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Patterson urges PNP leadership aspirants to get timing right

Published:Monday | September 19, 2016 | 9:00 AMJovan Johnson
Former PNP president P.J. Patterson greets party supporters on the final day of the 78th annual conference held yesterday at Jamaica College in St Andrew.

Acknowledging that just-re-elected People's National Party (PNP) President Portia Simpson Miller is in the departure zone, her predecessor, P.J. Patterson, is warning aspirants to the post to "put themselves in a lane" and get their timing right.

The advice, using the analogy of a track-and-field relay race, was used by Patterson yesterday at the end of the 78th conference of the party rocked by a campaign-finance scandal and internal jostling for the leadership crown.

"In the life of every nation, there are watershed periods. We are at a watershed period in the history of our nation and of our political institutions as well," Patterson told journalists after his address to Comrades.

"I have always described politics as a relay, where different people run different legs. It's so in the (Jamaica) Labour Party, it's so in the PNP. In so far as the PNP is concerned, Norman Manley ran the first leg, Michael Manley the second, and me the third. But the difference between political relays and normal relays is that it is a continuing process, so the tape keeps on moving and the length of each leg will differ. It's not for me to determine when the leg of the present incumbent leader will end.

"What I do know is that we are within that time zone where there has to be a handover. If there's an attempt to grab the baton outside of that time zone, the team will be disqualified. If you attempt to wait until too long before the handover takes place, then the person who is waiting on the baton runs out of the leg and the team is disqualified," he added.

According to Patterson, "Those who aspire to take over the baton must put themselves in a lane and in a position and in a time frame when there can be an orderly passing of the baton".

On Saturday, Simpson Miller had similar words for Lisa Hanna, one of the younger Comrades who has not hidden her leadership ambitions and who failed to win one of four vice-president posts.

"Lisa, nuh worry, your time will come. You are a bright young woman and yuh work hard. Your time will come," she told Hanna, who herself declared, "I am not giving up."

The presidential election turned out to be a contest between Blythe, who was trounced, and Simpson Miller,.

But leading up to those polls, speculation was rife that she would have been challenged by high-ranking members.

Bunting had given indications he would have challenged, but drew back into his lane.

Simpson Miller has already endorsed former Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, who has indicated that he will run for the leadership whenever she vacates.

Patterson, who said he would always speak out on behaviour by party members, also cautioned against a 'foot-in-mouth disease' where members, he argued, talk themselves and the party into problems.

Meanwhile, PNP chairman for more than 20 years, Robert Pickersgill, has said there will be no new chairman anytime soon, as he is not going anywhere, adding now more than ever that the scandal-hit party needs him.

"I have nothing to deter my confidence (on being re-elected)," he told journalists when asked about how he feels about the vote on the position that is expected at the next National Executive Council meeting.

"Especially because of what's happening, I don't think I should (leave)."

One of the happenings involves allegations of bribery involving party members while in Government - allegations, Pickersgill has said he does not expect to be proved when the Office of the Contractor General completes its probe.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com