Pros and Cons of Portia Continuing

From my perch way Up So, I tend to believe that the main reason that Portia Simpson-Miller has managed to defeat Dr. Peter Phillips in the recently concluded PNP presidential elections is due to Phillips’ decision to spend so much time focusing on Portia with negative criticism and attacks. This position of his was necessary to justify his unprecedented challenge to a sitting PNP president for that office, but at the end he hadn’t spend a lot of time specifying exactly how he would help the party arise and renew. Instead he merely promised an undefined focus on political education. Phillip’s position was untenable for a number of reasons: the first being that it is commonly accepted the PNP couldn’t have held the JLP government to such a small majority if it was under another person’s stewardship (the someone else would be Phillips in this case;) the second is that Phillips openly  brags about being a part of the party’s power structure for a long time including serving as Vice President , leading the PNP’s Manifesto Committee, and holding important ministries like Health, Transport, and National Security. Therefore if deficient leadership was the prime factor in the recent PNP general election losses, and if the public was dissatisfied with PNP government after 18 years, how can Phillips evade all responsibility? Didn’t he fail as well to lead the party to victory while a Vice President, and to impress the public with the sterling accomplishments emanating from his portfolio while a Minister. Did he give Portia a secret recipe for success that she failed to follow; or did he withhold the strokes of political genius that would have avoided a denial of a fifth consecutive term for the party?

U-N-I-T-Y?
U-N-I-T-Y?

Again, I think the argument that most commentators made in opposition to Portia’s continued tenure was that she failed to unify the party sufficiently, yet no-one critically examines the role of Phillips’ supporters like Maxine Henry-Wilson who have barely bothered to conceal their contempt for Portia. None of Portia’s failures are unilateral.

So  does Portia’s victory vindicate her fully? And what are the pros and cons of Portia’s victory?

While Portia’s victory substantially vindicates her, I don’t think her victory fully vindicates her, she won as a result of her superior organization and smarter political tactics. But her opponents also made some strategic errors such as absolving Phillips entirely for any responsibility he bore for the PNP losses in general and local elections as a PNP VP, and an influential government minister. Portia won as she has endeared herself to the delegates much more than Phillips and these delegates refused to buy into the argument that she was as horrible and detrimental to the party as the Arise and Renew campaign and Jamaica’s media made her out to be. Further,  she is demonstrably more popular than Phillips and the truth is the JLP government is only a food riot, bad hurricane, or court verdict away from having to call a new general election; if that happens her popularity will be more important to a potential PNP victory than all Phillips’ political education.

The Pros

  1. Portia’s victory has substantial benefits to the Jamaican state and for the Jamaican people. For one thing it presents a challenge to any plan the governing JLP may have made for a prospective general election. Her continued popularity and the comparative failures of the JLP in office when compared to her tenure as Prime Minister make her  a more formidable candidate, than Phillips and newspapers who were whining that delegates needed to vote in the best interests of the country failed to recognize that her personal popularity means her victory was the best interest of Jamaica; since as they profess ‘a formidable Opposition is a deterrent to maladroit governance.’
  2. Her re-confirmation gives much-needed stability to the Jamaican state and will force the JLP government to be more deliberative in the planning and execution of policies. Her charge that the governing JLP is “uncaring” was deftly and sincerely delivered, the JLP is vulnerable in perceptions of their concern.
  3. Portia is an example to working class and lower-income people that hard work can pay off, it is a glimmer of meritocracy. This is a value-neutral statement to the extent that I dislike the corruption and criminality endemic to acquiring political power in Jamaica; but since Portia was able to join the PNP and ‘out-corrupt’ and ‘out-criminal’ her competitors without benefiting from nepotism; then it bodes well for Jamaica’s capacity for meritocracy when we get rid of criminality and corruption endemic to acquiring power.
  4. Lastly, maintaining a woman Opposition Leader is symbolic, Portia had in fact shattered the gender and class glass ceiling before and like the excellent journalists in the Gleaner’s gossip column I found the reference in her victory speech strange. Increased political success for women and increased corporate opportunities nurture and sustain each other, so her re-election as president is a boon for the aspiring female CEO.

