MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Just under a year after Mikael Phillips resigned as a vice-president of the Opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP), the Manchester North Western Member of Parliament (MP) says he intends to challenge for the post this September at the political organisation’s annual conference.
“I will be offering myself as vice-president for the People’s National Party. I am not offering myself to push out anyone, but I think that the party leader needs a team,” he told PNP supporters at a Bellefield Division conference in Manchester on Sunday.
“This is not about personalities. This is about doing the work of the People’s National Party,” Phillips said.
Last July, Phillips, Damion Crawford, Wykeham McNeil, and Phillip Paulwell resigned their vice-president positions en mass with immediate effect, throwing the party into further turmoil as it sought to overcome divisions that have been plaguing it since 2019 when Peter Bunting mounted an unsuccessful challenge to then PNP President Dr Peter Phillips.
The division was partly blamed for the PNP’s humiliating loss to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the general election the following year, after which Dr Phillips stepped down as president.
The ensuing campaign between Mark Golding and Lisa Hanna to fill the vacancy opened more wounds in the party as the faction opposed to Golding, the eventual winner, accused him and his supporters of sowing disunity.
At the time of their shock resignations, the four vice-presidents issued a joint statement, saying, “We had engaged the wider leadership of the party in good faith negotiation to avoid a further widening of the internal rift, recognising that the party leader had declared publicly that the party could not countenance another divisive internal election at this time.”
They said they had arrived at their decision after recognising the risk of another internal election before the wounds of the last presidential election were adequately healed.
“The discussion within the party continued for more than three weeks, with some officers volunteering to step aside for the sake of unity. However, we concluded that the sincerity of certain members of the leadership was not forthcoming and that the minimalist effort towards unity was a charade that is inimical to a genuine pursuit of unity,” the four men said.
“Despite all the reasonable efforts to broker a platform of unity, there were otherwise covert attempts to sabotage the goal of peace and harmony with a plan to hoard the available positions in line with previous public statements made by the leader, who pronounced a lack of trust for persons who did not support him in his campaign leadership and his preference to surround himself with only individuals who overtly endorsed his candidacy,” they added at the time.
“Therefore, to continue our sincere efforts to preserve our beloved party, which has served this nation well and has been at the forefront of much of its development, we have decided to resign from our current positions and turn our efforts towards rebuilding the constituency organisations,” they said.
Their resignations opened the door for Richard Azan, Ian Hayles, Norman Scott, and Eugene Kelly to be nominated and elected vice-presidents, a development that has earned the party more criticism.
On Sunday, Mikael Phillips, who is the only Opposition MP in the PNP’s Region Five — which comprises Manchester and St Elizabeth — said the PNP intends to unseat the current JLP parliamentarians and the next general election.
“It is a lonely place to be. I don’t feel happy to know that is me one stand up as a MP,” he told his audience.
“…We a send a warning to Rhoda, Chin, and Audley can hardly talk and walk. PNP is coming back for Manchester,” he added. His reference was to MPs Rhoda Moy Crawford, Robert Chin, and Audley Shaw who won the Manchester Central, Manchester Southern, and Manchester North Eastern constituencies, respectively, in the 2020 General Election.
Phillips, the son of Dr Peter Phillips, said the party intends to retain the Manchester Municipal Corporation and increase its current 8-7 majority over the JLP.
“North-west Manchester is coming back with four out of four, but the work has to be done, Comrades,” he said.
The PNP’s margin had been reduced in the municipality in 2020 when Councillor Faith Sampson (John’s Hall Division) crossed the floor to the JLP.