Mon | Oct 23, 2017

End of an Era | Leaving from the left - Simpson Miller joins Seaga as former PMs to resign while on the opposition benches

Published:Friday | June 30, 2017 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Opposition Leader Portia Simspon Miller waves to supporters on her arrival at Gordon House on March 16 to deliver her final presentation to Budget Debates. She demitted office on April 2.
In this file photo, outgoing president of the People's National Party Portia Simpson Miller and incoming president Dr Peter Phillips raise hands in solidarity at a special delegates' conference at the National Arena earlier this year.
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Following a painful defeat in the 2007 general election, Portia Simpson Miller faced another challenge for the leadership of the People's National Party (PNP). This time, a face-off with Dr Peter Phillips in 2008.

Simpson Miller was to prevail, and that set the stage for her to lead the PNP back to power in December 2011.

In a national swing against the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), the PNP picked up 42 of the 63 seats contested.

Simpson Miller, who was widely blamed for the 2007 defeat, was again the darling of the Comrades as she embarked on take two as prime minister of Jamaica.

Economic reforms, crime and the plight of the poor would take front and centre of her administration's focus.

Under Simpson Miller, Jamaica secured a new Extended Fund Facility with the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Dr Peter Phillips was shifted from the Ministry of National Security to Finance, as Dr Omar Davies was moved to transportation and works as she crafted a 'war' Cabinet.

The economic pill was bitter over the period even as critics agreed that this was necessary to save a country that seemed on the verge of collapse going into the 2011 election.

Less than four years into the term, Phillips put the nation on alert that an election was imminent in September of 2015.

Grumbles of the challenges related to the tight economic programme grew louder, as the PNP became dogged by squabbles over candidate's selection, challenges and removal.

 

Games they played came back to haunt them

 

An ugly internal fight played out in the public domain and the stocks of the party began to falter as it seemed the power brokers were seeking to position persons for "life after Portia", who they were certain would lead them into another victory.

But the games they played came back to haunt them and from a position where the PNP seemed certain for victory, the party lost 32-31 in the February 2016 general election.

Portia Simpson Miller would now leave representational politics on a losing note, just like her long-time friend, former prime minister and JLP Leader, Edward Seaga, and unlike Michael Manley and P.J. Patterson before her.

In less than a year after that defeat, she would resign as opposition leader and PNP president as the ugly grumbles which had dogged her leadership of the PNP resurfaced.

On Tuesday, she made her final walk as a representative of the people she loved so much, accepting tributes from friends and allies alike in George William Gordon House.

"Who would have thought that a little girl from Wood Hall in deep rural St Catherine could become prime minister of Jamaica, not once, but twice?" She did.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com