PNP re­newal — a hard row to hoe

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Arnold Ber­tram is a historian and for­mer Cabi­net min­is­ter. His most re­cent book is Nor­man Man­ley and The Mak­ing of Mod­ern Ja­maica. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and re­

THE RE­CENT PNP in­ter­nal elec­tions pro­duced no sur­prises. Karl Blythe, who chal­lenged Por­tia Simp­son Miller for the pres­i­dency, re­ceived 198 votes, just six shy of the 204 he re­ceived in 2006. Simp­son Miller in­creased her votes from 1,755 to 2,471, but then nei­ther Peter Phillips, who got 1,538 votes then, nor Omar Davies, who got 283, were in the con­test this time around. Their ab­sence ex­plains Simp­son Miller’s in­crease of 716 votes. It is worth not­ing that only 2,669 of the reg­is­tered 3,312 voted in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

In­ter­est­ingly, a vic­tory for Blythe would have had the path­break­ing ef­fect of sep­a­rat­ing the pres­i­dency of the PNP from the lead­er­ship of the party’s par­lia­men­tary group since not be­ing a mem­ber of par­lia­ment Blythe could not have be­come leader of the Op­po­si­tion. The ques­tion is whether Simp­son Miller will in­ter­pret her win over Blythe as a man­date to ex­tend her ten­ure and fur­ther post­pone the party’s re­newal process.

The re­sults of the vice-pres­i­den­tial elec­tions were equally pre­dictable. For those close to po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments in St Ann, Lisa Hanna’s fifth-place fin­ish in her vice-pres­i­den­tial bid was no sur­prise. She was the only one of the five can­di­dates who en­tered the con­test with­out This man is a sign of unswerv­ing de­vo­tion to Por­tia Simp­son Miller.

the full sup­port of her con­stituency. Three of her four coun­cil­lors, and 46 of the del­e­gates from her con­stituency, did not vote for her.

For the po­lit­i­cally am­bi­tious, the climb to the top be­gins with a solid con­stituency base, and if Hanna wants to con­tinue her po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, she could learn

from new­com­ers Natalie NeitaHeadley, Mikael Phillips, and Day­ton Camp­bell. When one con­sid­ers that she was given a seat, which the PNP has al­ways won since 1942, the present lev­els of di­vi­sion and dis­af­fec­tion that cur­rently ob­tain in South East St Ann cer­tainly raise ques­tions about her ca­pac­ity to lead. For­tu­nately for her, in K.D. Knight and John Junor, she has two out­stand­ing lead­ers of the party who are more than ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing over­sight and tute­lage in the build­ing of a con­stituency or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Among the newly elected vice-pres­i­dents, Wyke­ham McNeill, with his im­pres­sive per­for­mance in the Min­istry of Tourism, to­gether with the man­age­ment of his con­stituency, has now emerged as one to be groomed for the fu­ture. We are still wait­ing on Ju­lian Robin­son to make his move. As a mem­ber of par­lia­ment, min­is­ter of gov­ern­ment, and deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary of the party, he has laid a solid foun­da­tion on which to move up the lead­er­ship lad­der.


A good deal of con­fu­sion ex­ists as to the mean­ing of ‘re­newal’. Some, it seems, take the mere rep­e­ti­tion of the word as ev­i­dence of the ca­pac­ity to lead the process; oth­ers, with equal folly, con­tend that chrono­log­i­cal age is the de­ci­sive fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing who should lead.

Any mean­ing­ful process of re­newal in the PNP must be­gin with a thor­ough re­view of the party’s ide­ol­ogy, struc­ture, and poli­cies. The next stage is the col­lab­o­ra­tive process that pro­duces the party’s pro­gram­matic plat­form, and fi­nally, the se­lec­tion of the team to be­gin prepa­ra­tion for lead­er­ship of the State. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the re­form process sets in train the on­go­ing pro­cesses of re­cruit­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, and or­gan­i­sa­tion.

A quick re­flec­tion of the PNP’s tra­di­tion of lead­er­ship is in­struc­tive in de­cid­ing who should suc­ceed Por­tia Simp­son Miller as pres­i­dent. The first leader of the party, Nor­man Man­ley, was 62 years old when he be­came chief min­is­ter, and up to his 70th birth­day when his term of of­fice came to an end, he did not re­gard a 14-hour work­day as ex­ces­sive. His suc­cess was di­rectly re­lated to the breadth and depth of his ap­pren­tice­ship.

