Those who remember Peter Bunting, from his days at Campion, the High School for the privileged, remember that his stated ambition was to become Prime Minister of Jamaica.
That was roughly 45 years ago.
Those who have followed Dr. Peter Phillips’s evolution from Nyhabingi celebrating Rastafari to Leading Statesman and globally respected Politician, will attest to the fact that he too has shared the ambition of being Prime Minister, from he became aware that this was a possibility after he entered the public sphere.
He too, like Peter Bunting, is a son of privilege!
Upon analyzing and dissecting the motivational driver behind the ambition of these two men, what is clear, at least to some, is that whilst Dr. Peter Phillips has been dutiful in serving, paying his dues and is motivated by altruism, Peter Bunting’s approach has been different, in that he has always been willing to be the spoiler, gate-crasher even, in furtherance of his own ambition, as against seeking and building consensus, to achieve his goal.
For ‘Observers’, Peter Bunting’s Challenge for the Leadership of the Peoples’ National Party, was not a matter of if, but a matter when, as Bunting declared his political hand, from way back when, at a time when Portia Simpson-Miller was the Leader Of The Opposition and Bunting, was General Secretary of the PNP, and mistakenly thought Mrs. Simpson-Miller, had lost the confidence of the majority of the Jamaican people, and so was vulnerable, and thus, capable of being defeated!
Truth be told, Mrs. Simpson-Miller had indeed lost the confidence of a segment of the Electorate, but it was a segment that she never cornered anyway, which was the those who considered themselves the elite, and never failed to try and disparage her, on their verandahs and at their sixes-and-nines, country-homes and or beachfront properties.
Simpson-Miller However, at that time, enjoyed the confidence of those who mattered – The Voting Masses – and she rightly, considered her opposition, of no moment! In retrospection, it would appear, Bunting was advised of this, so his foolhardy challenge was shelved, and he bided his time, for what he considered a more opportune moment.
At the time that Peter Bunting was plotting his expected coup d’etat, Dr. Peter Phillips was busy plotting his own. Like Peter Bunting, he was too clued into his own supporters, to discern that history, momentum, or the delegates were not on his side, and so foolishly pressed on with his challenge, having lost out on his bid, to succeed the retiring PJ Patterson.
That Mrs. Simpson-Miller lost the 2016 General Election, came as a blessing in disguise for the two Peters; as they both were aggressively engaged behind the scenes, ‘working-out’ and or ‘engineering’, her resignation, with the hope of succeeding her.
After much backstabbing and posturing, the delegates agreed, that Dr. Peter Phillips was the man of the moment, having served his ‘apprenticeship’, and so it was now his time to be anointed.
Now, from their history and evolution, students and or observers of the PNP knew, that Dr. Peter Phillips and Peter Bunting, were on a collision course and it would soon be a matter of time before these two political Stars collide!
Peter Bunting’s fear, has always been, however, that as a relative ‘outsider’, the political deck was stacked against him, and he feared that Mrs. Simpson-Miller, had she succeeded in winning the 2016 General Election, would use her sway to usher her ‘protege’ Phillip Paulwell, in, and thus leaving him on the sideline, as the commonly held view, was that there was no political love lost, between Mrs. Simpson-Miller and Dr. Phillips and or his camp, and so that left a clear path for Phillip Paulwell, to the Presidency!
But let us back-pedal a little, to acknowledge the fact that had the PNP been fully engaged in the 2016 Elections, The JLP might easily have remained in opposition, but there were far too many overly ambitious players in the Party, who sought political elevation, and so did not give it their all, thinking that the Party would still take home a victory, even if their “Candidate” did not.
The minute it became clear, however, that the PNP would not win, the long-knives were out and the back they were seeking too carve-up was that of Mrs. Simpson-Miller, with the Bunting ‘Camp,’ phoning early the next morning, to find out, when she would be resigning as Party Leader?
Now, those around Peter Phillips, were not shrining violets either as they were working off the presumption that he was indeed destined to be Party Leader and Prime Minister, so they too saw the defeat as fortuitous, and that it was in their best interest to strike ‘now’, rather than be overtaken in the expected race, for the office of the Presidency, as it had ‘slipped through their fingers’, at least once before.
