New leadership the best course for PNP, says Bunting

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Below is the full text of Peter Bunting’s statement in which he states why he is challenging Dr Peter Phillips for leadership of the People’s National Party (PNP).


Since our party’s East Portland by-election loss, there has been increasing speculation about both the desirability and the likelihood of a change in leadership of the PNP.

Uncertainty can be debilitating for a political movement, and an undeclared campaign is already starting to develop in social media and amongst party members. For good order and transparency, it is best that this speculation be put to rest as soon as possible.

Therefore, I confirm that I am offering myself for president of the People’s National Party at the annual conference in September. This is a carefully considered decision which I believe to be in the best interest of the party and the country.

After the 2016 General Election defeat, an appraisal committee was established to determine the reasons for the loss. The four findings of the Appraisal Report were that:

1. The party was arrogant and took the electorate for granted.

2. There was a breakdown of trust among elements of the leadership leading into the campaign.

3. The party’s message did not communicate hope and was incoherent.

4. The party’s organisation was not election-ready.

Our performance in East Portland confirmed that there has been no demonstrable improvement to the areas recognised as deficient and contributing to our electoral defeat in the 2016 Appraisal Report. (See table attached). Any objective analysis using either quantitative or qualitative approaches will show that there has been further decline in the PNP’s electoral competitiveness since 2016.

Dr Phillips has made an outstanding contribution to the party and the country in the various positions in which he has served over the past three decades. However, since becoming president, he has not implemented a single transformational initiative within the party, and is just not seen as the right person for this time.

There is also a growing acceptance/resignation in the general public and amongst various stakeholder groups, including party membership and supporters, civil society, and private sector leadership that the PNP under Dr Peter Phillips’ leadership cannot defeat the JLP in a general election. This will have negative consequences for voter support, organisational energy, and party/campaign funding.

The above sentiment is confirmed by party, media, and private polling which all show weakness or deterioration in Dr Phillips’ standing. Polls further suggest that the party would gain a huge boost with new leadership. (See Attachment)

I share the belief that new leadership is the best course for the party. In the circumstances, therefore, I could not, in sincerity, accept any position recently offered.

In the coming weeks I will be engaging various stakeholders within the party and in the wider society to discuss the strategic direction in which I would lead the political movement that is the PNP, to hear their concerns and suggestions, and to finalise a contemporary, relevant political platform grounded in the foundational principles of our movement.

A core support team will establish the Campaign Committee and supporting structures. We have adopted the campaign slogan ‘Rise United’ as a signal of our determination to tackle the factionalism that has afflicted the party for a long time.

There is a rising tide within the party which is rejecting the status quo and insisting on real change.

An insightful excerpt from Michael Manley’s final interviews documented in the book Truth Be Told speaks to our contemporary situation:

The PNP’s historical role has always been the architect of change… Somebody has to be the agent of change. To think about change and betterment; how to do it, inspire towards it, jook and prod and upset people as you achieve it. Somebody has to do that. Right now the PNP is very much a sedate manager for a set of givens. If the whole political system becomes incapable of renewal through challenge, and I put it that way deliberately, then you’re going to find that the system will begin to lose credibility, lose momentum; young people will have less and less faith in it, and the terrible cynicism which is such a problem in Jamaica today can become entrenched.”

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