Leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson Miller may believe that she is like a post 70’s nightclub singer with an endless shelf life; ‘Let me feel that riff again Sam,’ as she steps up for the millionth time to sing an over-worn song through the thick haze of cigarette smoke.
With many influential voices in the PNP calling on the leader to announce her resignation and another bloc circling the wagon of the former prime minister, all in the PNP ought to know that the party’s major objective at this time is making itself more attractive to the electorate than it was in the days, weeks, months and year before February 25, 2016.
The obvious and first focus in the aftermath of an election loss is the Leader. After that it would be the team leading the election campaign.
If Portia decides that she is an immovable monument and, having lost the 2007 election on bad timing and wrong campaign focus, and in 2016 presenting the historians in the PNP with the ‘gift’ of the first one-term-only PNP government, even with the barest introspection, she would be forced to conclude that her glitter is fading instead of shimmering in a new brightness.
The recent NEC meeting of the PNP opened her up to open calls for her stepping down. Bear in mind that Portia came to real prominence when then PM, PJ Patterson just before the 2006 internal elections, said that Portia was not just the hope of the PNP, she was the only hope.
I suspect that PJ was seeing it mostly in its rawest political sense- Portia may not lead you to the land of plenty but with my political light and the PNP’s dimming, she has the best chance to beat the always fractious JLP.
Then, PJ had clout and the delegates, as far as the general public saw it, roundly elected her. The picture is somewhat different now, maybe even radically so. Portia has given Peter Phillips her blessing as the person best suited to follow after she leaves the PNP presidency. But Portia in 2016 does not have the clout over endorsing her replacement as PJ in 2006 had in pushing her on the delegates.
In other words there may be many especially the younger, brighter, more financially independent members of the PNP who are impatient of Portia’s failure to look within. If history is anything to go by, it is more likely that leadership change in a more fast-paced political world will come by way of near revolt instead of patiently waiting on the purveyors of old ideas in wrong directions to make a slow departure.
Since the election loss by the PNP the public has not heard that great speech of introspection from the former PM. We have not heard her outline her concerns for the impatience of the young and the need to urgently craft new directions to assist them to attain their economic salvation. She has not spoken about the revitalization of the PNP in language attractive to her disgruntled supporters.
It will not be long before those who aspire to toppling Portia will make their final decisions. The first is former security minister, Peter Bunting whose silent campaign is slowly filtering through to many in the PNP.
At the same time Bunting cannot afford to go for overkill and he knows that if his canvassing does not safely put him over the edge against a Portia, Peter Phillips match-up, he will not risk it. If Bunting decides to go all in, I cannot see Peter Phillips just sitting aside calmly and saying, ‘Well, that’s life.’ Phillips would have to immediately jump in.
He survived 2006 and 2008. He was easily the point man in the PNP all throughout the 2011 to 2016 period and prior to that under the Patterson administration he was the minster who was brought in to fix ministries. After being endorsed by Portia he should now walk away? Not likely.
Portia should be proud to know that there are more than a small percentage of bright and capable second tier leaders waiting in the wings of the PNP. She should encourage this growth instead of being the impediment that her present stance is making it appears she is.
As painful as it may be Portia needs to admit to herself that all will not be lost should she step down at this time. Unless of course she holds a fear that Bunting could win but that it would radically shift the PNP’s core focus to a centre right, rabid pro-business party. If she does, she ought to speak up.
One reader emailed me the following positing an intriguing scenario.
‘What if Portia is playing a game. She is not sure if Peter Phillips can beat Peter Bunting in a straight fight. Money alone. So she offers herself again but on the eve of the election instructs her delegates to vote for Phillips. That way her anointed wins and she scuttles Bunting and his crew. He will not hang around. He is no stranger to getting up from the domino game.’
The ‘silent’ campaign continues as the impatience grows.
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