Seat by seat


Seat by seat

PNP says campaign strategy puts heavy reliance on individual candidates

Senior staff reporter

Friday, August 14, 2020

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THE Opposition People's National Party (PNP) says it has employed a “seat by seat” strategy in its quest to return to Government.

While admitting that the party left the blocks behind the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), co-director of the PNP's 2020 election campaign Peter Bunting said the hierarchy is “encouraged” by the results of polls conducted at the constituency level.

He was giving an update on the party's strategy to Top of the Morning host Richard “Richie B” Burgess on The Edge 105 FM — the Jamaica Observer's sister radio station.

“This campaign is going to be one where candidates, individual constituency candidates, have a much greater impact than we have seen in the past,” Bunting said.

The move is a pull away from the strategy used in the February 2016 General Election when the party relied heavily on the popularity of then President Portia Simpson Miller to reel in voters.

The recent Observer-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, as well as the Nationwide Radio Bluedot poll show PNP President Dr Peter Phillips trailing Prime Minister Andrew Holness in the favourability contest.

The Johnson poll, conducted July 9-12, shows Holness's favourability rating increasing 11 percentage points over the past four months, while Phillips has slipped by two percentage points.

“In the past, I would say that elections have been very leader-centric and party-centric. But the polls that we are doing, and some of the results we're seeing, suggest that if you have strong candidates in your constituencies they will make the difference. And I believe we have an excellent team, an outstanding team of MPs (Members of Parliament) — those who are serving and being returned and new candidates with fresh faces and new ideas,” said Bunting.

Last September, the Manchester Central MP had argued that Phillips could not lead the PNP to victory in a general election. However, he failed in his bid to unseat Phillips as party president.

On Wednesday, Bunting said the plan going into the general election is simple — retain the 29 seats the party currently holds in the 63-member Parliament and add to the number.

“The first thing you need to do is hold on to what you have, and I see that as being very doable, and all you need to do is pick up half-dozen other seats and you'll be in a comfortable victorious position,” he said.

He said the Opposition party has identified 12 to 15 seats it will target in the polls scheduled for September 3 — the date when the JLP regained favour with the electorate in 2007 after just over 18 years in the political wilderness.

“But, of course, you run a campaign as a national campaign. So there is no seat that we've given up on. I never forget in 2011 we were focused primarily on 36 but we ended up with 42. So you never go for just the number that you need. You make sure you have a little cushion there,” said Bunting.

“Realistically, I think we've started behind, but I believe we have the momentum now, and our job is to burst that bubble, that perception that the Government has maintained through their PR [public relations] machinery. [Our job] is to let people look at actual performance; look at objective measures of performance; look at the increased murder rate; look at the lower per capita income that people have now; look at how they've, although started reasonably well with the COVID-19 management, how they've messed up and allowed people through the airport without testing and now we're having a second wave or a spike in the amount of infections,” Bunting said.

“We need to hammer these home; to bring the reality of the performance of this Government to bear, and let people understand that PR alone is not going to improve their lives,” he added.

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