Operation Take Back St James
Dr Peter Phillips has assembled what he dubs a high-profile team of prospective candidates to launch a political assault on St James after a blistering defeat in the 2016 general election that left the party clinging to only one constituency – by a few dozen votes – in the five-seat parish.
Phillips, who is also the opposition leader, said that the party’s five prospective candidates – including one for Eastern Hanover – selected at its National Executive Council (NEC) on Sunday were among the many eager to represent the party in the lead-up to national polls due to be called by 2021.
In an interview with The Gleaner yesterday afternoon in which he was quizzed about some of the picks being household names, Phillips said the party was upbeat about an influx of accomplished persons seeking to contribute to nation building.
“They are answering the call. I mentioned some time ago that there were not many people coming forward, [but] now we have a lot of people of distinction and high quality coming forward at this point in time,” Phillips told The Gleaner.
“They are an exceptionally good slate, with good chances. I think they are a good mixture of experience, accomplishment, and youthfulness,” he said of the latest set of prospective candidates.
“We have the best candidates that any political party can have,” Phillips said, talking up a change in fortunes. “These are the best caretaker candidates in St James and western Jamaica,” Phillips insisted.
Dr Walton Small has been selected as the PNP’s standard-bearer in St James Southern, as Member of Parliament Derrick Kellier had indicated that he would not seek re-election after serving seven consecutive parliamentary terms since 1989. Kellier, who won the seat by magisterial recount by 53 votes, proved to be a spent force, haemmoraging votes under the weight of a national swing that almost saw him losing a PNP stronghold. Small has a high profile as principal of Wolmer’s Boys’ School in Kingston and president of the Inter-Secondary Schools’ Sports Association, which gives him muscle and reach throughout all public high schools.
Dr Andre Haughton, an economist, got the nod from the party’s NEC, the highest decision-making body outside of its national conference to challenge first-time MP Marlene Malahoo Forte, the country’s attorney general and sitting member of parliament for St James West Central.
Andre Hylton, car sales businessman, who lost his Eastern St Andrew seat to the JLP’s Fayval Williams, has been chosen as the point man for the St James Central constituency, where the JLP’s Heroy Clarke is the member of parliament.
Attorney-at-law Michael Hemmings has been given the task of unseating Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, member of parliament for East Central St James, while former Jamaica and West Indies cricketer and president of the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA), Wavell Hinds, has been sent to bat against first-time MP Dave Brown in Eastern Hanover.