Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Labourites wary of Grange-Robertson election showdown

Published:Wednesday | October 15, 2014 | 10:00 AM
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Apprehension has gripped the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) as signs are emerging that an internal election that could reopen festering wounds is imminent.

Tensions were high at Monday night's meeting of the party's Standing Committee, although polls are showing that the JLP leads the governing People's National Party (PNP) in all areas.

With the lead in mind, members are pleading with veteran politician Olivia Grange to resist the urge to mount a challenge against James Robertson, deputy leader for Area Council Two, in the interest of party unity.

Party members met in informal groups as they braced for an election they fear will have a negative effect on the favourable position in which the party has found itself.

Grange is being urged by some Labourites to think twice before seeking to oust the man who unseated her 11 years ago from the same position in a contest that was rife with controversy.

But for some members, with the findings of the latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson polls showing the PNP trailing the JLP, now is not the time.

After being nominated by the firebrand politician Everald Warmington on Sunday, Grange told The Gleaner she intended to go forward.

Subsequent to the contentious race of more than a decade ago, the two found themselves on opposing podiums last year, when JLP Leader Andrew Holness was challenged by former Deputy Leader Audley Shaw.

MOVE LABELLED SELFISH

At the Standing Committee meeting, Grange was told that it would be selfish to seek to exact revenge now.

It was felt that the move could destabilise the JLP by reopening wounds from last year's leadership race and the first deputy leadership race between her and Robertson when he wrested power from her.

There is also a feeling that this could also negatively impact Holness' plans to unify the party.

For some, Dr Christopher Tufton, Arthur Williams and others are languishing on the periphery and preserve the sour taste the internal election had left behind.

On the other hand, Grange's supporters argued that given the poll results, it was incumbent on the JLP to improve its image.

Grange's backers suggested that she was better suited for the position as she was viewed as loyal to the leader with a strong public presence and good communication skills.

Her safe seat, they believe, would allow her to spend time helping other candidates.

It all started on Sunday, hours after The Sunday Gleaner reported that 27 per cent of those interviewed would vote for the JLP versus the 15 per cent who would pick the PNP.

DISPUTE

A row developed in the meeting of Area Council Two in Old Harbour that threatened to reopen old wounds.

Members fussed heatedly after North East St Catherine Member of Parliament Gregory Mair, a supporter of Shaw in the leadership election, nominated Robertson.

Robertson also supported Shaw, but was allowed to stay on as deputy leader last year, yet on Saturday Warmington, the chairman of the area council, who backed Holness, vetoed Robertson's nomination.

Warmington argued that Mair was not in a position to nominate, as North East St Catherine, which Mair represents, was not duly registered as a constituency.

As tensions mounted, Daryl Vaz, another Shaw supporter, though absent, nominated Robertson via email.

Warmington rallied to nominate Grange, who accepted, amid angry exchanges.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com