Sun | Nov 29, 2020

Dayton Campbell leaves representational politics - Former MP plans to dedicate time to post of general secretary

Published:Sunday | November 22, 2020 | 8:24 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer

Dr Dayton Campbell is taking a step back from representational politics. He is hoping to become the People’s National Party’s general secretary.
Dr Dayton Campbell is taking a step back from representational politics. He is hoping to become the People’s National Party’s general secretary.

Win or lose next Sunday when the People’s National Party (PNP) selects its new general secretary and chairman, firebrand Comrade Dr Dayton Campbell has called time on his stint in representational politics for this term, but it may even be longer.

Campbell told The Sunday Gleaner last week that his bid for the post of PNP general secretary is not just about seeking to become the party’s CEO, but was an “ultimate commitment to dedicate time and energy to the party”.

The former two-term St Ann North Western member of parliament (MP) lost his bid for a third term to newcomer Krystal Lee, in the September general election.

The news of his departure was a shock to some constituents canvassed Friday night after Campbell’s disclosure to The Sunday Gleaner. Many feared that they – as well as their children – could be severely impacted, especially if they lose the healthcare assistance Campbell provided as MP.

“The state the party is in now, it needs the total commitment of general secretary. It can’t be a part-time job, because there is so much damage done and so much repair needed. So I am offering myself as general secretary, telling the Comrades of this great party that, with their help, I want to be at the forefront of rebuilding the organisation,” Campbell said on Friday.

“There is no one who can question my commitment to the PNP. That is what the party and Comrades need to see,” the former MP said.

“I am a workaholic. Maybe that is not a good thing, but that’s what I am. I am going to put all my work and energies into this party from which I benefited so much and from which I want others to benefit,” Campbell stressed.

Campbell’s detractors agree his loyalty and dedication is unquestioned, but accuse him of being too loose in speech, often running into trouble for utterances on the political hustings.

The newly elected president of the party, Mark Golding, has publicly endorsed Campbell’s candidacy, a move which has raised more than eyebrows in the deeply fractured party.

Former Deputy General Secretary Raymond Pryce has also indicated interest in the post.

At least one letter, purportedly from “concerned NEC members”, said Golding’s endorsement is tantamount to pushing the party’s National Executive Council to rubber-stamp his choice, going against tradition.

However, the last eight general secretaries, including the outgoing Julian Robinson, were never challenged for the position.

Arguing that the relationship between the president and general secretary must be a special one, a senior party source said the “level of trust and respect between the two must be like a husband and wife”.

“Only one former general secretary since Dr Paul Robertson was not the party leader’s choice, but that general secretary delivered a victory, and there have been many since Robertson,” said the PNP source. “People just looking for something to gripe about. Those crying for openness are getting it with the leader’s public statement.”

A medical doctor, Campbell said that he would also be focusing on his career, as politics, for him, was not about money.

“Politics is about service for me. On any team that I am on, I am one of the hardest workers on the team. So I am bringing a work ethic that is second to none. I am coming with a lot of energy, a lot of passion, organisational skills, managerial skills … ,” Campbell said in shoring up his pitch.

Party school to be revived as Comrades unite around ideology

Campbell wants to restore the party school, which he said served not only as a unifying force, but taught young people about the heritage and might of the party. The PNP’s school of political education flourished in the late 1980s, but fizzled mostly from lack of funding and interest. Classes were held on Saturdays in Kingston, Mandeville and Montego Bay.

“We must start back the political education programme. We must have a proper orientation and mentorship programme, so young persons like myself coming into the party can sidestep some of the pitfalls,” insisted Campbell. “We must have proper succession planning at all levels, even with workers within the party. We must train a cadre of persons so we can choose from them to carry out the different tasks.”

Canvassing is also on his radar, along with a plan to overhaul the operations of the secretariat, including technology, as well as a structured enumeration programme.

Campbell said he was all for giving more persons the right to cast ballots in future leadership challenges in the party.

“All group members must be allowed to vote, instead of representatives of groups. It [will allow] us to get a better feel of what the wider society wants, and is less likely to be corrupted or influenced by money or constituency or divisional leadership, leaders, etc,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.

“The groups must also register with the Social Development Commission so they effect change within their communities,” he said, adding that people will become disinterested “if they just meet once a month and all they do is curse the opponent”.

Group meetings, Campbell said, would move to provide training in several areas, including project writing, so they can access funding for community projects, if he is given the nod. Plans to revise party commissions and preserve the legacies of the former leaders and workers, including those still alive, are on his agenda.

“The ideology of the party is, must be, a major part of going forward. ... The only way to get real unity is around a common vision. So we have to look at the ideology,” he said. “If we don’t use the term democratic socialism, we still have to abide by the tenets, because the mission of the PNP is still to ensure that there is egalitarianism in access to the best of life, which is social justice … ,” he said.

Campbell served as campaign director for Golding’s successful bid for the presidency of the party earlier this month, having previously tasted defeat as part of Peter Bunting’s team, which challenged Dr Peter Phillips for the post last year. Losing, he said, was not new to him, as he also lost a previous bid, to head the PNP Youth Organisation, to Councillor Alrick Campbell.

A former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association, he was sidelined for months following the 2019 leadership challenge, and his post of opposition spokesman on health, in which he had distinguished himself, yanked by Phillips.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com