Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Deputy Leader Dr Christopher Tufton, who is expecting a challenge to his position in November, has declared that losses for leadership challenger Audley Shaw and himself could see him walking away from politics altogether.
Tufton was last week singled out by JLP leader Andrew Holness in a Sunday Gleaner article in which he accused persons of being disruptive forces in the party who left it for dead when they followed Bruce Golding to form the National Democratic Movement (NDM) in the 1990s.
"Mr Seaga gave Christopher Tufton, who was ahead of me at the university, a portfolio, and gave me to shadow that portfolio, and Chris Tufton left the party and gave back the portfolio to Mr Seaga," Holness had said.
Following his endorsement of Shaw last Wednesday night, Tufton spoke with The Sunday Gleaner about his future if the upcoming elections do not go his way.
"Well, I mean at that stage, it would give me an indication as to what the delegates want. Put it this way: I believe in democracy, and once the process is fair and transparent and the people speak through the ballot box, then it gives me an indication as to what they want and what their mindset is," said Tufton.
Citing his election loss in 2011 to the People's National Party's (PNP) Hugh Buchanan in St Elizabeth South West, Tufton said he knew how to face the consequences of his actions.
"I have never been one not to accept the consequences of my actions … . The truth of the matter is, if at the end of the day the message is that people don't want the type of cultural change within the party and the transformation needed, it could mean being in the party or being out."
NO SWITCHING TO PNP
But when confronted with the idea of switching allegiance to the PNP, he made his position clearer.
"I would not leave the JLP and join the PNP. No, no, no. That's not one of the options I am considering," Tufton stressed. "My option is whether to remain in politics or leave politics. Walking away is an option."
Tufton, who was a vocal minister of agriculture in the Bruce Golding-led Government that came to power in 2007, was shifted to the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce for the final few months of the JLP administration in 2011.
He also challenged and beat current JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang for the position of deputy leader in 2010.
Tufton, who once served as the youngest chair-man of the NDM under Golding's leadership, said the future of the JLP would depend greatly on the kind of leader who emerges.
"The outcome is going to be significantly dependent on who emerges as leader and how that leader decides to treat with that vote of confidence," said Tufton.
"A leader could emerge and say, 'Malice to no one. Let's get together and move forward.' But if the leader who emerges decides to purge the party of people who are not like-minded, of people who he is not trustful of and people he feels may be a threat to him, now or in the future; and he decides to be assertive in that type of sidelining or purging, then what you could have is a party that continues to hae-morrhage for some time to come."
The JLP haemorrhaged for years during the 31 years of the leadership of Edward Seaga, who was leader between 1974 and 2005.
Seaga faced internal opposition over his autocratic political style and was largely blamed for keeping the party in opposition for 18 and a half years. The party's fortunes changed in 2007, two years after Seaga's resignation and the prodigal Bruce Golding took over its leadership.
Tufton said if the elected leader demonstrated any of the behavioural patterns to which he pointed, it would severely compromise the JLP's chances in any election.
"Bruce Golding was very correct when he said that a piece of the Labour Party cannot beat the PNP. And so the worst thing that could happen is for a leader to emerge and say, 'It's purging time'. A leader thinking solely of his own preservation, that may be the motivating force. It may preserve him as leader, but not necessarily preserve the party's chances of success," argued Tufton.
He said the stage has been set for vindictivenees with the public utterances from current leader Andrew Holness.
For him, the leader who will save the party is one who is bent on healing, and finding accommodation for those who are in disagreement.
"Only then could you see a stronger party emerging," he suggested.