Hello! Are you listening? With eyes on Obama, Tufton urges party to communicate with the public

Published: Sunday | November 11, 2012 Comments 0
Tufton (left)
Tufton (left)

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

As the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) seeks to reassert itself following its bruising double defeat at the general and local polls, one of the party's deputy leaders has urged his colleagues to take stock of United States' (US) President Barack Obama's re-election thrust.

While asserting his unambiguous support for party leader Andrew Holness, Dr Christopher Tufton has argued that the JLP could learn much from the man who has been elected to lead the US for a second term.

"If you look at the US elections that just ended, even though Barack Obama presided over a recession and was confronted with high unemployment levels, it is quite clear from the results that he was still able to communicate effectively with the American people, particularly the critical segments," Tufton told The Sunday Gleaner.

"There are lessons to be learnt from that both for the JLP and the current Government, that you can preside over tough decisions if those tough decisions are fully understood and ultimately lead to the betterment of people," argued Tufton.

"The Labour Party was clearly not effective in doing that, just as I believe that the Government today is not as effective at communicating what needs to be done."

No-holds-barred

In a no-holds-barred interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Tufton, believed by many in and out of the JLP, to be harbouring leadership ambitions, noted that he recently nominated Holness for the post of party leader.

"Obviously, I want him to continue and so I have endorsed his position as leader of the party," asserted Tufton. "I think it is important to avoid and eliminate any perception or speculation about my own position within the party, as it relates to Andrew as leader and my own contribution in the party and how I see my role," he added.

Tufton nominated Holness for the leadership role at a recent meeting of the party's Area Council Four in Hanover. At that meeting, Tufton was nominated unopposed to remain as deputy leader.

"Area Council Four was the first to meet and to nominate him which I did to be retained as the leader of the party," he stressed.

The former agriculture minister is among a number of senior JLP members who have, in recent weeks, publicly declared their support for Holness in the lead-up to what is considered to be a critical conference, the first since it was dealt a severe electoral blow under his leadership.

Former deputy leaders, Derrick Smith, Dr Horace Chang and Edmund Bartlett, as well as Joan Gordon-Webley, a contender for the general secretary position, are among the high-profile JLP stalwarts to publicly endorse Holness.

"I believe the Labour Party has important work to do internally as it attempts to rebuild and reposition itself as an alternative to the current Government," Tufton declared.

Internal challenges

He said this involved facing squarely some of the internal challenges that the party will have to contend with at this time.

"Having come out of an election defeat, it is natural to reflect and I think we have had enough time to reflect ... clearly, the electorate did not see us at the time of the election as a viable alternative to the PNP (People's National Party), hence we received fewer votes than they did and much fewer seats," Tufton said.

He suggested that the JLP should examine what the electorate desires; what it has to offer and how it positions itself both structurally as a party as well as the message in terms of the leadership it provides to improve people's lives.

"I think in government our communication was poor and was not sufficient to carry the message that we felt at the time was necessary ... the communication was less than effective in bringing that message forward and was not able to capture the imagination of people and galvanise the requisite support," he said.

"So my role as a deputy leader is to rebuild the Area which I have responsibility for as an officer of the party to make a contribution to that rebuilding process, and I think it is important at this time that in terms of leader and leadership there is no ambiguity."

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