Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
People's National Party (PNP) President Portia Simpson Miller has received rousing endorsements from key members of parliament (MPs) who agreed - without hesitation - that she is the person to lead the party into the next general election.
Those offering endorsements were Phillip Paulwell, MP, Kingston East and Port Royal; Peter Bunting, MP, Manchester Central; Julian Robinson, MP, St Andrew South East; Natalie Neita-Headley, MP, St Catherine North Central; Lisa Hanna, MP, St Ann South East; and Dayton Campbell, MP, St Ann North West.
The six, who were guests at a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's Kingston offices last Thursday, said the party was not bothered by the leadership race currently under way in the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
NOT FAZED BY JLP LEADERSHIP CONTEST
Simpson Miller, if she remains party president ahead of the next general election, is likely to face current JLP leader Andrew Holness or Audley Shaw, who has announced a challenge to Holness for the top post.
The Holness-led JLP, which then formed the Government, was defeated in the December 2011 general election by Simpson Miller' s PNP.
"I don't think there is any figure in the JLP that we find intimidating," declared PNP General Secretary Peter Bunting in response to questions from journalists at the forum.
Bunting, the minister of national security, is expected to challenge for the PNP leadership in the future, but gave no indication of leadership ambitions.
"I think I am focused on my portfolio, which is extremely challenging," he said.
Bunting said one of his current colleagues likened the issue of PNP leadership to winning the Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships versus winning the Olympics.
"I will support her," said Phillip Paulwell, one of Simpson Miller's key lieutenants and chairman of Region Three.
Widely expected to be another member challenging for leadership of the party in the future, Paulwell danced around the issue of his personal ambitions and, instead, put his future decisions in the hands of his constituents.
"I think if the prime minister is no longer going back … I think my constituents would want to see their member of parliament as leader," he said.