Friday 21 February, 2020

Bunting rejects Phillips' offer, sets stage for challenge - sources

Peter Bunting (left) and Dr Peter Phillips

Peter Bunting (left) and Dr Peter Phillips

Opposition Leader and President of the People’s National Party (PNP), Dr Peter Phillips must be well aware of the phrase “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” as it becomes increasingly clear that he will be challenged for the leadership of the 80-year-old party.

That challenge could come as early as September from Central Manchester Member of Parliament Peter Bunting, when the Opposition party holds its annual conference, unless Bunting is persuaded to change his mind, according to Loop News sources. 

Bunting, who first entered the House of Representatives in 1993 when he defeated former prime minister and JLP stalwart, Hugh Shearer, in the battle for the South East Clarendon seat, reportedly flatly refused an offer at a compromise during a high level meeting with Phillips on Monday.

According to our sources, Bunting, a former Minister of National Security who is currently the Opposition Spokesman on Industry, Commerce and Competitiveness, brushed aside an offer to be Phillips’ campaign director for the next general election. That election, which could determine whether the PNP returns to Jamaica House or remain in Opposition for an extended period is constitutionally due in 2021.

As reported by Loop News over the past few months and never denied or challenged, Bunting appears to be positioning himself to mount a challenge against Phillips who is seen as lacking charisma and being out of touch with young voters. That perceived handicap, according to political watchers, gives a much younger Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader, Prime Minister Andrew Holness a clear advantage.

Public opinion polls also show Phillips trailing Holness by double digits and his position is not helped by the fact that he has lost two crucial by-elections to Holness’ JLP.  Those losses in South East St Mary and Eastern Portland, have seen the seat count in the 63-member House of Representatives move from a slender 32-31 to 34-29 in favour of the JLP.

Bunting has been a one-man show in recent months, as he continues to signal that he intends to take the reins of leadership of the PNP. Earlier this month he was the only Opposition MP who voted against extending, by three months, the state of emergency that was imposed in three western parishes on April 30.

In the aftermath of the East Portland by-election loss in April, Bunting, while addressing a constituency meeting in his Central Manchester constituency said it was time for the PNP to change its message and even some of its messengers in order to appear more credible.

He recently compared Holness’ leadership style to that of a dictator, and accused the Government of spying on Jamaicans with the help of the Israelis.

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