The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) should be preparing to fight a general election within the next 18 months.
This will entail the formation of a capable government, ready to transform Jamaica should the party regains power any time soon.
Competent and experienced individuals will be called upon and there will be little time to settle into a learning curve. The next PNP government will have to hit the ground running.
The news that both Lisa Hanna and Hugh Graham have left the PNP is very sad indeed. They would both be expected to be at the fulcrum of a PNP government looking to engage with a more savvy electorate who already have higher expectations and are making new demands.
Only as far back as 2020, Hanna narrowly lost out by 296 votes in the party leadership race against Mark Golding. That makes her a force within the party and adds to her political stock.
Rather than view her as a rival and seek to eradicate her chances of mounting further challenges, she should have been brought into the fold and her abilities utilised to secure victory at the next general election.
There is the argument that if the PNP should lose the next general election, the delegates would in all probability turn to Hanna to revitalise the party and get it ready to put up a better showing next time.
There are those within her party who claim she is a polarising figure in her constituency and may very well lose it next time out to bat. In other words, Portia Simpson Miller’s “ Chosen One” is a liability the PNP can ill afford after the hiding it took back in 2020.
But let’s not forget her favourability rating with Jamaicans is high and she has for many years been seen as one of the stars of the party and a main draw.
Perhaps it was unwise of her to withdraw from the party in indignation. She should have opted instead to lend her abilities to getting the PNP over the line and returning it to the formidable political machine it was in former times.
The Tony Blair / Gordon Brown combination breathed new life into the UK’s Labour Party and presided over three terms in office with both men becoming Prime Minister.
Could something similar not happen with Mark Golding and Lisa Hanna thereby ensuring a smooth leadership transition?
Hanna resonates with the younger electorate and it would be interesting to see how she resonates on the national stage.
Rather than seek to cancel each other out, Hanna and Golding should look to bring together their respective strengths for the benefit of the PNP. There is a winning combination there and to let Hanna inexorably slide out of the Party is a mistake.
Hanna has been the MP for St Ann, South East since 2007 becoming one of the youngest serving MPs. She ascended to a Cabinet position and on the way made strides within the party. Her rock-star appeal is an asset.
That she has announced that she is walking away from the PNP is a diminishing factor. Golding and his executive team should have persuaded her to rethink that decision.
An instructive book here is 2005’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The book centres on President Abraham Lincoln’s determination both to hold the party together and to recruit the ablest men for his Cabinet, persuading each of his former rivals to join his Cabinet.
Lincoln was able to bring his disgruntled opponents together and create the most unusual Cabinet in history and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.
The PNP should be a broad-based umbrella party able to accommodate different elements. You see this with the Democrats in the United States with moderates like Joe Biden, Kamla Harris, Pete Buttigieg working alongside those more to the left like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. It may be an uneasy alliance nevertheless it is an alliance.
Earlier this month Hugh Graham resigned from the Shadow Cabinet where he held the position of Spokesperson on Commerce, Science and Technology. He managed to win the St Catherine North Western seat with a slim majority. Bear in mind this was during the COVID pandemic taking over that seat from party stalwart Bobby Pickersgill.
Graham again was an asset and a star draw whom the PNP are willing to forgo over disagreements as to how to run that constituency.
Again bridges have to be built and simmering tensions soothed.
Let’s go there – Graham is an exemplar to ordinary Jamaicans as to what can be achieved. He is the CEO and Managing Director of Paramount Trading, a leading manufacturing and distribution company in Jamaica. The self-made businessman has been the tip of the spear of a fast-growing manufacturing company intent on quadrupling its revenues and profits over the next four years. That spells sales of $8.5 billion generating profits of $1 billion.
What a plum for the PNP! Traditionally most PNP executive members are doctrinaire politicos and don’t tend to come from the top tier of the private sector.
Post Portia Simpson Miller, Graham demonstrated the calibre of members it could attract. To have a business leader such as Hugh Graham sign up and become a front-line member of a potential PNP Cabinet was a big feather in its cap.
Now that’s gone.
A peace should have been brokered and Graham allowed to run and control his constituency as he sees fit, not having to face the prospect of a challenge and possible ouster from someone who won a popularity poll.
The Leader of the PNP Mark Golding announced last Sunday that candidates will be selected in accordance with a preliminary poll that would serve to screen contenders.
Though very democratic and transparent and all that, you don’t want a fist full of country bumpkins that bring no star power and will prove inept at running government portfolios.
The PNP was once a party of political athletes. Think Michael Manley, P.J. Patterson, Portia Simpson Miller, Maxine Henry Wilson, Angela Brown Burke, and Peter Phillips. It must continue in that tradition and should guard against becoming a tent of journeymen. Hanna and Graham were the next generation of such political athletes.
Golding doesn’t want to contend with having to deal with “Mr Smith Goes to Washington”.
He doesn’t want to be scratching his head because he has a dearth of talent.
The PNP will not be rescued by yeomen but by members who can bring people to its cause, members who can energise its base and give those who support the JLP cause to rethink.
It is telling that Desmond McKenzie is saying that the JLP would welcome Graham if he should choose to cross the floor. He too recognises that he brings a lot of heat to the game.
It certainly would be a dark day if Hanna should decide to do the same. It would be a sad indictment on a great political party that numbered some of the best political operatives ever to grace Parliament.
Mark Golding and the PNP are gaining some ground but the PNP must shine a light that can attract and retain talent.
You shouldn’t bench your best players – you want them on the field winning the game for you.