By MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at- Large Western Bureau cummingsm@ jamaicaobserver.com
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Member of Parliament for North West St Elizabeth, William JC Hutchinson has denied reports that he will be challenging Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Senator, Christopher Tufton for the post of Deputy Leader of the party's Area Council Four.
"A number of persons have indicated that they want to nominate me to run for the post, but I have no intention of running for deputy leader," Hutchinson told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
It is rumoured that Hutchinson, who is a former chairman of the area council, will be nominated for the position at today's Area Council Four meeting to be held at the Manning's High School in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland.
At that meeting too, Tufton, who defeated current JLP general secretary Horace Chang in the deputy leadership race for Area Council Four almost three years ago, will be nominated by current chairman Marissa Dalrymple-Phillibert, according to a JLP source.
Area Council Four, which has 16 parliamentary seats, comprises the parishes of Trelawny, St James, Hanover, Westmoreland and St Elizabeth.
News of a challenge surfaced just days after Tufton publicly declared that he would be supporting Audley Shaw, another deputy leader, for the leadership of the 70-year-old JLP.
Prior to Tufton's declaration, Hutchinson had made it clear that he was supporting current leader Andrew Holness in the leadership race.
Roughly 5,000 delegates are expected to cast their ballots in that election at the party's annual conference in November.
Yesterday, Tufton told the Sunday Observer that he has heard of the challenge and is looking forward to it.
"I am expecting a challenge. I heard that it is a direct consequence for declaring that I am supporting Shaw for the leadership of the party, but I am a great believer in democracy so I will leave it up to the delegates to decide who they want," said Tufton.
But Hutchinson later said that despite the many calls for him to challenge Tufton, he is unable to do so, pointing out that he is focused on Holness's campaign.
" I have the parishes of St Elizabeth and Westmoreland to focus on, and to bring home for Holness, so I am really not interested in entering the race for deputy leader of Area Council Four," he stressed.
Meanwhile, Hutchinson has expressed satisfaction with the progress of Holness's campaign.
"The campaign is going extremely well. We are satisfied with what we see on the ground," said the veteran Member of Parliament.