Mon | Feb 17, 2020

End of an Era | Wood Hall’s champion

Published:Tuesday | June 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
In 1991, Portia Simpson, minister of labour, welfare and sports (second left), and Marie Atkins (left), late Mayor of Kingston were caught in discussion with Glen Holden United States Ambassador to Jamaica,at a flag-raising ceremony in Kingston.
P.J. Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller dance up a storm at a 1994 event.

As she often describes herself "the girl from Wood Hall, St Catherine," Portia Simpson first announced her entry into representational politics when she won the Trench Town West division in the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation in 1974.

Two years later, Simpson set her sights on a seat in the House of Representatives that was held by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party.

In the 1976 general election, when the People's National Party (PNP) won a landslide victory, Simpson sent a strong signal to her political rival in St Andrew South West when she registered an emphatic win, signalling that she intended to be around for a long time as member of parliament (MP) in that constituency.

She steamrolled her opponent, Joseph McPherson, securing 13,584 votes to his 4,376 votes, making her the MP with the second highest votes, surpassed only by her colleague in St Andrew South, Anthony Spaulding, who received 13,927 votes.

Simpson's constituency was regarded by many as a political garrison in subsequent years, as she increased her percentage margin of wins, capturing a huge chunk of the votes.

For a first time, MP Simpson's win was compelling, and about a year later she was rewarded by being appointed parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Local Government. She was later appointed parliamentary secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility to oversee the Urban Farm Development programme.

Like her mentor, the late former prime minister Michael Manley, the young politician gained wide recognition from the grass roots and was soon to be noticed by the late former governor general, Sir Florizel Glasspole, who commented on her political zeal and passion.

Sir Florizel, who presided over the swearing-in of Simpson as parliamentary secretary, said he understood her to be "a very dynamic figure".

That dynamism and unquenchable fervour propelled her to the leadership of the PNP and also catapulted her to Jamaica House where she served twice as prime minister, being the first woman to lead the PNP and the country.