ALMOST by definition, politicians are possessed of tough skins.
Indeed, without hard exteriors providing the capacity to casually brush aside nasty verbal barbs, those who offer themselves for election are surely better off in other pursuits.
Yet, there are times when those barbs — often thoughtlessly thrown after a few sips of liquid spirit — cut far too deep for comfort, even for the hard-nosed, thick-skinned politicians, and especially so for their emotional, thin-skinned supporters.
Then, of course, there are the minimum standards of decency and good behaviour which society expects its leaders to uphold.
For those reasons, this newspaper welcomes the idea of a code of conduct to which the contestants in the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party leadership race will be held accountable.
We do not hold to the view that the public pronouncements so far from either camp have been below the belt to any considerable degree.
However, there have already been a few sharp cuts.
With that in mind, those in charge of managing the process will be anxious to ensure that malice, 'cass cass' and 'bad mind' are kept to a minimum as Messrs Andrew Holness and Audley Shaw, supported by their respective camps, attempt to woo delegates ahead of the JLP's November national conference.
The minders will be well aware that the task of unifying the party following the inevitable divisions of a democratic contest will be far easier if the process is kept civil.
We note the latest assurance from Mr Holness that all will be welcomed "under one big tent" when the excitement of the leadership contest is over.
And while not short of their own barb or two, the Shaw camp has been emphasising "love" and "unity" -- themes repeated at Sunday's official campaign launch in Mandeville.
Inevitably, news has now come of a prospective "national debate" involving the two leaders. We watch with interest to see how that is managed.
As a party, the JLP has bad memories of internal divisiveness destroying its marketability to independent-minded Jamaicans desirous of stable government.
So far, we believe, despite rumblings about delegate lists, the party has managed fairly well since news of Mr Shaw's challenge first emerged.
If it can continue in similar vein over the next few weeks to national conference, we believe the party will have not only gone a far way in exorcising those demons of the past, it will have assured Jamaicans of its maturity and stability.