The Point Is...
ANDREW Holness and Audley Shaw are going at it hammer and tongue, to see who will be the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) after November 10.
They are both supported by 'forces' with different perspectives of how the JLP should conduct itself in its lead-up to the next general election, which is not constitutionally due until 2016.
Ironically, these same 'forces' were once joined at the hip when, in 2011, they all posted Andrew Holness to the fore, to become the leader of the JLP after the departure of Bruce Golding, whose handling of the 'Dudus' affair had caused the party and the country great consternation and embarrassment.
During the election campaign in 2011, Holness was promoted as the future — the epitome of youth who would lead the JLP to the promised land.
Much to the disbelief of the 'forces' which supported him, Holness was handed a humiliating defeat in the general elections by the more experienced and charismatic Portia Simpson Miller, who constantly referred to him
as 'son', thus diplomatically transmitting to the country his lack of preparedness for a tough assignment.
Later, Holness was to suffer the same fate as he did during the national elections, as he was hit by the PNP's juggernaut when it won
the majority of divisions
in all the parish councils, leaving the youthful Holness to "hug up" two convincing electoral defeats.
During both campaigns, Holness committed many mishaps. In his first public meeting he assailed the electorate with no less than 15 statistical errors, as he grappled with matters relating to the economy. His voice, at some public meetings, on many occasions ended in a squeal as he tried to reach rousing decibel levels.
Then he see-sawed with the timing of the national elections. This made some Labourites uneasy, but they pressed along, forgiving him for his youthful exuberance, positioning him at the centre of their media onslaught as the unconquerable leader of the post-emancipation generation.
In Opposition, according to some JLP members, he retreated into inertia, spending most of his time in the office of the opposition leader. When he did speak, they claim, he was hardly heard. Holness defended his actions as transformational leadership. According to him, Jamaicans who have pulled away from the political process have done so because they are desirous of a leader who is calm, balanced and sound in offering alternative programmes for the
Based on the fact that Shaw has thrown his hat into the leadership ring and the utterances of those who support him, it is clear that there is a wing of the JLP that is not comfortable with Holness's assessment of his own role. According to Shaw, Holness has been too laid-back. He has been too quiet on the issues. In the process he has, Shaw claims, ignored the rebuilding of the party, and has been allowing the PNP to exercise governance without much opposition.
Shaw and his supporters are of the view that Holness's approach to the politics of today will probably keep the JLP in Opposition for a long time. Unlike Holness, Shaw cannot wait, since he does not have age on his side. He wants power now, and to achieve power it requires,
he says, a combative, up-in-your-face, aggressive type of politics. What Holness and his followers have dubbed "ray- ray" politics.
Shaw has developed a reputation for being bombastic in his approach to politics, a bluffer, a filibuster who makes a lot of noise. Holness argues that this kind of politics will not work. What the Opposition needs, he says, is a leader who demonstrates 'the politics substance and not gimmicks'. Holness and his supporters are not buying into Shaw's approach. Some of them compare it to Edward Seaga's approach which, they argue, resulted in the JLP spending 18 years in the political wilderness.
The JLP's campaign as to who is best to lead the party has also brought some critical issues to the fore.
Derrick Smith consciously revealed one such issue by stating that he is throwing his support behind Holness for leader because he does not want "Alexander Bustamante's party to be captured by moneyed interest". The other 'Bustamanteites' with whom Smith has joined forces to back Holness include Pearnel Charles, JC Hutchinson, Dwight Nelson, 'Babsy' Grange, Kenneth Baugh, Everald Warmington, and Desmond McKenzie.
By implication Smith seems to be suggesting that Shaw is attracting those whom he describes as having "moneyed interest". Could his barb be directed at the interest and support that persons such as Daryl Vaz, Gregory Mair, Christopher Tufton and Paula Kerr-Jarrett will be able to attract to support Shaw's campaign? Unfolding events seem to suggest that Shaw and his supporters are outspending Holness and his supporters in campaign activities.
