Contributor: ERROL McLeish
So once again there is revived and intense rumor that Andrew Holness, the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party and the constitutionally recognized opposition leader , will be challenged for the post of leader of the party come the party’s next general conference in November . It is strongly suggested that Audley “the man a yard “Shaw, will be seeking to unseat Mr. Holness. The question is, is there any truth to this and if so why at this time, why at all, and why Audley Shaw? To answer the questions raised its best we talk a little about young Andrew Holness.
Andrew, as a Minister with portfolio for education, in the Bruce Golding lead Government, was perceived as a young, bright spark among the geriatrics within the party. He was quite visible and raised the profile of his office. His was non – confrontational , did not display traditional political characteristics, and was approachable and engaging. So, in the imploding period of the post “Dudus” melt down , the little influence that Bruce had , he publicly alluded to the fact that delegates and members of the party should place young Holness to the front, as he was more electable than the others , some of whom may have been octogenarian . Some might have said that it was a last ditch attempt by Bruce to get back at the dissident element and detractors within his party.
There was of course resistance to this by senior members, but after consultation and to avoid an open war of words, some of the aspirants such as Mike Henry and you guessed it Audley Shaw, acquiesced to his appointment. The problem was, he was never elected, but rather selected because it was perceived that with his appeal he would have a better chance at the polls than his older associates. Mr. Holness would have to win the election if he wanted the respect from these associates, unfortunately he did not and he now finds himself in a rather precarious position.
The subsequent loss of the parish council election intensified the echoes for him to go. He is seen by some of the party members as being weak and indecisive and seem not in charge of the party. Mr. Holness had declared that his leadership style was transformational , in that he was seeking to move the party from being leader centric , another word for dictatorial , to being a consensual institution . This no doubt is a humongous task, diverting from a tradition in a party where that had been the main characteristics of its leadership, from Busta to Seaga, the masters of the concept. It seems he has not been able to market his ideas effectively or it could be that no one, with aspiration, within the party for the leadership of the party, wants to listen. One gets the sense that there is no cohesion within the party, leaving Mr. Holness to swim across the channels all on his lonesome. This no doubt is evidence in the lack of spunk in the JLP shadow spokes person on economic and social issues.
If we are to be forthright about Holness leadership of the JLP so far, one might safely say he has not made a strong case as to why the JLP should form the next Government; this has made him open game for the aspirant’s in the part y to make a case for his removal.
An Audley Shaw who exemplifies the atypical loud mouth chanting traditional politician, it would seem at least from the perspective of some party insiders, has the spunk to ignite fire under the belly of the incumbent. What further enhances his chances is, is willingness to take chances, and risk. You would recall his confrontation with the present Minister of Security, Peter Bunting, for which he paid handsomely as a result of a defamation suit. Perhaps this might be good for the party but is it good for Jamaica which has seen the effects of confrontational politics of the 70s and the 80s.
In a recent interview , a defiant Andrew Holness , when asked about the rumored challenges , lost composure and engaged in a fiery rhetoric reminiscent of the old confrontational politics , said “ if dem want fi challenge meck dem come at the conference “ after seemingly regaining his composure he expressed his support for democracy and welcomes the challenge . I must say though, as an objective observer, he was not convincing. We will see the outcome, come the next meeting at the general conference.