By Gordon Robinson
I now see I've no option but to publish this simpering apology to the visionary Audley Shaw. Like Tony Greig, I must grovel.
How could I have thought, as I wrote on Sunday, September 1 ('Shaw putting himself above party'), that the JLP was "facing certain public-image destruction as hyped-up delegates go at each other in full view of eager-beaver reporters. Audley must know that no matter how publicly polite he tries to be, supporters of both camps won't be so restrained"? What was I thinking?
After all, didn't Audley himself say he'd go about his consultations in "an orderly and dignified way", and that nothing would be said by him to suggest anything adverse about the current leader? In the face of these assurances, what on earth could possibly lead me to even think otherwise?
When Audley made his grand announcement, he looked directly into the camera and said, "On the 29th of this month, there will be a formal launch of my campaign for leadership, at which time the details of the plans to rebuild our party will be presented, along with the policy framework and vision that will guide us into the next general election when we form the next government.
"In the course of this campaign, the party and every Jamaican can be assured that this will be a contest of ideas, plans, programmes and vision; and not one that is based on negative campaigning and personal attacks."
I'm ashamed of myself. Why would I use the Grange/Gordon-Webley exchange at Belmont Road headquarters a few days earlier as any indication that the opposite could be true? Accused by Olivia 'Babsy' Grange of conspiring behind the scenes to unseat Andrew Holness in favour of Audley Shaw, Gordon-Webley, loser to Maxine Henry-Wilson in 2007 (when the JLP won overall); loser to Damion Crawford in the 2011 general election; and loser to Horace Chang in her bid to become JLP general secretary, gave us an insight into the "plans, programmes and vision" in her response. Serial electoral loser, Gordon-Webley, responding to Babsy's charge, said Babsy "wagged her finger in my face"; tried to incite people from Spanish Town "to attack me"; and was using "hysterics"as a campaign tool.
Now, how could I have interpreted that as simply answering charge with charge rather than to address the original charge of manipulation and conspiracy? Why did it sound to me like Joan wasn't responding directly to Babsy's charge but clouding the issue with charges of her own of finger-wagging; incitement and hysterics (aka "negative campaigning and personal attacks)?
Somewhere in the muddled reply, I know that, if I had searched thoroughly enough, I would find a strong denial from Joan that she had anything to do with encouraging a public challenge of the JLP leader. I apologise for jumping to the conclusion she was avoiding the issue.
How could I have possibly interpreted this incident as the beginning of a bitter war of words within the JLP that was no good for anyone but the PNP? I must have been high.
Audley's assurance that "... this will be a contest of ideas, plans, programmes and vision; and not one ... based on negative campaigning and personal attacks" came on Sunday evening, September 15.
On that same day, The Gleaner ('Shaw won't accept responsibility for JLP failings under Holness') reported: "Audley Shaw has warned that he will not accept any blame under the principle of collective responsibility for the perceived failings of the Jamaica Labour Party since Andrew Holness assumed the reins of leadership two years ago."
Now I understand. Audley, your "ideas, plans, programmes and vision" are that it's not your fault. It wasn't you. Shaggy's your spokesman. Right?
But she caught me on the counter (It wasn't me)
Saw me bangin' on the sofa (It wasn't me)
I even had her in the shower (It wasn't me)
She even caught me on camera (It wasn't me) ...
I feel wretched to have interpreted this genuine love for Jamaica's future as base self-interest driven by promised cash from vested interests in local business. How could I have interpreted your repeated references to your age (61 years old; 59 when Bruce left) as being an unconscious exposure of your true vision of yourself as a man entering The Last Chance Saloon and deciding on one final throw of the dice, caring not who or what is damaged when the dice stop rolling.
Deterioration of the JLP
Obviously, I was wrong to wonder where you were, as senior deputy leader, while the deterioration of the JLP of which you so passionately spoke was taking place. Why would I question your own involvement when you bemoan, "These consultations have brought ... one thing that was constant in the message: that the time is long past for us, as a party, to collectively shrug off the debilitating and negative effects of electoral defeats and proceed with faith, strength and confidence in carrying out the arduous but necessary task of rebuilding our party polling division by polling division, branch by branch, constituency by constituency, in order to effectively re-engage the Jamaican people and convince them to buy into our vision."
What a good thing you had these consultations, Audley? Otherwise, you'd never have known the state of the JLP "chronic". You didn't know the branches were falling into disrepair? Oh, dear. And here I was thinking you were only trying to sound out which delegates would vote for you? I even wrote you were conducting a private election before the public one. Shame on me. In fact, you were learning about the state of the party you have helped to lead for more than 20 years. Good on you, mate.
I see now I've been wrong about everything. You've clearly stated you see this as "a golden opportunity now to show Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world, that our party respects democracy internally ... . " Now how on earth could I have interpreted your preference to seeking a publicly debilitating election by an electorate of 5,000 over a constitutional consultation with colleague members of parliament and caretakers representing hundreds of thousands of JLP supporters as undemocratic? Could I have actually thought that this appears to be a man choosing the only way he can win rather than any concern about democracy? Good God, what's wrong with me?
How could I not have seen it? Audley has no responsibility whatsoever for the JLP's election losses. He has no idea what went wrong. According to The Gleaner's September 15 report, Audley "... said he has never set eyes on the report of the strategic review, commissioned by the JLP leadership in the aftermath of the electoral defeats in 2011 and 2012, although it has been in Holness' possession since January of this year."
Poor Audley! It seems Young Andrew isn't talking to him. And, as deputy leader, he knows not how to ensure sight of the report. Now that's what I call a leader-in-waiting! What I took as Audley trying to pass off the responsibility for any JLP defects on everybody but himself is suddenly shown to be a malicious campaign against Audley to keep him in the dark.
Of course, this allegation by Audley isn't to be construed as Audley carrying out any "negative campaigning and personal attacks". Only blind, incompetent columnists like me would even begin to think such non-ness. This is what we can all see as "a contest of ideas, plans, programmes and vision ...".
I apologise for my opinion that Audley, as a senior party leader for over 20 years during which period the party decline was in full flight, was the least credible or viable candidate to lead the rebuilding process. Mea culpa, Audley, mea maxima culpa. How could I have missed that you were viciously sidelined; reports were hidden from you; you were merely an observer?
How foolish of me to believe that a party that lost a general and a parish council election in rapid succession but was able, two short years afterwards, to win a parish council seat held by the incumbent government and for which retention the prime minister and the finance minister personally campaigned, is a party on the uptick not decline. Stupid me.
Audley, my humble apologies for thinking you were other than a true visionary seeking to rescue a party in a shambles and a national hero in the making. Press on regardless. Blow on the dice (for luck). Or ask Joan to blow on them for you. Throw them. Close your eyes tight and pray. You never know what might happen.
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.