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EDITORIAL - Mr Holness must assert his leadership

Published:Monday | November 19, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Nearly seven decades after the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was founded by Sir Alexander Bustamante and others, it has perennially descended into a fractious mob with internecine agendas.

The latest scenario reflective of this penchant for implosion is Mr Everald Warmington's court bid to block the election of three party heavyweights to deputy leadership.

Mr Warmington, of course, hardly needs an introduction. The feisty member of parliament for South West St Catherine has featured prominently in shouting matches and finger-pointing showdowns in Gordon House and contemptuous brushes with the press.

That Mr Warmington has not been able to be muzzled, by his party or anyone else, works two ways. Aside from indulging in magmatic fits of rage, he sometimes takes cerebral and independent-minded excursions which are the subject of fruitful debate.

What has lately earned the wrath of Mr Warmington has been, in his opinion, the willingness of the party to run roughshod over its own constitution by committing procedural breaches in facilitating the election of Messrs Audley Shaw, Desmond McKenzie and Dr Christopher Tufton as deputy leaders.


Various JLP officials quickly fired back, giving ultimatums about absenting themselves from the party's annual conference yesterday or stepping aside altogether. They said Mr Warmington was not being a party man. He was trying to hijack and derail the party. No one, of course, questioned the veracity or legitimacy of the claims proferred by Mr Warmington, who on Saturday withdrew his application to the Supreme Court.

This public spectacle is not foreign to the DNA of the Labour Party. But at a time when Jamaica is in dire economic straits, with a sliding dollar, foreign exchange rationing, depleted net international reserves, joblessness running at nearly 13 per cent, and an International Monetary Fund deal in abeyance, this newspaper hoped the JLP would have been obsessed with presenting an alternative vision to recovery.

Mr Andrew Holness was handed the reins fortuitously after the sudden resignation of then Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who was immolated in a dramatic meltdown of his own making by spending his political capital on the now-jailed Christopher Coke, Jamaica's most notorious don.


But one year since becoming leader of the party, and prime minister for two months, Mr Holness has failed to assert himself as leader of the JLP. After two electoral trouncings, in December 2011 and March 2012, he must re-energise a political party which too often is consumed with its own squabbles. He must reach out beyond the margins of the party faithful and engage a middle class which has become increasingly disenchanted with politics.

Mr Holness' second year as leader must be more inspirational than his first. In order to chart a progressive vision of the JLP while accommodating a team of rivals, Mr Holness needs to strengthen his network within the machinery of the party.

While his national profile as education minister swept him into unopposed favour as prime minister and head of the JLP last year, it is his strength of character as leader of the party which will guarantee him another premiership shot at the polls.

Mr Holness cannot allow the tail to wag the dog, or the party to wag the leader. Mr Holness cannot afford to outsource leadership to others; he must impose his presence, or rethink his future.

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