PNP has no time for sulking, wallowing in self-pity

Editorial

PNP has no time for sulking, wallowing in self-pity

Sunday, September 06, 2020

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The near obliteration of the People's National Party (PNP) in last Thursday's general election would, understandably, come as a deep and painful shock to leaders and supporters of the party.

It is only the second time in 76 years of elections since 1944 that the party has endured such a massive beating. The first was in October 1980 when the Edward Seaga-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won 51 of the 60 seats in the parliamentary polls.

The JLP had its own time of mourning in February 1989 when Mr Michael Manley's PNP roared back to power with 48 of the 60 seats. Mr Seaga did not win another election up to 2005 when he retired as JLP leader.

One therefore expects that the PNP members would need some recovery time to come to grips with the September 3, 2020 poll results which left them 14 seats to Mr Andrew Holness' 49, and without many of their front line leaders in Parliament.

It should be useful to remind those who would go off sulking into the dark and wallowing in self-pity that such is the nature of the vocation called politics. It can be quite unforgiving, if not ungrateful.

Only a year after the JLP won the 51 seats to the PNP's nine in 1980, the then Carl Stone Polls were showing the PNP ahead of the governing JLP. A brief respite followed with the implosion of the Grenada Revolution in 1983 and the wily Mr Seaga called snap elections which the PNP boycotted, leaving all 60 seats to the JLP.

Not long after, the PNP was again ahead in the opinion polls. By 1986, the party had gained such strength that it took the local government elections by storm, followed by the devastating 1989 General Election which sealed the JLP's fate until 2007.

What the PNP did between 1983 and 1989, with no member of parliament, was retrospection, introspection, reorganisation and repositioning, which was nothing short of political audacity and genius. Those old enough would remember the monthly “People's Parliament” held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

Again, with no member of parliament and no senator, the PNP was able to recover, provide credible and powerful opposition to give the JLP its biggest trouncing ever, thus beginning the unprecedented 18.5 year-long reign.

The lesson in that for the current PNP is palpable. It must use the time now to do an honest post mortem. It should start by accepting that the people — forget that only 37 per cent voted — found the PNP absolutely unattractive.

The JLP's electoral victory reflects the view that the PNP was a house divided and that Mr Holness was a younger, more appealing persona than Dr Peter Phillips, who is very wisely helping his party by giving his timetable for departure.

Despite the battering he has taken, Dr Phillips understands that the earliest resurrection of the PNP is essential to Jamaica's democracy. Given his abilities and vast experience, he may be the best prime minister that Jamaica never had.

The rebuilding can benefit from convening the elders and veterans, many of whom were demobilised by the series of leadership contests. The party has many young potential leaders whose grooming must continue.

The looming parish council polls should serve as the impetus for this rebuilding process.


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