Almost equal support for Holness, Shaw
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
When the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Andrew Holness, steps on the platform this evening at a mass rally that's being hosted in Old Harbour by South West St Catherine Member of Parliament Everald Warmington, he will be joined by several members of his Shadow Cabinet.
However, debates rage, speculation is rife and questions are being raised as a significant number of the members of that Shadow Cabinet have stepped on stage with Holness' challenger, Audley Shaw.
Political scientist Dr Hume Johnson is of the view that this is to be expected.
"The division of loyalties within the Shadow Cabinet, where members huddle into each polarised camp, is inescapable during internal elections," said Johnson.
She argued that whoever is elected to lead the JLP must move to mend fences inside the party as quickly as possible, instead of allowing the divisions to fester going into the next election.
Apart from being opposition leader, Holness shadows the portfolio of defence and development, while Shaw shadows the all-important finance, planning, growth and economic development portfolio.
Dr Kenneth Baugh, the party's spokesman on health and quality of life, has joined Desmond McKenzie, the spokesman on urban renewal, rural development and local government; and Karl Samuda, who speaks on transport, works and infrastructure development, as supporters of Holness.
Other members of the JLP's Shadow Cabinet who have declared support for Holness are Olivia Grange, the spokesperson on youth, sports, gender affairs, entertainment and culture; Shahine Robinson, who speaks on social security and poverty reduction; and J.C. Hutchinson, the spokesman on agriculture, mining and natural resource use.
On the other side, the Shaw camp has attracted several key members of the Holness-led Shadow Cabinet. These include Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, the spokesperson for education and human resource development; Gregory Mair, who monitors energy, industry and commerce; and Dr Christopher Tufton, who speaks on foreign affairs, foreign trade and investment.
The are joined by Edmund Bartlett, the spokesman on tourism and travel service development; and Daryl Vaz, the spokesman for ICT and digital society development. Vaz has, however, taken a leave of absence from the Shadow Cabinet due to a legal matter.
With the Shadow Cabinet appointed by Holness almost split down the middle, three of its members have not yet publicly declared their support for either candidate.
Delroy Chuck, the justice, national security and electoral matters spokesman, and Arthur Williams, the spokesman for information, public service and labour, have both kept quiet, while Dr Horace Chang, the spokesman on housing, water and environment, is not allowed to take sides as he is the general secretary of the party.
POST-ELECTION UNITY KEY
For Johnson, the ability of the elected leader to bring these persons together post the November 10 election will determine if the JLP can present itself as a capable alternative government.
"Unity has had shallow roots in the JLP, but it is hoped that the post-election leadership squabbles would be finally laid to rest and the party refocuses on the larger task of seeking to tackle the enormous challenges the country faces," said Johnson.
In the meantime, Dennis Meadows, a Shaw supporter, has argued that the healing in the party will depend on the actions of the victor.
"If a leader emerges who demonstrates vindictiveness and bitterness, then no doubt the stability of the party will be injured," Meadows told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said if a conciliatory leader devoid of grudge emerges, this would engender cooperation and some semblance of unity.