Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
As he ventures into possibly the most important period of his long political career later today, senior deputy leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Audley Shaw, is claiming that former party leader and Prime Minister Bruce Golding virtually killed his chance at taking a shot at the top position in the party two years ago.
Shaw told The Sunday Gleaner that his plans to stake a claim to the JLP throne were foiled by utterances from Golding that severely impaired his bid, prompting him to ease out of the race to make way for current leader Andrew Holness in September 2011.
"I will be very blunt with you. The statement by Mr Golding that he made in a national broadcast, in which he said that anyone who is less than 10 years younger than him should not be considered for leadership of the party," said Shaw, "that statement as leader of the party and prime minister almost mortally wounded my chance."
He said he had found Golding's comment curious because, at the time, he was younger than the former leader was when he became prime minister.
"I was 59 years old in 2011 and Mr Golding was 61 when he became prime minister," asserted Shaw.
He conceded, however, that he sensed at the time that a vast majority of the members of parliament on the JLP side were in favour of Holness.
"In my view, there was an over-reliance on what the polls were saying, because the polls in my view can at times be very misleading."
Shaw, the bellicose politician who commanded attention from friends and foes for nearly 25 years by unabashedly taking the fight to his political rivals, is on the threshold of making his boldest move yet in his political career.
His strongest signal was sent in his interview conducted by The Sunday Gleaner last Thursday, that later today in a national broadcast he will publicly announce that he will be challenging Holness for the leadership of the JLP at the annual conference of the party in November.
The spirited politician declared that he was on a mission to redirect his sluggish party, which has been drifting aimlessly on the political seas over the past two years.
Shaw said the 2011 manifesto of the JLP demonstrates that there is no great variance on the vision for the way forward between himself and Holness.
However, he stressed that his impending decision was less about vision at this time and more about inspiring the party to showcase that vision.
Shaw suggested that inspirational leadership is lacking under Holness's guidance.
"We have not had a single meeting to determine why we lost the elections and what we can do better," said Shaw, "so that we can wipe off our clothes, move forward and get ourselves prepared to win another election."
Added Shaw: "I said to myself, we have just come out of this thing that had already damaged us badly. I did not feel that the party could take at that time another contest of that nature if we would have any chance of winning the election, so I went along."
Shaw also failed to stake his claim to the throne in 2005, allowing Golding to ease unchallenged to the highest level in the JLP after Edward Seaga's retirement.
He admitted that he thought it would have been an uphill task to defeat Golding in 2005.
"He served as chairman of the party for many years and (as a) minister of government," said Shaw.
"It was my considered judgement at the time that Bruce had served longer, and the seven years that he spent outside of the party, in the National Democratic Movement (NDM), he was able to use that position to further advance his image and his ideas."
So, after ducking out of leadership contention twice, this time around it appears Shaw will announce a bid for the top post.
He hinted that this time he would not allow any obstacle to stand in his way as he positions himself to go a rung upwards to the top post.
Shaw told The Sunday Gleaner that he was prepared to be the sacrificial lamb in his bid to inject a true spirit of democracy into a languid organisation.
"If I am to be the agent of bringing this vibrancy to the JLP, even if I am going to be a sacrificial lamb, it is good for the party and good for democracy," he declared.
Shaw, a former chairman of Area Council Three and general secretary of the JLP, was elected as one of four deputy leaders in 1999, defeating Pearnel Charles by 13 votes.
He has never been a reticent political campaigner, making his debut as a JLP senator in 1989.
Criticism of opponents
With his crusading consistently directed against perceived corruption and/or incompetence within the ranks of his political rivals in the People's National Party (PNP), he has regularly unleashed stinging criticisms of his opponents.
This has earned him both complimentary and uncomplimentary nicknames from within and without the JLP - names such as 'Water Boy', created by his parliamentary rivals in the PNP; and 'Man A Yard' by his fans in the JLP.
He was entrusted with the role of spokesman on information and culture; then public utilities and transport, after victory at the polls in 1993.
Later, Shaw was anointed by Seaga to shadow the industry, investment and commerce portfolio; then finance, when Golding defected to form the NDM.
As opposition spokesman on finance, Shaw was appointed chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, a position he held for 10 years.