Thu | Jul 2, 2020

Mark Wignall | Finding the PNP’s redemption

Published:Thursday | March 14, 2019 | 12:00 AM

As far as I am concerned, the person most deserving of the leadership of the People’s National Party (PNP) is Dr Peter Phillips. With one important caveat. The timing is all wrong. For his sake, he should have won when he made the second challenge in 2008. Now is simply not his time, or, put another way, his ship has long sailed.

PNP delegates in 2008 again went for Portia. Like many of those in the hierarchy of the PNP who felt they had an excess of intellect, I am certain that Phillips quietly thought that the leadership of Portia Simpson Miller, at the prime-ministerial level, was below par and that she would only succeed by the close support of her senior Cabinet members.

In public, they pretended as if they liked her because they had to. Because she won elections for them. Where political leaders/prime ministers like Michael Manley and Portia Simpson Miller were either worshipped and loved or passionately despised, Phillips is in the mode of a PJ Patterson, where he does not evoke strong political emotions either way.

The significant difference between PJ and Phillips is that PJ, at most times, had his team united and organised as a coherent unit. At party level and in government. Phillips’ seeming uphill climb to gaining electoral relevance is made all the more worse by the obvious comparison with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader and prime minister, the young, sprightly Andrew Holness, who seems to be a man on the move even as he has shown little fear while stumbling at times.

The PNP’s non-support of the continuation of the states of emergency (SOEs) is actively blowing back against them, with poll numbers showing that the public would like to see their resumption, even as many have acknowledged that the SOEs do not necessarily constitute a crime plan.

“Di murder dem did go dung,” said a 40-year-old car washer to me last week. “And PNP still expect fi win elections? Dem crazy.”

Political leaders consider it a bad and losing strategy to admit errors of judgement. If in huddled meetings of the PNP hierarchy it is accepted that a huge political blunder was committed, the choice is never to admit it. So it suits the PNP to continue to spin the line (true in many respects) that the constitutional rights of detainees were abused.

At this stage, it is too embarrassing for the PNP to admit that a significant number of those previously detained were gang members and that some of the guns involved in the latest round of bloodletting are back in the hands of those who were previously taken in.

With the high-profile by-election in Portland East due in early April, it would suit those on the JLP side of the fence in the Budget Debate to skilfully sew the need for the resumption of the SOEs into every fabric of their presentation. This will have the effect of putting the PNP constantly on the offensive, while strongly selling the by-election at the local and national levels.

The best route towards the PNP’s redemption is Dr Phillips making a telephone call to the PM and informing him that the opposition can no longer be seen as this hobbling, lumbering, obstructionist PNP, standing in the way while murders are on the upswing again.

Frankly, I believe that we need to run SOEs through all of 2019. The fact is, murders decreased significantly during that time, and, short of a crime plan miraculously dropping like manna from heaven, the nation supports the resumption. Agree, Dr Phillips?