Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Editorial | What PNP leader might learn from Corbyn

Published:Tuesday | July 19, 2016 | 7:00 AM

You have to admire Jeremy Corbyn, the unlikely and beleaguered leader of Britain's Labour Party. As messy as it often is, he respects democracy.

Less than a year ago, Mr Corbyn, a long-time member of Labour's left wing, was, in defiance of conventional wisdom, overwhelmingly elected to the party's helm. Since then, his has been a rough ride. Members of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) have consistently questioned Mr Corbyn's competence and the efficacy of his policies, while seeking ways to unseat him.

In the aftermath of the referendum vote for Britain to exit the European Union, and fearing that the new prime minister, Theresa May, will call early elections, the PLP triggered a confidence vote in Mr Corbyn's leadership. More than 70 per cent voted 'no'. So, Labour will have a new leadership vote.

Despite efforts to keep him off the ballot, Mr Corbyn will be among the candidates. But it will be difficult for many thousands of new Labour members, recruited by the grass-roots group Momentum, whose activities helped to propel Mr Corbyn to the top post last summer, will have a hard time voting this time because of restrictive eligibility arrangements engineered by Labour's anti-Corbyn wing.

A week ago, being jeered because of his troubles by the outgoing prime minister, David Cameron, Mr Corbyn responded: "Democracy is an exciting and splendid thing, and I am enjoying every moment of it."

It is useful to recall that Mr Corbyn only had a shot at Labour leadership because of the resignation of his predecessor, Ed Miliband, when the party lost last year's general election. And Mr Cameron stepped down in the face of the Brexit vote in a referendum he called.

We commend the foregoing to Portia Simpson Miller, the 70-year-old president of the People's National Party (PNP), who, it appears, won't face a leadership challenge following the decision by Peter Bunting, the shadow national security minister, to place a "tactical pause" on his ambitions for the top job. Mrs Simpson Miller has led the PNP for a decade. She was, until February when her party lost a general election, Jamaica's prime minister for four years.

 

CALLS FOR RENEWAL

 

Since the party's defeat, there have been growing calls within the PNP for a renewal of the party that has held government for 22 of the last 26 years, and many of whose ageing leaders have been in their posts for 22 for the past 26 years. While its last government, with the support of the International Monetary Fund, competently managed necessary economic reforms, there has been a dearth of intellectual ferment in the PNP.

Yet, Mrs Simpson Miller seemingly views the call for a renewal as an attack on her "40 years of service to this noble movement" and about "discarding people who have given their life" to the PNP. Further, she is offended that these issues are being aired in public, rather than "within the walls of the PNP".

Clearly, Mrs Simpson Miller has a jaundiced and myopic view of the issues and the PNP. It matters not that she may have sponsored in the PNP some of the people who call for renewal. Moreover, political parties are not tightly bound entities accountable only to themselves; the best ideas evolve when subject to the widest scrutiny.

Ask Jeremy Corbyn. There is no patented right to lead.