Duncan Sutherland gears up for battle as Spencer resigns
With a by-election looming in Clarendon South East in the aftermath of Member of Parliament Rudyard Spencer’s resignation in the House of Representatives last night, People’s National Party (PNP) standard-bearer Patricia Duncan Sutherland is declaring that she is ready to face the voters of the constituency.
But it is unclear whether she will skip the by-election as a strategic move to save her arsenal for the general election which is constitutionally due by 2021.
Duncan Sutherland, who was in the constituency yesterday, said she was following Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ lead that a national poll was imminent – perhaps for this year.
“Bring it on. I am ready for a general election,” she said.
But when pressed on whether she would suit up for a by-election, she responded pointedly:
“I don’t business with that. It is the prime minister get up on the JLP stage and said we must get ready for general election.
“We are on your marks, we soon get set, and change him shoes. So, me a watch the shoes,” Duncan Sutherland said, referencing Holness’ quips last week Sunday about election preparedness.
TRIBUTES TO A GIANT
Spencer, who turned 76 on Monday, was expected to reveal his cards at a meeting in Lionel Town on Thursday but last night opted to announce his decision to exit representational politics.
He had telegraphed his intention at a community meeting in Longville Park on Sunday in presenting Pearnel Charles Jr as his successor.
In paying tribute to Spencer last night in the House, St Elizabeth South West MP Floyd Green said that the senior Jamaica Labour Party politician and veteran trade unionist had “tremendous compassion for the people” he served.
He said that Spencer was the epitome of “what it really means to put people first”.
MP for St Andrew Eastern, Fayval Williams, wished Spencer success in all his endeavours as he walked away from representational politics.
St Andrew South MP Mark Golding, in his tribute, described Spencer as a gentle giant in his dealings with people. He hailed the outgoing MP as a “great son of Jamaica” who had “the quality of a stateman”.
And Horace Dalley, the member for Clarendon Northern who said he had forged a pact never to campaign for the PNP in Spencer’s constituency because of their friendship, said the outgoing MP was reliable.
“If he tells you yes, he is a man of his word,” Dalley said.
The JLP is believed to have opted to have a by-election in the seat to consolidate support for the party or as a surgical attack on Duncan Sutherland’s political prospects.
In 2016, Spencer defied critics to beat Duncan Sutherland by nearly 1,000 votes for a fourth unbroken term in the constituency.
But Duncan Sutherland told The Gleaner yesterday that she would reverse the JLP margin.
“I have done the work, I have done the enumeration and I have built relationships with the communities. Hayes is the strongest division [for the PNP],” she noted, underscoring her intentions to increase her numbers there.
The PNP took Hayes by 2,816 votes to 1,553 in the 2016 general election.