Taking up Norman Manley’s mantle

With the People’s National Party (PNP) undergoing a factious leadership battle, which will determine its fortunes in the coming years, one wonders what Norman Manley would today make of the party he founded back in 1938.

Manley was an ardent advocate of the trade union movement and was a tireless champion of underprivileged and less fortunate Jamaicans.

Statue of Norman Manly outside the St William Grant Park in downtown Kingston (Photo: Don Waysome)

His clarion call was for universal adult suffrage in Jamaica. He also believed in the Federation of the West Indies which was shot down in a referendum but later emerged as CARICOM.

“I say that the mission of my generation was to win self-government for Jamaica.”

— Norman Manley

He led the PNP for 31 years, positioning it as a political juggernaut winning multiple general elections and producing the longest-serving Prime Minister in Jamaica’s history (PJ Patterson).

At one of his last public speeches, Manley prophetically declared: “I say that the mission of my generation was to win self-government for Jamaica, to win political power which is the final power for the black masses of my country from which I spring. I am proud to stand here today and say to you who fought that fight with me, say it with gladness and pride, mission accomplished for my generation. And what is the mission of this generation? It is… reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica.”

The election battle on September 7 to lead the PNP sees Peter Bunting squaring off against the incumbent Dr Peter Phillips at a time when the PNP is up against a resurgent Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) led by a young dynamic Prime Minister, Andrew Holness whose popularity continues to increase.

Peter Bunting is challenging Dr Peter Phillips for the leadership of the People’s National Party. (Photo: Don Waysome)

His “Prosperity” rallying cry is manifesting itself across Jamaica with new hotels, highways, infrastructure, new vehicles and businesses springing up.

Holness also won the general election in 2016 by redefining how election campaigns are fought by effectively using social media and serving up a new vision of Jamaica.

The PNP’s leadership race is a study in contrasts.

On the one hand, you have Dr Peter Phillips, a PNP stalwart who has acquitted himself well in every portfolio he has held. He has been hailed as the natural successor to Norman Manley, Michael Manley and PJ Patterson.

Dr Peter Phillips after nomination last month. He is seeking to retain the presidency of the PNP. Photo (Anthony Henry)

At 70, it may well be his last chance to cement his leadership and position the party to defeat the JLP and secure a long tenure in power.

He is not an evidently charismatic leader who is adroit at media in this new century. Rather, he prefers to let his track record and vision for the country go before him.

For sure he is statesmanlike.

Peter Bunting is a self-made, successful businessman, who represents the more modern and progressive wing of the party.  He made a name for himself by defeating former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer for the South East Clarendon seat in the 1993 general election. Later in his political career, he secured the Central Manchester seat for the PNP as well as becoming an effective General Secretary. He is also a former Minister of National Security. His bona fides are clear to see.

Bunting addressing supporters after being nominated last month to challenge Dr Phillips. (Photo: Don Waysome)

He wants to take the PNP in an altogether new direction and reshape it to be a modern political force that can unseat the JLP.

Bunting, who is 12 years younger than Dr Phillips, maintains that the PNP must make itself electable and that it must win the hearts and minds of Jamaicans. He also believes that it is folly to rely on old strategies to win 21st-century elections — in other words, what succeeded yesterday, is no guarantee of victory today.

What would Norman Manley make of it all?

Do tell us at Buzz.