Jamaica Gleaner

EYE OF the storm

JLP en­joys 72-hour break be­fore lead­er­ship quar­rel re­turns to cen­tre stage

- Erica Virtue Se­nior Gleaner Writer

It is the eas­i­est and cheap­est way to re­move Hol­ness be­cause the party does not have the funds to mo­bilise for a spe­cial del­e­gates con­fer­ence.

MEM­BERS OF the Ja­maica Labour Party’s (JLP) par­lia­men­tary group last Fri­day sought to down­play the thun­der­storm which re­port­edly un­folded in­side the meet­ing at the party’s Bel­mont Road head­quar­ters, dur­ing a six-hour-long cau­cus of 20 of the party’s 21 mem­bers of par­lia­ment.

But those in the know told The Sun­day Gleaner that the JLP is only en­joy­ing the eye of the storm over this week­end into Tues­day morn­ing when the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are to meet in another cau­cus.

“There were tears from one MP who said this is the worst he has seen the party in his long as­so­ci­a­tion. There were barbs and harsh words, and at one point it ap­peared a phys­i­cal con­fronta­tion was im­mi­nent as the party leader rose from his seat in re­ac­tion to a com­ment thrown at him,” said one in­sider.

“How­ever, with Derrick Smith adamant that he would not chair any meet­ing where there was a vote over the lead­er­ship of An­drew Hol­ness, Tues­day will be a wa­ter­shed be­cause first, Smith will be asked to re­cuse him­self from the chair and let the MPs vote,” added the in­sider, even as the party down­played claims that the fu­ture of An­drew Hol­ness is on the line.

“Not that I know of. I did not get that im­pres­sion,” Smith, the leader of op­po­si­tion busi­ness in

the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, told jour­nal­ists fol­low­ing the meet­ing last Fri­day in re­sponse to ques­tions on whether there was a move to oust Hol­ness.

But the in­sid­ers claim that the prob­lems fac­ing the party, in­clud­ing its in­abil­ity to at­tract fund­ing for an elec­tion cam­paign or to pay its bills, have all been linked to the ques­tion of whether Hol­ness goes or stays.

“With Hol­ness not read­ing the leaves and walk­ing away be­fore he hurts the party any fur­ther, at least 10 MPs are pre­pared to vote for a new (Op­po­si­tion) leader, and they made it clear that it is noth­ing per­sonal against him.

“Even most of those who say he should stay are ar­gu­ing that it is bad tim­ing to re­place the leader, and not that he is good for the party,” said the in­sider.

SHIFT IN PO­LIT­I­CAL CUL­TURE

Re­act­ing to the de­vel­op­ments last week and with eyes set on Tues­day’s cau­cus, the sev­enth to be staged by the JLP’s par­lia­men­tary group in re­cent time, some po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts told The Sun­day Gleaner that a move to re­place Hol­ness as the Op­po­si­tion leader would not only be un­prece­dented, but would mark a sig­nif­i­cant shift in Ja­maica’s po­lit­i­cal cul­ture.

Univer­sity of the West Indies lec­turer in the Depart­ment of Gov­ern­ment, Christo­pher Charles, said even if the move to re­place Hol­ness is not suc­cess­ful it would still be a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment.

“This would be a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment in our po­lit­i­cal cul­ture, where the del­e­gates can choose a leader, but the ma­jor­ity of MPs for that party can re­move the per­son elected,” said Charles.

“Nor­mally, who the del­e­gates elect, the ma­jor­ity of MPs in that party se­lect as best able to com­mand the re­spect of the ma­jor­ity. So I see this as a ma­jor and ma­ture po­lit­i­cal move,” added Charles, as he ar­gued that Ja­maica’s pol­i­tics would ben­e­fit from such an ac­tion.

“I am mak­ing the dis­tinc­tion that they (the MPs) are not do­ing it be­cause they are wise. It’s for po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tion. But the ef­fect is a larger so­cial and po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment,” ar­gued Charles.

Un­der the Westminste­r sys­tem of gov­ern­ment which is ob­served in Ja­maica, the Op­po­si­tion leader and prime min­is­ter are ap­pointed by the gover­nor gen­eral based on who com­mands the sup­port of the ma­jor­ity of MPs in their re­spec­tive par­ties.

For po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Shal­man Scott, a move by the MPs to re­move Hol­ness is the cheaper way out.

“It is the eas­i­est and cheap­est way to re­move Hol­ness be­cause the party does not have the funds to mo­bilise for a spe­cial del­e­gates con­fer­ence,” said Scott.

He noted that the dis­con­tent rag­ing in the JLP comes a fort­night af­ter the re­lease of the latest RJR-com­mis­sioned Don An­der­son polls which saw the rul­ing party gain eight per­cent­age points to be in a sta­tis­ti­cal dead heat with the JLP.

“It is clear that the party wants to po­si­tion it­self for gen­eral elec­tion. But I would ad­vise them to do this, if they must, af­ter the elec­tion, be­cause if you re­move him as Op­po­si­tion leader you will un­der­mine his au­thor­ity to con­tinue as party leader and weaken him sig­nif­i­cantly,” said Scott.

Po­lit­i­cal his­to­rian, an­a­lyst and com­men­ta­tor Troy Caine also agreed that a move by the op­po­si­tion MPs to re­move Hol­ness would be un­prece­dented.

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HOL­NESS

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