Wed | Sep 28, 2022

Blood at Belmont

Published:Sunday | November 17, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Daniel Thwaites, Contributor

After 70 years, the JLP has finally concluded an internal election for leader, the Big Don, without any bottles being thrown, heads busted, or arms broken. Nobody was shot in the arena. If Pearnel felt a pain that whitened half of his head, it was from years back. Nutten recent.


If this is proof of maturity, we have witnessed a world record for the longest adolescence of any democratic party in the Western world. As one clown pointed out, "Seventy years an' dem finally buss breasts!"

That happened despite something of a meltdown by General Secretary Horace Chang, who has emerged from this on the winning team, but not looking nearly so good as when he went into the fight. Right when the central party officials most needed to hold the centre and maintain neutrality, Chang went retro and rejoined the Shawcrusher gang. It fell to the chairman and his deputies to conduct the ceremonies without endangering the other half of Pearnel's head.

The result is that Mr Holness has secured his position as leader for the next election cycle. Shaw is vanquished, and his team must now be brought to heel. But a savvy politician, particularly one who is barely 40 years old, isn't only thinking about this election cycle, but also the one beyond that.

My suspicion is that when Mr Holness startles awake at 3 o'clock in the morning, it's not Audley in his nightmares, it's Christopher Tufton. Chris is near-universally acknowledged as bright, capable, articulate, telegenic, and a potential leader of the JLP. Holness is, therefore, always in danger, and at this time, a man in great peril.

A friend of mine, a Holness Labourite, texted me the cryptic message, "There is news of another leadership challenge in the works." I was shocked.

"Backside!!! Yuh lie! Who???"

"Tufton is challenging Betty-Ann Blaine for leadership! DWL!"

What does one do? Laugh? Well, these are serious matters, so we must be suitably jocular. But, no! That has a jagged edge that cuts to the bone.

Shaw's letter to Holness after their post-election meeting went straight to the point, rejecting the call for senators to resign, and raising the issue of whether two deputy leaders were properly nominated: "These issues are being used to pursue a non-unifying path, especially against Dr Tufton." Do you need it more clearly than that?

On the Senate powwow, Tufton and Arthur Williams refused to resign, so Holness did it for them - with prearranged undated resignation letters from 2012. Talk about Machiavelli! In a cruel twist of irony, Williams was commissioned by Holness to dig a pit and was shoved in without warning.

Just like a conquering medieval lord who must award his knights with territory, Mr Holness apparently wants the real estate for Pearnel's bloodline, and to reward the debonair Harold Brady, survivor.

Important votes

Please note that important votes are upcoming regarding the IMF, the Caribbean Court of Justice, and the Constitution. The Government will need at least one opposition Senate vote on some of these matters. Perhaps Tufton will hang on to that vine and vote more sensibly given his current realities?

Now I turn to the suspicious Watergate-like break-in at Belmont reported a few weeks ago. Let's call it 'the Belmontgate break-in'.

At the time, Shaw was ramping up criticism of Holness' stewardship of the party. Holness' team retorted that Shaw had been delinquent in registering NE Manchester, so how dare he talk? Shaw came back with the news that, well, Holness had also been delinquent in registering WC St Andrew. The issue arose, therefore, as to when Holness had actually registered. The simple way to settle the matter was to look at the receipt book kept at HQ.

Alas, that was not to happen. Shockingly, and totally unexpectedly, and without precedent or prior warning, Belmontgate occurred, and the general secretary was forced, poor soul, to report that the receipt book, and delegates' list, were ... missing! Well, who would have thunk it?

And then, also shockingly, and totally unexpectedly, and without precedent or prior warning, the nomination papers for James Robertson and Christopher Tufton, both Shaw men, were also ... missing! There were no other nominations for deputy leader of area councils 2 and 4, so if their nominations were not ... missing ... they would be deputy leaders right now.

So where are we? Well, the practical effect of Robertson's and Tufton's nominations being tossed into the garbage is to trigger a special election. Even Senator Floyd Morris can see Warmington and Wheatley loading their barrels for Robertson, and J.C. Hutchinson and Charles Sinclair sharpening dem 'lass for Tufton.

Ladies and gentlemen, please order the large popcorn, big plantain chips, and the extra-large soda, and please take this opportunity to use the restrooms if you have a need, then immediately return to your seats: the show is NOT over. The long knives are out and won't be re-holstered so soon. This particular strategy, conceived in vindictiveness, midwifed through the fabrication that neither man was nominated, is going to grow into another series of conflicts.

Another dynamic is what I call 'the Matthew 12:30 theory': "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." Lovely words in the mouth of The Messiah, but they have a megalomaniacal ring otherwise. Nonetheless, the texts are flying: Babsy, Baugh, Smith, Pearnel have all been canvassed as suitable chairpersons.

In other words, those who stayed neutral in the central party machinery may be put to the sword. Chairman Montague was conspicuously not in the Shadow Cabinet after deftly steering the ship during the mutiny, and handing the wheel back to Captain Andrew. For his efforts, he may be asked to bite the cyanide pill, face the firing squad, and then walk the plank. It would be a strange reward, even while Mr Chang, who abandoned his post, is counting his political compensation.

I concur that the photo ops after the contest were amazing. I never know I coulda or woulda live fi see dat! It was impressive. Somehow Messrs Montague and Franklin skilfully engineered a concession speech and handshakes on stage right after announcing the vote tally. I take it from The Gleaner report that Desmond McKenzie, who along with Babsy Grange is Holness' closest adviser, had a part in orchestrating it.

But Jamaica is also watching how Mr Holness, Seaga's heir surrounded by Seagaites, wields his knives and unleashes his hounds against his fellows. So far, looking at his Shadow Cabinet and Senate purge, there are a number of talented Labourites ... missing!

Daniel Thwaites is a partner of Thwaites Law Firm in Jamaica, and Thwaites, Lundgren & D'Arcy in New York. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.