We would be hardly surprised if the conduct, thus far, of the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) leadership race is leaving the public perplexed about the motivation of the aspirants and weakening confidence in that party as the government-in-waiting.
It is important that we restate our position that leaders of declared democratic institutions, more so ones that seek state power, cannot be immune to the process of democracy to which they supposedly subscribe.
In that regard, Audley Shaw is in his absolute right to challenge Andrew Holness for the leadership of the JLP. The party is obliged to accommodate that challenge in accordance with its constitution and by-laws.
But we also expect that any contest for the leadership of one of Jamaica's major political parties, notwithstanding what may have been the case in the past, ought to rest on big ideas rather than demagoguery and petty outbursts about personality.
On all counts, the JLP has been found wanting.
It is shameful, we feel, that a party that is often at the forefront of campaigns for credible elections at the national level and is particularly vigilant about policing the country's voting register has gone about its internal process so poorly.
Indeed, up to the time this newspaper went to press, with the requirement that the voters' list be ready a month ahead of the November 10 vote, the camps were still squabbling about who comprise the 5,000 party delegates eligible to cast ballots. It has been suggested that people are not playing fair with the list.
Almost as bad is the failure, up to now, of the challenger, Mr Shaw, to accede to a code of conduct for the campaign that, so far, other than JLP supporters disaffected with Mr Holness' leadership, has not been enlightening.
Insofar as we understand Mr Shaw's argument, he wants to be leader because Mr Holness - having been installed by acclamation after Bruce Golding's resignation and then calling a general election which he lost by a landslide - has not sufficiently engaged the party on the reasons for the defeat. More important, he has not been forceful enough in attacking the perceived failings of the Simpson Miller Government. Perhaps these things are true.
MISSING THE BIG PICTURE
What we have not as yet heard from Mr Shaw and his surrogates is what would be the larger purpose of his leadership, apart from making life uncomfortable for the current administration. Where are the big, conceptual ideas for policy and governance?
There are smaller, relevant matters, too. It is incumbent on Mr Shaw, the shadow finance minister, to declare what, with regard to Jamaica's agreement with the International Monetary Fund, he, as party leader and a future prime minister, would do differently. Mr Shaw must answer that against the background that he was the finance minister who negotiated an agreement with the Fund that collapsed soon thereafter because of the Government's failure to adhere to fiscal and other performance targets. That credibility factor has to be addressed.
But Mr Holness does not get a pass. His campaign, thus far, has been centred largely on whingeing about the challenged. He has offered neither his party, nor Jamaica, more broadly, an overarching perspective of why he should continue to lead the party and be Jamaica's future prime minister.
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