lost a referendum he didn't have to call. Portia Simpson Miller lost an election she didn't have to call. As soon as the votes were counted, Cameron announced his intention to resign. The night she lost the general election, Portia Simpson Miller did not seem to even consider the possibility of resigning.

And it doesn't look as if she's been thinking about it since then. In fact, at last Sunday's meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the People's National Party, Mrs Simpson Miller emphatically declared, "I have always put the party before self. My love and loyalty for this party is beyond question. I intend to offer myself for re-election as your party president for the next political year."

Sceptics could reasonably conclude that Mrs Simpson Miller's statement of intent is decidedly schizophrenic. It sounds more like a threat than a promise. If she did put the party before self, and if she really felt love and loyalty for the party, that's precisely why she should not offer herself for re-election as party president!




Mrs Simpson Miller must know that there are many devout Comrades who believe it's time for her to pass the baton. And it's not just the high-profile aspirants who are jostling to replace her! The rank and file of the party, I suspect, are anxious for the PNP to wheel and come again. And not much wheeling can be done with Mrs Simpson Miller at the wheel. A new driver is needed to steer the party in a different direction.

As I reflected on Mrs Simpson Miller's seemingly conflicted declaration, a quote from Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, came to mind. Brutus says to Cassius:

"There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries."

In other words, you have to go with the flow. And you should know when it's time to go. You must take the tide that will lead you to good fortune. This fortune could be nothing more or less than a fulfilling retirement. If you don't go with the flow, you'll get stuck in shallows and miseries as all sorts of people begin to throw words at you, dissing you for staying on too long. Mrs Simpson Miller should talk to Eddie Seaga.




It really shouldn't have to come to this. After a long and distinguished career, an elder stateswoman or man should know when to bow out. But it seems as if vanity makes it difficult for politicians to let go. They fool themselves into thinking they are indispensable. And when they leave themselves careless, they are dispensed with against their will.

It would be so embarrassing if Mrs Simpson Miller lost the election for party president in September! But, perhaps, she's gambling that no one will oppose her. She shouldn't count on that. The rumblings of dissent are getting louder. The leave camp is much more vocal than the stay.

At last Sunday's NEC meeting, Dr Karl Blythe, a former vice-president of the PNP, courageously told Mrs Simpson Miller that it's time to set a timetable for her departure as leader of the party. There were protests against Blythe. But I wonder if that apparent show of loyalty wasn't just an act to keep the president in a state of blissful ignorance.




I outlined an exit strategy for Mrs Simpson Miller in a column published on January 24, 2016, 'Mek Sista P tek her time!' That reference to taking time was about not rushing to call the election. Because the column was written in Jamaican, it might not have been read by Mrs Simpson Miller and her advisers. So here's an English translation of the most pertinent bits:

"Sister P doesn't have to be concerned about her legacy. It's safe. The first woman to become prime minister of Jamaica! That could never have been easy. ... If Sister P gives up the job as prime minister, there are lots of other things she can do. I think her first project should be writing her autobiography. Not just what's on Wikipedia. But the whole bill and receipt. She can employ a ghost writer. And she doesn't have to be ashamed of getting help. The books of many celebrities are written by ghosts.

"And when the book is published, Sister P can do lecture tours all over. At home and abroad. Michael Manley did it. P.J. Patterson as well. And Eddie Seaga. When politicians leave office, they don't have to sit idly at home. Sister P has her Portia Simpson Miller Foundation that was set up in 2010. She can continue to develop it."

That was just a start. I'm sure there's much more Mrs Simpson Miller can do in retirement from representational politics. And she doesn't need anyone to define her exit strategy. She can do that herself. But, first, she has to come to terms with the reality that the best way to demonstrate her love for, and loyalty to, the People's National Party is to let go, sooner rather than later.

- Carolyn Cooper is a consultant on culture and development. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com.