PNP picks 'The Principal' - Padmore Primary’s Keisha Hayle to face JLP’s Nigel Clarke in St Andrew NW by-election
Despite its failed experiment with political newcomer Dr Shane Alexis in the recent by-election in St Mary South East, the People's National Party (PNP) has turned to another political neophyte to contest the looming race in St Andrew North Western.
The Sunday Gleaner yesterday confirmed that 42-year-old school principal Keisha Hayle has been given the nod to represent the party in the by-election expected to be called by Prime Minister Andrew Holness within days.
"She has faced the party's Integrity Commission and ticked all the boxes, so we don't expect any surprises as in the case of Alexis," a senior PNP source told The Sunday Gleaner late last Friday.
"She has done extremely well in education, turning around Padmore Primary, and she is a daughter of the constituency, and we expect her to put an end to Nigel's attempt to enter representational politics," added the source.
Yesterday, PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson gave the official confirmation in a brief response before he jetted off to Brussels as one of the persons from around the world selected to participate in a European Union Visitors Programme.
"Yes, she is the selected candidate," said Robinson, as he added that the party has also selected candidates for eight other seats where it had no representatives.
"We are putting persons in place in constituencies so they can begin the political work, and we will start a series of meet-the-candidates sessions later this month," added Robinson.
Hayle is credited with turning around Padmore Primary in West Rural St Andrew, once scheduled for closure after it was deemed a failing school.
In 2015, she received a Gleaner Special Award for her service to education and is heavily involved in social activities in the community around the school, including the Red Hills Retro Link-up, which seeks to empower young people.
Efforts to contact Hayle late last week were unsuccessful, but the PNP's machinery was in high gear in the constituency when our news team visited last Friday, as they prepared to welcome the woman who has a degree in psychology and political science from the University of the West Indies.
"Now we are getting a strong candidate, and with Derrick (Smith) not here we can take back this seat which we have not held since I was a boy," said a senior Comrade based in Maverley, who has tasted defeat after defeat since 1980.
"We are going to give Nigel a political backsiding," added the Comrade, as he charged that Holness blocked Duane Smith from contesting the seat because he knew the young man could not follow in the footsteps of his father and ensure a victory.
News came last week that the Standing Committee of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had accepted a recommendation from its Selection Committee and approved Clarke as its representative in the seat.
The elder Smith had warned that he would not back Clarke if the party's constitution was not followed in arriving at its candidate.
The St Andrew North Western constituency was created in 1976 when the number of constituencies was increased from 53 to 60.
St Andrew North Western history
- The electoral divisions in the constituency are Chancery Hall, Havendale and Hughenden.
- Of the eight contested parliamentary general elections in the seat, the Jamaica Labour Party has won seven to the People's National Party's one.
- In 1976, Dr Kenneth McNeill (PNP) defeated Karl Samuda (JLP), but in 1980, Samuda sent Carlyle Dunkley (PNP) into retirement from representative politics when he trounced him by a massive 5,646 majority.
- With Samuda shifting to the St Andrew North Central seat in 1989, Derrick Smith stepped in to fill the breach for the JLP. In a very close contest, Smith beat the PNP's Dr Jephthah Ford by 233 votes and remained undefeated until his recent resignation.