The Cons

  1. Portia and her circle of supporters should not misinterpret her re-election as an endorsement of the present state of the party and the present modus operandi of its leadership. The delegates are unlikely to be endorsing the status quo which has resulted in two election losses; and instead the delegates seemed to endorse Portia’s ability to carry out the necessary adjustments to that status quo.
  2. Portia needs to make some hard decisions about how close she can remain to Phillip Paulwell , Colin Campbell, and others popularly believed to be corrupt while continuing to aspire to returning to Jamaica House.
  3. Portia remains personally vulnerable in the Trafigura probe, and something unexpected could break that would undermine her popularity significantly.
  4. Portia may misinterpret her victory, over-react in her ‘house-cleaning,’ and motivate estranged PNP MP’s who supported Phillips to cross the aisle to the JLP. If this happens it will essentially ensure a full term for the JLP and diminish the possibility of an early general election which could lead to her resumption of the PM office.

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10 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Portia Continuing

  1. One is somewhat surprised that in your enumeration of CONS vis-a-vis Ms. Portia Simpson-Miller’s victory, regarding the presidency of the PNP, that you have not addressed the seminal and crucial question, or, issue of future finances, or, financing of the party. Quite frankly, the PNP, as an institution is experiencing a major financial crisis . Consequently,the party is not able to address its various creditors, and pay its bills and outstanding debts in a timely manner. In essence, they are practically penurious/broke. With Ms. Simpson-Miller taking over the helm, or, reins of the party, a significant amount of capital from various and sundry contributors/sources will not be forthcoming.For all practical purposes,the PNP are now mendicants.Mendicants will not be able to wage a formidable general election, if one is called in the short to medium term by Prime Minister Golding.Capital, as you do know, is the fuel and life-blood of elections.Or, in the case of Ms. Simpson-Miller, the perfume of elections.Certainly,the current and future undercapitalization of the PNP will be correlated to Ms. Simpson-Miller’s presidency and this does not augur, or, bode well for a viable Opposition feverishly clamouring for a hasty return to Jamaica House.

  2. Item two on the PROS list, that Ms. Simpson-Miller’s re-confirmation gives much needed stability to the Jamaican state. . . . is indeed laughworthy!!

  3. @ Esteban:
    Item two is valid. She is more popular than Peter Phillips. Had he won the JLP could kick back and both “take 5” then have time to “put it back.” Now with Portia’s win they need to stay on tippie-toes. It’s a value neutral analysis.

    And I tend to agree with you regarding the funding issue, some business people may mistakenly get the impression they can stop the flow of funds to the PNP. But since I would be at pains to tell you the difference between party financing and extortion in Jamaica I doubt it will happen. PJ and Peter Bunting among others have the connects to get funding. And worse case scenario the PNP can use parliamentary privilege to raise questions about the checks/cheques the JLP is cashing if PNP cash flow starts to dry up.

  4. Diatribalist, this is exactly the point one is trying to advance.Ms. Simpson-Miller’s style, or, modus operandi is extremely confrontational and in many instances, irrational, quarrelsome, as opposed to being reasoned, judicious, sensible, and well-thought-out. Ergo, the probability for inter party conflict heightens against such a political method, approach or style. Interestingly, such conflicts will not be limited to Gordon House, but may and will also occur within the general population/garrisons, specifically, in light of the worsening economic situation/conditions and the ever increasing intensity of the misery index, couched within the larger context of the constantly mushrooming crime rate.Consequently, one is at odds with this perception, that Ms. Simpson Miller’s victory lends for political stability. Political recklessness, foolhardiness, and imprudence need to be eschewed by both the Government and the Opposition, as a consequence of the political, social, economic, criminal, and legal conditions which/that currently obtains on the island. Both Government and Opposition need to conduct themselves with prudence, circumspection, and forethought, as opposed to the vacuous and inane politics of emotionalism, which interestingly, is characteristic of both actors, but more so Ms. Simpson-Miller, hoping that they do not stoke the smouldering fires of discontent in an already exasperated ,irritated and vexed mass-publics.The politics of rationalism and judiciousness needs to be employed to alleviate and resolve the burning and vexing issues of the society.Jamaica does not need anymore nightmares!! Nuff respect!!

