Sun | Nov 28, 2021

Mark Wignall | Finally! The PNP can now grow with Portia’s exit

Published:Wednesday | December 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The main motivating factors driving the decision of the Opposition leader to step down are now immaterial. There will always be those saying she was unceremoniously pushed out and others totally convinced that she left on her own steam within her previously set timetable, known only by her.

Fact is, at this late stage of her long political career, the sort of change that was needed to chart a course for a new paradigm in politics and a chance to developing a new political culture has constantly eluded Mrs Simpson Miller. Something in her party outgrew her and it made her survival at the top untenable.

The whole affair could have been handled with much more class but the rules which applied were those generated in the overtime segment of the match where two elections were lost and there was widespread disillusionment with politics among the young making up the electorate. Nice times done!

Portia was just not that leader anymore to bring in the youth vote, especially with Prime Minister Holness slowly gaining a firm grip on attracting the young and growing a new base in the JLP. At this stage all that is left is to wish her extensive comfort and relaxation as she enjoys her retirement.

The two men who have stuck their necks out the farthest have been Peter Bunting, the wealthy financier, and just recently, the national security minister in the last PNP administration and, Dr Peter Phillips, the brooding academic and highly experienced and accomplished political administrator.


Last chance


One can't help but conclude that this is Peter Phillips's last and probably best chance. He blows this one and that's it. His window of opportunity is just down to one thin pane, and he knows it. A leadership change late last year would have been the ideal with Portia stepping aside and loudly endorsing Phillips.

Portia would have walked away with only the 2007 loss against her, and with Phillips leading the PNP into the 2015 or 2016 elections, the party would have had a better chance at beating the JLP than with Portia at the top of the ticket.

On paper and from what we knew the leadership styles of Portia and Phillips were poles apart, even within the narrow confines of what our politics could deliver. Policy development and approaches would natural follow as some of their other differences.

It cannot be said that Phillips is unknown. In fact, the very opposite can be expressed but it is inside some of his known strengths where his weaknesses can be found. Cerebral but politically uninspiring, solutions-oriented but lacking the salesmanship to sell policy. Too loyal to bad policy of the past to be able to convince a fickle electorate that he is capable of coming up with better ones for the present. Unable to yield to populism if to do so would save him politically.

Peter Bunting, on the other hand, doesn't have many of the political monkeys of the past to create a political drag on him. In any bruising political contest for PNP leadership it could be suggested in the heat of the moment that Bunting's closeness to the Omar Davies failed monetary policies of the 1990s gave him a favourable ringside seat at many of those happenings in the financial sector.

Outside of any of those allegations, the main blot against Bunting could be that an attempt by him to prove his 'roots cred' would be a salute to the thespian arts. Sure, he is rich but for how long has he lost touch with the lives of everyday people? On the other hand, there may be much about him that we do not know, and the time to know it is now.

His biggest positive is that his image standing next to Holness makes for a more even match than a non-youthful Phillips trying to keep up with the young prime minister.

This is not trivia but politics where image is needed to carry the message. Just ask Portia.

I am certain that the ruling JLP saw this coming. Wishing and hoping that Portia would hang on for dear life and become the PNP's Seaga was quickly coming to an end as Portia's recent implosion in South East St Ann and the resulting fallout took over the public space.

There will be a high level of healthy tension in the first part of next year no matter what level of decorum the PNP promises us.