Blythe spoils the party

Former PNP vice-president challenging Portia

BY KIMONE FRANCIS Observer staff reporter francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

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The Opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP’s) desire to avoid a leadership challenge in September was spoiled yesterday by Dr Karl Blythe who submitted his nomination for the presidency, a day after incumbent Portia Simpson Miller went through the process at PNP headquarters in Kingston believing that she would be the only candidate.

Blythe’s nomination will likely anger the party hierarchy, especially PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill, who was reported to have asked aspirants, during an officers’ meeting on July 4 to postpone any challenge for leadership this year in order that the party could focus on local government elections, which are expected to be called soon.


"I truly believe that my party needs to start the renewal process, and I believe that this renewal process would have started if other persons had entered the race, Blythe, a medical doctor and former PNP vice-president, told the
Jamaica Observer yesterday afternoon.


"Unfortunately, over the weekend I realised they weren’t going to do so, and I realise the necessity for this renewal process to start," he said in reference to former General Secretary Peter Bunting’s decision, announced on Sunday, not to challenge for leadership of the party.


He said, while he may not be the person to see out the process, he felt compelled to initiate it.


"…I can only do so as president of the People’s National Party, whether for a year or so, to give others the time they need to take the mission of the party around the island to tell us what are their plans for the party," Blythe said.


This is the second time the former minister of water and housing is contesting the presidency. In 2006, Dr Blythe, Simpson Miller, Dr Peter Phillips, and Dr Omar Davies sought delegates’ votes after then PNP President and Prime Minister PJ Patterson retired from active politics. That contest was won by Simpson Miller, who created history as the first woman to lead a political party in Jamaica and become head of government.


However, a year earlier, Dr Blythe left Comrades shell-shocked when he bested Simpson Miller and others to become vice-president, taking 1,443 delegates’ votes at the party’s annual conference.


Asked if he believed he could defeat Simpson Miller, who has remained popular among delegates despite the PNP’s general election loss in February this year, Blythe, the former Member of Parliament for Westmoreland Central, said it is for the delegates to decide.


"I would tell you this much, in 2005, from the back bench, with all of the problems I had back then, nobody thought I could beat Portia Simpson Miller as a vice-president; I beat them all in 2005," Blythe said.


"So, in this case I leave it to the wisdom of the delegates. But at least they will have a choice. That is the important thing, to have a choice. If they say ‘Karl, or Comrade Blythe, no; we want to stay with the leader’, then I [will] join with them all and we go behind and support Comrade Simpson Miller," he said.


In June 2014 Blythe, who stepped away from active politics in 2007, had told the
Observer that he was willing to re-enter representational politics. However, he suggested that his role could be more one of mentoring.


"I’m inclined to be like one of the elders to help the younger people who should get on the ground and move into representational politics," he said.


"But, whatever position, you know, as long as I’m capable, anything that a prime minister or governor general requires of me I would do it. I still think I have a few years… the Father dictates the health side, but I believe I could contribute," he added at the time.


He said that if the PNP found that they were having a serious problem in a constituency and wanted him to run, he would.


After the death of Westmoreland Central Member of Parliament Roger Clarke in August 2014, Blythe offered to contest the seat for the PNP, but his offer was snubbed by the party.


In response, he described the party’s move to name a candidate, without a constituency vote, as "flawed", "unconstitutional" and a "misguided illegal attempt to circumvent the democratic constitutional principles that govern" the PNP.


Yesterday, he said that his bid for the PNP presidency was not grounded in spite, and insisted that he enjoyed a fair relationship with Simpson Miller.


"Those who would think that, clearly don’t know the relationship we have. Anybody who knows Karl Blythe knows that I am a plain, open, and frank person. My party needs to start the renewal process. I was the only Comrade who stood up right to her face in NEC (National Executive Council) and told her why I think she should resign; I didn’t do it behind her back. I spoke to her face to face. I told her why I think she owed the party the respect to either offer to resign or to resign," he told the
Observer.


"If I am voted in as leader at this time, I will become the initiator of the renewal process, and I will give the party one year to put in place the person that they believe is best suited to take the party through the renewal process," Blythe added.


Yesterday, St Ann South Eastern Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna, Westmoreland Western Member of Parliament Dr Wykeham McNeill, and vice-president Senator Angela Brown Burke were nominated for three of the four vice-presidential posts.


 


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