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Editorial: Mr Holness: a route to redemption

Published:Friday | March 27, 2015 | 3:00 AM

With the Court of Appeal having ruled against him in the senate-seats saga, Andrew Holness is again at a hard place. His leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is under threat, and there are serious questions about whether the party will be a credible force at the next general election.

There is a way for Mr Holness to survive and for the JLP to reasonably reverse its fortunes before the end of 2016. But that requires a political deftness that Mr Holness has hitherto not demonstrated, including articulating a new, large vision for the JLP and Jamaica.

One of the seeds of Mr Holness' problems is the way he became leader of the JLP. It was thrust upon him, anointed by Bruce Golding, ahead of the then leader's 2011 resignation, as the JLP Government imploded over its mishandling of the Christopher Coke-extradition affair.

Mr Holness has been able to assert neither his legitimacy nor authority over the fractious party, even after turning back Audley Shaw's leadership challenge 15 months ago.

 

lack of confidence

 

It is this lack of confidence, we suspect, that caused Mr Holness, in 2012, to obtain undated, pre-signed resignation letters from the persons he caused to be appointed senators, which he used to remove Arthur Williams and Christopher Tufton, and which Jamaica's courts ruled unconstitutional. Some of Mr Holness' critics now bay for his resignation, at least as leader of the Opposition. Others, including former JLP leader Edward Seaga, urge that he appeal to the Privy Council, Jamaica's Britain-based court of last resort, to bring absolute resolution to an important matter of public policy.

Saying that the Court of Appeal "has brought closure to the legal issues", Mr Holness has suggested he won't go to the Privy Council but, with him, you can't be sure. It would not be the best political option for the JLP; as a starting point for neutralising the tensions in the party and establishing itself as a credible alternative to the governing People's National Party (PNP).

 

borrowed strategies

 

But the construction of Mr Holness' legitimacy within the JLP, and the wider Jamaica, demands more, not least being a frank engagement of disaffected colleagues, including harsh critics such as Delroy Chuck and Daryl Vaz. He can borrow tactics and strategies from two immediate predecessors, Messrs Seaga and Golding.

He might, for example, partially adopt Mr Chuck's suggestion by, for now, stepping aside from the constitutional position of leader of the Opposition. He would, at the same time, as Mr Seaga did in the 1980s, call a JLP membership plebiscite on his continued leadership. He would, however, stay only with the support of two-thirds of the votes cast, on a turnout of, say, not less than 70 per cent of registered members of the party. Any such internal referendum would have to be undertaken with dignity, absent of a divisive campaign.

We would suggest, too, that Mr Holness engage in deep introspection on his party's and Jamaica's politics, and then dust himself off, and, if he can, internalise and reprise some of the ideas and philosophies by Mr Golding during his seven-year spring when he left the JLP and formed the National Democratic Movement with the platform of a less divisive, more thoughtful, uncorrupt approach to politics and governance in Jamaica. It is, indeed, a politics the JLP had agreed to embrace when Mr Golding returned to the party.