Mark Golding’s victory over Lisa Hanna for the presidency of the Peoples National Party (PNP) was expected.
Some pundits and pollsters expected the race would be much closer. But Golding winning 1740 to Hanna’s 1444 ensured a hotly contested race which the PNP needed. Never again should the PNP coronate a president in an unchallenged election as they did when choosing Peter Phillips in 2017.
Golding ran an excellent and canny campaign. He made himself not only visible to his delegates but also to the wider Jamaica. Golding appeared on all the various media platforms sometimes in the most unlikeliest places such as on CVM’s flagship entertainment programme On Stage – that was a terrific move.
Golding will need to ensure he maintains this level of public engagement consistently throughout his leadership; something that was lacking in the PNP leadership for the best part of 6 years.
One of the more surprising aspects of the leadership race for me was how very little seasoned PNP supporters knew about Golding. I was particularly surprised that some members were not aware that Golding was the son of the renowned Professor John Golding.
Hanna’s campaign was too underwhelming.
What was also noticeable from Hanna’s campaign was that the very few interviews she did was conducted mostly by female journalists. Was this a concerted plan by the Hanna camp?
Golding along with Peter Bunting have been the most effective PNP members in the previous parliament. So with Bunting losing his seat at September’s general election, Golding was the obvious choice to replace Phillips.
Golding’s victory speech on Saturday struck the right note. It was conciliatory, succinct and dignified.
Hanna’s bring-back-the-love theme seems so fake now given she chose not to hear Golding’s victory speech in person.
Hanna was also not present at Golding’s official swearing in ceremony yesterday due to illness and advice from her doctor. Was this advice from her medical or spin doctor? The optics were dreadful whatever the excuse.
Jamaica has been crying out for an effective opposition since 2016. So Golding has a lot of catching up to make. One of the first decisions he needs to make clear to his colleagues is that the PNP will take the upcoming local government elections seriously.
The PNP were crushed by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration in August’s general election and some seasoned observers feel PNP has a long way to go to even give the Andrew Holness administration a bloody nose at any polls.
That old adage of a week is a long time in politics is so apparent now. Since the general election the public has seen the wheels come off some of the JLP’s gloss such as their much vaunted road building programme literally has gone down the drains. An issue the PNP can make political capital if they play their cards smartly.
In the upper house of the senate Golding should ask all the current PNP senators to offer their resignation. He needs a clean slate and his own mandate. Then leader Phillips should not have nominated those senators straight after general election knowing full well he was resigning immediately from his position.
The PNP also needs a new chairman and general secretary. These are all positions for fresh progressive minds.
Given the PNP is so limited in numbers in the house of the representatives (lower house) Golding needs to have a set of PNP senators who will be shrewd, well-informed, formidable, visible and articulate.
Golding can consider the likes of Patricia Duncan-Sutherland, Ashley-Ann Foster, Peter Bunting, Danielle Archer, Owen Speid and Helen Davis-Whyte for some of these important positions.
There is also a need for Golding to have team of advisers with sharp, political and innovative minds. Not yes people.
Given there are just 14 PNP MPs Golding may have to hold on to the shadow finance portfolio which is a mountainous task given his mandate to reverse the party’s electoral fortunes and the looming recession due to the pandemic.
Hanna is currently the shadow minister for foreign affairs and foreign trade but Golding should reassign to a more substantial portfolio such as education, health or national security.
A female fronting the national security portfolio would make a welcome change -has that ever happened?
Golding needs to stamp his authority on the PNP and warn those senior comrades who have a habit of bringing the party into disrepute with their incendiary remarks.
Another major test for Golding will be the selection of Peter Phillips’ successor as the PNP candidate for the impending bi-election in East Central St Andrew.
Let the Golding mini-honeymoon period begin. The membership and Jamaicans have high expectations of him in his new role.
But if Golding fails to captivate the membership and wider society with his brand of the PNP over the next 2 years then a leadership challenge is bound to be on the menu. There is no room for complacency or incompetence in such a pivotal position.
Interesting times ahead. We hope so.