Wanted : New Driva – Bruce Golding To Step Down
Prime Minister of Jamaica and Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, The Hon. Bruce Golding, has made known his intention to step down at the party’s November conference. In a statement to the party, Golding revealed that he will not seek re-election as JLP leader and will step down as PM once a new leader is chosen. Mr. Golding revealed that the challenges of the last four years have taken a toll on him and he considers it prudent to now step aside and pave the way for new leadership. While the news has stunned several sections of the society; one thing is clear, this is a political strategy at it’s best.
Golding has faced tremendous pressure to step down after his dismal handling of the Coke/Manatt extradition saga, but seemed determined to remain in office. In fact, Information Minister and close confidante of the PM, Daryl Vaz, made it clear that Golding would lead the party in the 2012 election. Now that we know this will not be so, the question on everybody’s lips is what now? Where does the JLP go from here? And can they survive this? There have been allegations that members of the JLP’s central executive are asking Golding to reconsider and have passed a resolution against Golding’s decision. I’d caution against this. Golding’s move is the right one. In so far as it derails the PNP’s campaign strategy; which certainly would be to attack Golding, much the same way the JLP attacked Portia Simpson Miller in 2007.
Mr. Golding has become a liability for the JLP and it would be a dangerous gamble to present him to the electorate as their choice to lead Jamaica. Even more so because this would be the second time he has offered his resignation as party leader. If the central executive again rejects his resignation, they must answer to the people of Jamaica. If the man has decided he is unfit to lead, then the executive must accept it. If Golding withdraws his decision, it will confirm that he is a flip flop and it will paint the JLP and indeed Bruce Golding as unstable and unsure. That doesn’t make for good and decisive leadership. He must stand by his word and go. By stepping aside, Golding removes, in large part, the liability from the JLP. He paves the way for a new leader, a fresh leader. If the JLP is smart, this new leader will be Andrew Holness or Dr. Christopher Tufton. I say Holness or Tufton because in Jamaica’s political arena, personality counts as much as policy. The general elections often come down to leadership. Who would make the better Prime Minister? Holness or Tufton vs Simpson Miller. The answer is clear, at least to me, Andrew Holness and Chris Tufton. If one of these men are chosen, Portia Simpson Miller will be in for the run of her life. Both men would be able to paint Simpson Miller as old and outdated; while positioning themselves as young and fresh and representative of the new generation of politicians. Polls have repeatedly indicated that both men enjoy the confidence of the Jamaican people with respect to their individual performance as Ministers.
Portia Simpson, while popular, still represents the old style of politics. She represents the era of Patterson’s economic mismanagement, she represents the 18 years which the Jamaican people rejected in 2007 and have repeatedly rejected in every national election since. Put to stand against Holness or Tufton, Simpson Miller’s JEEP would lose steam. She would have to contend with losing the youth vote. The young people rejected her in 2007 and the reality is that they might do so again. Jamaica’s society suffers from short term memory. A new JLP leader would be able to erase Bruce’s legacy from our minds. We’ll see a Tufton and Holness, who were never really at the fore during the extradition saga, as right for the job. They will appeal to the youth, the intellects and the independents. The PNP must be seriously considering who Portia Simpson Miller appeals to, and whether that appeal will be sufficient to keep the JEEP on the road. The Opposition must now be reconsidering their campaign strategy, it can no longer be about Golding, it has to be about policies. I’m not sure the PNP will have much to rest their hopes on by way of policies. Golding hasn’t been a bad Prime Minister in that regard.
I am concerned about Golding’s timing though. While I maintain that the move is brilliant, it should have come at a more convenient time. It will force the new leader to hit the ground running. I’m not sure he (or she) will have enough time to craft out their own niche. The new leader will have to contend with the IMF situation, unemployment, the supplementary budget and craft a new budget come next year, all while deciding how to campaign for a mandate from the Jamaican people. Golding has left a full plate for his eventual successor. The JLP will be required to move swiftly and as a united force. Can they do that? Can they survive a bruising leadership race (and I’m assuming it will be) and retain state power? That is to be seen. Finally, what happens if the delegates reject Golding’s decision come November? What then? Will he call an election and have Jamaican decide once and for all? Or will he still insist that he will not lead the JLP and leave the delegates to choose a new man (or woman) for the job? One thing is sure, the next few weeks and months will be interesting. This will be political theatre at it’s best. Let us wait and see.