George Davis, Contributor
Common sense suggests that where a political party embarks on an internal election to select a leader, those camps and factions formed out of the campaign will pull together as a unitary force behind whomever emerges as champion of the ballot. Not so with the JLP.
Of course, much has been written and said by pundits about the fractious history of the party, largely in keeping with how serving members view the organisation. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find an adjective used by commentators to describe the ongoing fallout from this leadership challenge that has not been used already by senior Labourites, both in public and private.
With the campaign officially under way, the words used by both Audley Shaw and Andrew Holness, and their camp followers, will be stored away by the opposing side and used as material for hatred or the even worse prospect of distrust, depending on which man's hand is held aloft inside the National Arena on the night of November 10.
Make no mistake: Distrust in politics is far more dangerous than hatred. For where hatred exists inside a political party among colleagues, persons at least have a clear idea about where the other stands. With hatred, the dangerous spectre of hypocrisy is removed because you are not uncertain about another person's feelings toward you.
Disloyalty is far more dangerous because of that very same issue of hypocrisy. A disloyal party member is one prone to connivance, scheming and undermining, traits of the classic fifth columnist, all the time flashing a smile.
So the words used by those riding shotgun with Holness and Shaw and by those men themselves over the next 39 days until the morning of conference will go a far way in determining how much hatred and/or disloyalty the winner will have to contend with starting the morning of November 11.
Coming out of Sunday's rival campaign events, words have already been written down by both camps for analysis at a later point. From what I heard first hand at the Shaw campaign launch in Mandeville, it would seem as if Team Holness has been the busier note-taker.
Opposition Senator Dr Chris Tufton managed to be withering in his criticism of Holness without being disrespectful, a difficult art and a tough skill to execute. Tufton basically told the crowd that Holness was an insecure leader with a strong fear of bright people.
A barb is a cutting remark. Let nobody fool you: Tufton's remark was no barb; it was a dagger, plunged deep, scything through arteries and muscle before touching bone.
For Holness, a man who is bright and who wants to be seen to be bright, to be branded as a man fearful of bright people by another man who formed part of his brains trust prior to the 2011 general election and is a part of his Shadow Cabinet, has to rankle supporters of the incumbent JLP leader.
It's the kind of statement for which explanation or retraction is likely to make Holness feel bilious if he manages to retain his crown and has to deal with a Tufton, freshly elected as a JLP deputy leader. It's also the kind of statement which the Comrades would've already filed away for ad treatment, come the next general election cycle.
In his speech on Sunday, Shaw spoke to four things that he will be as party leader, which Holness is not. According to Shaw, his commitment is to be bold, vocal, strong and active. Those four words together are what Team Shaw have consistently said their challenge was about and are what they would write if asked to scribble the essence of their leadership bid in the palm of one hand.
If Holness triumphs and leads the Labour Party into the next general election with the likes of Shaw and Tufton as part of the supporting cast, one can already see Team PNP using those words as the piano wire around the JLP leader's jugular.
For the JLP to emerge united, whatever the outcome on November 10, will require a hatchet-burying job the likes of which has perhaps never been seen in the country's modern political history.
George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.