Dr Peter Philips, Mr dependable, the man who has shone in every Cabinet position he has held, has always been a capable pair of hands in which a problem can be placed. He has, in the past, shown that he is more than flexible and able to think outside the box. This is one of the primary reasons that after the debacle of the previous general election he was gifted, unopposed, the throne of PNP president. But Dr Phillips, the man who has risen to every political challenge and seen them off, is failing, and oh so badly and publicly in what is surely his final and greatest test.
For while it is true that Dr Phillips is a capable, safe, and flexible pair of hands, he was given the mantle of power as merely a stopgap. That is, his job was to steady the ship which is the SS PNP, put it back on course, and hand the baton over to the new guard. It is clear he has failed on all counts because he is blinded by ambition — ambition for a post which he will not get, a post for which he is at least ten years too late for.
Dr Phillips has not been seeking to steady the ship and renew it both in terms of personnel and ideology. Instead he, in order to stroke his ego, is out campaigning as if anyone would want to see the PNP (note, not Dr Phillips) back in power. He is so blinded by his ambition that he is willing to condemn his party to a fate worse than that of the JLP in the 90s.
Why is this? When Dr Phillips loses the next election there will be no hope for riding the party of its rotten elements as they will assume power, and in that same way the chance for ideological rejiggering will also be lost. The delegates in large part understood that Dr Phillips would/will lose the next election, but they chose him because he alone held the respect and sheer ‘untouchableness’ that could allow him to jettison the personnel who continue to ensure that persons such as myself won’t even think of voting for them.
Peter Phillips, rather unfortunately for both the PNP and the nation, is proving to not be up to this task. He is condemning the PNP and more importantly the nation to a group of people (both in his party and in the current government) who seemingly have no issues in turning Jamaica back into the 1960s paradise (for those at the top) or Puerto Rico during operation bootstrap. Ideology and socialism/communism aside, his ego is damning the country to a future where the levels of inequality will make todays truly look like prosperity and the good times.
Most people I know understand that with Andrew and the JLP taking to the centre it is incumbent on the PNP to drift further left, certainly not in the mould of the Cuban Communist Party (the wounds within that party are still raw) but definitely along the lines of the Labour Party in the UK (a party which they have historically mimicked). Even that he won’t do, as it would mean shunting certain key party members, and in his mind at least, surely doom him at the next election (which he won’t win anyway as all the JLP have to do is say FINSAC and Trafigura).
The PNP, the party known across the Caribbean for moving with the times, is a lame duck. Peter Phillips, the man who, if we are honest, was supposed to pick up where Patterson left off. For the JLP it surely sucks, because they will fall into the deadly slumber which affected the PNP (89-06) and it is happening already as there is no real opposition to test them. For the diehard comrades, it means a feeling of embarrassment and bewilderment as the once dominant force rapidly recedes and they become the butt of all jokes (who remembers JLP = Jamaica losing party circa late 90s?). And for those in the middle who support neither we are left to watch as the opposition readily cedes elections and the all-important framing of the issues ‘contest’ to one select group of people.
Again, regardless of ideology, that scenario doesn’t end well, and we got but a mere taste of that in the 89-06 period. If you want corruption to remain entrenched, then we are on the right path. If you want no realistic answer to the crime problem, then full steam ahead. If you want the economic question and land question to remain just as puzzling as the Irish question, then we only need to keep doing what we are doing. What the PNP and Peter Phillips are doing is bigger than him and his party (which has almost no respect). Their renewal was supposed to be a check on the JLP’s grand vision which they have not been hesitant in laying out.
Dr Phillips, though, still has time, but it is very limited. If Andrew is half as bright as he is made out to be, he will also know this and will be now pondering when is the best time to call the early election and bury any opposition to his agenda.
Go back to being Mr dependable, go back to Mr flexible and the realist; once you do this you will see that your place in history is not as the PM in waiting, but as the man who saved his party, gave it a renewed sense of purpose and is creating a space for the next generation to chart a course which can compete with what the JLP has on offer.
Hopefully he gets it and soon. It would be a sad end to the career of one of Jamaica’s best politicians (in terms of portfolio, all including himself have failed at constituency representation). If he can’t then he must be pushed, for the longer he stays and dithers is the longer the cancer has to set in and then it becomes all the more painful if not impossible to cure it.