JAMAICA Labour Party (JLP) deputy leader Audley Shaw yesterday declared that his campaign for the party leadership would be conducted in 'love' and 'peace', free of attacks on leader Andrew Holness and his supporters.
"I come in peace; I come in love," said Shaw, on the verge of tears, his voice cracking. "But I believe I owe it to my party to put myself before you.
"You will never hear a negative word from my mouth toward my leader, the party, or any member of the party at any level," Shaw told delegates at an Area Council meeting at Edwin Allen Comprehensive High School in Frankfield, Clarendon.
Still, for all his rhetoric, Shaw did not formally announce his candidacy for leadership of the party, as was anticipated in some quarters, saying instead that he'll be conducting three weeks of consultation with party delegates before coming to a firm decision.
However, his address to the delegates yesterday was laced with his accomplishments — stabilisation of the dollar and growth in the economy — as minister of finance for four years, starting in 2007.
But he also gave another indication of his intended challenge when he told the meeting that he would not be seeking re-election as a deputy leader of the party at the upcoming annual conference.
Shaw urged Labourites to make the choice that will put the JLP back in a position to be re-elected as the Government and end the governance of the People's National Party which he described as the "wrecking crew".
He further bashed the Government, saying that it has boasted of passing the first International Monetary Fund test while the economy is on the decline and the unemployment rate continues to climb.
Shaw arrived at the venue in a black Toyota Land Cruiser, around 1:17 pm to shouts of "Leader! Leader! Leader!" and "President! President!" by enthusiastic supporters.
He shook hands and made his way inside the building where the meeting was being held. There, a woman shouted for members of the media, who were following Shaw, to keep away. "The media too mix up," she shouted.
Inside, Shaw greeted stalwart party members MPs Pearnel Charles, Ruddy Spencer and Michael Stern, among others, as the small, green-clad crowd continued to roar.
Shaw had signalled his intention to challenge Holness's leadership of the party in a letter to the chairman, Robert Montague.
Yesterday, Shaw, the MP for Manchester North Eastern, said he sent the letter after meeting with Holness and other party members last week upon his return from London.
It had been rumoured for weeks that Shaw would challenge Holness, who has been described by detractors in the party as indecisive and weak.
Some members of the party have blamed Holness for the JLP's crushing defeat in the December 2011 General Election, arguing that he called the vote after losing the initial bounce in support he received following his elevation to the party leadership and prime ministership just two months earlier.