June 09, 2019
Peter Bunting
Dr Peter Phillips

Image result for PNP "peter bunting" "jamaica gleaner"When Dr Peter Phillips announced his decision to challenge Portia Simpson Miller for the presidency of the People's National Party (PNP) in July 2008, he reasoned that the party was in need of renewal.

"In response to the demands of thousands of Comrades at all levels of the party and the demands of citizens across the length and breadth of Jamaica who have asked that I accept your nomination to lead this process of renewal, my answer is a resounding yes," said Phillips to deafening applause at the Harbour View Primary School in St Andrew.

He admonished the PNP for abandoning the grass-roots principles of founding father Norman Manley, and his son Michael, the country's populist prime minister from 1972-1980. "We need a PNP which is united once again, we need a People's National Party that recognises the value of the grass-roots workers and organisers," said an animated Phillips.

Image result for peter phillips gleaner"Time is too short and the crisis is too great for us to fool around any longer with the old politics of division and backbiting."

Peter Bunting was then the general secretary of the PNP. At the time he said the party had entered "uncharted waters" as a sitting president had never been challenged. Phillips' challenge to Simpson Miller ended in defeat.

Now, some 11 years later, Phillips is the president of the PNP after Simpson Miller stepped down in April 2017 after leading her party to defeat in the 2016 general elections.

But with the PNP losing the safe East Portland seat in a by-election in April, Bunting appears convinced that the PNP cannot win the next general election with Phillips as the leader.

"There is also a growing acceptance/resignation in the general public and amongst various stakeholder groups including Party membership and supporters, civil society and private sector leadership, that the PNP under Dr. Peter Phillips’ leadership cannot defeat the JLP in a general election," Bunting said in a statement announcing his challenge.

South St Andrew MP Mark Golding, Bunting's close friend and business partner, described the challenge to Phillips' leadership as a bold move. He said Phillips has made a tremendous contribution the party and the country, "however, all indications are that Dr. Phillips cannot lead our party to victory in a general election".

Related image"Under the leadership of Peter Bunting, a proven WINNER, the PNP will do just that," Golding said in a Facebook post as he declared support for Bunting.

This is the second time that Bunting has put up his hand to be considered as PNP president. He backed down from a challenge with Phillips for the presidency of the party in December 2016. 

"I have held a series of consultations with the parliamentary and local government leadership, and have concluded that a large majority feels that “it is Cde. Peter Phillips’ turn,” Bunting said.

"Political parties are national organisations, and I believe that leadership decisions should be made on a wider set of considerations. Nevertheless, in the face of this strong sentiment, it would be irresponsible to cause the Party to expend resources and divert our focus and energy at this time.  Therefore, I will not be going forward in this contest," Bunting added.

His announcement led to Phillips succeeding Simpson Miller as PNP president.