‘No rush to see him go’
As post-Phillips era nears, Golding concedes seat might need ‘new energy’
Opposition Leader Mark Golding is backing his predecessor Dr Peter Phillips to remain as member of parliament for St Andrew East Central despite his continued treatment for colon cancer, insisting that he is “still able to provide solid...
Opposition Leader Mark Golding is backing his predecessor Dr Peter Phillips to remain as member of parliament for St Andrew East Central despite his continued treatment for colon cancer, insisting that he is “still able to provide solid representation”.
His comment follows a declaration by 72-year-old Phillips that he is not yet ready to walk away from representational politics.
In a Gleaner interview on Sunday, following the 25th-anniversary celebration of the passing of former prime minister and People’s National Party president (PNP) Michael Manley at National Heroes Park in Kingston, Golding said the discussion on Phillips’ departure took place a year and a half ago.
He said Phillips’ retirement from public office is a matter for him as much as it is for the Opposition party.
“We’re in no particular rush to see him go at all,” said Golding of Phillips, who has served the country for 55 years, including as a senator and Cabinet minister under the P.J. Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller administrations.
“We’re happy that he is able and willing to continue to serve. As long as that remains, we will be happy to have him among us in Parliament.”
Phillips has been the parliamentary representative for St Andrew East Central since 1994, enjoying bedrock support in the garrison constituency for much of his tenure.
But the erosion of that foundation became evident in the September 2020 general election, when Phillips’ victory was buffered by fewer than 1,000 votes, as he led the PNP to a crushing 14-49 defeat.
The former PNP president polled 927 more votes than the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Jodian Myrie, who secured 4,002.
The figure represented a significant drop in Phillips’ margin of victory when compared to the February 2016 general election when he polled 7,017 to the 4,774 secured by the JLP’s Marie Prince.
In the prior general election in December 2011, Phillips had defeated Prince by 2,925 votes, polling 6,941 to her 4,016.
The waning support has not been lost on Golding, who admitted that it may be an indication of people wanting to see new energy.
“That seat is a seat we have won many times for many years. So obviously, we have bedrock support. Sometimes when you’re in a seat, people want to see new energy and new effort,” he told The Gleaner.
“I think it’s time for the organisation on the ground to do the work as required to show the people that we’re still the best choice for them.”
The JLP has had St Andrew East Central in its cross hairs since 2016 though Prince had captured the Cassia Park division for the party from as early as August 8, 2013, in a by-election.
Gleaner sources within the governing party have indicated that Myrie will not return as the standard-bearer for the JLP.
“They want somebody with a national profile to pull out retirees and the middle class. PNP already have their base, although the margin has been going down, and Labourites have Labourite base. Quite a few people who are already members of the executive want it, but the party wants somebody with a Nigel [Clarke] profile to show that we mean business,” one source said.
A second source indicated that Myrie, the daughter of reggae star Buju Banton, does not have the resources to match businessman Dennis Gordon, PNP councillor for the Maxfield Park division, who has been tapped to replace Phillips.
“That is causing some problems in area council because they want Jodi to get the seat, but she’s not going to win if we keep her on,” the source said.
Efforts by The Gleaner to reach Myrie and JLP Chairman Robert Montague for comment on the matter were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Golding said that the work within the constituency is ongoing and that Gordon, the chairman of the party’s Region Three, has been at the forefront to ensure that the PNP is successful if an election is called.
“I’m confident that we can retain that seat,” said Golding.