Saturday 21 September, 2019

Mixed views on role Bunting should play with PNP after election loss

Central Manchester MP, Peter Bunting dances on stage during a PNP presidential election campaign event.

Central Manchester MP, Peter Bunting dances on stage during a PNP presidential election campaign event.

Political commentators are divided on the role Peter Bunting should play, or accept, going forward as a member of the People's National Party (PNP) following his narrow loss to Dr Peter Phillips in the party’s presidential election.

Bunting lost by 76 votes on Saturday, receiving 1,351 votes to Phillips’ 1,427 - with 96 per cent of some 2,908 eligible delegates casting their ballots in a special delegates’ conference at the National Arena in Kingston.

While commentators offer their perspectives, the question of the role Bunting will play in the Opposition party going forward could be answered as early as Tuesday as he is scheduled to meet with Phillips as the party moves to heal quickly following the contentious three-month-long presidential campaign.

For his part, political commentator Kevin O’Brien Chang believes that given the nature of Bunting’s high-profile and technology-driven campaign, and the fact the he got nearly 49 per cent of delegates’ support, Phillips should offer him the role of campaign director for the next general election.

Bunting had reportedly rejected such an offer from Phillips in May when Phillips was trying to dissuade him from mounting the challenge against him.

“Dr Phillips has to now consider that Bunting ran an excellent campaign and almost got 50 per cent of the votes which is by far the best by any challenger so far in Jamaican history,” O’Brien Chang told Loop News.

O'Brien Chang... says the PNP should adopt Bunting's campaign tactics for the next general election.

“They should talk to him and adopt his tactics for the next election; whatever he did, let’s implement."

As for the position of campaign director, O’Brien Chang is of the view that Bunting should now accept the offer and use the same approach he used against Phillips against the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

The well-known businessman noted that Bunting appealed to young people with his technology-driven, hi-tech campaign.

“I think Bunting ran the better campaign, energy wise, organisation wise,” O’Brien Chang said.

However, while agreeing that Bunting ran an excellent campaign with broad appeal that served to reintroduce him to a national audience, veteran political commentator, Mark Wignall doesn't think Bunting should accept the role of campaign director if he’s again offered the position.

What role do you wish to see Bunting play with the PNP going forward?

Campaign director for the upcoming general election
24%
Return as Gen Sec
14%
Shadow Cabinet member
10%
No major role with Dr Peter Phillips as president
19%
Cross the political aisle; join the JLP
22%
Other
12%

While he thinks the Bunting team must work alongside the Phillips cohort going forward, Wignall believes that Bunting could find himself trapped if he accepts the position of campaign director.

“Strategically I believe that would be bad for Bunting. It would be bad for him in that, in an election with the JLP, if the election is lost, it would be too convenient for a lot of people, for a lot of the Phillips supporters to say Bunting deliberately threw the election,” Wignall told Loop News.

“If I were in a position to advise Peter Bunting, I would tell him not to accept that campaign director position if it is offered to him.”

However, Wignall said that when both men meet on Tuesday, he anticipates that Bunting will use his strong showing in the presidential race to his advantage.

“You have to remember that he got 49 per cent of the delegates, so this cannot be seen as any big acclamation of Peter Phillips, so I suspect that, behind the scenes, he’s going to utilise that; he’s going to use that as leverage and in his discussions with Phillips he’s going to put forward for some of his key people to be given shadow cabinet positions,” Wignall stated.

Wignall... believes that Bunting could find himself trapped if he accepts the position of campaign director.

Wignall also believes that the PNP, under Phillips, will utilise the same template that they used in 2008 to get the party together after the presidential election between Phillips and then PNP President, Portia Simpson Miller. He noted that it was that template that the PNP used to “trounce the JLP in the 2011 general election”.

But, he was quick to clarify: “I am not saying there is going to be any trouncing, but they have to get the party together.”

In the meantime, O’Brien Chang said that, although Bunting lost, he has positioned himself as the heir-apparent to Phillips.

He added: “Bunting has separated himself from the other wannabe leaders; he’s certainly way ahead of the (Phillip) Paulwells, the (Lisa) Hannas, the Damion Crawfords, the Mikhail Phillips.”

He said that if Phillips loses the next election, he is on record as stating that he will step down. If Phillips steps down, then “Peter Bunting will be the howling favourite to take over, either by acclamation or, if they want, he’s already familiar with 50 per cent of the delegates who are going to support him and people would bet that he would win", O'Brien Chang concluded.

Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: