Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Leaked PNP poll shows most want Hanna presidency

Published:Sunday | September 27, 2020 | 12:17 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter
Mark Golding
Mark Golding
Peter Bunting
Peter Bunting
File Photos
Damion Crawford
File Photos Damion Crawford
Lisa Hanna
Lisa Hanna
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Beauty queen-turned-lawmaker Lisa Hanna has emerged as the front runner to take over the reins of the floundering People’s National Party (PNP), according to a leaked internal poll commissioned by the party.

But with the PNP heading towards a second presidential election in 14 months, insiders say there are clear indications that Hanna would have to fend off a challenge from St Andrew Southern Member of Parliament (MP) Mark Golding.

The poll, which was conducted by Don Anderson and his team at Market Research Limited, found that among the 14 PNP MPs, 34 per cent of respondents believe Hanna is best suited to lead the 82-year-old political organisation.

Golding was eight percentage points behind, followed by Julian Robinson (14 per cent), Phillip Paulwell (5 per cent) and Mikael Phillips (2 per cent).

Hanna’s lead widened among respondents who identified themselves as PNP delegates, 43 per cent of whom wanted to see her as the next PNP president compared to 21 per cent for Golding.

But the shadow of long-time presidential aspirant Peter Bunting looms large. According to the poll, 37 per cent of respondents pointed to him when asked to look outside the ranks of the 14 PNP MPs.

Twenty-eight per cent indicated that they either did not know who to choose or could find “no one else”, while 23 per cent said Vice-President Damion Crawford would be a good pick.

However, some PNP insiders believe Golding, if he decides to offer himself, will start as the presumptive favourite because of the leading role he played in Bunting’s failed Rise United presidential campaign a year ago.

“There is a strong belief that 90 per cent of the delegates who supported Peter Bunting would support Mark Golding. That’s one theory,” one source suggested. “The other theory is that while Peter Bunting, to the One PNP faction, would be seen as a polarising candidate, the early indications are that many of them would support Mark Golding, including MPs and officers of the party.”

One PNP was the banner under which the party’s outgoing president, Dr Peter Phillips, ran his successful campaign to stave off the challenge on September 7 last year.

Hanna and Golding have not publicly declared their candidacies, but insiders say they have already signalled internally that they intend to offer themselves.

Crawford believes he is up for the task of rebuilding the PNP, but said he is now holding consultations with delegates before deciding his next move.

“I am consulting to see if the delegates agree with my opinion of myself. I think I can do the job, but if the delegates don’t agree, wha you a run fah?” said Crawford, who currently sits in the Senate.

DELEGATE’S CONFERENCE

With Manchester North Western MP Mikael Phillips, son of Dr Phillips, also hinting at throwing his hat in the ring, things are expected to become a lot clearer after today’s long-anticipated meeting of the party’s National Executive Council (NEC). The NEC is the highest decision-making body in the PNP outside of its annual conference.

After several failed attempts – some of them led by respected PNP stalwarts – to avoid another potentially divisive leadership contest, the NEC is expected to confirm that a special delegates’ conference will be used to select Dr Phillips’ successor, and that it will be held in the first week of November, making it a six-week sprint, insiders told The Sunday Gleaner.

“Everybody will announce their thing after Sunday,” one source said.

A day after the PNP’s crushing defeat to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the September 3 general election, Dr Phillips announced that he was stepping down as PNP president. His decision to walk away comes almost one year after he narrowly turned back a challenge from Bunting in a bruising contest cited as one of the reasons for the party’s landslide defeat.

Anderson and his team went into the field for five days, starting on September 19, and interviewed 1,061 persons islandwide. Some 52 per cent of the respondents were females, 50 per cent said they were PNP supporters, 35 per cent indicated that they were JLP supporters, while 13 per cent said they were PNP delegates.

Among those who identified themselves as PNP supporters, 37 per cent favoured Hanna, the St Ann South Eastern MP, while 26 per cent said Golding would be better suited for the presidency.

Interestingly, 31 per cent of those who said they were JLP supporters picked Hanna, while 29 per cent favoured her St Andrew Southern colleague. Golding topped Hanna 16 per cent to 13 per cent among those who said they were independent.

Golding declined a request for an interview by The Sunday Gleaner, while Hanna did not respond to several messages seeking her comment.

Hanna, 45, who won the Miss World beauty pageant in 1993, entered representational politics in 2007 when she was first elected MP for St Ann South Eastern, a seat that is traditionally held by the PNP.

She cruised to electoral victories in 2011 and 2016 before scraping through for a 32-vote majority in the September 3 polls.

But according to the poll, 37 per cent of respondents who saw her as the top choice to lead the PNP believe she “can connect with the people”, while 26 per cent described her as a “people person”.

Twenty-nine per cent believes she is qualified and has more experience; 24 per cent believes she has good plans for the PNP, while 19 per cent each said she can handle the job and would be a strong leader.

Ten per cent said they wanted a woman.

GOLDING’S POLITICAL JOURNEY

Golding, 55, a top attorney and investment banker, was courted to join the PNP by Bunting, his long-time friend and business partner. His sojourn into representational politics began in 2017, when he easily won a by-election to replace veteran politician Dr Omar Davies as MP for St Andrew Southern, a so-called PNP safe seat.

He was elected to serve his first full-term as MP earlier this month.

However, the Anderson team found that 41 per cent of the respondents who named Golding as their top choice believe he is qualified and “has more experience”, while 30 per cent opined that he can connect with the people.

Twenty-seven per cent said he had good plans for the PNP, 22 per cent said he will be a strong leader, while 21 per cent believes he is up to the task.

Twelve per cent said he has integrity.

The poll found, too, that a majority of persons interviewed – 55 per cent – hold the view that this time around, the presidential election can be held without causing further disruption and disunity within the PNP.

“[It is] interesting to note that this is a view significantly held by supporters of the party (62%) as well as delegates (55%),” the pollsters wrote.

“It could be that this is a hope rather than a real expectation,” they noted.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com