Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Julian Robinson takes aim at local government elections

Published:Sunday | October 16, 2016 | 10:00 AMErica Virtue
Julian Robinson

The first major task of People's National Party (PNP) general secretary-designate Julian Robinson is to get the party ready for local government elections, which is widely expected by the end of the year.

Immediately after that, Robinson intends to take aim at Comrades to define what the party stands for as a political movement. His goal is to explain, preach and have members of the organisation practise the core values and return pride of place to the 78-year-old party.

In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Robinson said there is no doubt that the local government elections will be his political baptism of fire as he assumes the role of general secretary on November 27. He expects that after the local government elections his opposition party will emerge victorious.

"My first task is for the party to be ready for the local government elections. There is a team in place, led by vice-president Noel Arscott, as well as a campaign team. But obviously, the preparation and ensuring that we run a smooth campaign is a priority. We don't know when the elections will be, it could be before I assume office, but even if I am not in office, as a deputy general secretary I am very involved in that process," Robinson explained.

"A lot of the work would have been done before I assume office. But I would say that election preparedness and ensuring that we do well in the local government elections are the first order of business."

Beyond that, Robinson, who authored the political party's post-election autopsy report, will take aim at marginal seats - those won narrowly (200 or fewer votes). The focus will also be on the 11 seats that were lost in the February general election, one term after they were won. All 11 were held by first-time members of parliament.

"The PNP plans to regain those seats. To do this, it must include a combination of having the candidates in place, as well as having a system of support and mentorship. One of the issues which came out of the appraisal report is that the 11 seats that we lost in the last general election were seats that were held by first-time members of parliament. I think it is important that there is more of a structure to support some of the persons who come into politics, to support and provide guidance to them so that those seats can be regained," outlined Robinson.

He said many of the losing first-time candidates were architects of their own demise, some refusing help, while others dismissed advice given.

Parallel to those tasks will be a microscopic look at the party's group structure - the body from which delegates are selected to vote in internal party elections.

Robinson said the group's structure has to be fixed.

"Without a doubt, the group structure does not function the way we want it to function. It does not function from the perspective of discussing policy, dealing with recruitment, outreach, and so on. We have coming out of the appraisal committee a plan to launch a pilot programme - we have identified two groups, per division, per constituency for one region, and we are going to launch a programme to see how we can revitalise the groups," explained Robinson.

 

FIXING THE PARTY'S STRUCTURE

 

Describing the groups as the foundations of the party, he said without a functioning structure, everything else will struggle and break down.

Robinson will have his hands full in his quest to restore pride and bring back shine to the political party founded by O.T. Fairclough and Norman Washington Manley.

Once described as the party of ideas, and with a high percentage of middle-class and intellectual support, the PNP has lost significant ground in both areas. Some Comrades have expressed the view that under successive leadership, the PNP became an election machine to eventually losing its intellectual status. Comrades have also cited the closure of the Michael Manley School of Political Education as a major dent that has left members without knowledge of the party's core values or philosophy.

"I think another area that we must focus on is defining what we stand for as a political movement. We are a democratic socialist party and within the context of, in 2016, being in an International Monetary Fund agreement, we have to define what that stands for, what does it mean to be a member of the PNP," shared Robinson.

He said it must be made clear to Comrades, and supporters alike, what defines them.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com