November 7, 2020 was a day like no other for Jamaica and the USA. It was the day on which delegates of the People’s National Party (PNP) headed to the polls to select a new leader and the day on which the result of the USA presidential polls of November 3 became known. The long term effect of making the wrong choice would have been comparatively consequential for both countries.
In an article in the October 15, 2020 issue of Vanity Fair, Caroline Giuliani, breaking political ranks with her Republican father, Rudy Giuliani – former New York Mayor and Trump pointsman – graphically summed up the USA political options thus: “We are hanging by a single slipping finger on a cliff’s edge and the fall will be fatal. If we remove ourselves from the fight, our country will be in free fall. Alternatively, we can hang on and elect a compassionate and decent president and claw our way back onto the ledge.” The consequence may not have been quite as dramatically different for the PNP and for Jamaica whichever of the contenders prevailed on the 7th but there is a case to be made that with the wrong choice, the PNP’s recovery as a party of prominence would be close to nil for the foreseeable future.
Organisational leadership can be challenging at the best of times. The next decade may be the most challenging ever for the PNP considering the enormity of the problems facing it at this time. The mixed messages emerging from it, the palpable disunity among its ranks, the open wounds festering from the multiple leadership challenges of the last two decades, the absence of any clearly defined development strategy for the country are only some of them. No progress will be possible until the open wounds are expertly tended.
As the duly elected leader, Mark Golding’s utterances so far suggest that he is acutely aware of this. Navigating a decisively difficult unification terrain will be indeed his most daunting task, for though he has managed to romp home comfortably with a 1,740/1,444 win, the delegates fell short of delivering a landslide victory. Indeed, the continuing murmurs indicate that the matter has yet to be put to rest by those who continue to scream “wi dead now, for him cayn beat Holness”. That perception could present a serious challenge to Golding’s peace seeking overtures.
In the interest of the party, country and democracy, the competition should cease and desist from promulgating this new mantra, which itself gave rise to the ill-timed Bunting challenge of 2019. The comrades are unwittingly promoting Prime Minister Holness as this invincible behemoth who can only be defeated by guile, especially if it comes clothed in youthful world beating form. They should seriously ask themselves why they would favour a contender who has converted a ‘safe’ PNP seat to one that is now hanging by the “single slipping finger” of 31 votes, over one who has proven himself to be the owner of safe hands.
They would do well to accept the fact that it was not merely the leader who was rejected in the polls of September 3, 2020 but that it was the entire party that had been weighed and found wanting. Traditional PNP voters did not think it was worth their effort to brave the COVID-19 risks to legitimize a party which had been losing its way for some three decades and had now definitely lost its soul. Re-engendering the trust will take more than pretty promises. It’s time for the members of the PNP hierarchy to put up their swords and give Mark a chance.