BUNTING YOU WERE NEVER ”IN”

Manchester MP backs away from PNP presidency contest
Bunting out

BUNTING… it would be irresponsible to cause the party to expend resources and divert our focus and energy at this time.

PETER Bunting yesterday backed out of the contest for leadership of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) in the face of overwhelming support for veteran Comrade Dr Peter Phillips.

Dr Phillips, who is now the sole aspirant so far for the PNP presidency when Portia Simpson Miller makes her exit, was not available for comment last night. However, Basil Waite, the man who was heading Phillips’s campaign team, said Bunting’s decision gave the party an opportunity to unite and focus on rebuilding.

“It’s a good thing that has happened. We are all humbled and graceful about it. [Now] we have to consolidate and there’s tremendous work to be done,” Waite said.

In the wake of last week’s announcement by Simpson Miller that she does not intend to seek re-election at the party’s annual general conference in September, Phillips made it known early that he wanted the job.

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Bunting — Member of Parliament for Manchester Central — in April this year, less that two months after the PNP lost power to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in parliamentary elections, said he would appeal to delegates at the “appropriate time” in a bid to offer himself for the PNP’s top job and was expected to challenge Simpson Miller for the leadership at the annual party conference in September.

However, he stepped back a few weeks before, after which Dr Karl Blythe, a former vice-president and Cabinet minister, put himself up for the leadership. As expected, however, the delegates lined up behind Simpson Miller in what could hardly be called a contest as she polled 2,471 votes to Blythe’s 198.

It was expected that Bunting, having decided to pull back from his planned challenge at the PNP’s annual conference, would be ready to challenge for leadership once Simpson Miller announced that she would be giving up the leadership.

In a statement yesterday outlining his reasons for stepping back, Bunting said since the party president made her intentions known, just over a week ago, he has held a series of consultations with the parliamentary and local government leadership, only to come to the realisation that the vast majority feel that “it is Comrade Peter Phillips’s turn”.

Dr Phillips, he said, will have his support as the next president of the PNP. “For my own part, I will offer to work on areas of weakness within the party that have been identified publicly in various reports since February, and specifically on helping the party to effectively engage a wider range of supporters; and strengthening the internal framework for integrity and accountability,” he stated.

“Political parties are national organisations, and I believe that leadership decisions should be made on a wider set of considerations. Nevertheless, in the face of this strong sentiment, it would be irresponsible to cause the party to expend resources and divert our focus and energy at this time. Therefore, I will not be going forward in this contest,” Bunting added.

In July this year, after deciding not to challenge Simpson Miller, Bunting said he believed the party leader should be allowed to set her own timetable for departure.

He said, too, that officers of the party had asked possible challengers not to seek the presidency in September in light of the impending local government election and the importance of party unity at such time.

Bunting, a former security minister, would have got an indication of the delegates’ take on his possible candidacy when a number of them shouted “No Lisa, no Bunting” just more than a week ago at the PNP’s National Executive Council meeting in Portmore, St Catherine, where Simpson Miller, reeling from two successive election defeats, announced plans for her retirement.

The delegates were also firm in their disapproval of St Ann South Eastern Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna, who was among those accused of not being supportive of the party president.

Bunting, who served as the party’s general secretary during the period when Dr Phillips failed in his bid to unseat Simpson Miller in 2008, earlier this year said that he had thrown his hat into the ring as an aspirant to succeed Simpson Miller because he was convinced that it was time for the next generation of leadership in the party to “refresh the image of the party and help to attract a broader base of support, particularly among younger voters”. He insisted that his track record of achievement in both politics and the private sector made him the man to provide that leadership.

Bunting’s decision yesterday should make life more comfortable for Phillips who made two failed attempts for leadership of the PNP — in 2006 when then President PJ Patterson retired, and again in 2008 when he challenged Simpson Miller and got a whipping.

In a

Jamaica Observer interview last week, Phillips said he believed his chances against Bunting should be “very good”, stating that he has the experience and vision the party needs at this time.

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