BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor -- special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
JAMAICA Labour Party (JLP) leadership aspirant Audley Shaw said he wants the party's constitution to be amended to allow for the leader to always be elected by the delegates.
Shaw made the call yesterday at the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange as he discussed his challenge to party leader Andrew Holness, the first such contest in the Opposition party in more than a decade.
"Look at the last 25 years. We have been in power for four years, and we have had no contest, and the PNP (People's National Party) has been in power for 21 years and has had three contests for leader, and it has only made them stronger and more vibrant as a party," Shaw said.
"We (on the other hand) feel that we must lock ourselves in a room and make a decision as to who is to lead the party, and I think that is wrong," he told Observer reporters and editors at the newspaper's head office in Kingston.
Shaw framed his proposal against the background of the way Holness and, before him, Bruce Golding, were 'anointed' as leaders of the party.
Shaw, a deputy leader of the JLP, also supported his colleague Member of Parliament Mike Henry's position that term limits be created for party leaders and prime ministers.
"You have to obviously calibrate a higher term limit for a leader, since he might become leader in Opposition, and it takes time to build up to become Government," he said, adding that a leader's term could be set at between 15 and 20 years and a prime minister's term at 10 years.
Shaw, who will officially launch his campaign on September 29, said this challenge has infused new energy in the party which, in 2011, was voted out of office after only four years in power.
"Over the past several weeks a whole new energy has been injected into the party because the delegates are excited at the opportunity that they are now going to have a choice in saying who their leader ought to be," Shaw declared.
He explained further that in the 70-year history of the party, there has only been one real contest and that was between former party leader and Prime Minister Edward Seaga and Wilton Hill in 1974.
This, according to Shaw, may be seen by some people as not having been a real contest since Seaga raked in more than 2,000 votes to Hill's near 100.
As such, Shaw said his challenge to Holness will be the first true test.
"In a real sense, this election could be the very first real contest for leader in the entire history of the JLP, and so it is really significant, it is ground-breaking territory, and perhaps that is why the delegates are so serious about it," Shaw said.
In the meantime, he lauded former PNP President and Prime Minister PJ Patterson's appeal to the PNP at its annual conference Sunday to protect the party.
"People say why do you mention PNP sometimes... it's because you learn from them. PJ Patterson's words at the arena yesterday (Sunday) talking to Comrades, saying I am not talking to you now about government I am talking to you about the PNP; He is talking about the rebuilding process of the PNP, even while they are Government," Shaw said.
This, he insisted, is the kind of hard-nosed political reality that must be faced.
According to Shaw, the JLP needs to get back to being a kinder and gentler party.
"That is why when divisive things are said in my party I spurn it and I don't think a leader should speak in divisive ways about his party either," he said.