And so the plot to succeed, only thickened! And by the time Dr. Peter Phillips ascended to the Office, the Bunting Camp, (a small core of friends and political supporters), were already engaged in plotting Bunting’s rise to the top, but not docilely so, as indeed, there are those who contend, that Bunting has been meticulously plotting his ascension from day one of Peter Phillips’s Presidency, to the point of undermining Phillips, to set the stage for such a Challenge.
To this end, many argue, that his support for Damion Crawford, in the East Portland By-Election, was tepid at best, as it was factored as the base for the Challenge, and many thought him working in cahoots with the Vazes, to achieve this!
Curiously however, if Bunting’s challenge, was always stewing, few in the Phillips Camp, saw it as being a clear and immediate danger and did nothing to strengthen Peter Phillips’s hold on the Party, and so the Challenge, when it was announced, caught them napping. Truth be told, it did catch a number of Bunting’s supporters, off guard as well, and many questioned the wisdom of the ‘Timing’.
Now, while Dr. Peter Phillips had a history of Party and Ministerial successes as his foundation going into the race, Peter Bunting had no such resume, but was thought financially capable and able to mount a credible challenge and during the process, sell himself to the Delegates of the PNP and the People of Jamaica, who were not fully seized of his history and or record, with many seeing him as aloof.
Peter Phillips, on the other hand, automatically secured the support of the PNP establishment; and Peter Bunting, tapped into a growing sense of disenchantment that was bedeviling the Peter Phillips tenure, as, after three years of what was arguably a disastrous JLP administration, The PNP had failed miserably to capitalize on the growing disenchantment, to raise its own political fortunes.
So, with fatigue and hopelessness setting in the ranks of the PNP, it was time for Dr. Phillips to either relaunch his Presidency to try and recapture and focus the energies of the PNP, as up until then, many thought him stable, but lackluster, and thus a weak candidate to put up against Holness, for the next general elections.
The problem for Bunting, however, was whilst some had grown disaffected with Peter Phillips, precious few, outside of Bunting’s coterie, saw him as the man to lead the Party, so his was always going to be an uphill struggle – awash with funding or not! Interestingly though, whilst Bunting was not showing up on Comrade’s radars, his loyal Lieutenant, Mark Golding was, and this led to many seeking out Mark Golding, with entreaties and supplication in an effort to seduce him with the prospects and beseeched to throw his hat in the political ring, as the PNP was indeed ready, for a change!
Golding would not have it, however, declaring to those who dared to broach the subject, that he had no such political ambition, and that he was there to support his friend and longtime business partner, Bunting. And so, Bunting, even though this was his lifelong ambition, actually became the Challenger, by default!
Now on paper, Peter Bunting was the ideal Challenger, well-to-do; aspirational; young, gifted and black. On the other hand, Dr. Peter Phillips, who had been tried, tested and proven, was being typecast as over-the-hill, stodgy and not only past his time, but passed his prime.
And so the campaign platform and agenda was defined and set, not by Dr. Phillips and his team, but by the Challenger, Peter Bunting and his team, who almost universally declared that Dr. Phillips, a long-serving servant of the party, who had served his party and country, diligently and dutifully, was no longer good enough, as he was ‘suddenly’ “unelectable”.
In response, the Phillips team hit back, accusing the Bunting camp of not only trying to derail the Party’s chances at the polls with an unnecessary and ill-timed challenge, they accused him of trying to buy the Presidency of the PNP.
Seemingly hyperbolic to some, but the truth be told, there were business-models out there, drawn up by financiers and power-brokers, who had come to the conclusion that Peter Bunting could not win a fair and square PNP Presidential Election, but he could buy one.
To this end, various models were set up, highlighting just how much such a venture would cost, and the breakdown…vis-a-vis, some delegates were more equal than others, so the cost per delegate would vary based on import and pull.
The same would apply to some national figures in the party, and its satellites/surrogates. The end result was a substantial sum was arrived at, as the price Bunting would have to pay, to win the leadership race!
And so whilst some thought and predicted Bunting was thought capable and able of “Buying” the PNP Presidency, few thought the incumbent, Dr. Phillips, was. What they thought he had in his favour, however, was tradition and the mistrust, with which some senior members of the PNP, held Bunting, (who was viewed as a usurper). In the final analysis, however, the consensus was, the battle would be decided, yes, by money, using social media influencers; outreach; and direct contact as pound for pound, this was not a battle that either challenger or incumbent could wage based on charisma.
