Source: Jamaica Gleaner
People’s National Party (PNP) veteran Dr Karl Blythe and former deputy speaker of the House Lloyd B. Smith have expressed the view that poor representation, internal leadership conflicts, and a lack of funding are among the myriad of factors that contributed to the party’s devastating defeat in Thursday’s general election.
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) scored a landslide victory sweeping 49 seats to the PNP’s 14.
Blythe, former PNP deputy president and four-time member of parliament (MP) for Westmoreland Central, and Smith, a one-term MP for St James Central, contend that the internal leadership race created a split among delegates and other party supporters, which has seemingly not healed.
“The presidential race did create a split within the party and while attempts have been made at healing, it needed more time for healing,” said Blythe. “Let’s never forget that as leaders of the party, we are servants of the party and servants of the people. We are not masters … when we forget that we are servants, we will have results like this,” he added.
Peter Bunting, who lost his Manchester Central seat on Thursday, challenged Phillips almost a year ago in a bitter leadership race. Phillips emerged the winner with 1,427 to Bunting’s 1,351 votes.
According to Smith, a cosmetic approach was used in an attempt to indicate that there was unity between those who choose to support Phillips’ One PNP team and those who supported Bunting’s Rise United team.
“The number one issue is unification, notwithstanding the fact that after the presidential challenge, there were cosmetic efforts to suggest to the populace that the party was unified. It didn’t come across well in the election cycle for example, many of the candidates downplayed the presence and age of the leader,” said Smith.
He also argued that the PNP’s rejection at the polls was based on its track record of non-performance and for taking the people for granted, especially in Westmoreland.
“Because it was assumed that Westmoreland was PNP country, the electors were being taken for granted. There were not any real meaningful efforts being made to upgrade the standard and quality of living of the people of Westmoreland and the JLP skilfully went in and did a number of infrastructural work, among other things, and their representatives were on the ground from early, not just since the election date was announced,” said Smith.
“The PNP leadership in Westmoreland took the people for granted and they have paid the price,” added Smith.
Blythe admitted that his party has long misrepresented the people’s needs in Westmoreland and other parts of the country.
“For the last 31 years, the people have been faithfully sending us forward (to Gordon House) and we should ask ourselves, did we truly look after them as we ought to have done? I know our job is not to pick out a parish but certainly, with a parish that has been extremely faithful to you, you ought to have spent a little time looking and saying how can we help your parish develop,” said Blythe.
Both stalwarts also agreed that the badly bruised PNP was cash-strapped and could not compete with the level of funding available to the JLP.
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