Sat | Aug 18, 2018

JLP must get its act together

Published:Wednesday | March 25, 2015 | 12:00 AM

In 2011, an ambitious Andrew Holness, captivated by the irresistible lure of power and fame, allowed himself to be hoodwinked into believing that he was the best person to secure a second term of office for the then ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). The young Holness soon discovered that he had been thrown in at the deep end and that leadership of a historically fractious party was not a job for the uninitiated.

Already mindful of this reality, the elders of the party chose to watch the game from the sidelines, more intent on waiting for the fall than on finding cause for cheering on the new leader.

On recognising that he was incapable of delivering at such short notice, the miraculous interventions required to reverse the failing fortunes of a post-Manatt enquiry JLP, Mr Holness threw caution to the wind and wasted no time in proving the point. He opted for early elections, relieving himself of the awesome burden that had been so suddenly placed on him.

Feeling certain that there was nothing more to lose at that point, Mr Holness quickly went into overdrive, distancing himself from his most formidable detractors, widening existing rifts and creating new ones within his party, in a truly remarkable display of how not to lead.

But with an ace up one's sleeve, who needs to rely on the mending of fences, the promotion of teamwork, the building of party unity and all that weird stuff to achieve one's organisational goals? If Mr Holness could singlehandedly force the Government into a pre-election referendum on the Caribbean Court of Justice issue, a decisive victory, WI Federation style, would definitely be on the cards for the JLP when the next election is called.

Under no circumstance was any JLP-appointed senator going to be allowed to vote with the Government on this matter and defeat Mr Holness' master plan. The ace to the rescue!

Regrettably, the presigned resignation letters had not bargained on any of a number of possible scenarios. In the unlikely event that a referendum were, indeed, to be called, what if a renegade senator, prepared to face the consequences, decided to break ranks on principle, or conscience, and vote along with the government members? Or what, oh what, if some esteemed legal luminary, in an act of defiance, were to decide to challenge the constitutionality of it all!

With his plan falling flat and his cover blown, Mr Holness will have to wheel and come again to secure the prized election victory for his party next time around. But first, he must face the calls for his resignation, particularly those from within his party. The erstwhile sideliners had witnessed one fall too many. Moving to the centre of the arena, they shouted their displeasure, demanding that the game be brought to an end.

How reasonable are these calls, though? Mr Holness may be misguided and ill-advised, perhaps even naive, but not so long ago he managed to survive a strong challenge to his leadership when most of the party stalwarts and delegates endorsed him as the person best suited to lead their party at that time.

Is an outcry for his resignation now, less than two years after, not therefore a call for the party and country to settle for second best? This seems pretty scary. And how will his successor be selected? In this season of Lent, is the leadership again to be thrust on an unsuspecting Simon of Cyrene?

The JLP must get its act together if it expects to succeed at the polls in the foreseeable future. The entire script needs to be rewritten. If the country cannot have a third party, it should at least have a viable JLP. It should not be possible that, for 22 years, the greater part of a whole generation, a single party is allowed to take the plight of the so-called 'ordinary, inarticulate majority' for granted while uttering platitudes to the contrary.

- Olive Nelson is a chartered accountant. Email feedback to and