As the campaign got well and truly underway, it became increasingly clear, that when it came to social media presence, the Bunting team, was light years ahead of the Phillips team. Sadly, what became even more evident, is the fact that many-a-blogger and ‘Social-Media-Warriors’, fighting for Bunting, went low, instead of taking the high ground. Instead of seeking to extol the virtues of their candidate, they took to chastising all and sundry, but especially those who opposed the Challenge.
Some have argued that the shrillness that characterized the Bunting Social-Media presence, when compared to that of the Peter Phillips people, was the ‘fact’ that whilst Bunting People were paid employees, (at least some of them), Phillips’s people were volunteers, who dared not despoil their integrity. That being said however, it was not long, before the Phillips people, joined in reducing the campaign from one where ideas contend, to a tracing match or cass-cass, as the Phillips Influencers and Vloggers, went off script and began attacking Bunting and the leading personalities, that identified with his challenge, for good measure.
Weeks into the Campaign, the Bunting camp was winning the battles, but losing the war, as their bloggers, influencers, spokes-persons and supporters had shifted their discourse completely off message, (whatever the message was) to that of vilifying their opponents, and created their own echo-chamber of vitriolic bile and misrepresentation, that was so vile, it would have made a ‘back-road prostitute’ blush! And so, whatever momentum the headliners were making, their messengers were nullifying, as believe it or not, the party stalwarts, were not amused!
And so it was, that as the challenge, neared the finish line, many in the private sector and individuals, who had earlier decided on sitting out the Challenge, decided that, this was no longer an option, and so they joined the fray, with pledges and cheques, with the view of pushing their candidate over the top, as they thought things were getting a little too close for comfort, and so they waded in, with Peter Phillips, being the beneficiary of this last-minute push!
The Clincher, however, that sealed the deal for the Phillips Camp, was the decision to isolate a block of delegates from the merriment and merrimaking on D-Day, as instead of transporting their delegates en block to the voting arena, delegates from out of town were ‘sequestered’ in hotels, across the nation’s capital, and ‘shepherded’ by Marshalls, as they were regarded as a firewall, against the supposed Bunting juggernaut.
In the end, the Bunting Camp claimed it had secured the commitment of 1840 of the 2800 plus delegates, which according to them, left them with an insurmountable lead.
Correspondingly, Phillip Paulwell, of the Peter Phillips’s Camp, advised that they had managed to canvass and amass the support of a more modest 1500 delegates, with a hoped-for last-minute surge, that would see them nearer to polling 1600 votes.
D-Day however, all punditry was out the window, as it was very clear, that the expected rush that 1840 Delegates would bring, was not materializing, and so a pall of gloom began setting on the Bunting Camp, and his supporters began questioning their numbers, whilst Phillips’s Camp, was cautiously optimistic. Evidenced by the fact that as voting was trending down, calls to the Bunting Camp and key Bunting associates went unanswered, but calls to the Phillps Camp, were not only answered, but were greeted with the affirmation that “We are holding”.
Well, after the polls were closed and counting got underway, there was a flutter in the Bunting Camp, and some were seen celebrating, as the quiet-expectancy of the evening was broken with “news” that the Bunting Camp, had managed to pulloff the Mother of All Upsets, with a 300vote win over Phillips.
Well, that did not pan out and “hold” they Peter Phillips Camp did and instead of the Landslide victory that the Bunting Team was predicting, from get-go to the lowered suggested victory, it was the Peter Phillips Camp that emerged victorious with, 70-plus votes shy, of their 1500 holding number, leaving Bunting and his team in a near 500-plus precipice, despite outspending his opponent, at a near 3-1 margin.
In time, when the dust has settled, Peter Bunting’s first foray into Party Presidential Politicking was a plus for him and a bonus for the PNP. A plus for Bunting in that, if he plays the cards dealt him wisely, he might have set the stage to be catapulted to the front row of the pack that will be baying at the heels of Dr. Phillips, when its once again, time to change the guard. And for the PNP, despite bruised egos, and the fear of displacement by those who went low, to win high; the Party is better placed for the Challenge – It’s base more ginned-up than any other time since its 2016 defeat – and its supporters, tearing at the bits, just waiting to take down Andrew Holness and his faltering administration!