Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Portia regains lost ground
Once again seen as best to lead PNP
Sunday, February 24, 2002

Portia Simpson Miller
MORE Jamaicans continue to see Portia Simpson Miller not only as a better choice for the leadership of the ruling People's National Party than any of her cabinet colleagues, but the tourism minister has regained much of the ground that she had lost when the question of PNP leadership was last posed to potential voters last September.

In the latest poll for the Observer earlier this month, the Stone Organisation found that 36 per cent of the sample, people aged 18 and over, believed that Simpson Miller would make the best leader for the PNP at this time.

That gave the tourism minister, with strong credentials as a populist and of being in touch with the needs of the poor, a more than two-to-one rating over incumbent PNP president, Prime Minister P J Patterson, and the new security minister, Dr Peter Phillips, each with a 15 per cent support.

"Most of those who see Portia Simpson Miller as the best person to lead the party cite her strong, womanly characteristics," Stone reported. "They speak of her as someone who would be sensitive to the needs of the poor and ignorant in the society..."

Phillips, the pollsters said, was regarded as a "no-nonsense minister" who had performed, particularly in the transport portfolio.

Stone, for this survey, interviewed 1,203 persons in 44 communities in different parts of the island. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.

While these polls reflect the views of the wider society, it is PNP delegates who, ultimately, will choose the party's next leader.

Simpson Miller, who has been in the cabinet since 1989, has consistently been rated either the best liked or best performer in the government, and last year, as the PNP's fortunes began to slip in the surveys, she began to emerge as someone who Jamaicans said would do a good job at the head of her party and/or the government.

Her support as leader of the PNP was at its highest last July when 41 per cent of the people said she was best suited to be at the helm of the party, more than twice the 18 per cent for her boss, Prime Minister P J Patterson, to whom she lost the leadership race in 1992.

Phillips, at the time the transport and works minister and against whom Simpson Miller is expected to run for the post-Patterson leadership of the party, at the time had a 11 per cent support. Another PNP vice-president, Dr Karl Blythe, had the backing of five per cent.

By last September; support for Simpson Miller as the leader of her party had plummeted by 16 percentage points to 25 per cent, but the ratings for Patterson and Phillips were at a mere four per cent each.

In November, however, Phillips (27 per cent) edged out Simpson Miller (26 per cent) as the person rated as the best performer in the government.