There is quite a bit of lot of talk these days about renewing and rebuilding the People's National Party (PNP).
I sincerely hope that the PNP will recognise that it needed renewal long before its defeat in the last general election on February 25. It is rather disappointing that this had to happen for there to be a recognition of the need to and desire to disrupt the status quo which has not only been affecting the party but the country as well.
It has been clear, for quite some time, that the party had lost its place, forgotten its mandate and had been ignoring the people (despite its 'people power' theme in the 2011 general election). Perhaps if the party had been paying attention, listening to the people and those on the inside who dissent (something they don't seem to value) from popular opinion, it would have been able to see what was so evident to all of us.
What happened on February 25 should not have been so surprising for party insiders. The writing was on the wall given what happened before the election and all that we are now hearing. Some Members of Parliament represented their constituents with an abundance of arrogance and neglect, younger Parliamentarians were seemingly being pushed out of the party and left to fend for themselves, the democracy functioned out of convenience depending on who you are aligned to, and the party's communication machinery was just terrible, among others. In addition, the election campaign was awful. It was disorganized, lethargic, uninspiring, lacking savviness, and all the words you can find to describe something that was in poor taste (except the rallies; those were nice). I won't even talk about the manifesto which seemed to be a reproduction/redesign of the 2011 manifesto.
The defeat has given the party an opportunity to move with alacrity to renew and redefine itself. Renewal must have meaning and purpose. The party must therefore be honest and decisive as well as open-minded about what is most urgent at this time. The PNP will have to define what renewal means for them and for the public.
The (painful?) process of renewal must however not be solely centered around their desire to prepare for and win the next general election. It must be out of a recognition and greater appreciation of the critical need for the party to become more purposeful and to do away with the practices (since many of their policies seem to say the 'right' things) that have made the party so arrogant, pigheaded, entitled, hierarchical and less than democratic.
I worry that what might happen if there is not a 'radical overhaul', is another conservative modification of its modus operandi which will be forgotten the moment it wins an election. What became of the Progressive Agenda?
Many people on the outside are quite clear about this and are hankering for something new and fresh, for the status quo to be demolished once and for all.
As Peter Bunting said recently, 'The recent election defeat provides an opportunity for rebuilding and renewal of the Party. That opportunity should be approached with a view to a radical overhaul of what exists, rather than “mere tinkering” that essentially preserves the status quo in an era that is leaving us behind.'
It will therefore be crucial that the party and its delegates come to a consensus about the characteristics that will be needed in the next leader to not merely put up a good fight with the (politically) young Andrew Holness but to deliver on promises made in their manifesto and, importantly, work assiduously to make things better for all of us.