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Former MP quits as chairman of JLP’s SW St Elizabeth organisation

Tufton: I am not giving up politics

Wednesday, January 29, 2014    

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DR Chris Tufton yesterday resigned as chairman of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) South West St Elizabeth organisation, saying that another candidate — unscathed by developments in the Opposition party after its bruising leadership election last November — would stand a better chance of winning the marginal seat.

Ironically, Tufton decided to walk on the same day that Audley Shaw, the man he supported in the leadership contest against JLP leader Andrew Holness, resumed his position as Opposition spokesman on finance, after initially insisting that his acceptance of the post was conditional on his supporters being appointed to the shadow cabinet.

Yesterday, in his release, Tufton said his decision to resign was “intensely difficult”. However, he said that “after consulting with my family, members of the constituency and other supporters, and much prayer and reflection, I have concluded that the SW St Elizabeth JLP organisation would stand a better chance at electoral success if a candidate unaffected by the political controversies related to the recent leadership race unites the constituency to offer the formidable challenge necessary to return the seat to the JLP”.

The political controversies to which Tufton, a former JLP deputy leader, referred were his and Arthur Williams’ removal from the Senate by Holness, and the party secretariat’s attempt to prevent Tufton’s re-election as a deputy leader.

In the aftermath of the November 10, 2013 leadership election, Holness submitted to the governor general previously undated resignation letters signed by Tufton and Williams.

Both men said the letters were intended to be used if the Government tried to use its majority in the Parliament to push through Jamaica’s acceptance of the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Following on that controversy, the JLP claimed that it could not locate the deputy leader nomination documents for Tufton and James Robertson, who heads the party’s Area Council Two organisation.

Tufton had been the JLP’s deputy leader for Area Council Four for three years. However, in late November 2013 he withdrew his nomination for the position, telling Holness in a letter that he had “no desire to prolong the divisive and rancourous conflict that is threatening the party’s progress and runs counter to the interests of the country”.

Yesterday, when the Jamaica Observer contacted Tufton, he said he needed to reflect on his role and contribution to public service.

“I want to do what is in the best interest of my family, Jamaica, and the party,” he said. “It will take me a few months to try and get that going. I’ve spoken to the leader and told him that I would do whatever I can to assist the party in forming the next Government. I spoke to my constituency executive and explained to them the reason for my decision, and now time will just have to deal with all of the other issues.”

Asked what was the response of the constituency executive, Tufton said they were “clearly disappointed”, but he believed they understood his perspective.

“The truth is, I have to be very honest and pragmatic about my decision, and the decision has to be what is in the best interest of giving the Labour Party a chance of winning the next election,” he said.

“The political developments in the last couple of months would compromise the ability to win the seat, and I want the seat to be won by the Labour Party, and some of those developments would have affected that,” he added.

Last night, a JLP insider agreed that the way the party managed the events after the internal election, particularly the Senate and deputy leadership issues, would have affected Tufton’s legitimacy as a candidate going into the next general election, which is constitutionally due in 2016.

“What Holness has done with the Senate resignations and the deputy leadership issue is to compromise the ability of the party to win the seat,” the JLP insider said, on condition of anonymity.

Yesterday, Tufton emphasised that he was not giving up politics, saying that while he was taking a break, he was keeping his options open.

“Over time I will decide how I proceed,” he said. “There are many ways to serve, because representation at the constituency level is not the only way. There are other things that I can do and have been doing, so those are options that I have the opportunity to exercise.”

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