A not so happy birthday, PNPFriday, September 24, 2021
The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) continues to be seen as a character in search of an author. Plagued by an antagonistic lunatic fringe, hobbled by ineffective and indecisive leadership at the top, as well as a pervasive disunity that has splintered the 83 year-old party into a Tower of Babel scenario, there is very little to celebrate so far.
It is the nature of political parties to have internal struggles but traditionally and from a historical perspective, the PNP has been seen as an organisation that was adept at not washing its dirty linen in public. However, with the advent of social media and the disintegration of a cohesive philosophic base that once united the party, in the best and worst of times, the PNP has now lost its way and has become its own worst enemy.
Norman Washington Manley had a clear vision for the PNP during its incipient years. In the wake of the labour revolt in 1938, which saw the emergence of trade unions and, ultimately, political parties and the roles these should play in the liberation of the working class, this visionary leader had this to say in 1945: “The time has come when the work for labour must be more closely harmonised with, and coordinated with the work in the political field. It is not two progressive movements but one progressive movement consisting of different classes of people and the foundation of its strength must be in the class at the bottom.” This, in essence, is democratic socialism.
In this vein, the late Professor George Eaton wrote: “The PNP was committed then to the cause of the common man, a cause which included his material, social, and spiritual well-being.” And, in this context, he quoted Manley as saying, “It is perfectly true that the interests of all classes of people are bound together. But it is equally true that there is a common man in this country whose interest must predominate above and beyond all other classes because no man is democratic, no man is a sincere and honest democrat who does not accept the elementary principle that the object of civilisation is to raise the standard of living and security of the masses of the people.” Manley went on to say that the best way to serve the cause of the masses was to help them to help themselves to become masters of their own salvation.
Against the background of this stance taken by the PNP's most prominent founding father and first party president, the potent question which needs to be answered by his current beleaguered successor, Mark Jefferson Golding, is: “What is your vision for the people of Jamaica, who you want to govern one day?
Regrettably, after over a year in that post, such a clear-cut vision has not emerged, and one of the most frequent criticisms of the Comrade leader, even among those who mean him well, has been that they really do not know what he stands for. This is a most unfortunate situation which Golding must address post-haste.
Jamaica is desperately in need of a transformational leader who will seek to govern with emotional intelligence at the heart of his governance strategies. At the same time, in the current environment in which the PNP finds itself, its leader must be firm but kind.
It has been said that nice guys finish last and Mark Golding has come across as being too soft and accommodating when dealing with the type of dissent that now plagues the PNP, which is inspired more by personal gain rather than a desire to unite and focus on those pertinent issues that will create a winnable path to Gordon House.
When Norman Manley was sworn in for the first time as chief minister on February 2, 1955, according to author Arnold Bertram in his book N W Manley — The Making of Modern Jamaica, after being introduced by his friend and inseparable colleague Noel Nethersole, the eminent lawyer turned statesman replied thus: “All my life I have carried responsibilities on my shoulders. I have spent my life on many cases and now I turn my back for good and all on that life and take into my hands the case of the people of Jamaica before the Bar of history against poverty and need — the case of my country for a better life and freedom in our land.” Golding, a lawyer himself, should use these inspiring words as a guide and, indeed, a mantra for his leadership. In other words, he needs a good dose of Manleyism if he is to truly reflect the principles and objectives of the party he seeks to serve, as well as the wider Jamaican society.
During PJ Patterson's 1992 campaign for the PNP presidency on the heels of the resignation of Michael Manley, a four-page pamphlet, Appointment with Destiny, was published, which set out, in simple form, the issues and factors that would influence the choice of a party leader and prime minister. P J Patterson, in his book, My Political Journey, noted that the manifesto document spelt it out: “The new party leader will inherit a fantastic and rich tradition. At stake was consolidating this mega legacy, a tried and tested formula to build a brighter future.”
It was further noted that, among the personal attributes of such a party leader should be the ability to understand and distil the salient features of the party's legacy and the raison d'etre of the movement, as well as inspiring the nation. It was observed that the job of a leader can be lonely, but colleagues, advisers, and well-wishers can be of immense value and support; however, in the final analysis, the buck stops with the leader.
The current PNP president must become a student of history and seek to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors while charting his own course. He has a date with destiny and, as the latest polls suggest, all is not lost. Golding still has the opportunity to prove to his detractors that he is the best choice at this time to lead the party, so he must find ways and means to court his enemies and bring them to the table.
Press along, Mark, press along, but not only in your own way. Persecution you must bear, trials and crosses will be in your way, but the hotter the battle the sweeter the victory. And, though the birthday cake may taste bitter, you must man up and lead from in front, not from the sidelines. Enough said!
Lloyd B Smith has been involved in Jamaican media for the past 45 years. He has also served as a Member of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. He hails from western Jamaica where he is popularly known as the Governor. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.