MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Arguing that the stinging 2020 parliamentary election defeat was partly influenced by a low voter turnout, chairman of the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Region Five, Hopeton McCatty has said that all efforts are being made to have the party regain constituencies once considered safe seats in Manchester and St Elizabeth.
“We are taking back Manchester. What happened in 2020 was a distortion, it was unreal and anybody who understands politics would look at the numbers. The person who won in central Manchester got less votes than St Aubyn Bartlett ever got,” he said in reference to Manchester Central Member of Parliament Rhoda Crawford.
Crawford, a member of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won over former Manchester Central MP Peter Bunting in the September 3, 2020 general election. Crawford polled 8,139 votes over Bunting’s 6,989 votes.
Bartlett (JLP) lost to Bunting in the February 25, 2016 election. Bunting polled 9,376 over Bartlett’s 8,204.
However, Crawford at a joint divisional conference at Manchester High last Sunday is predicting that she will attain at least 12,000 votes at the next parliamentary election.
“Although, I won by 1,000 plus the last time 8,000 plus and such man 6,000 plus, when Danville (Walker) ran he got 10,000 plus, so I know that the votes are here and I am assuring you and I am assuring Jamaica that when the general elections are called, nothing less than 12,000,” she said.
Walker, a former JLP candidate, had reduced Bunting’s margin of victory in 2011 to 539 votes.
Mayor of Mandeville Donovan Mitchell was ratified in July as the PNP’s representative in the constituency, replacing Bunting.
McCatty said Mitchell had the full support of PNP supporters in Manchester Central.
“In central Manchester, there is a unity of purpose, complete unity behind comrade Donovan Mitchell. All hands are on deck, so we are not having a discussion on that,” he said.
When asked if the party has confirmed a representative for Manchester Southern, McCatty pointed out that Bunting is the executive assignee.
“… He has the responsibility of working with the constituency to have a candidate in place. If the elections are called [at] anytime, there will be a candidate in place in south Manchester,” he said.
McCatty said “there is no possibility under the sun” for the JLP to win Manchester North Western.
“We are taking back central. North west Manchester is not in dispute,” he said.
Manchester North Western, which is the only seat controlled by the Opposition in Region Five, is represented by Mikael Phillips.
“In politics what I have learnt is that we don’t watch the noise in the market, we watch the sale. We intend to go after all four [constituencies] including north east Manchester. Comrade Valenton Wint has a super team with him. We cannot lose south Manchester. The people are asking for us. I have been involved in this thing from 1982, it is a science. We have our PNP list and we continue to expand those lists and we have more than enough votes to take it,” said McCatty.
In the neighbouring parish of St Elizabeth, the PNP is expected to present its representatives in all four constituencies and 14 divisions during a PNP meeting at St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) on Sunday.
“The one (councillor aspirant) in Lacovia, we had to change at short notice. We will be presenting everybody else…. There were 15 councillor candidates, but the one in Lacovia there is an issue and so we are working to replace that candidate. That candidate will not be replaced in time for Sunday,” said McCatty.
On Monday, the PNP swiftly cut ties with a schoolteacher, Oshane Gayle, who it had lined up as its representative in the Lacovia Division of St Elizabeth North Western.
Gayle was charged by the police last Sunday with assault, after allegedly hitting his pregnant partner with a piece of board during a dispute.
Responding to the allegations against Gayle, the PNP, in a release last Monday, said it stands resolutely against violence and is firmly committed to a society free from harm and where the well-being of every citizen is paramount.
The party said the incident involving Gayle triggered its prompt and unequivocal response.
McCatty pointed out that all four constituency representatives have been confirmed in St Elizabeth with Ian Stephenson for St Elizabeth South East and Mugabe Kilimanjaro for St Elizabeth North Western being added. Earlier this year Zuleika Jess got the nod for St Elizabeth North Eastern and Miranda Wellington for St Elizabeth South Western.
Wellington, an educator, told the Sunday Observer in July that she was cognisant of the characterics of St Elizabeth South Western.
The seat, which is considered a weathervane constituency, saw its largest margin of victory since 1989 being that of JLP incumbent Floyd Green defeating PNP candidate Ewan Stephenson (now deceased) by 2,090 votes in 2020. In 2016 Green defeated former PNP MP Hugh Buchanan by 2,057 votes.
Jess defeated former Region Five Chairman Kern Spencer in June during a PNP run-off for St Elizabeth North Eastern.
McCatty said Mugabe and Stephenson “are now confirmed as candidates” after they successfully completed “a political programme”.
When asked if there is unity in Region Five, McCatty said the party is focused on winning the eight seats in Manchester and Elizabeth.
“As a matter of a fact, Comrade Kern Spencer (who challenged for the St Elizabeth North East seat) is assisting us and on Sunday, if you come there, you will see him there (at STETHS). Everything is good,” said McCatty.
The Region Five chairman said that prior to the meeting at STETHS, Opposition leader and PNP President Mark Golding is expected to tour St Elizabeth South Eastern.