THE People’s National Party’s (PNP) Dr Peter Phillips, who will be running for presidency of the party when leader Portia Simpson Miller steps down in 2017, is confident that he is the man for the job.
Dr Phillips said on Tuesday that “I think my chances are very good” against any other potential candidate for the top position in the party.
So far, the only other Comrade who has indicated intention to run for the party’s leadership is Peter Bunting, who like Dr Phillips, is a former national security minister in PNP administrations.
But that ministerial position could be the only common denominator between the two for those who value political experience over youth for leader of the 78-year-old political party.
Dr Phillips is counting on his vast years of experience and vision to back his ambitions of taking up the mantle.
“First of all, I have the experience of government and of the party more importantly. (Also) a range of experience as general secretary and as vice- president of the party, the fact that I certainly had the experience of what I think were the best days of the party’s organisation, working very closely with Comrade Michael Manley in the 1980s…(and) having worked as chairman of the political education commission and the policy commission, economic and social policies, but also helping to clarify the philosophical and organisational positions of the party in that way,” he said.
Dr Phillips further stated that, from a national perspective, his aim is to ensure that the PNP remains faithful to the original vision that was designed by its founders. “As a party committed to building a Jamaica of greater equity, a Jamaica committed to the upliftment and empowerment of the most disadvantaged among us, and a PNP that is able to fashion a set of policy approaches and organisational approaches that bring all the patriotic, committed Jamaicans to the table for nation-building purposes,” he said.
Speaking to the call for renewal within the party, which has been at its most embattled over the past several months, the former finance minister and Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Central said that, while the clamour for change is very evident, this can only be done on the basis of values which are timeless and universal. “I have had the experience and the knowledge and the commitment to those values to embrace everyone,” he insisted.
In September, Phillips said that he would put himself up for the job when the post became available. He said one of his first priorities as party president would be to involve recruiting people who “share the values and visions of the traditional PNP to become involved politically”.
Phillips had unsuccessfully tried to unseat Simpson Miller in 2008 in a challenge which it was felt damaged the party, but which essentially gave the PNP veteran a point of departure to build her own mandate as prime minister, having been elected in 2006 when then prime minister, P J Patterson stepped down. Phillips was among the candidates in that election for PNP president.
The calls for a change in the leadership of the PNP grew louder in the wake of the party’s defeat by the Jamaica Labour Party in the February 2016 General Election. The calls were renewed when the PNP lost the November 28 Local Government Election.