Daraine Luton, Staff Reporter
Norman Manley, Michael Manley, P.J. Patterson and Richard Hart
WITH SIGNS of bitterness and separation peeping through the cracks of the 70-year-old People's National Party (PNP), founding member Richard Hart is warning that a fall-out within the ranks could be devastating.
Hart, a member of the infamous Four Hs who were expelled from the PNP in 1952, tells The Sunday Gleaner that the PNP could bleed heavily if it remained divided.
"It would be very damaging to the PNP to have a break-up now. I don't think they could survive it," Hart says.
The once-enviable PNP's robe has been unravelling since the 2006 presidential elections. After a bruising campaign, Portia Simpson Miller was elected to replace the outgoing P.J. Patterson as president of the party.
Two-and-a-half years later, Dr Peter Phillips, who had finished second to Simpson Miller in 2006, challenged her and was beaten - by an increased margin - by 373 votes.
"But it certainly is not the greatest crisis of the party's history," reasons Hart. I think the ouster of the party's left wing in 1951-52 was worse because it diluted the party's nationalism and anti-imperialism for some years, a situation which was not remedied until Michael Manley had succeeded his father as party leader and restored the original composition of the party."
He adds: "Norman Manley was lucky that by the time of the following general election, the strength and popularity of the ousted leftists had drastically declined, due mainly to the policy of apology and retreat which Ken Hill, the leader of the left, insisted on introducing."
Since his defeat a week ago, Phillips and key lieutenant Maxine Henry-Wilson have resigned from their posts in the shadow Cabinet. Sources close to both have reported that they will not be accepting spokesperson assignments from Simpson Miller and will, instead, move to the backbenches in the House of Representatives.
no daggers drawn
Hart, while indicating that he does not get blow-by-blow information on developments in the PNP, says he does not think party members have daggers drawn.
"They seem to be united now as far as I can see," Hart says, while adding that ideology is what has always fractured the PNP. "And I do see where there is a difference of ideology," he says.
Political analysts have argued that the PNP may descend into chaos if Simpson Miller fails to unite the factions. Despite her gaining the majority vote on September 20, 45 per cent of the delegates held the view that she was not the party's best choice for president.
Hart notes, however, that "the mass of the membership of the party seems to prefer Portia".
For Hart, the central question facing the PNP now is how it make itself more relevant to most Jamaicans. According to the once-controversial PNP founding member, Bruce Golding has brought the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in line with PNP philosophy and has has won numerous hearts.
"With (Edward) Seaga going out of prominence, Bruce Golding is much more progressive than he was. Golding has led the JLP to a situation when there is not much difference between the JLP and the PNP," Hart reasons. "Seaga was associated in the minds of a large number of Jamaicans with everything reactionary and conservative. Not so Golding," Hart adds.
He says the PNP has its work cut out, but notes that he cannot advise Simpson Miller about how to unite the party.
"I am not qualified," says Hart, who, along with Ken Hill, Frank Hill and Arthur Henry, were expelled from the PNP in 1952.