Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Editorial | Colin Campbell’s pitiful whine

Published:Monday | August 1, 2016 | 8:00 AM

Two months ago, as British Labour Party MPs prepared themselves for the mutiny against their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Neil Kinnock stood in a meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party and gave a shredding speech as to why Mr Corbyn had to go. He made Labour unelectable.

Neil Kinnock is not an MP. He is a Labour grandee. He led the party from 1983 to 1992, losing two elections, which British political analysts largely attribute to the far-left wing, which dissipated public confidence in Labour as a governing force. It is much the same argument that many people now make of Mr Corbyn, despite the fact that he won the party's leadership in a direct vote by membership, in which he received around 60 per cent of the ballots.

Whatever you many think about the logic of Neil Kinnock's argument, he had not only the right to make it, but perhaps an obligation to do so if he genuinely believed it was in the interest of the party. As did Ed Miliband and Tony Blair, other former Labour leaders who have come out against Mr Corbyn. For the argument is that the ideological purity being pursued by Mr Corbyn and his wing of the Labour Party is of little value if, in the context of a democracy, it is unable to win state power and, therefore, the right to pursue those policies.

We have related this scenario for the benefit of the defeated Colin Campbell, and any of his supporters, who chafed under the publicly declared support for Mark Golding in their contest for the chairmanship of the People's National Party's (PNP) St Andrew Southern constituency, which is a safe seat for the party. Mr Golding, who convincingly crushed Campbell in last Saturday's vote, will be the shoo-in when the sitting MP, Omar Davies, steps down, which is imminent.

P.J. Patterson is the PNP's leading grandee. He led the party for 14 years, which coincided with his period as prime minister. He won three general elections. So we understood Mr Campbell's frustration that the weight of Mr Patterson's authority was behind his opponent.

 

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"Fair is far," moaned Mr Campbell. "It is unprecedented for party leaders to enter the playing field of constituency election, as all party leaders hold the reserve power of removal."

But Mr Patterson is not the leader of the PNP, and hasn't been for a decade. Nor is he an officer of the party. In the circumstance, he had the right to declare in favour of any candidate, in this case Mr Golding, who he believes best represents the values of the PNP and makes it more electable.

It might have been a different matter if the endorsement had been from Portia Simpson Miller, the PNP's incumbent president, in whom, as Mr Campbell observed, would reside the reserve power of removal. And in this case, at this time, we wonder if any such restraint would be applicable to Mrs Simpson Miller, who is facing a leadership challenge and would be in her right to be seeking strategic support.

Rather than engaging in a pitying whine, what Mr Campbell should have done was to defeat Mr Patterson's endorsement with the power of logic and purposeful argument. In the absence of that, he was walloped 70-8 in last Saturday's vote.