Leadership challenge has resurrected dead PNP, says Ashley
With just a week left before People’s National Party (PNP) delegates select either Dr Peter Phillips or Peter Bunting as party president, political commentator Dr Paul Ashley believes the campaign has raised the party from the dead.
Ashley told The Gleaner that he believes that the challenge by Manchester Central Member of Parliament Bunting to incumbent president and St Andrew East Central MP Phillips has turned the PNP on its head, giving the populace an opportunity to become engaged and a little less disenchanted since the general election in 2016.
In the last general election, which the Jamaica Labour Party won by one seat, the country saw its lowest-ever voter turnout, with just 48.37 per cent of electors casting ballots.
“This is not a contest of ideologies or achievement,” Ashley said yesterday of the PNP presidential clash. “This is a contest between two men – Peter One (Peter Phillips) and Peter Two (Peter Bunting). One has run a campaign that is moribund, while the other has created a media-savvy effort, which has overturned political communication as we know it.”
Delegates of the party, Ashley said, are welcoming the attention as their value is most recognised during such high-stakes leadership battles. He suggested that based on news already in the public domain, political work is a thing of the past.
“So the talk that a win for Bunting will see a party that we will no longer recognise is nonsense. Who recognises this PNP? It is politically lethargic; it was dead. The challenge, therefore, has awakened the dead and given the party a new lease on life,” Ashley told The Gleaner.
He believes that delegates should be encouraged to come out in large numbers and ensure decisive victory for whichever candidate, much like the 2008 beating that Phillips himself got when he challenged then incumbent Portia Simpson Miller.
“A win is a win, but a small-number win for Phillips will be devastating,” Ashley said.
The PNP’s problems, he said, transcend both Bunting and Phillips, but one was more part of the problem than the solution.
Should Bunting win the challenge, Ashley believes that Prime Minister Andrew Holness will give him no chance to settle in the post. He also foresees two by-elections in Clarendon should Phillips win “as he believes he already has his ticket”.
Those two elections, Ashley opined, would see Pearnel Charles Jr replace his father, “Chief Pearnel Charles”, in Clarendon North Central, and a replacement for Rudyard Spencer in Clarendon North Eastern.
Sources have said that Spencer wants out of political representation and wants to be considered for an overseas post.
Meanwhile, up to last week, no more than 10 appeals to the delegates list had been received by the PNP General Secretary, Julian Robinson.
It was his view that efforts to replace delegates to support one camp were not in keeping with party traditions, and the new delegates would have no votes until next year.
At the same time, the disputed list of 65 delegates from the National Workers’ Union remained unchanged.
Just under 3,000 delegates will vote next Saturday in the elections, the second time that an incumbent is being challenged in the 81-year-old party.