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Letter of the Day | Internal party polls unleash the beast within

Published:Monday | July 1, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Dr Peter Phillips addresses the audience at the launch of his 'One PNP' campaign on Thursday, June 27. Kenyon Hemans/Photographer
Peter Bunting, challenger to Peter Phillips' presidency of the PNP, makes a point during a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Thursday. Ian Allen/Photographer


I am fascinated by leadership contests in political parties.

Intraparty leadership contests lay bare the facade of friendship, comradeship and unity that covers and conceals the hostility, dishonesty, naked ambition and thirst for power that pervades most, if not all, political parties.

Party leaders and stalwarts are always fearful of leadership contests, as they know the vitriol, malice and even violence normally reserved for rival political parties will turn inwards and the true nature of party politics will be revealed.

It matters not if the contest is in the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom, the Democratic Party in the USA, the People’s National Party or the Jamaica Labour Party here in Jamaica.

When ‘friends’, united in their quest to gain political power, turn on each other, a number of truths are revealed.

You will learn, for example, that politicians do not trust each other and are not to be trusted. It is not uncommon for one leadership aspirant to instruct his supporters to watch supporters of his opponent to prevent vote-padding.

You will even hear accusations of vote-buying.

You will learn that it is not only in love and war that all is said to be fair. Intra-party contests are no-holds-barred events. Nothing is off limits!

Opponents will tear each other to shreds if that is required to win. They will lie, they will leak negative stories to the media, and they will launch personal attacks if they think that will aid their cause.

Party members from opposing camps may come to blows and, in the Jamaican context, supporters of the losing candidate are likely to declare their intention to refrain from voting in the next general election or to vote for the opposing political party.

It is not far-fetched to believe that behaviour displayed in intra-party elections is the same, or even worse, in interparty elections.

When the leadership contest is settled, the warring factions will ‘unite’ to focus all their vitriol and unsavoury utterances and actions on the opposing party with greater ferocity.

Contests in and between political parties somehow bring out the worst in party members. Intraparty contests highlight the sordid nature of party politics.

As one Jamaican political party supporter observed after a particularly bruising leadership contest in which the challenger was beaten by supporters of the incumbent, “This is politics!”


Greater Portmore,

St Catherine