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Blythe willing to return to politics, but...

Sunday, June 08, 2014    

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These days Dr Karl Blythe appears quite relaxed. His brow is not furrowed, his smile is easy, and his eyes tell you that he has no problem sleeping.

It's been seven years since Blythe walked away from representational politics and his Cabinet post as water and housing minister — jobs that bring with them intense pressure.

"Would you return to representational politics?" the Sunday Observer asked the 68-year-old medical doctor who, after first being elected to Parliament in 1989, served four consecutive terms representing Central Westmoreland.

"I never say never," Blythe responded during an interview in which he revealed that he had finally settled his $35-million Finsac debt.

"With this Finsac thing behind me, I would never ever say never," he added. 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."

At the time Blythe left active politics in 2007 he was a vice-president of the ruling People's National Party (PNP) and easily one of the party's most popular figures.

Leading up to that time, he served as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Education, then parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Health where he was given responsibility for typhoid control and cholera prevention.

After that, then Prime Minister P J Patterson appointed him minister of state in the Ministry of Health, then named him water minister after which housing was added to his portfolio.

When Patterson decided to retire, Blythe was among four candidates who contested the party's presidential election in March 2006. The others were Portia Simpson Miller, the eventual winner and current prime minister; Dr Peter Phillips, now the finance minister; and Dr Omar Davies, the current transport and housing minister.

In June that year, Blythe announced that he would not seek re-election at the next parliamentary poll, saying that he had come to the decision "after months of consultation and reflection".

He also advised the Central Westmoreland constituency secretary of his intention to relinquish his position as chairman of the constituency committee and indicated that he would be giving up his position as a party vice-president at the annual conference that September.

Blythe's decision came after he was left out of Simpson Miller's Cabinet, a development that party insiders said, at the time, left him crushed.

But all that is now water under the bridge and Blythe's wounds are obviously healed. However, he made sure to remind anyone who might have an interest in asking him to serve again that he is a hands-on manager who abhors bureaucracy stifling necessary development.

"I'm a bit like Paulwell," he said, referring to the current energy minister who has, in the past, attracted flak for some of the decisions he has taken in relation to his portfolio.

"When I want to get things done in the interest of the country I don't want stumbling blocks," Blythe said. "Sometimes when you push hard you step on toes, people deliberately put stones in your way. For me, my prime minister would have to recognise that that is there, so when I meet up on these and I have to jump, and I jump and step on a lettuce, don't throw me away, say [to me] 'Karl, next time before you leap, look exactly where, even though you lose a few seconds, take the time', and I might say why I couldn't afford to lose those seconds is because I recognise in losing those seconds it would have cost the country so much and then you would say 'yes, I see why you had to jump'," he explained.

"But you know, if my party found that they were having a serious problem in a constituency and wanted me to run, I would say yes, but from day one I'm training my successor. So I would have a few of the younger ones with a desire to serve — not those looking for themselves — beside me, so that at anytime they can just walk into the part," Blythe said.

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