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The bell tolls: At least six jostle for JLP leadership

Published:Sunday | October 2, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

As more contenders emerge to challenge for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), there are appeals for a mixture of practical negotiations and properly managed democratic internal elections to govern the election of a new leader.

Despite claims by senior party officials, the JLP seems to have been thrown in a state of uncertainty and confusion following Prime Minister Bruce Golding's shock announcement last weekend that he would not seek re-election at the party's upcoming conference in November.

The leadership race has become crowded with the number of leadership aspirants moving from three to six over a three-day period.

Immediately after Golding dropped the bombshell that he was walking

away from the two top jobs at the Central Executive of the JLP, the radar was on Audley Shaw, the finance minister, Andrew Holness, the education minister, and Dr Christopher Tufton, investment, industry and commerce minister. Labour and Social Security Minister Pearnel Charles has also been named as a contender.

All three refused to commit themselves, saying they were engaged in consultative processes and would make definitive statements at a later date.

But as the days passed and news sank in, interest in the leadership position increased with dizzying speed.

Robert Montague, the agriculture minister; Dr Ken Baugh, the deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister, and Mike Henry, transport and works minister and JLP chairman, claimed that they were engaged in consultations before making a final decision.

Professor in the Faculty of Social Science at the University of the West Indies, Anthony Clayton, argued that a mixture of negotiation and elections would be the most acceptable option at this time.

"Potential candidates often want to get a sense of whether they have a chance before they declare their candidacy," Clayton told The Sunday Gleaner. "So, there is usually a certain amount of horse-trading beforehand."

Sunday Gleaner sources reveal that talks have already started among some of the older contenders in the race.

Tufton, one of the contenders, also told The Sunday Gleaner that he would be holding discussions with Andrew Holness and Audley Shaw before he makes a decision on the way forward.

Clayton emphasised that an election was the only way to know for sure as some people are likely to promise their support to more than one candidate so that they will be owed a favour, whoever wins. "In the end, a ballot is the cleanest solution," he stressed.