Mon | Oct 26, 2020

Why should a party leader resign?

Published:Thursday | September 17, 2020 | 12:09 AM


FOLLOWING THE results of the most recent general election seeing the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) with an overwhelming majority win over the People’s National Party (PNP), Dr Peter Phillips publicly tendered his resignation as party leader of the losing colour. With this resignation came shouts of joy, cries of disappointment, and deafening silence fuelled by overpowering uncertainty in the future of the PNP.

There was also another voice that perhaps many of us did not expect to hear. This was the call, or at the very least the option to impress upon Dr Phillips to continue as party leader. I for one saw this as a breath of fresh air in the midst of a period of awe, but not because I support the call. It was encouraging to hear because I ask the question: why should any party leader resign?

To be clear, I do not intend to argue for or against Dr Phillips’ resignation in this article. That is a decision I believe is entirely up to him. Here, I merely seek to appeal to my fellow citizens to revisit the manner in which we engage in the democratic processes of our country and the discussions about them.

Many call for Dr Phillips’ resignation because they either dislike him as a leader based on his disposition, or because they blame him for the party’s recent humiliating defeat. This is the kind of reasoning I could never bring myself to support as a well-intentioned Jamaican.

One could readily see why an ill, managerial incompetent, criminally motivated, or unscrupulous individual should and must resign from such a highly influential and crucial position in society. These, while not an exhaustive list, are characteristics of a person that is quintessentially antagonistic to the kind of productive service we expect from a party or opposition leader, prime minister, member of parliament, government official, or any civil servant, especially those serving at the highest levels.

Contrast calling for the resignation of the holder of such an office on the basis of the highly subjective poor feeling one gets from looking at them or hearing their voices, especially when that person’s work over the past decades has been exemplary; or the dizziness one experiences from losing an election in this way under their leadership. Mere dislike of the idea of the person and the defeat they faced in a contest for leadership is not an indictment on the person, but rather an indictment on the citizens of the country calling for their head. While leading the party to victory is an expectation of party supporters, it should not be the summation of their duties.

Why should any society demand that a competent, decorated and upstanding civil servant take the back seat simply because they lost an election? How could it ever be constructive to suggest courses of action that impact the productivity of our society based on criteria used in a basic popularity contest?

I would hope that current and future leaders of my country never ever even consider making a decision such as this one influenced by similarly irrational pleas from the public. Instead, demand from us stronger and more sound contributions to public debates and conversations. Otherwise, you would be complicit in paving the way for the establishment of empty-headed toy leaders who are pleasant to the eyes and orators of platitudes, but wreckers of the 58 years and counting of progress and prosperities we can all, irrespective of party colours, celebrate.

Should any party leader resign? For the right reasons, yes! But those reasons cannot be those currently on the lips of the public.