By Romell Eubank
After a landslide defeat, winning only 14 of the possible 63 seats, PNP President Dr. Peter Phillips indicated that he will be stepping down as president of the party and as opposition leader as soon as his successor is identified. No clear indications have been given as it relates to whether he will also vacate his constituency seat. Mr. Phillips ran against former PNP President and opposition leader Portia Simpson Miller in 2006 and in 2008 in the PNP presidential elections and was unsuccessful in both attempts.
The 26-year Member of Parliament who has represented East Central St Andrew since 1994 was given the nod to serve as party president and opposition leader when Portia Simpson Miller vacated her position in 2017 – an after-effect of the 2016 general election defeat. He was successfully re-elected in 2019 during the September 7 PNP presidential election where he defeated his challenger Peter Bunting. Mr. Phillips amassed 1,427 votes, while Bunting got 1,351 – a margin of 76 votes.
Many party insiders and social media bloggers believed he would not bring home the victory for the PNP and while, unfortunately, the stalwart who has served his party for almost 31 years was unable to prove these critics wrong, he was left with no option but to step away from the party leadership.
Many party members and some Jamaicans have expressed their opinions on who they think should become the next PNP president and opposition leader. Many wanted Peter Bunting to become party leader as he has a youthful and exciting personality. He has a charismatic personality, similar to that of PNP legend Michael Manley. These and other characteristics would have made him a great party leader. However, after being handed defeat by newcomer Rhoda Moy Crawford in the Manchester Central seat, the talented politician seems not to be interested in any leadership position this time around.
Damion Crawford has the potential to become a great leader. However, his loquacious personality seems to be his downfall. His ideas sometimes seem good but unrealistic. He needs more time to learn the ins and outs of politics.
The ideal candidate would be Mark Golding. Golding, a talented businessman and long tie friend of former presidential aspirant Peter Bunting, has proven a true leader with his humility and positive contributions to his constituency, and his positive unbiased opinions in parliament. The 55-year-old lawyer has served in the senate for 10 years from 2007-2017, served as Minister of Justice from 2012-2016 and has represented South St Andrew since 2017.
Despite many PNP officials like Phillip Paulwell losing more than 2000 votes and some losing their seats, Mr. Golding was able to add 1678 votes despite representing the constituency for just over two years. This signals the representation and leadership that Mr. Golding provides. This energy, humility, and fairness is well needed in the People’s National Party in order to resonate with the electorate.
The PNP will regain its strength. The Jamaica Labour Party, too, had leadership issues, and we can easily see where they are now. They were able to solve their disunity and quickly regain strength. The duration of the PNP’s misfortune depends on the leader they choose and the ability of the individual chosen to unite and bring positive and strategic ideas to the forefront. The People’s National Party does not need a leader with just popularity and eloquent speech but a leader with a mix of popularity, eloquence, charisma and most of all, proven results. The people want action, not a ‘bag a mouth’. Jamaica needs a fully functioning opposition and Mark Golding is the ideal man for the job.
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