EDITORIAL - A good move by Mr Holness
Andrew Holness, the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), struck mostly the right notes when he, on Monday, named a four-member commission to undertake a strategic review of his party.
He said: "We expect them to be brutally frank with us. The Jamaica Labour Party is in a state now where it has to introspect and we have to face whatever challenges we have ... . We are now prepared to listen to the conclusions that will be drawn and be prepared to change with those conclusions and recommendations."
A review of the kind commissioned by Mr Holness ought to have been done long ago. It might have spared the JLP nearly two decades on the Opposition benches under Edward Seaga's leadership and its ignominious one term in government - mostly under Bruce Golding's leadership - that ended last December.
Indeed, the unvarnished analysis, requested of four wise persons, led by Professor Bernard Headley, should have preceded Mr Holness' immediate post-election request for a review by an internal party group whose findings are likely to be mostly paisley patterned.
What is more important now, though, is the adage: it's better late than never.
Mr Holness seems intent not only to make the JLP attractive, but also a more cohesive and relevant vehicle to drive Jamaica's development. In other words, he wants to modernise the JLP.
None of this will be easy. He, whatever the findings and recommendations delivered by Dr Headley's group, will face challenges on several fronts.
First, political parties exist to win and control state power which, as Mr Holness pointed out, means they have to be successful in elections.
Two things are notable in this regard. One is that modernising the JLP will, perforce, include sidelining some of the party's old and spiritual successors, who succoured on a divisive, patronage-based politics. They will resist change and use insular support bases on leverage in the wake of the December electoral debate. Mr Holness, therefore, faces risks to his leadership.
Additionally, none of the review commission members has deep political experience so as to offer advice on organisational tactics. The upside, though, is emerging, and potentially more transparent dispensation offered by developments such as party and election-campaign financing,
Rising from the ashes
The more fundamental issue and greater challenge for the review team, and ultimately Mr Holness, are what the JLP stands for and how it organises itself. The two are intertwined.
Largely, the JLP has been perceived as a leader-centric party, with little internal democracy, whose members coalesce to win elections. The assumption is that this works reasonably when the party is in government and the management of the State is the issue of concentration. The absence of a core ideology, it is presumed, magnifies, and exacerbates, the tensions of the JLP's leader-centric organisation, such as what characterised much of Mr Seaga's tenure.
We expect Professor Headley's committee will frankly address these issues and offer lucid and practical suggestions to the JLP.
Whatever the outcome, we believe that this opportunity for the JLP to take a hard look at itself and to remove the barnacles, where necessary, is good for the party and Jamaica's democracy. At least for this, Mr Holness deserves commendation.
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