Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader Andrew Holness yesterday declared that he did not feel betrayed by a possible challenge from Audley Shaw, even as he expressed puzzlement about his failure to resonate with some members of his party.
Amid reports of a looming challenge from his former finance minister, Holness said he was unable to explain just why he has not found harmony with some party faithful.
"I really don't know," he insisted to reporters after a tour of the Bustamante Museum in St Andrew.
The man who will celebrate two years as JLP leader in another two months added: "I know that personally, I have tried to reach out to everyone … . I have been all-embracing [and] I have included everyone, so I really don't know."
Holness was ushered into the top post in the JLP by members of the party's parliamentary council when former Prime Minister Bruce Golding demitted office in 2011.
Holness made it clear he did not view a leadership challenge from Shaw as an act of treachery, pointing out that this was the right of everyone "in the normal course of politics".
"I consider Audley my friend. With all the speculation going on, I have not heard of any confirmation of a challenge, so to this point, it is speculation," he said.
MOVE COULD STRENGTHEN PARTY
However, the JLP leader reiterated that he would welcome a challenge, arguing that this would strengthen the party and the victorious candidate. He also said he would continue to support the party if he was unseated.
"The Jamaica Labour Party is precious to me and bigger than I am, and whoever leads the Jamaica Labour Party will have my full support," he emphasised.
"The Jamaica Labour Party belongs to the people of Jamaica. It is not something to be held by private interests and personal interests," Holness continued.
There has been no official announcement from Shaw, but JLP insiders say he has already started laying the groundwork for a challenge to Holness at the party's annual conference scheduled for November.
Shaw, who has been off the island for two weeks, was expected to return yesterday.
Unlike past leadership contests that have been marred by heated verbal clashes, Holness insisted the JLP was a stronger political movement that can now hold internal elections without disputes.
In addition, he said the JLP has demonstrated, in recent times, that it can have elections that are fair.
"Robust meetings are not unusual or abnormal … . That's just part of the cut and thrust of politics," he responded, after being reminded about the heated exchanges at the party's Belmont Road headquarters in St Andrew during a recent meeting of its standing committee.
The Jamaica Labour Party is precious to me and bigger than I am, and whoever leads the Jamaica Labour Party will have my full support.