Mon | Nov 30, 2020

‘It’s worse than 1980’ - Blythe shocked as Westmoreland Central falls to JLP

Published:Friday | September 4, 2020 | 7:37 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Even before the election was called, word on the ground was that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had Westmoreland Central in its cross hairs.

That target was hit in devastating fashion, with candidate George Wright, councillor for the Petersfield division, defeating the People’s National Party’s (PNP) incumbent, Dwayne Vaz.

Wright tallied 4,845 to Vaz’s 3,958.

He overcame the more than 1,200-vote deficit to Vaz in 2016.

It was a stunning upset that had Karl Blythe searching for words.

He said it is clear that many people who turned out in orange shirts voted JLP.

“I have never seen this. It’s worse than 1980, and I’m stunned,” said Blythe of the 51-9 loss.

According to him, the swing was too much for his candidate to overcome in the end.

But it was evident all day, as JLP supporters looked more vibrant and exultant than their PNP counterparts.

For Blythe, a former member of parliament for Westmoreland Central during the P.J. Patterson era, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow.

He told The Gleaner that the party now has a massive job on its hands to reassess and retool for the future.

“The party now has all to do. Loads of issues there that need to be resolved, “ he said.

The Gleaner’s attempt to reach the successful candidate was futile, as multiple calls to his campaign manager’s cell phone went unanswered.

Back at the PNP’s constituency office, supporters faded into the darkness of night, leaving a few committed workers to keep their defeated candidate’s company.

Gordon House will welcome Wright as one of several new JLP members of parliament, news that delighted their supporters.

“Joy. I am overcome with joy right now. He did it,” shouted Latoya Singh.

“Andrew did it for us,” she said of Prime Minister and JLP Leader Andrew Holness.

The swing was national for the JLP and it was felt by the aching PNP supporters.

Vaz’s supporters, on the other hand, spoke in hushed tones, condemning Dr Peter Phillips, the PNP president, for causing the party to haemorrhage more than half its seats compared to 2016.

“This loss is Mr Phillips’ fault. PNP done because of him,” a woman, who gave her name only as Marsha, said, tears streaming down her cheeks.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com