Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Holness targeted - PNP looks to unseat JLP Leader

Published:Tuesday | October 27, 2015 | 10:00 AM
Phillip Paulwell

Despite Andrew Holness having won West Central St Andrew by 1,039 votes in the December 2011 general election, the People’s National Party (PNP) believes he is vulnerable and has named his constituency among 12 Corporate Area seats it intends to win.

Holness, leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), has served unbroken since 2002 when he was first elected, but the PNP now believes he is at his most vulnerable and will be moving to unseat him. For the fourth consecutive election, the PNP intends to put forward Patrick Roberts as its candidate in West Central St Andrew. Phillip Paulwell, chairman of the PNP’s Region Three, which covers Kingston and St Andrew, said Roberts will be “much more organised than the last time”.

The PNP won 10 of the 15 Corporate Area constituencies and Paulwell said the seats now held by Holness and Derrick Smith, leader of opposition Business in the House, are being targeted. Smith is a long-standing MP for North West St Andrew, and he won his seat by a healthy 1,689 margin in 2007.

VULNERABLE

Arguing that Holness is vulnerable, Paulwell said West Central St Andrew was a marginal seat in favour of the PNP and it is high time it be returned to the folds of the party. “We are going to put all our efforts now to take it back this time,” Paulwell said.

Holness narrowly won the seat in May 1998 after three separate rounds of voting and five months after the initial December poll in 1997. He went on to win by 1,418 votes in 2002, which slipped to 1,058 in 2007 and 1,039 in 2011.

WINNING MARGINS

Meanwhile, of the 10 Corporate Area seats won by the PNP, three were won by fewer than 300 votes. Those seats are Eastern St Andrew (254), East Rural St Andrew (259) and West Rural St Andrew (237), which were in the columns of the JLP for the two preceding general election. “Those we have to take. Our internal polls show that we can take them, but I am looking for expanding now. We do believe that we need to claw back West Central,” Paulwell said.

Meanwhile, Paulwell and PNP General Secretary Paul Burke have insisted no decision has been taken in respect of its candidate for East Rural St Andrew. Businessman Peter Blake defeated incumbent Member of Parliament Damion Crawford in an internal run-off, but was not invited to a recent candidates retreat in St Ann.

Burke said Blake was not invited to the retreat because the Integrity Commission had not sent a report about his vetting. Paulwell said the party is now awaiting the report of its Integrity Commission before deciding whether Blake goes forward as a candidate, and indicated that a decision would be made this week. P