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Mark Wignall | The stars were perfectly lined up for Peter Phillips

Published:Thursday | December 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM

It didn't take long after the PNP's shock loss on February 25 for Central Manchester MP Peter Bunting to begin a probing mission in trying to determine how his chances for PNP president stacked up against other aspirants. That was in March.

Then in April the Opposition leader made contact with a powerful PNP centre of influence who is a friend of mine. She wanted it to be known that she had endorsed Dr Peter Phillips as the person best suited to take over the reins of leadership once she stepped aside. I then penned a column in April, 'Portia fully supports Peter Phillips as next PNP leader'.

As a result I was privileged to receive a call from Portia and it was a bit of a shock as we had not spoken to each other since her winning the presidency in February 2006. She thanked me for the column but was quite specific that my son Maurice, Olympic finalist in the 110 hurdles in 2004 and 2008, was her real favourite.

 

BLUNT EFFECT

 

I also sensed, however, that her handlers wanted to blunt the effect of Peter Bunting's activity and make the path of Phillips to the presidency without the acrimony of 2006 and 2008. The Eastern St Andrew MP has a political rÈsumÈ that places him so far ahead of his PNP colleagues that he could be considered the most complete candidate ever.

Dr Phillips has served in a number of ministerial capacities, including minister of national security, a position which he held for six years and had significant success in reducing illegal narcotic flows through Jamaica. He also led a reform effort for Jamaica's security forces. Many remember the famous MOU he signed with the US authorities which later led to the downfall of Tivoli strongman, Dudus.

Previous to that, he was minister of transport and works from 1998 to 2001, where he had success in reorganising the transport system in the Corporate Area and in the rehabilitation and improvement of the road network across the island.

He also served as minister of health between 1995 and 1997, minister of special projects in the Office of the Prime Minister from 1991 to 1994, and senator and minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister between 1989 and 1991.

 

DELIVERING MUD

 

No other person in the PNP stands close to that. The question now is what will Peter Phillips do with all of those accomplishments to inspire an electorate that have grown wary of politicians promising the moon and delivering mud.

First, in Peter Bunting making the decision not to challenge it sends a signal that no other challengers are needed or welcome. To my way of seeing it, it doesn't matter what were the backdoor horse-trading antics as much as it shows that the PNP is capable of taking a mature path to leadership transition.

Second, if the PNP loses the 2020 election, Bunting and other aspirants will still possess levels of viability that will make them suited for a challenge after. Should the PNP win it is unlikely that Phillips will want to lead the PNP in the election after that. So, for Bunting and others, it comes close to the perfect political scenario.

One senses that the hand of Portia is behind all of this, and historians may list this as her magnum opus.

'Where is the big programme for the youth?' was what an important PNP operative said to me on the phone on Tuesday. 'Are we going to pack them all up in BPO operations and limit their growth in an environment where the industrial relations are stressful at best?'

Certainly, that would have to be at the top of any new development initiative that Peter Phillips would have to bring to the table as part of the PNP's next big push because the JLP administration and other governments before it have plainly fooled the people on youth development.

'In the rural areas, our 200,000 farmers are not being supported by the big hoteliers so many of their children are being forced into illicit activities. In the urban areas, the biggest employment for the youth is unemployment,' said my PNP friend.

Where is the plan?

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.