  5. “Interestingly, such conflicts will not be limited to Gordon House, but may and will also occur within the general population/garrisons, specifically, in light of the worsening economic situation/conditions and the ever increasing intensity of the misery index, couched within the larger context of the constantly mushrooming crime rate.” Esteban Agosto Reid

    I think this is the most serious part of the comment. I won’t treat the risk of turmoil and violence as “academic.” All politicians are quarrelsome and confrontational where they sense political advantage. My crime-plan called for Golding and the JLP to deter that perception of political advantage via a detestable means. If not that method they can pick off a few errant back-bencher PNP MPs. Or they can go out and build a hospital somewhere. Or they can get a fully functional PR offensive up about their robust response to the plight of the poor.

    The risk of political turmoil which you see should be apparent to the leaders of the country — and if they fail to act appropriately to stave off disaster then the blame belongs at their doorstep. It is a real and unfortunate prospect but I don’t see how Phillips’ election would have made it any less likely to occur. He is confrontational where opportunity presents itself as well.

  6. A PNP lead by Portia is a weaker party… Without the clear direction a Dr. Phillips could provide the party tends to be disorganised and stone footed in its resoponse to crisis e.g Trafigura and the Cement issue. I believe any lag i popularity could be made up by Dr. Phillips if he convinces people he can solve problems. Portia does not come across as a problem solver and just a mere crowd pleaser…. In reelecting Portia the PNP delegates have alianated half of their voter base…for now

  7. @ Push Broom:
    I am unwilling at this point to say that a Dr. Peter Phillips (“Dr.P”) led PNP would be more or less organized that under Portia Simpson-Miller (“PSM”).

    I love American primaries — their underlying logic is “if you can’t beat another candidate in your party, then you are unlikely to defeat an opponent from outside your party.” The most objective standard of whether Dr.P would be able to run a better PNP organization than PSM is to look at the result of his leadership of the Arise and Renew campaign vs. her leadership of Team PNP. Two words: Portia won! So if Dr.P is such an organizational genius why couldn’t he out-organize the “incurious” and “uneducated” PSM?

    I am not the president of the PSM fan club, but she won. And it is striking to me that so many people are INCAPABLE of giving her the respect her victory must garner. The response to Trafigura had internal enemies jockeying for a misstep to exploit. I don’t think she handled it well, but would he have handled it better? Also I don’t want scandals like Trafigura ‘handled’ I want them made impossible.

    Finally you say “the PNP delegates have alienated 1/2 their voter base;” but wouldn’t that be just as true if PSM had lost?

  8. The thing went to a popularity contest and in any popularity contest Portia will clean up anybody. In a general election it won’t be. The type of attacks that the JLP man make a fellow PNP contender can’t make, and you can’t attack Portia from inside without paying a serious penalty… Labourites will be able to say what they please. Phillips is no genius per se at organising but he will have to fight the campaign on issues and I think he would have an edge.

  9. On that last point Portia’s delegates are mostly urban based hardcore PNP supporters, they not going anywhere…Peter’s people will sit on their ass on election day if they not happy. And sad to say there is nothing in Jamaican law preventing Trafigura from occuring again and again and again… Worse like how PNP will be a little less funded now with Portia, I would not be surprised if phone calls have not been made to Trafigura or worse already…. You will see scenarios where when it is discovered PSM will declare ignorance.

  10. @ Push Broom:
    I guess we have to agree to disagree because I think
    1) An election is always a popularity contest.
    2) Nobody could disrespect Portia more than KD Knight and others inside the PNP already have.
    and 3) if Peter’s delegates and supporters are the ones abandoning the party — like spoiled children — because they lost an election; then the last two losses can’t be Portia’s fault. If this is true, which side doesn’t really respect democracy? Which side isn’t really working for unity?

    Speaking of the way KD Knight disrespected Portia. Take it from my Up So observation — if people want the grassroots to support their candidate and abandon Portia they had better start to come up with better arguments than “she nuh ha’ no big degree” or “she neva go JC” because many of the people they’re making those arguments to “nuh ha’ no big degree” and “neva go JC.”

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