Saturday 6 June, 2020

Portia asks to be left out of PNP leadership contest

Former Prime Minister and PNP President, Portia Simpson Miller, on her feet in Parliament.

Former Prime Minister and PNP President, Portia Simpson Miller, on her feet in Parliament.

Former Prime Minister and People’s National Party (PNP) President, Portia Simpson Miller, is distancing herself from the leadership challenge that is emerging from Central Manchester Member of Parliament (MP), Peter Bunting, against the incumbent, Dr Peter Phillips. 

Simpson Miller, in a post on her Twitter page on Wednesday, said: “It has come to my attention that images of me are being circulated, giving the impression that I have taken sides in the upcoming PNP leadership race. I have not, and will not take a side. I ask that my name and image (be) not used in the campaign.”

Simpson Miller went on to encourage Comrades to campaign vigorously for their choice between the two candidates.

Peter Bunting

While doing so, she said they should always be mindful that after the internal contest, “We (the party’s membership) must continue our preparation for general elections”.

She advised the party’s supporters to “Keep the campaign clean and respectful,” indicating that “My first loyalty and duty will always be to the People's National Party,” obviously within a party context.

Simpson Miller has largely stayed away from the internal happenings within the party since she retired from active politics shortly after the 2016 General Elections, which she lost to Andrew Holness and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). That paved the way for Phillips, who challenged her twice for the leadership of the PNP and lost on both occasions, to ascend to the positions of PNP President and Opposition Leader.

Dr Peter Phillips

Over the weekend, Bunting confirmed what had been rumoured for months - that he will be challenging Phillips for the leadership of the 80-year-old political organisation. 

Among other things, Bunting cited that Phillips had led the party to two by-election defeats since 2017. He also pointed to public opinion polls that had the PNP president trailing Holness and the JLP by large double-digit margins in relation to his (Phillips’) and the PNP’s electability.

The leadership challenge is to take place at the PNP’s annual conference in September unless the officer corps agrees to bring the date forward to avoid any possible fallout that a protracted campaign could produce.

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