JU­LIAN ROBINSON takes aim at lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Erica Virtue Se­nior Gleaner Writer erica.virtue@glean­erjm.com

... we must fo­cus on defin­ing what we stand for as a po­lit­i­cal move­ment. We are a demo­cratic so­cial­ist party ... we have to de­fine what that stand s for, what does it mean to be a mem­ber of the PNP.

THE FIRST ma­jor task of Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) gen­eral sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate Ju­lian Robinson is to get the party ready for lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions, which is widely ex­pected by the end of the year.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter that, Robinson in­tends to take aim at Com­rades to de­fine what the party stands for as a po­lit­i­cal move­ment. His goal is to ex­plain, preach and have mem­bers of the or­gan­i­sa­tion prac­tise the core val­ues and re­turn pride of place to the 78-yearold party.

In an in­ter­view with The Sun­day Gleaner, Robinson said there is no doubt that the lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions will be his po­lit­i­cal bap­tism of fire as he as­sumes the role of gen­eral sec­re­tary on Novem­ber 27. He ex­pects that af­ter the lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions his op­po­si­tion party will emerge vic­to­ri­ous.

“My first task is for the party to be ready for the lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions. There is a team in place, led by vice-pres­i­dent Noel Arscott, as well as a cam­paign team. But ob­vi­ously, the prepa­ra­tion and en­sur­ing that we run a smooth cam­paign is a pri­or­ity. We don’t know when the elec­tions will be, it could be be­fore I as­sume of­fice, but even if I am not in of­fice, as a deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary I am very in­volved in that process,” Robinson ex­plained.

“A lot of the work would have been done be­fore I as­sume of­fice. But I would say that elec­tion pre­pared­ness and en­sur­ing that we do well in the lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions are the first order of busi­ness.”

Be­yond that, Robinson, who au­thored the po­lit­i­cal party’s post-elec­tion au­topsy re­port, will take aim at mar­ginal seats – those won nar­rowly (200 or fewer votes). The fo­cus will also be on the 11 seats that were lost in the Fe­bru­ary gen­eral elec­tion, one term af­ter they were won. All 11 were held by first-time mem­bers of par­lia­ment.

“The PNP plans to re­gain those seats. To do this, it must in­clude a com­bi­na­tion of hav­ing the can­di­dates in place, as well as hav­ing a sys­tem of sup­port and men­tor­ship. One of the is­sues which came out of the ap­praisal re­port is that the 11 seats that we lost in the last gen­eral elec­tion were seats that were held by first-time mem­bers of par­lia­ment. I think it is im­por­tant that there is more of a struc­ture to sup­port some of the per­sons who come into pol­i­tics, to sup­port and pro­vide guid­ance to them so that those seats can be re­gained,” out­lined Robinson.

He said many of the los­ing first-time can­di­dates were ar­chi­tects of their own demise, some re­fus­ing help, while oth­ers dis­missed ad­vice given.

Par­al­lel to those tasks will be a mi­cro­scopic look at the party’s group struc­ture – the body from which del­e­gates are se­lected to vote in in­ter­nal party elec­tions.

Robinson said the group’s struc­ture has to be fixed.

“With­out a doubt, the group struc­ture does not func­tion the way we want it to func­tion. It does not func­tion from the per­spec­tive of dis­cussing pol­icy, deal­ing with re­cruit­ment, out­reach, and so on. We have com­ing out of the ap­praisal com­mit­tee a plan to launch a pi­lot pro­gramme – we have iden­ti­fied two groups, per di­vi­sion, per con­stituency for one re­gion, and we are go­ing to launch a pro­gramme to see how we can re­vi­talise the groups,” ex­plained Robinson.


De­scrib­ing the groups as the foun­da­tions of the party, he said with­out a func­tion­ing struc­ture, ev­ery­thing else will strug­gle and break down.

Robinson will have his hands full in his quest to re­store pride and bring back shine to the po­lit­i­cal party founded by O.T. Fair­clough and Norman Wash­ing­ton Manley.

Once de­scribed as the party of ideas, and with a high per­cent­age of mid­dle­class and in­tel­lec­tual sup­port, the PNP has lost sig­nif­i­cant ground in both ar­eas. Some Com­rades have ex­pressed the view that un­der suc­ces­sive lead­er­ship, the PNP be­came an elec­tion ma­chine to even­tu­ally los­ing its in­tel­lec­tual sta­tus. Com­rades have also cited the clo­sure of the Michael Manley School of Po­lit­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion as a ma­jor dent that has left mem­bers with­out knowl­edge of the party’s core val­ues or phi­los­o­phy.

“I think an­other area that we must fo­cus on is defin­ing what we stand for as a po­lit­i­cal move­ment. We are a demo­cratic so­cial­ist party and within the con­text of, in 2016, be­ing in an In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund agree­ment, we have to de­fine what that stands for, what does it mean to be a mem­ber of the PNP,” shared Robinson.

He said it must be made clear to Com­rades, and sup­port­ers alike, what de­fines them.


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