Yet, as great as Nor­man Man­ley was, he was not able to pre­side over the re­newal of the party from which he was re­tir­ing, and it was not un­til Michael Man­ley suc­ceeded him in 1969 that the re­newal process got un­der way. Be­fore be­com­ing pres­i­dent of the PNP, Michael Man­ley had al­ready spent 17 years build­ing the Na­tional Work­ers’ Union (NWU) into the trans­for­ma­tive trade union it be­came and had played a crit­i­cal role in ev­ery elec­tion cam­paign since 1955.

P.J. Pat­ter­son had post­poned his law stud­ies af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the UWI in 1958 to work as a party or­gan­iser. Eleven years later, he be­came the youngest vice-pres­i­dent of the PNP but had to con­tinue serv­ing his ap­pren­tice­ship for an­other two decades be­fore suc­ceed­ing Michael Man­ley as pres­i­dent in 1992. By then, his ex­pe­ri­ence in the Cabi­net and the party had thor­oughly pre­pared him for the po­si­tion of prime min­is­ter.

Por­tia Simp­son Miller, who suc­ceeded P.J. Pat­ter­son just be­fore her 62nd birth­day, had al­ready given some years of ser­vice. Be­fore her elec­tion as party pres­i­dent and prime min­is­ter, she held the record as the long­est-serv­ing vice-pres­i­dent, as well as the party’s longest­serv­ing mem­ber of par­lia­ment. She was also a se­nior Cabi­net min­is­ter, hav­ing held a range of port­fo­lios, in­clud­ing labour, so­cial se­cu­rity and tourism.


Against the back­ground of this tra­di­tion, one can bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate the con­sen­sus that has emerged around the choice of Peter Phillips as the suc­ces­sor to Simp­son Miller when she re­tires as Party pres­i­dent and to lead the re­newal process in the PNP. He has served as the gen­eral sec­re­tary and as vi­cepres­i­dent; he is in his fifth term as the MP for East Cen­tral St An­drew. He has served with dis­tinc­tion as a Cabi­net min­is­ter in crit­i­cal min­istries. How­ever, it is as min­is­ter of fi­nance that he has been most out­stand­ing, pre­sid­ing over the most far­reach­ing re­form of the Ja­maican econ­omy in what is ac­knowl­edged as the most chal­leng­ing pe­riod in the his­tory of in­de­pen­dent Ja­maica.

His crit­i­cal role in res­cu­ing Ja­maica from the brink of bank­ruptcy, re­turn­ing the econ­omy to growth, and en­hanc­ing the en­vi­ron­ment for in­vest­ment, has earned him the con­fi­dence of a grate­ful na­tion and the re­spect of the in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial com­mu­nity.

Even with Phillips at the helm, the re­newal of the PNP will be a ‘hard row to hoe’. The tasks of re­cruit­ing, or­gan­is­ing, and ed­u­cat­ing the mem­ber­ship to unite around a vi­sion of the party as a ma­jor part­ner in na­tional devel­op­ment will tax to the ut­most the hu­man and ma­te­rial re­sources avail­able.

A ma­jor ob­sta­cle is the ab­sence of a pub­lic pol­icy fo­rum in which the or­gans of the state and the fail­ure of the pub­licly funded uni­ver­si­ties to make the sus­tained con­tri­bu­tion ex­pected of them to the for­mu­la­tion of an ap­pro­pri­ate pol­icy frame­work for devel­op­ment. The PNP will have to utilise its hu­man re­sources more ef­fi­ciently. Com­rades like Ray­mond Price, with the abil­ity to con­trib­ute to pol­icy devel­op­ment, should not be wasted in the fight for representational pol­i­tics.

Will Mark Gold­ing’s ex­cep­tional tal­ents for pub­lic-sec­tor man­age­ment be un­der­utilised with the de­mands of con­stituency rep­re­sen­ta­tion, with its un­re­lent­ing de­mands for the wel­fare state at the con­stituency level?

The re­newal process will also have to take into ac­count the emerg­ing global eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment in which the con­cen­tra­tion of wealth in the top one per cent, and the con­se­quen­tial in­debt­ed­ness of the mid­dle class and crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of the poor, are be­com­ing the main fea­tures.

To­tal­i­tar­ian and racist regimes seem to be on the hori­zon in Ger­many and the US. This is a daunt­ing prospect for small de­vel­op­ing states with a black pop­u­la­tion and no geopo­lit­i­cal im­por­tance, but with near to­tal de­pen­dence on tourism and re­mit­tances for eco­nomic sur­vival.



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