Sat | Oct 31, 2020

Patterson: PNP will bounce back - Won’t back Phillips replacement as Golding hints at leadership ambitions

Published:Wednesday | September 23, 2020 | 12:15 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Though badly bruised from its pummelling at the polls on September 3, the People’s National Party (PNP) will recover from its worst electoral beating in 40 years, elder statesman P.J. Patterson has said.

But the former prime minister and party president has declined to back any of the presumptive candidates in the leadership race to replace interim head Dr Peter Phillips, who has announced his intention to quit shortly.

The Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party won 49 of the 63 seats in the House of Representatives, expanding his control over the legislature. The PNP haemorrhaged 15 of the 29 seats it had going into the election earlier this month.

But Patterson, revered for his mobilisation strategy as the winningest prime minister in Jamaican electoral history, believes the PNP has what it takes to bounce back from the colossal defeat.

His point of reference: the 1980 walloping by the JLP’s Edward Seaga. That ended 51-9.

“We have been down that road before. ... We took the time to rethink what we had done and to identify the errors and mistakes that we made and within a year or two, the PNP was again a formidable opponent,” said the former party president.


Patterson, 85, said that this month’s loss was an opportunity for the party to press the reset button, claiming that the Comrades had, by 1983, resumed political ascendancy which was confirmed in parish council landslide of 1986.

“We can do it again, but we can only do it if we are united, and it’s my fervent hope that when people are allowed to exercise their democratic right that it will be respected by every section of the party, both those who belong to Parliament and those on the outside,” he told The Gleaner after signing the condolence book in honour of the late D.K. Duncan, a former election strategist.

“I think there were obvious divisions in the party.”

The “divisions” Patterson hints at centre around the unfolding leadership drama in the imminent post-Phillips era. Peter Bunting was the heir apparent after his narrow loss to Phillips in the September 2019 internal challenge, which involved a rancorous denunciation of Phillips, who has badly trailed Holness in opinion polls for more than a year.

But with Bunting losing his Manchester Central seat on September 3, Lisa Hanna and Mark Golding have emerged as the front runners to replace Phillips. Manchester North West Member of Parliament Mikael Phillips, Peter’s son, is also in the running.

Both Golding and Mikael Phillips dispatched not-so-cryptic social media messages posturing for pole position. Neither man confirmed on Tuesday that he had thrown his hat in the ring.

“Comrades, on your Mark,” Golding said.

“After consultations with my family, senior leaders of the PNP and the executive of South St Andrew, I have decided that the rebuilding of our great party is paramount.”

Patterson, in typical fashion, though, has kept his cards close to his chest.

“My role is not one to endorse any candidate. We are a democratic party and everybody has their right to put their names forward and to support who they wish,” Patterson said.

“My contribution is ensuring with the officers of the party that it is done in accordance with our constitution and the assertion of the democratic rights of the delegates of the PNP.”