Another issue that is also looming large is the criticism of those who deserted Bustamante's party in the
hour of need. Those
persons had defected to the now cannibalised National Democratic Movement (NDM). The 'Bustamanteites' view the move of Vaz, Mair, Joan Webley and Tufton, et al, who all followed Bruce Golding into the NDM, as an act of disloyalty, if not treachery.
This is reflected in Holness's accusation that Tufton abandoned responsibilities which had been assigned to him by former leader Edward Seaga. By doing so, Holness
is pandering to the JLP base, the JLP delegates, particularly those in the urban areas
and throughout the country who still remain extremely loyal to Mr Seaga.
Linked to this issue is the view expressed by 'Babsy' Grange that the "same persons who are now pushing to change the leader, are the same ones who created disunity in the past". The disunity to which Grange refers appears to be the split-off by some from the party to form the NDM.
At the time those persons openly backed Golding as the person to take over from Mr Seaga. Golding, however, never thought that he could do so within the JLP and opted to form the NDM. Then, Seaga and the Bustamanteites — Smith, Charles, Grange and Nelson, et al — had to deal with the unease which the NDM faction caused
when it deserted the JLP. They also had to withstand the constant criticism launched against the JLP and Mr Seaga by the NDM.
Golding's return to the JLP paved the way for the return of some of those who now publicly endorse Shaw. It is clear from the utterances of Smith, Grange and Holness himself that while members of the NDM were readmitted and accommodated in the JLP, they were not really reabsorbed into the ethos and culture of the party.
As Holness is reported to have said in reference to the NDM renegades, "If you had formed a political party before and it didn't work, and it didn't catch on, don't try to come and take over this (JLP) party that is a 70-year-old institution which has programmes and plans and that has shown that its programmes and plans can grow this country."
Another issue is how the JLP candidates who lost in the 2011 election have been treated by Holness. According to Shaw, they have been ignored, left to drift, as no meetings have been held with them. Shaw is seeking to cash in on this. He is trying to rally the losing candidates to his cause. However, this is not as easy as it would appear.
Many of these candidates, having lost the elections, abandoned their constituencies. While Shaw may be able to attract the losing candidates, it does not mean that these former candidates will be able to attract delegates, and in an election for leader it is the delegates that matter. Some of these delegates may be enticed by money, but it does not mean that their acceptance of money will be converted into votes for the dispenser of such funds.
Rock Stone Labourites
Looking on, it would appear that Shaw is attracting the 'non rock stone' Labourite wing of the JLP, the presence of Rudyard Spencer notwithstanding, and in the process gaining traction among 'moneyed interest'. Holness, who has never left the JLP and who has always remained committed to its core values, seems to be depending on the committed 'rock stone' Labourites to bring home the votes.
The internal elections will not be determined by who is able to generate most national attention and support, but by who will be able to gain the majority votes of the over 5,000 delegates. The Bustamanteite connection with the JLP grassroot delegates will be a decisive factor in the outcome of the election.
There are two other points that I would wish to make.
First, the internal election in the JLP is good for the politics of the JLP and Jamaica. At no point in time in its 65 years has the membership of the JLP ever had the opportunity to decide who should be their leader.
Pearnel Charles, with the requisite experience under his belt, has said: "No leader of the JLP has ever been removed from office by way of an election; they either die or resign." It is important that the process of the JLP's internal campaign for a new leader be managed without creating divisions so deep that they cannot be healed.
Secondly, the JLP has a right to change its leader. However, this does not mean that the attitude of the majority of the Jamaican people towards the JLP will change. The attempt to dump Holness is not as a result of a change in policy by the JLP. It is simply that some want power now.
These persons believe that the JLP must start the campaign for the next election, no matter the cost too the country. However, the JLP has a major challenge it will not be able to easily overcome — the PNP.
— Delano Franklyn is an attorney-at-law and a member of the People's National Party