Stewardship at stake? JLP convenes high-level meeting to assess party’s loss at polls

Published: Sunday | January 15, 2012 Comments 0
Andrew Holness (centre) is embraced by Jamaica Labour Party Deputy Leader Audley Shaw (left) and party Chairman Mike Henry during the JLP’s Area Council Three meetng at the Osborne Store Primary and Junior High School in Clarendon last year. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
Andrew Holness (centre) is embraced by Jamaica Labour Party Deputy Leader Audley Shaw (left) and party Chairman Mike Henry during the JLP’s Area Council Three meetng at the Osborne Store Primary and Junior High School in Clarendon last year. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) General Secretary Aundré Franklin is expected to break his silence on the party’s performance in the December 29 general election when he confronts colleagues at today’s high-level meeting of the party. Apart from the executive core, the meeting will include all 60 candidates who contested the election and other senior party members.
Sparks are expected to fly at this meeting – the first of the party’s top brass since September 2011 when the former leader and prime minister, Bruce Golding, announced his decision to quit both posts. Franklin has conceded that the secretariat has had to take a lot of flak since the party’s defeat, but declined to go further. When asked what was to be expected at today’s meeting, his only comment was that he would have much to say.
Party sources report, however, that indications are that Franklin has no intention of shouldering all the blame for the JLP’s surprising 21-42 seat loss to the People’s National Party (PNP).
With many members of the party reportedly on the warpath, another senior party member has sought to downplay the tension, saying today’s meeting is about having a frank discussion.
“It is not a situation of going after people, but Andrew (Holness) must be given every opportunity to rebuild. Look at the secretariat. It is a disaster!” declared the furious party stalwart.
While JLP officers were reluctant to give details of the agenda, party insiders told The Sunday Gleaner that discussions will focus on issues as well as personalities. These will include General Secretary Aundré Franklin; Chairman Mike Henry; the four deputy leaders and Delano Seiveright, president of Generation 2000 (G2K), the young professionals group affiliated to the party.
Already, there are signs that Seiveright is on his way out as he has signalled to the leadership of the JLP that he will be vacating the position next month.
Really awful
An insider who was integral to the JLP campaign described Seiveright’s conduct with sections of the media in the lead-up to the general election as “really awful”.
He continued: “Apart from his conduct in the party, his attitude with the media was unacceptable at best and he lost the respect of too many in the media.”
The Sunday Gleaner was informed that there are also mounting concerns that Franklin has failed to command the respect of the membership of the party. Sources within the JLP leadership said that the party is adamant that Seiveright must quit, but it is prepared to work with a timetable for his departure to prevent a recurrence of the hostile episodes of the past.
The usually vocal Seiveright has said very little about his impending departure from the post he held for three consecutive terms. However, insiders told The Sunday Gleaner that he had planned to step down even if the election outcome had been different, as he had anticipated a ministerial position in a JLP administration.
“When Seiveright was elected for a third consecutive term as president of the G2K, he told several of his colleagues that this would be his last term,” a party insider said.
The source added: “A transition of leadership was already in place as he was to move on to bigger things (ministerial functions). There have been a number of meetings with G2K officials on the transition plan, and with the JLP’s failure at the polls he looks to be fast-tracking the change in leadership.”
Robert Collie, who had been asked to chair a committee mandated to examine G2K’s role in the election, has turned down the request as he works as director of legal services and enforcement at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). He has been replaced by Kamina Johnson-Smith with Gail Dingwall as her deputy.
Another critical area for discussion will be the poor performance of the party with respect to the area councils.
All area councils under the control of the deputy leaders were outperformed by the PNP in last month’s polls.
Reduced margins
It has not helped that deputy leader with responsibility for Area Council One, Christopher Tufton, lost his seat and the margins of victory of James Robertson, the Area Council Two deputy leader and Audley Shaw of Area Council Three, were significantly reduced.
But Area Council One, with Desmond McKenzie at the helm, produced the biggest disappointment for Labourites.
The supporters commented that the accomplishments of former Deputy Leader Derrick Smith were squandered as the PNP took back East Rural and West Rural St Andrew in 2011.
Smith took the seat count from two in the Corporate Area in 1993, when North East and North Central were won by the PNP (Karlene Kirlew-Robertson and Karl Samuda who had joined the PNP) to eight in 2002 and 2007.
“It is a very complex situation, everything is so unpredictable, but we will have to convene this meeting,” declared a well-placed party insider, in response to Sunday Gleaner queries.
For the leadership of the JLP, the matter involving Chairman Mike Henry is different. “The situation with Mike is ‘a tough one’ and very unpredictable,” a member said.
Henry became a ministerial casualty in the controversy that engulfed the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme, which was expected by many in the party to transport the JLP to victory.
- gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com

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