Portia Lucretia Simpson-Miller, ON, MP (born 12 December 1945), is a Jamaican politician who has been Prime Minister of Jamaica since 5 January 2012. Previously she served as Prime Minister from March 2006 to September 2007. She is the leader of the People’s National Party, and she was Leader of the Opposition between her two terms as Prime Minister.
While serving as Prime Minister, Simpson-Miller retained the positions of Minister of Defence, Development, Information and Sports. She had served as Minister of Labour, Social Security and Sport, Minister of Tourism and Sports and Minister of Local Government throughout the years. Following her second election win in December 2011, when her party defeated the Jamaica Labour Party, she became the second individual to have served non-consecutive terms, the first having been Michael Manley.
Simpson-Miller was elected in 1976 to the Parliament of Jamaica, for the constituency of South West St. Andrew Parish, as a member of the People’s National Party. The PNP boycotted the elections called in 1983. She was re-elected to the same seat in a later election, and served as Minister of Labour, Welfare and Sports from 1989 to 1993. She was Minister of Labour and Welfare from 1993 to 1995, Minister of Labour, Social Security and Sports from 1995 to February 2000, Minister of Tourism and Sports from February 2000 to October 2002, and Minister of Local Government and Sport since October 2002.
She was a vice president of the PNP from 1978 to 2006, when she became its president. In the PNP’s internal vote to elect P. J. Patterson’s successor, held on 26 February 2006, she received 1,775 votes, while her nearest rival, security minister Dr. Peter Phillips, took 1,538 votes. She garnered approximately 47% of the delegates’ vote, making her the first PNP president to be elected by less than half of eligible delegates. In July 2008, Simpson-Miller was challenged for the presidency of the PNP by Phillips. The election was held among the party’s delegates on 20 September. She was re-elected as the head of the PNP for her second consecutive year, defeating him by an even wider margin than that of the previous election.
She replaced outgoing Prime Minister Patterson on 30 March 2006, becoming the first female head of government of the nationand the third in the Anglophone Caribbean, following Eugenia Charles of Dominica and Janet Jagan of Guyana. In appointing her first cabinet following her swearing-in, she assumed the portfolio of defence minister.
Simpson-Miller’s loss can in part be attributed to a well planned and executed campaign by the JLP. A part of their campaign strategy was a media blitz that claimed to highlight 18 years of neglect under the PNP and the incompetence of Simpson-Miller as a leader. One ad highlighted the deplorable conditions in Simpson-Miller’s own constituency of South West St. Andrew,while others were created from controversial interviews and still others discussed issues surrounding her competence as a leader.
Simpson-Miller initially refused to concede defeat, alleging voting irregularities and the possibility that recounts would change the final result. The Organization of American States issued a statement declaring the election free and fair. “I believe this election can stand international scrutiny,” said OAS assistant secretary-general Albert Ramdin, who led a team of international observers who monitored the election. She conceded defeat on 5 September. On 11 September, Simpson Miller was succeeded as Prime Minister by JLP leader Bruce Golding.
In 2011, Golding resigned giving way for Andrew Holness to become the 9th Prime Minister of Jamaica.
On 5 December 2011, rival JLP Prime Minister Andrew Holness asked the Governor-General, Sir Patrick Allen, to dissolve Parliament, and call for new elections despite the fact that elections were not constitutionally necessary until September 2012. The date of the 2011 election was set as 29 December, and major local media outlets viewed the election as “too close to call”, though as Simpson-Miller campaigned in key constituencies the gap widened to favour the PNP. Days before the election, Simpson-Miller came out fully in favor ofLGBT rights in a televised debate, sparking an eleventh-hour controversy ahead of the vote.
In early vote counting on 29 December, it was apparent that the PNP was winning a large number of swing constituencies. By evening, theJamaica Observer had declared 41 of 63 constituencies for the PNP. The election results were officially declared by the Electoral Office on 5 January, and upon the request of the Governor General Simpson-Miller formed the new Jamaican government in Her Majesty’sname for a second non-consecutive term as Jamaica’s Prime Minister.
Simpson-Miller has endorsed replacing the position of the Jamaican monarchy with an elected head of state. She is the second Jamaican head of government, after Percival Patterson, to openly endorse republicanism. Simpson-Miller has reportedly pledged to transform Jamaica into a republic as part of the 50th anniversary of the island’s independence.
After ambivalence during her first term in office, Simpson-Miller became the first head of government in Jamaican history to formally endorse civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens during an election campaign. Simpson-Miller noted during an election debate that she “has no problem giving certain positions of authority to a homosexual as long as they show the necessary level of competence for the post.” She expressed that equality within a nation for all people is of utmost importance.
Simpson-Miller is married to Errald Miller, formerly CEO of Cable & Wireless Jamaica Ltd. On 29 May 2006 she was vested with the Jamaican Order of the Nation, giving her (and her husband) the title “The Most Honourable”.
Simpson-Miller is also known as “Sista ‘P’ or ‘Mama P’ ”
Simpson Miller holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Public Administration, and also Certificates in Public Relations and Advanced Management from the Union Institute and University of Cincinnati, Ohio. She also completed the Executive Programme for Leaders in Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Prime Minister Simpson Miller was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the Union Institute and a Honorary Doctorate of Public Service from the Northern Caribbean University. ”
- Simpson-Miller was ranked by Time magazine as among its “100 Most Influential Persons in the World” in 2012.
- Simpson-Miller was named Person of the Year by The Gleaner and Observer in the Gleaner awards 2011.
Simpson-Miller is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former female presidents and prime ministers.
Simpson-Miller, in 2013, was elected Vice-President of Socialist International following a conference in Cape Town, South Africa.