Patriots will decide who to back in PNP race

Patriots will decide who to back in PNP race

Senior staff reporter

Monday, October 05, 2020

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FRONT-RUNNERS in the People's National Party's (PNP) leadership race, Lisa Hanna and Mark Golding, will know by next week which of the two has the backing of the PNP Patriots and its 26 delegates ahead of the November 7 internal poll.

The group represents the young professional arm of the Opposition party, now at a crossroads following its battering at the polls last month in a runaway contest that went 49-14 (seats) in favour of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

PNP President Dr Peter Phillips has since indicated that his interest in leading the 82-year-old organisation has waned and so he will step aside to allow for a successor.

Yesterday, Patriots boss Omar Newell confirmed with the Jamaica Observer that unlike last September's leadership challenge between Dr Phillips and Peter Bunting when the group failed to endorse a candidate, a decision has been made that the caucus must have a say in who sits on the throne this time around.

Already, Newell said one candidate has reached out to the group for a meeting to shore up support. The Patriots are expected to formally invite the other candidate to a meeting this week.

The group is then expected to meet with its delegates, eight of whom come directly from the party's National Executive Council, following which either Hanna or Golding will be endorsed.

Hanna, the Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern, holds a 10-percentage point lead over rival, Golding, the St Andrew Southern Member of Parliament, according to the latest Bill Johnson survey that was commissioned by the Observer.

The poll was conducted September 11 to 13 among 1,000 voting-age Jamaicans islandwide and has a sampling error of plus or minus three per cent.

“Once that is done we will democratically agree on a candidate based on what we feel the party needs. Once we decided on a candidate we will make that known,” said Newell.

He told the Observer that the party had first sought to put forward a consensus candidate but some, including those from the Patriots, were of the view that a decision like that has not proven to be effective in the past.

“You'd see in recent history that Andrew Holness was selected as a consensus candidate for the JLP [and] there were always elements within the party wondering what would happen if there was a contest. The same happened with Peter Phillips. It's always best to have a candidate tested or have a candidate test the level of support he or she has from the delegates and cloaked with that authority from the delegates,” said Newell.

“So, our view is that a respectful exchange of ideas, followed by a vote is the way to go about selecting a candidate — not a few people in a room deciding who they want but through a democratic process,” he added.

The Patriots president, at the same time, expressed disappointment that the process excludes the wider membership of the party in terms of deciding on a leader but said that that is a matter to take up at the party's annual conference, usually scheduled for September but hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the meantime, he said while there has always been “fringe members” who have proven difficult to control in the past, the posture so far in the contest from both camps has been respectful.

“The two candidates who have declared so far, we think, are leaders in their own right. We can't fool ourselves; it's a pretty narrow field coming from where we are as of September 3. However, some of us would have loved to see Lothian Cousins in the race as a wild card but we know that will not happen. Nevertheless, we're pretty comfortable that Lisa or Mark would be a good choice to lead the Opposition and the PNP,” said Newell.

Cousins is a first-time Member of Parliament representing Clarendon South Western.

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