As the PNP gets ready

Monday, July 30, 2018

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Losing an election is not all bad. Defeat allows a political party to reorganise, re-energise, and prepare itself for power next time.

Those blinkered by uncritical loyalty to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) may disagree, but from the perspective of this newspaper the available evidence suggests that two and a half years after its shock parliamentary defeat the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is showing renewed energy and enthusiasm for the political fray.

Reports on the ground suggest steady progress in constituency organisation and in filling candidate vacancies ahead of parliamentary elections — whenever Prime Minister Andrew Holness chooses to send Jamaicans to the polls.

The PNP's cause has been helped no end by scandals and rumours of scandals now tugging at the coat-tails of Mr Holness's Administration.

In the context of Jamaican politics, and given all the circumstances, the PNP's annual conference set for September may well prove to be ideal timing for that party.

There is much attention on the very active race for four vice-presidential posts set to be played out at the conference.

Inevitably, a contest such as this may lead to some tension and divisions. However, that's the nature of competitive politics and strong political organisations will quickly overcome such hurdles.

Readers with an eye for such things will be aware that incumbents Dr Fenton Ferguson, Dr Wykeham McNeill, and Dr Angela Brown Burke, as well as challengers Messrs Phillip Paulwell, Mikael Phillips, and Damion Crawford are contesting the vice-presidential positions.

Watchers will be keen to see if Dr Brown Burke, widely perceived as a favourite of former PNP President and Prime Minister Mrs Portia Simpson Miller, survives the contest. From a distance, the easy assumption is that Dr Ferguson and Dr McNeill will hold. But can Mr Paulwell break into the top four? Mr Paulwell has been hailed for his role as Cabinet minister in the liberalisation of Jamaica's telecoms sector, but drew severe criticism for missteps, famously excused at the time by then Prime Minister Mr PJ Patterson as being the result of youthful exuberance.

Of equal interest, perhaps, will be the fortunes of Mr Phillips, chairman of the PNP's Region Five and son of party president, Dr Peter Phillips. If the younger Phillips misses out on a top-four place will that weaken the hand of his father in the eyes of Comrades? Or would Dr Phillips be credited for staying away and above the fray notwithstanding blood ties?

The dynamic, often controversial Mr Crawford will no doubt gain traction among younger party delegates. Will that support be enough to get him over the line?

However it works itself out, these are surely interesting and exciting times for the political Opposition and its leadership.

This newspaper wishes the PNP well as it seeks to strengthen itself as the party in waiting for governance of this country.

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