The tasks now facing Phillips and Bunting

Delano
Franklyn

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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As I had predicted, Peter Phillips was returned as president of the People's National Party (PNP). He retained his position by a simple majority of 76 votes. There are some people who, arguably, interpret a simple majority to mean some sort of victory for the runner-up. In any sporting event, whatever the margin of victory, as was the case in 2009 when Kingston College won Boys' Champs by half a point, a victory is a victory.

It is no different in politics, as shown in 2007 when Bruce Golding took Government with a majority of one seat; or when the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, in 2016, was taken over by the Jamaica Labour Party based on a majority of one vote in one division.

Prolonged gloating by his supporters, on the one hand, and on the other, severe criticisms and bad temper on the part of those who supported the contender, can sour the victory by Peter Phillips. Supporters of both Phillips and Bunting, in the interest of unity, will have to let go of their natural urges in order to support the outcome of the election.

It will not be an easy task, as emotions sometimes get in the way of that which is rational, and we all know that we Jamaicans can carry 'bad feelings' and vexation for a long time.

The extent to which the tendency to continue the 'campaigning' will be heavily dependent on the post-victory leadership by Phillips, and the post-defeat leadership by Bunting. While some supporters, on either side, continue to express different opinions as to the outcome of the internal elections, the meeting between both contenders initiated by Phillips signals the beginning of that which must be continued the strife for unity in the interest of the greater good.

As leader, Phillips has to be magnanimous and reach out to all, no matter how he feels; while Bunting has to show that, in keeping with the true traditions of internal party competition, the race is over and the wishes of the delegates must be respected.

Phillips's overtures, in the interest of unity, must not be read as a sign of weakness, nor should Bunting's decision to fall in line. It is what is expected of both now that the leadership question has been settled.

Phillips has to show strength of conviction while listening to the different views around him as well as that which exists in the wider society.

Both victory and defeat have consequences and, in this case, the delegates have given Phillips the mandate to exercise his authority as he sees fit. I am sure that he will continue to do so, mindful of existing circumstances.

Phillips has stated publicly that he holds no hard feelings or grudge against anyone and that he will be the president for all and not for some. Bunting, to date, has also shown graciousness in defeat.

Now that Phillips has stated that he will soon be appointing a new slate of spokespersons, it is hoped that he will be given the opportunity to fashion his team without anyone feeling bitter or aggrieved at the end of the process. Certainly, not everyone will be included, and, of course, I would not be surprised if changes are made.

The weight on the shoulder of the leader of the Opposition is a heavy one. His is the task to shape the party into the viable Opposition that the delegates demand. His is the task to turn the simple majority given to him by the delegates into a majority simple or otherwise when the national election is called.

In essence, the mandate given to Phillips by the delegates is to pull together all the existing tendencies within the party in order for it to become a seamless Opposition, and with the right policies, the right mix of people in its leadership, and the necessary actions that will appeal to the public and prepare the party to take the reigns of Government when Prime Minister Andrew Holness decides to fly the gate.

Delano Franklyn is an attorney-at law and member of the People's National Party.


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