Politics

Sunday Observer survey scores in PNP race

BY H G HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 16, 2018

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The recent survey conducted by the Sunday Observer regarding the race for vice-president of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) turned out as the party's delegates had predicted.

The survey done in all parishes across the island over a three-week period showed much liking for the five men involved over the lone woman — Angela Brown Burke — who did not find favour with the delegates and lost her post.

Another incumbent, Dr Fenton Ferguson also lost his vice-presidential position in the contest held yesterday at the National Arena in St Andrew during the private session of the 80th Annual Conference of Jamaica's oldest political party.

But all the indicators had pointed to a certain defeat for Brown Burke, despite many sounding a note that it was important for a woman to be at the second-tier leadership of the party.

The six who contested the elections were incumbents Dr Fenton Ferguson, Dr Kenneth Wykeham McNeill, and Brown Burke; as well as newcomers Phillip Paulwell, Mikael Phillips and Senator Damion Crawford. Apart from Crawford, all the others are members of Jamaica's House of Representatives.

The final results saw Crawford getting the most votes with 1,973 of the just over 3,000 delegates, followed by Phillips, 1,782; Dr McNeill 1,766 and Paulwell 1645. Brown Burke scored 1,577 votes and Dr Ferguson gathered 1,307 ballots. Incidentally, the last time that the PNP had a vice-presidential contest, in 2016, Dr Ferguson scored the most votes.

A handful of critics of the Jamaica Observer had lashed the newspaper during last week over its findings. One former candidate in the general election of February 2016, attorney-at-law Ashley-Ann Foster, who was beaten by the Jamaica Labour Party's Heroy Clarke in the constituency of St James Central, blasted the Sunday Observer, suggesting male chauvinism as the reason for the publishing of the findings of the survey. Foster, who wrote to the PNP last year telling the party that she would quit the organisation in order to assume a professional assignment in media, now co-hosts CVM Television's prime time programme, CVM Live with Richard Chen.

Delegates interviewed during the lead up to the election had given strong verbal support to losing candidate Dr Ferguson, Crawford, Phillips and Paulwell in particular, but many of them had written off Brown Burke, suggesting that she was not forceful enough to convey the philosophy of the party over the other candidates. Her name was mentioned far fewer times by delegates who said that they would rather choose from among the men in the survey.

Ferguson's length of service as VP, his kindness and respect gained from a wide cross section of the nation, had put him in a good position to fill one of the slots.

But there were all-round positive comments for all the other men.

Paulwell was viewed as one of the most innovative men in the party who had played a lead role in Jamaica's telecommunications advancement; Phillips, son of party president Dr Peter Phillips, and Crawford were seen as representing the future of the party, while Dr McNeill was regarded as still relevant to the advancement of party ideals.

In 2016, when the PNP last contested a VP election, Dr Ferguson scored 2,479 votes to lead the five candidates who entered the race. He was followed by Dr McNeill with 2,395 votes, Noel “Butch” Arscott, 2,207, and Brown Burke with 2,009. The fifth candidate, Lisa Hanna, got 1,570 votes. A total of 3,339 delegates were eligible to vote then.

Arscott revealed months before yesterday's election that he would not put himself forward for another term as VP.

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