Sun | Aug 19, 2018

Portia's PNP in a pickle - Mixed views on whether JLP should call snap poll to take advantage of Comrades' infighting

Published:Sunday | December 4, 2016 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Portia Simpson Miller
Andrew Holness
Lisa Hanna
Daryl Vaz
Dr Paul Ashley

The Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) could move in for a political kill sometime in the new year, as the People's National Party (PNP) continues to flounder in the wake of another crushing defeat at the polls.

Holness, in his victory address at the JLP's headquarters last Monday, told jubilant supporters that now that the local government elections are settled, the issue of the national election needs to be settled.

His comments have been seen by many as an early indication that the prime minister could be returning to the people for a stronger mandate shortly.

And one of his key Cabinet members, hotshot Member of Parliament (MP) Daryl Vaz, said the time was right for another face-off with the PNP, whose president, Portia Simpson Miller, he believes, has not only lost her magic, but also her magic wand.

"The Portia Simpson Miller of 2016 is no match for Andrew Holness, based on his performance to date. Holness is displaying leadership qualities that could make him the best prime minister this country has ever seen," Vaz told The Sunday Gleaner.

He argued that Holness has articulated a vision and has the Jamaican people, including the business community, buying into it.




Vaz, who is no stranger to internal party disputes, charged that the current state of disunity in the PNP is sending it into the political wilderness.

"Politics is the art of timing, and a day in politics is a very long time. The state of the PNP, plus the two election losses, have plunged them into further disunity, which is playing out. And so a 32-31 seat majority in the Lower House without cooperation is a hindrance to a government," argued Vaz.

"It would have to be something that is on the mind of a prime minister and cabinet ministers, and it is being talked about, I can tell you. I am not saying it one way or the other, but it is occupying the minds of both PNP and JLP officials."

The JLP has a one-seat majority in the Lower House, and many political observers believe the time is right for another battle with the PNP - which is bitterly divided, short on cash, out of favour with the private sector, disorganised at its base, and with a leader who appears not to be in control of the imploding party.

Among those who believe the time is right for Holness to strike is PNP's cast-aside Raymond Pryce, who has suggested that if he were in the prime minister's shoes, he would go for the jugular and call a snap election.




But fellow Comrade, Dr Karl Blythe, said Holness would be silly to go back to the polls right now, even though he agreed that as it stands now the JLP would be likely to secure another victory.

"He has a mandate and it matters not if it is one seat or 21 seats. I do not see that as political wisdom to go and seek a greater mandate. As far as I am concerned, I don't see the PNP going forward with Comrade Simpson Miller. It must be clear to her that she needs to set a departure date," Blythe told The Sunday Gleaner.

Simpson Miller, the powerful and charismatic PNP veteran, easily beat off a challenge from Dr Karl Blythe for the leadership of the party in September, but despite the strong backing of the delegates, there is growing criticisms of her leadership style by persons inside the party.

She has earned herself even more demerit points over her failure to deal with the open revolt taking place among Comrades in the St Ann South East constituency, which is represented by Lisa Hanna.

Simpson Miller's intervention so far has only served to move what was a quiet fight on to the front pages, with clear battle lines drawn and all indications that what was once a safe PNP seat could be lost, as Comrades are adamant that something has to give, as there is no possibility of a reconciliation with Hanna and her detractors.

Political analyst, attorney-at-law Dr Paul Ashley, agreed that Simpson Miller has lost any magic she once had, and that St Ann South East will become the political boiling point for the PNP.

"Portia cannot win another election, and neither will the PNP under her leadership. Right now, the party needs to return to discipline. And Peter Phillips is the person to return it to that discipline, take it out of the political dancehall culture into which it has descended," argued Ashley.

"What does the PNP or Jamaica expect of Portia? Jamaica's politics has gone past Portia, and so has the PNP. The party has evolved and that evolution has left them all by the wayside. The disunity in the PNP and Portia's stance have placed the PNP exactly where the JLP was under Edward Seaga."

Seaga led the JLP to four general election losses between 1989 and 2002 and Simpson Miller has lost two between 2007 and 2016.

According to Ashley, the situation in St Ann has become caustic and Simpson Miller has shown that she cannot manage a rapprochement.

"If Portia had any magic, the St Ann problem would be solved a long time. So the PNP must be asking the question: why has Hanna become such an errant child?" said Ashley.