Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Mark Wignall | PNP leadership battle heats up

Published:Sunday | October 25, 2020 | 12:10 AM

Lisa Hanna and Mark Golding, People’s National Party presidential candidates, greet each other after signing the PNP internal presidential election code of conduct while Dr Peter Phillips looks on.
Lisa Hanna and Mark Golding, People’s National Party presidential candidates, greet each other after signing the PNP internal presidential election code of conduct while Dr Peter Phillips looks on.

In the final US presidential debate, Donald Trump continued to misguide the American people. Against overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he again insisted that every room he enters, he is the least racist person in that room.

Back here at home, while we are still being consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic, much of our attention is being taken up by the internal People’s National Party (PNP) race for leadership. Two candidates are in it, and by my count, one has been coming across as more authentic, while the other sounds like a package prepared on an assembly line.

Let us be fair here. So far, most of what we have are words from the two candidates, Mark Golding, member of parliament for St Andrew Southern, and Lisa Hanna, the St Ann South Eastern MP. Early last week, both candidates released more words, Golding in his official launch from his constituency and Hanna in an interview on ‘Miss Kitty Live’.

Both candidates tried to put their best foot forward, and in the process, it was Golding who came across as being ‘in his element’ as he reached out to his constituents, the wider constituency of PNP supporters and delegates, and, maybe, a broader group of potential voters. In listening to Golding, one sensed that he knew he was not as well known as Hanna. In that understanding, he knew that he had to adopt a strategy to pick off those delegates whom he would need to take him into favourable territory by November 7.

Hanna gave the impression that she was there already. That may not be altogether a bad political strategy, that of sounding like a winner when one has barely settled in the starting gates. I was particularly drawn to Hanna’s answer that her young age (45), in comparison to Golding (55), would give her an advantage in the race and beyond.

She said it would give her more time. More time to do what?

It seems to me that many in the PNP have become too much taken up with the relatively young age of PM Holness (48) to the point that they believe that just because the PNP’s Peter Phillips (70) was seen as out of touch with the sad realities that burdened his doomed search for space at Jamaica House, age is now being given an outsized importance.

That reasoning places Peter Phillips’ age as the major factor in the horrible general election loss and not the fact that Phillips just never did connect with his own PNP supporters and many of those in the wider electorate. As I have repeatedly said and written, once Phillips began speaking, many started sleeping. That is a major disconnect, even before he had a chance to pronounce on policy positions.

POOR LEADERSHIP TEMPLATE

For those who came in late, Hanna won her seat on September 3 by 31 votes. Understand that against the background of the lady winning the seat for the PNP by 5,000 votes in the past.

It is not a secret that Hanna has been a divisive element in her constituency to the point that at one stage, there was almost an open revolt by her councillors. In a race for PNP president, one would expect that all of the candidates would at the very least have the support of their own councillors. The councillors would then be able to present the groups and delegates to the aspirant on a platter.

Not so with Hanna. Councillor for the Bensonton division in St Ann South Eastern, Lydia Richards, has already broken for Mark Golding, and I expect that more will soon be coming on board for him.

In the days when the PNP was riding high under the leadership of Simpson Miller, the wave would have taken Lisa Hanna to impressive victories. With the massive swing to the JLP measured in opinion polls done prior to September 3, it needed real effort by the MP to keep the constituency alive and safely in the PNP column.

Never really having a need to work on her own behalf by showing her successes in the constituency and cohesiveness with her councillors, she was taken along on the PNP wave that used to give most boats a healthy rise at election times. In 2020, her leadership failures, problems in her councils, and problems with her councillors gave her just what one would expect from such political cacophony. A 31-vote win.

ADVANTAGE GOLDING

We have not heard of any political friction in Mark Golding’s St Andrew Southern constituency, but let us understand that Golding is the holder of a garrison constituency. He may not have a need to explain the intricacies of that to PNP delegates, but at some stage in the life of this country, all MPs of garrison constituencies will have to come clean with that reckoning.

As I have said before, so far, what we have heard from both camps are words. In judging those words, Golding not only sounds believable but actually comes across as engaging and anything but boring. It is obvious that he understands his role and the duty that brought him to this point.

There is no way that a party that fell to the devils of divisiveness and endless factionalism can dare to present a candidate in Lisa Hanna, whose words are promising us that she is better suited to bring an end to such political bitterness. Are we joking?

Over the next two weeks, more will be revealed that will easily show that Golding is leagues ahead of Hanna in not just understanding the issues but in having the tools and the personnel to deal with them successfully.

The most dangerous part of what is taking place now is not what is being discussed openly but plans that a small but powerful cabal are setting out to execute.

More on that later.

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