For some time there have been explicit public signs that there is some dissatisfaction with the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) by Mr Andrew Holness. In tandem with, but not identical to, the sentiment of dissatisfaction are those in the party who support the ambition and willingness of Mr Audley Shaw to lead the JLP.
We are not wont to discuss the merits of the two distinguished gentlemen. That debate is for the public, the political pundits and the membership of the JLP. The first point we emphasise, however, is that a leadership contest in the JLP would do no harm. Indeed, we venture that it would be good for the party. The second point is that if such a contest is to be held it should be sooner, rather than later. In fact, now is a good time because the winner will have time to unify the party long before the next scheduled general election.
It is no secret that at this time the JLP is not a united party and has a history, since the omnipotence of the charismatic Sir Alexander Bustamante, of sabotage of the leader by those who dare.
The current leadership question has to be settled because Mr Holness never received a mandate from the rank and file of the party. Readers will recall that he was anointed by Mr Bruce Golding as a change of generation in the leadership, which was an admirable idea, especially given the circumstances that led to Mr Golding’s resignation.
Expedience made the transfer of power in the JLP move ahead of an ideal schedule, and those who wanted to offer themselves, including Mr Shaw, were sequestered by the party elders and castigated as spoilers in a party already seriously wounded by the Dudus/Manatt affair.
The upshot therefore is that Mr Holness needs to get his own mandate if the JLP is to settle the internal dispute over leadership style and political strategy. If it does not do so in an open, democratic contest it will be debilitating to the party and, of course, the country’s democratic process. If the leadership is suppressed, the leader will be crippled, much like Mr Hugh Shearer who won the Prime Ministership by one vote among the Cabinet.
We urge the JLP to have an open, democratic leadership contest and settle the issue. Once this is accomplished, the party will hopefully be unified and can draw on the full involvement of its leadership cadre in expending more energy on offering the Jamaican people a credible alternative to the Government.