Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Bobby's dream job ... CHAIRMAN FOR LIFE!

Published:Sunday | September 25, 2016 | 9:22 AMErica Virtue
PNP 'Chairman for Life' Robert 'Bobby' Pickersgill.
PNP chairman Robert 'Bobby' Pickersgill (centre) flanked by his deputy Anthony Hylton (left) and deputy general secretary Julian Robinson.
1
2

Robert 'Bobby' Pickersgill, who has chaired the People's National Party (PNP) for nearly a quarter of a century, will be seeking re-election today for the position which he describes as the crowning achievement of his political career.

His intention to be returned is likely to frustrate some of his colleagues, including Anthony Hylton and Fitz Jackson, who have both indicated an interest in the party's second-highest office, when Pickersgill steps down.

But the 73-year-old Pickersgill last week told The Sunday Gleaner that he is going nowhere soon, even as he admitted he is approaching the end of his political career.

"At this particular time, it would be wrong for me to leave. Of course, I don't intend to stay for the rest of my life. I am in the September of my political career. I am aware of that. And I don't want the party to come around and say 'you must go'. I don't want to leave like that," said Pickersgill.

"They have been gracious enough to call me lovely nicknames like 'Chairman for Life' and 'Permanent Chairman'. It's flattering, but I am not going to be one of those to overstay my welcome, and, in fact, right now, it is more inviting to be out than in, for reasons that I will not necessarily explain," added Pickersgill.

 

ROLE OF CHAIRMAN

 

The veteran Comrade read from a PNP publication on the role of a chairman as he argued that he has done that job with distinction since assuming the position in 1992, following the changing of the party's political guard from the Manley dynasty.

For Pickersgill, being PNP chairman has been better than being a government minister.

"Bobby Pickersgill would be just an ordinary Jamaican citizen. But Bobby Pickersgill, the chairman of the People's National Party, one of the oldest and most successful political parties in the hemisphere. Believe me when I tell you I regard that much more important than even being a minister. And I have been a minister, one of the longest-serving ministers in the history of this country."

"Not that I don't have regard for that (being a minister), but all of my achievements pale in comparison. I do not mean pale in significance, but I have as number one being chairman of the great and noble People's National Party, because of what it has done for me and what I think I owe the party to do," declared Pickersgill as he noted that he regards the PNP as his life.

"Apart from my parents, where I have reached in life is mainly due to the PNP. And I have said this on more than one occasion, I owe (the PNP) more than it owes me," added Pickersgill.

Born in Clarendon in February 1943, Pickersgill said if it wasn't for the social policies of the PNP, which focused on education, he could have become a 'gateman' with nowhere else to go.

Pickersgill's ascension to the chairmanship came months after the fractious and divisive presidential race in 1992 between Portia Simpson Miller and P.J. Patterson (former PNP president and prime minister).

 

PEACE OFFERING

 

At the time, Pickersgill was considered the peace offering between the two camps to heal the party of the political bruise it suffered during the campaign.

In his early years as chairman, the PNP's visibility in the national space continued from the Michael Manley era with the party remaining in power until 2007 when it suffered its first electoral loss in more than 20 years.

The man, who in his heyday was considered a nimble dancer and is still regarded as a snazzy dresser, retained his position after an even more divisive presidential contest in 2002 to replace Patterson.

And he seems likely to be returned again today after last week's feeble presidential bid by Dr Karl Blythe.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com