BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
JAMAICA Labour Party (JLP) leadership challenger Audley Shaw is disputing arguments that his standing as member of parliament for the North East Manchester seat, which he has held since 1993, is under threat.
"I'm not on shaky ground, it's a seat in which you have strong People's National Party areas, you have strong Jamaica Labour Party areas, but the truth is, I am totally confident in my strength in that seat. Any poll done now will reveal that I am well ahead in my seat," Shaw told reporters and editors at the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's head office in Kingston.
He was responding to criticism of his performance as Area Council Three leader as well as his victory margin of just over 500 votes in the last general election.
But Shaw has defended his record in that area as well.
"In 2007 the area council that I lead was the best performing area council that made us Government. Area Council One got eight seats, Area Council Two got eight seats, Area Council Four got seven seats, and Area Council Three, that I lead, got nine seats. It was the best performing Area Council," he contended.
"Fast-forward to the 2011 General Election, if you look at the breakdown of the 21 seats, you will see that statistically Area Council Three is either the best performing or the second best. Look at the breakdown, in fact all of the other three area councils lost seats in double digits, and in my area council I lost seats in single digits. That is just political talk," Shaw said.
"My constituency has always been a democracy, a real bedrock seat of democracy, we are not a garrison seat," he said further.
In explaining what might have accounted for accusations of absenteeism, Shaw said, following his appointment as finance minister in 2007, his constituents, who were accustomed to seeing him at virtually every event, saw less of him because of his new role -- a situation which has since reversed.
"I had to literally move to Kingston, my people were used to me being with them every funeral, every little incident, because I was living there, [but] faced with the stress of being finance minister I (spent most of my time in Kingston). Over the past two years that has changed," he told reporters and editors.
"Five hundred and seventy votes in the context of a seat that I have won sometimes by over 700 and odd votes, that's a very competitive seat, but I am confident that since I have been back in the constituency... anybody who is hanging around, including my opponent Mr Valenton Wint, that thinks there's an early opportunity for them to take my seat, they can just "forget it"," he said with a broad smile.
JLP South West St Catherine Member of Parliament Everald Warmington was reported earlier this month as saying Shaw had poor leadership credentials. He further said Shaw did not meet the minimum standard to run for the post of party leader. According to Warmington, Shaw's low margin of victory in the 2011 General Election would not allow him to perform the duties expected of a leader, and this could result in a victorious JLP being led by someone who cannot sit in Parliament.