If not Golding, who?Friday, October 15, 2021
Even as the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) goes into its 83rd Annual Conference this weekend, the spectre of a leadership challenge hangs over President Mark Golding's head like the sword of Damocles.
St Ann South Eastern Member of Parliament (MP) Lisa Hanna ostensibly sought to put that matter to rest when she appeared as guest speaker at the Comrade leader's recent St Andrew South Western constituency conference, where she declared her full support for him as there can only be one leader at a time.
MP Hanna is to be commended for this courageous step as no doubt many of her One PNP supporters may have been caught off guard and left in a quandary as they continue their relentless fight to unseat Mark Golding from the presidency and install her as the maximum leader.
This strategic move augurs well for her leadership ambitions as it is well known that timing is the art of politics. Kudos to Comrade Hanna for displaying such maturity as she embraces the reality that, if one day she should become party president, she would need the unified support of the general membership of that movement.
By reinforcing what has been an age-old practice of the PNP, which is to accept and work with whomever is duly, democratically elected by the delegates in a free and fair election, she maintains that traditional precedence and, hopefully, her action will restore some amount of peace and calm to the party, notwithstanding the lunatic fringe that continues to take the “my-way-or-the-highway” approach. In this vein, Lisa's one step may well turn out to be a giant step forward for the PNP.
But, even as it would appear that the dust has settled for now in terms of an imminent leadership challenge, it is no secret that a number of contenders, as well as pretenders, to the leadership throne have been secretly and quietly lining up to get the blessings of the delegates in their bid to oust Golding. Among these front-liners are Phillip Paulwell, Julian Robinson, Mikael Phillips, Damion Crawford, and Dr Wykeham McNeill. And there is nothing wrong with this as any member in good standing in Norman Manley's party has the right to challenge for leadership. However, this should not be pursued in a divisive manner as now seems to be the case. To put it bluntly, the divide-and-rule or crab-in-the barrel approach will not work and, even if by chance it does, the victory would be pyrrhic.
After Portia Simpson Miller, it is going to take some time before the wider membership of the PNP comes to terms with the prospect of being led by yet another woman. It is no secret that political parties in Jamaica, for the most part, have been male-dominated; thus, breaking the glass ceiling will indeed be a gargantuan task.
Simpson Miller, buoyed by her natural charisma and deep connection with ordinary Jamaicans, did not have an easy road. At present, Lisa Hanna has not yet displayed the characteristics of a “Sister P” which would enable her to withstand the slings and arrows of those “men in grey suits”. She has a great deal of work to do on the ground, including in her own constituency, which may well turn out to be an albatross around her neck if she does not resolve, effectively, those issues affecting her leadership in that once safest of PNP seats.
Julian Robinson from all indications is a team player. He comes across as a Seymour “Foggy” Mullings type who works hard, is loyal, and does not openly display any leadership ambitions. His current camaraderie with Golding could well be an asset or a liability, depending on how the cookies crumble, especially after next year's local government elections which will prove to be a litmus test for the Golding-led PNP.
Mikael Phillips's main claim to fame is that he is Dr Peter Phillips's son in whom he is well pleased. This could augur well for him in terms of garnering much support from the One PNP vanguards. However, he is yet to display sufficient maturity and, although he comes across as a hard-working Member of Parliament, as well as a forceful Opposition member in the House of Parliament, now is not his time and, from all indications he knows this to be so.
There was a time when long-serving Kingston Eastern and Port Royal Member of Parliament Phillip Paulwell was being touted as the heir apparent to then party leader and Prime Minister P J Patterson, but then came NetServ among other so-called scandals. Truth be told, Paulwell has so far failed to rid himself of the monkeys on his back, so whenever his name comes up the word “baggage” oftentimes comes into play. Then there is that American visa withdrawal issue.
Jamaica owes a great deal of gratitude to Paulwell for the visionary and revolutionary role he played in enhancing the country's technological advancement, but that feather in his cap is not enough to take him over the threshold. Only time will tell.
And what of Dr Wykeham McNeill who comes across as the “blushing bride” waiting to be taken over the threshold? His Achilles heel is that he lost his Westmoreland Western seat in the 2020 General Election, which was indeed a shocker, even to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). An urbane, soft-spoken gentleman with a disarming demeanour, he comes to the fore with a Donald Sangster- type persona but, in the rough and tumble of today's “dog-nyam-dog” politics, he ought to be reminded that nice guys tend to finish last.
Damion Crawford, the “matinee idol” of the PNP and the country's body politic, continues to be his worst enemy. For starters, he must get rid of his court jester image while reinventing himself so that he can become more marketable for the leadership position. Being young, gifted and black is not enough, and his dreadlocks will not ensure that he gets the sceptre of leadership. Cosmetics is not the way to go, the electorate wants substance over hype.
Then again, if Mark Golding's proposal to allow all bona fide, paid-up members of the party to vote for leadership positions is accepted by the majority, thus getting rid of the currently corrupt delegates system, it could change the how, when, and why any contender should be elevated to the Comrade leader position.
In the meantime, it behooves all well-thinking Comrades to rally round Mark Golding at this time. It is what it is!
Lloyd B Smith has been involved full-time 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.