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NO THREAT! - JLP not fazed by PNP’s change of leader

Published:Friday | March 24, 2017 | 12:07 PMArthur Hall

The governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is confident that its electoral fortunes will not be impacted by the change of leadership in the opposition People's National Party (PNP).

Dr Peter Phillips is set to replace Portia Simpson Miller as president of the PNP today, but senior members of the JLP say the 67-year-old will not outsprint the 44-year-old JLP leader Andrew Holness in any future

electoral race.

"We agree that Dr Phillips has been a long-standing public servant who has made a significant contribution to the political system in Jamaica, but I don't think this is the time that someone of Dr Phillips' age could be a threat to Andrew Holness," JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang told The Sunday Gleaner.

"His strength is that he will bring back, what I might consider, the intellectual rigour of the People's National Party, but he has never been one to be a strong grass-roots operator," added Chang.

He said former PNP presidents Simpson Miller and Michael Manley easily moved the PNP to a popular grass-roots movement, while another former PNP president, P.J. Patterson's organisational ability made him well loved and efficient, also at the grass-roots level.

But Chang argued that it will be difficult for Phillips to connect at that level, and even more difficult for him to reach young Jamaicans.

"Andrew Holness has captured the ears of much of the younger population, and unless he does something wrong, he will have that attention for a long time, and I don't think Dr Phillips will have these young Jamaicans looking in a different direction," declared Chang.

Weary of politicians

According to the JLP general secretary, the work of the present Government will show real fruits in the next 12 months, and Jamaicans are weary of politicians of the Phillips era, and that will also be a negative for him.

"No threat, absolutely none," declared Chang.

In the meantime, outspoken JLP Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz is adamant that the PNP will gain nothing on the electoral front by selecting Phillips as its president.

"He and his party are tried, tested, proven and failed. He has held senior ministries for the more than 25 years the PNP has been in power, and look at the state of the country," said Vaz.

"Peter will not be able to inspire a new generation of youngsters who are social-media savvy and who have re-engaged in the political process using the platforms that are available. There is a total disconnect between his generation and the current generation and the one coming of age.

"Third, when you are coming in to lead a party whose sole purpose is to oppose, oppose, oppose, it will not sit well. He will also have a hard task pulling the PNP together because we all know that Portia was pushed, beginning with an orchestrated plan which started in July 2015 and ended February 2016," added Vaz.

Erica Virtue also contributed to this story.