In less than 24 hours the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will have a newly elected leader and Jamaica will, ostensibly, have a ‘new’ Prime Minister in waiting.
The average Jamaican – with no links to either political Party – cannot be faulted for thinking that this is another ‘non-event’ that will hardly change their peculiar circumstances.
But, the fact is that, whomever wins – the incumbent leader, Andrew Holness, or the challenger, Audley Shaw – could potentially be the next Prime Minister. If only for that small matter, it is indeed a big event!
Beyond that, it is also a significant and historic occurrence for the JLP. In my 46 years, I have known 3 leaders of the party – one who couldn’t win against the People’s National Party (PNP); one who came in to win – and did, but lost his way (my opinion); and the incumbent – who was destined to win (according to party stalwarts), but who was “whipped” [according to a recent article in a local Newspaper] by the current Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller.
The first of the 3 was elected, but held tightly to the reins, despite the onslaught of different ‘gangs’ within the party. But, after 18 years in the wilderness, the second (who was tired of waiting and had left the party) was ushered in, unopposed, to secure the win from an electorate that had grown weary of the complacency that was creeping in to the then PNP Administration. But, after 3 years and an increasing lack of credibility, the third was ushered in – almost by proclamation – to ensure a win that didn’t happen. The internal autopsy of that latter dramatic 2-1 defeat was only recently released, with findings that even school children could have predicted.
All of that (perhaps over simplified) has led to this event – the “election” of a leader of the JLP!
For sure, the election campaign has been a feisty – almost bitter one; and whomever wins will have the arduous task of healing wounds and mending bridges. For sure too, the PNP will have a ‘field day’ with the electronic clippings when it comes time for the next General Elections (but that’s for another discussion). But, that is the nature of politics. On the one hand, Team Andrew touted youthfulness and a new type of leadership; while on the other hand Team Audley ‘shouted’ experience and the panacea to give the PNP a “one-term” Administration.
From where I sit, this has to, ultimately, be a good thing for the party and for Democracy in Jamaica. There is inherently nothing wrong with Audley Shaw wanting to challenge Andrew Holness – it is his right! And – if Holness wins, he would have received his own elected mandate to move the party in the new direction that he envisions – hopefully without the usual characteristic in-fighting. And – if Shaw wins, he would have vindicated himself and achieved what he had abdicated to both the second leader and Holness as the price for a (possible) party win. Either way, the lead up to tomorrow’s election has certainly rejuvenated the party and brought it back into the spotlight.
On a more somber note, however, Jamaica needs a strong Parliamentary Opposition. It is time for the JLP, which has spent the better part of my adult life in opposition, to rid itself of the in-fighting and find a way to be an effective, cohesive and relevant party to contemporary Jamaica. It is irrefutable that the party does Jamaica – and our democratic traditions – a serious injustice by its constant distraction with internal politics, while the issues of the day go un-addressed.
I hope he wins tomorrow – I hope Jamaica wins tomorrow – and that, come Monday, we will see the beginning of a new era in the JLP.
Which ‘he’? I guess we’ll know in a few hours…
Walk good, ’til next time …