THE JLP: A Party In Crisis

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The Jamaica Labour Party, JLP has developed a reputation to air their dirty linen in public.  I was a guest host on Talk Jamaica Radio’s current affairs show Talk Jamaica and during my ‘In Perspective’ piece I made it clear that the JLP must get its house in order if they are serious about winning the next election.  In less than a month so much has happened, the most recent of which is the ruling by the constitutional court, in the Williams Versus Holness case, which deemed those undated letters unconstitutional.  Beyond that, the JLP has developed a history of internal squabbles.

Leadership Race JLP versus PNP

Leadership is the biggest challenge facing the JLP; the party consists of strong minded individuals who believe that the only way to air their concerns is in the open.  Take for example Mr. Delroy Chuck, his response to the ruling handed down by the constitutional court is that the caucus of opposition Members of Parliament will have to meet and determine the future of the Opposition Leader; he also said that he will have to consider his future as an opposition spokesman.  Now this is not something you say in the open even if you are thinking about it, statements like these will only harm the party. But why is the JLP like this?  The blame must be laid at its hierarchy, for years the party did not foster a channel for members to speak without being ostracized.  The People’s National Party on the other hand gave its members that latitude.  Leadership race within both parties have been different; in 1969 Vivian Blake and Michael Manley had a leadership challenge to take over from Norman Manley, Michael won and was crown as the leader. When PJ Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller had a leadership contest in 1992 the party coalesced around the winner. Some may not have liked PJ Patterson but they had respect for him.  I draw your attention to the 2006 internal election of the PNP; it was heated and highly publicized. Many thought the party for the first time in its history was about to self-destruct, some very hurtful things were said about Portia Simpson Miller.  The party was able to get back on track; KD Knight who was very anti-portia came back in the fold and played a major part in helping the party to be back in government.  The JLP on the other hand in 1974 had a bitter power struggle between Edward Seaga and Wilton Hall, this power struggle threaten to divide the party.  Seaga ruled for 31 years until 2005, Bruce Golding was ushered back to the party and was challenged by Pearnel Charles.  Mr. Charles exited the race to what was shaping up to be a bitter leadership challenge, Golding was elected unopposed.  It was therefore surprising to many that Andrew Holness was ushered into the leadership position after Golding step down in 2011.  What was clear to everyone was that the party was well aware of its weakness.  Election was near, Bruce resignation was a surprise and the party needed to make a quick transition.  A leadership race would have destroyed the party, well it came to past and Andrew was challenged by Audley in 2013.  This divided the party and individuals are still licking their wounds.

Bruce’s Mistake and Succession Planning

The party did not create a proper succession plan; its leaders historically held the positon for too long and young leaders did not see a chance to rise to the highest political office.  Edward Seaga is partially to be blamed for this occurrence.  While he had good intentions the writing was clear on the wall that the Jamaican people would not have given him another chance at governing the country.  He should have left from 1989 and allowed Mike Henry to become leader. This would have prevented the gang of 5 from emerging as a damaging force. Mr. Henry would have served until 2011 and then hopefully made way for Bruce Golding to take over a party leader with Audley Shaw as his heir apparent. This would have removed the mistrust as many labourites did not trust Bruce Golding because he had left the party and formed the National Democratic Movement, NDM.

While one cannot undo history it must be noted that Bruce Golding should never have stepped away as leader of the party.  The Jamaica Labour Party was clearly not ready for a new leader; Bruce should have stayed the course.  Many would consider him a villain but this man had very good intentions.  For the first in a very long time we saw a leader, who understood the issues of the country, we saw a leader who could speak on almost any issue plaguing the country.  Some will say he lied to the parliament but what is important is that he apologized to the people of this country and displayed a genuine desire to address the issues.  How many politicians can we truly say they have made a mistake then came forward and apologize?  Some individuals claim that he was the cause of the Tivoli massacre but I put it to these people that had the extradition request signed in 1999, 2010 or 2019 the residents of Tivoli Gardens would have challenged the police forces.  I must also point out that it was not only under Bruce Golding leadership that we have seen bloodshed in Tivoli Gardens.  So the issue is that Bruce lied, let me turn your attention to some leaders from the United States who lied and remained as President.  Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 while preparing for World War 11 told Americans that their boys will not be sent to any foreign wars, turned out that this was not so.  President John F. Kennedy in 1961 stated that “I have previously stated, and I repeat now, that the United States plans no military intervention in Cuba.” Well, he was indeed planning an invasion of Cuba.  How can we forget Ronald Regan in 1986 when he said “We did not, I repeat, did not trade weapons or anything else [to Iran] for hostages, nor will we.”  He later admitted that the U.S. had actually done what he had denied.  Bruce Golding in parliament said the government did not engage Manatt Phelps and Phillips, a few weeks later he admitted that the Jamaica Labour Party engaged the law firm.

Andrew Holness has tried to show a new side to politics, he has tried to be honest to the people of the country from the day he became leader of the party.  He must be commended for telling the people the truth on the election campaign, he spoke about bitter medicine for which the PNP chastised him, turned out that the bitter medicine is currently being administered by the PNP now.  However, Andrew has made so many missteps since becoming party leader; I have long said that he should have never been the leader from the onset.  Bruce Golding should have remained as leader and there should be a succession plan for Christopher Tufton to take over as leader.  While in government Mr. Tufton   showed us that we can have an effective Member of Parliament and Minister, Bruce should have stuck the course and groomed this man to be the leader.  Andrew being elevated to leader was the second biggest mistake the party made in its history, the first was having Seaga remained in power for 31 years. The revelation of the undated letters gives credence that this man is not ready for leadership.  If you have to govern by fear then you should not be in a leadership role.  I know the JLP is a party that is difficult to lead, but it is alleged that Seaga had a dictatorship style; it caused the JLP to be in opposition for 18 years.  If the Jamaica Labour Party continues with Andrew Holness then they will be in opposition for a long while.  But the question is. If not Andrew Holness then who?  The man who has to take the lead is Christopher Tufton, he is the only person in the party who is not tainted, not old and is respected across most circles.  Tufton has his weakness, he should have fought for his seat in South West St Elizabeth, and he should have requested a magisterial recount.  However, Christopher Tufton can still be leader, he needs to work on his image and his voice must be heard more in the political circles.  If he becomes leader he will need a strong team, Tufton given the right team and support would make an excellent party leader and ultimately Prime Minister.

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