As the PNP contemplates a comeback…

As the PNP contemplates a comeback…

Thursday, September 24, 2020

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History has often shown that defeat can actually help a political party to rebuild, renew itself, and bounce back stronger.

That's the point made by that voice of moderation, Dr Wykeham McNeill, in our Sunday edition, as he reflected on the People's National Party 's (PNP) 14-49 loss to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) on September 3, 2020.

Readers will recall that Dr McNeill suffered as shocking a loss as any. He was beaten by the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Mr Morland Wilson in Westmoreland Western — a constituency represented by Dr McNeill for 23 years unbroken.

Indeed, the PNP lost all three Westmoreland seats on September 3. Such an occurrence has to be considered in the context that the party has not lost a parliamentary seat in that parish since 1980, when Mr Edward Seaga's JLP swept nearly all before them.

At a wider level, on September 3, only in 1980 (if we choose to ignore the very first general election under universal adult suffrage in 1944), was there a comparable wipeout of the PNP in rural Jamaica.

Yet, as Dr McNeill pointed out, the PNP recovered very quickly after 1980.

Those who follow Jamaican politics also know that, while the JLP was hamstrung and confined to Opposition for 18 years, between 1989 and 2007, largely as a result of disunity, it bounced back in February 2016 after defeat in 2011.

That defeat of December 2011 — which meant the JLP Government became the first to serve just one term — followed the atrocious mishandling of the entire episode surrounding the extradition of Mr Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

Yet within four years, the JLP, despite having to recover from an internal leadership challenge, united around its youthful, energetic leader, Mr Andrew Holness, and edged the PNP by one seat.

That success paved the way for the events of three weeks ago, even while the JLP will undoubtedly be constantly looking over its shoulders, given the shockingly low voter turnout of just 37 per cent.

All those considerations will be in the mix as the PNP seeks to reorganise itself and elect a new president to replace Dr Peter Phillips. It must bear in mind that the ruling party could choose to go the route of a local government elections soon. We suspect, though, that Mr Holness will delay that call, given the alarming surge in COVID-19 cases as community spread takes hold.

This newspaper believes the PNP is very fortunate to have elders like former prime minister and party president, Mr P J Patterson, and the very sober former Cabinet minister, Mr Burchell Whiteman, to guide the process of selecting a new president.

As is usual, Mr Patterson makes sense as he contemplates an internal election that could well involve several contenders. Says he: “What we want to ensure is that whatever campaign takes place is free from rancour, and concentrate on the merits that people bring to the table and not the demerits which might be attributed to opponents: Tell us what you have to offer, don't tell us what the other contestant is poor at...”

All Jamaica will be watching with interest.

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