Horne in the race

Horne in the race

Senator confirms eyes set on becoming PNP president, MP


Sunday, September 20, 2020

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Senator Norman Washington Horne has confirmed that he is interested in becoming president of the People's National Party (PNP),...that is if the organisation's delegates so desire.

Horne, who is serving for the second time as a member of the Upper House of Representatives, the accepted description of Jamaica's Senate, told the Jamaica Observer by telephone Friday that he would make himself available if it was the will of the people. He was responding to a query by this newspaper, following talk on the street that several PNP interests had fingered him as a possible successor to Dr Peter Phillips, the embattled president and Leader of the Opposition, who had indicated that he would step down from both positions, as well as Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Central on dates to be determined.

“I have been getting numerous calls from people asking me to make myself available. It is unbelievable,” stated Horne in the exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer.

“If the delegates will have me, I would be willing to become president of the party first, and then seek a seat in the Lower House (House of Representatives),” Horne went on.

“Once the opportunity arises, I would go after it, if the delegates of the People's National Party are so mindful,” Horne continued.

Horne was among eight individuals who Dr Phillips informed Governor General Sir Patrick Allen ought to be appointed to the Senate, on Phillips's instructions, last Monday. It became a formality the day after, during the first sitting of Parliament since the September 3 General Election which the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) swept 49 to 14 seats, and which allowed the JLP to maintain 13 Senate seats to the PNP's eight, as mandated by the Jamaican Constitution.

He did not comment directly on the possibility of him making himself available to contest a potential by-election in the constituency of St Andrew East Central, but party sources said that he would be a natural front runner, although other aspirants had said in various fora that they would be interested.

Among the names mentioned were councillor of the PNP-dominated Maxfield Park Division in the Kingston & St Andrew Municipal Corporation, businessman Dennis Gordon; and the colourful PNP vice-president Damion Crawford, also a businessman and university lecturer who is also pursuing doctoral studies.

Gordon told the Sunday Observer that as far as he knew, a space does not exist in the seat now, as the party had asked Dr Phillips to stay on for an undetermined period. Until then, he said, “there is no vacancy,” but he would, without doubt, be one of those who would be interested in the seat, whenever Dr Phillips decides to retire as MP.

“If and when Dr Phillips decides to go, I will be in the race. I fear no other one who wants to go after the seat,” stated Gordon, who also revealed that he had good support among the delegates of the constituency.

Crawford, still a popular member of the party, is from the Hagley Park Division in the constituency, also a PNP-dominated one, yet not as fiercely loyal to the party as the Maxfield Division. The third division in the constituency is Cassia Park, which has loyalties to the JLP.

An original member of the PNP, which he joined in 1999, enroute to resettling in Jamaica after several years of study and work in the United States and Canada, Horne has also represented the JLP in parliamentary elections, and served as senator under the JLP from 2002 to 2007, though by 2004 he said that he would be operating as an independent senator.

The Executive Chairman of Attractive Restoration Conservation (ARC) Manufacturing Ltd, Horne ran for the JLP in the Manchester Central seat in 2002, and the PNP in St Elizabeth South Eastern in 2007 — both unsuccessful attempts.

He was also treasurer of the PNP up to 10 months before the 2016 General Election, which the party lost by a single seat, ushering in complaints of irregular conduct by party functionaries who were accused of withholding financial donations to the party that would have put the organisation in a better state to bolster the chances of struggling candidates.

Weeks before the September 3 General Election, Bull Savannah, St Elizabeth-born Horne had also assisted with the party's campaign.

The latest development is likely to lead to more tension in the already beleaguered party that suffered its most pronounced loss to the JLP since the general election of 1980 when the Labour Party won 51 seats to the PNP's nine in the then 60-seat House of Representatives; and in the first general election of 1944 when the JLP won 22 seats, the PNP five, and Independents, also five in a 32-seat House.

“Horne would be a good choice for party president, but if he is to have any success at all, he must get his act moving now and the party must have a run-off before the end of the year,” one PNP officer from north east Jamaica suggested yesterday. “The party cannot delay the selection until after December. The pussyfooting needs to stop.”

Information reaching the Sunday Observer is that the PNP will likely decide by September 27 when a delegates' conference will be held. A date in November has also been suggested by some members of the party's hierarchy, it is further understood.

But whispers abound that there is a faction in the party that is insisting that Dr Phillips should spend at least the next 12 to 18 months in charge and see to the transfer of power, which has not found favour with others.

“Any how Phillips stick around until next year the party mash up an caa fix back,” another Corporate Area-based die-hard member of the National Executive Council reasoned. Like his PNP colleague from the north east, he too wished for the party to move with little delay in electing someone to preside over its affairs. The 82-year-old party that has been in Government nine times since Jamaicans began voting in 1944, the same as the JLP.

“We as a party really joked around leading up to the election. All the polls were showing that [Prime Minister Andrew] Holness was way ahead of Peter, and every time the polls were done, Holness was gaining more support. We should have acted long ago. We didn't and now we are paying the price. Seems like this is no longer PNP country,” the member said.

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