Tue | Dec 6, 2016

How Mr Holness can save his leadership

Published:Friday | January 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Daryl Vaz's call for former bosses Eddie Seaga and Bruce Golding to help fix the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will raise legitimate questions about personal motives and judgement in his choice of rescuers.

But if, indeed, Mr Vaz represents a significant current in the party, which some insiders say is the case, then it is clear that more than one year after Andrew Holness appeared to have decisively beat back Audley Shaw's challenge, not only has he failed to stamp his authority on the JLP, but the leadership issue remains unresolved.

That is worrisome for Mr Holness and, on a larger plane, to Jamaica. For an unstable JLP, which is not perceived to be capable of managing government, is potentially detrimental to the island's democracy.

On that front, we have some suggestions for Mr Holness and his party. But it is also worthwhile to bear in mind the backdrop to Mr Vaz's call for the intervention of Messrs Seaga and Golding and what they may bring to the table.

 

CHARGES NOT NEW

 

Daryl Vaz's complaint is that it is not his sense that the JLP can win the general election due in two years' time. He suggests that there is an absence of energy and political organisation in the JLP - the same arguments that were made by Mr Shaw in his 2013 challenge for leadership.

These latest assertions, however, come only months after opinion polls conducted for this newspaper found that Mr Holness (46 per cent) enjoyed a 20 percentage-point lead over Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller as who would be the better leader for Jamaica, and that the JLP (27 per cent) was 12 points ahead of the governing People's National Party in public support. These numbers, in part, reflect voter response to the tough, but necessary, fiscal policies the administration has undertaken.

In that sense, we have some sympathy for concerns about Mr Holness' leadership of the JLP. He is not a naturally charismatic, inspiring personality, and has not, up to now, provided visionary, policy-driven offerings to the public. Jamaicans do not have a sense of what a JLP government would do differently than the current lot.

 

FAIL TO PRESENT ALTERNATIVES

 

For instance, despite his establishment of a task force on the economy several months ago, the JLP, apart from Mr Shaw sniping at Jamaica's programme with the International Monetary Fund, is yet to outline a structured fiscal programme for the future and what would be its arrangement with the Fund. Other shadow portfolios have demonstrated little more coherence.

We have no doubt that, as experienced and highly intelligent men, the former leaders can help on these fronts, although we do not expect these are in the areas in which Mr Vaz craves their assistance. In which case, it is likely to be mindful that Mr Seaga's three decades of tough leadership of the JLP, despite two terms in government, was punctuated by several electoral defeats and perennial infighting. Mr Golding, who all but anointed Mr Holness as a successor, his critics are likely to claim, demonstrated poor political judgement in the Christopher Coke affair and led a government that imploded.

The bottom line for Mr Holness is that he has to appeal to Jamaicans with credible policies and programmes and begin to modernise the JLP, transcending the back-room, personality-driven deal-making presided over by purveyors of old politics. He has to be bold, confident and frank.