Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Now the JLP is settled

Published:Monday | December 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Cartoon for Monday, December 15, 2014 Dudus, Christopher Coke, Tivoli

We note the announcement by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) of having completed its corps of senior officers at a meeting of its Central Executive a week ago. Posts other than those of leader Andrew Holness and his four deputies were filled.

Mr Holness was re-elected unopposed at the party's annual conference last month, while the four deputy leaders - James Robertson, Ruddy Spencer, Desmond McKenzie, J.C. Hutchinson - were, in accordance with the party's constitution, earlier reconfirmed by the respective regions for which they have responsibility.

Of particular significance in these developments was the return of Christopher Tufton, a former Cabinet minister and vice-president, to the Central Executive, the party's highest decision-making body, after the annual delegates' conference, following a falling-out with Mr Holness and a year on the political fringes over his aggressive support for Mr Holness' challenger for the leadership a year ago.

One reading of the seeming smoothness with which last week's affair was handled and Dr Tufton's return to the centre of the organisation is that the JLP is now a settled party, despite whisperings to the contrary, and that Mr Holness' leadership remains the subject of consistent internal sniping, if not outright questioning.

course of action

Perchance that our interpretation of the state of affairs of the JLP is true, we look forward to, and call upon, Mr Holness to undertake and accelerate a course of action to give Jamaicans confidence in his party as the government-in-waiting, two years before a general election is constitutionally due.

In recent times, the JLP has installed a number of young and relatively inexperienced people as candidates for the next election, and some of them appear to be potential ministerial material. But the party remains burdened by an older crowd of wilful characters who appear to require little provocation to hold the organisation to ransom.

Given the vote of confidence he enjoyed from delegates a year ago, and what should have been the entrenchment of his authority last week, it seems timely to complete the modernisation of the party, which might require additional personnel changes.

articulate clear policies

But more important, the JLP's shadow minister must begin to articulate clear policies, underpinned by data and sound analyses, so that Jamaicans can begin to assess the quality of governance they are likely to get should they form the government after the next election.

As it is now, the JLP is largely in opposition mode; it knows what it is against when the Government does something, but rarely says what it is for, and, rarer yet, outlines that policy in a manner that exercises serious, robust debate. The offering is mostly off-the-top-of-the-head stuff.

The urgency with regard to the new approach is with economic policy, including how a JLP government would approach relations with the International Monetary Fund, with which Jamaica now has an economic reform agreement with challenging fiscal and other targets.

The previous JLP administration entered an agreement with the Fund in 2010, but it faltered within a year, because of the Government's failure to meet performance criteria. The shadow finance minister now frequently criticises the current programme and accuses the Fund of bias in favour of the current administration.

This is a potentially fraught matter which Mr Holness must address. He must, too, unveil, the strategies proposed by the economic task force he established several months ago.