THE Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) reputation for bitter infighting returned to the spotlight Monday night as veteran Labourite Olivia 'Babsy' Grange launched a scathing attack on the individuals backing Audley Shaw's potential bid for leadership, describing them as "power hungry".
At the same time, Shaw's "consultation team" yesterday issued a statement rejecting what it said were attempts by some people to deprive JLP delegates of their right to vote for a leader.
The team also branded as "old-style politics" a planned protest by supporters of JLP leader Andrew Holness during Monday night's meeting of the Opposition party's Standing Committee at its Belmont Road headquarters in Kingston.
Grange, the parliamentary representative for St Catherine Central, which includes Spanish Town, pulled no punches in her attack on the persons backing Shaw following Monday night's meeting.
She was reported on senior journalist Cliff Hughes' Nationwide Radio yesterday as saying that Shaw was being manipulated by power-hungry individuals, including Joan Gordon-Webley, another veteran JLP politician who unsuccessfully contested the St Andrew East Rural seat in the December 2011 General Election.
"We don't want no challenge, we want the party to settle down," Grange told Nationwide. "[It] is people inveigling Audley Shaw to challenge the leader, because up to recently Audley Shaw said publicly he was not interested in the leadership.
"There are some people who are inveigling him, including Joan Webley, and she is going to mash up this party if she gets her way, that is my position," Grange fumed, adding that Gordon-Webley doesn't "miss an opportunity for power".
Grange said she was surprised by Gordon-Webley's alleged action "because she's a strong woman... a nice woman, and she's a good woman for the Labour Party".
Grange went on to describe Shaw as "a decent human being", but insisted that he is being "manipulated by a set of power-hungry people who cannot manipulate Andrew Holness".
But yesterday, when Hughes invited Gordon-Webley to respond on his Nationwide@Five evening news programme, she denied the charges and accused Grange of engaging in hysterics.
According to Gordon-Webley, Grange came over to her in the party headquarters car park "wagging her finger in my face and trying to incite people, that's what I thought she was trying to do, to incite... people from Spanish Town to attack me last night".
Asked by Hughes if she was verbally assaulted by any of the persons present, Gordon-Webley said yes, but luckily some defended her, saying she was free to do what she wanted.
Gordon-Webley also said that it was behaviour like that exhibited by Grange that was "destroying the party".
It was the show of support for Holness, by Labourites bussed into the party headquarters and denouncing the idea of a challenge, that sparked the statement from Shaw's team.
"The Audley Shaw Consultation Management Team takes note of attempts by a few to deprive thousands of JLP delegates across the island from deciding on who leads their great party (Jamaica Labour Party) by way of internal elections," the statement read.
"We reject this position and will continue to push for greater democracy in the JLP."
The Shaw team said that Monday night's "alleged unplanned protest by a few JLP supporters" at the party headquarters "represents a form of old-style politics that has kept our party in opposition for 21 of the last 25 years".
"We once again urge those party leaders who have been part of the staging of this display, and those leaders who seem conveniently positioned to benefit from it, to abandon their double standards and be part of the transformational leadership that they claim to be. Jamaica needs new ideas and fresh thinking to take it forward," the Shaw team added.
They also said they will continue to take the high road in these consultations and will not be distracted. "We will continue to stand up for the rights of our delegates, our party and our country," the team said.