The Writing On The Wall : Who Will Be Jamaica’s 9th Prime Minister?
It has been 72 hours since Prime Minister Bruce Golding shocked his party with news that he will be stepping aside as party leader, and subsequently Prime Minister, come November. After a failed attempt to convince Mr. Golding to change his mind, the JLP is now gearing it’s machinery towards a leadership race. The JLP chairman, Mike Henry, has indicated that the nomination process to fill the impending vacancy will remain open until late October. The question now is, who will be Jamaica’s 9th Prime Minister when the dust settles?
In my preceding post, I touted Education Minister Andrew Holness and Commerce Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton as the most viable options to replace Golding. However, within the last 72 hours several other names have been added to the list. These include, but are not limited to, Finance Minister Audley Shaw, Agriculture Minister Robert Montaque, Former Minister of State Everald Warmington, Deputy PM & Foreign Minister Dr. Ken Baugh and Transport Minister Mike Henry. I admit myself surprised and genuinely distressed at these names. I will only focus on the persons I think stand a real chance of being elected. Shaw, Henry, Holness and Tufton.
First of all, Audley Shaw. The argument I’m hearing is that he is experienced and he appeals to the grassroots of the labour party. Still, what is Mr. Shaw’s national appeal like? Is the JLP merely interested in appealing to the delegates? Or are they interested in retaining state power? If the latter is their objective, Mr. Shaw is not the man for the job. Shaw has not presented himself as a statesman. He has earned the unenviable reputation of being an abusive and abrasive politician. I’ve found that he is the type of politician that loses himself on a political platform and forgets that much is expected of him. His most recent reference to the Opposition Leader as a ‘leggo beast’, is one such instance where he has acted outside of the expected code of conduct for a senior Minister of government. He represents the old divisive, tribal and partisan style of politics. This country must reject that. Then there is the matter of his tenure as Finance Minister. I’m not impressed. From the annual supplementary budgets to the IMF impasse, I’m not sure Mr. Shaw knows what he’s doing. Mr. Shaw should be looking towards retirement, not Jamaica House.
I think Mike Henry’s name being included in the mix is someone’s idea of a cruel joke. If I’m against Shaw, can you imagine how I feel about Mike Henry? At 75, this man is an embarrassment to the government. Why would anyone send a 75 year old to Jamaica House? By the end of the next parliamentary term, he would be 80+ years old. There is something inherently wrong with that. He once made a statement that chilled me. He was asked about his age and possible plans for retirement and Mr. Henry responded that he had a young son who could carry him into parliament; should he be unable to walk anymore. This is unacceptable. Utterly and completely unacceptable. He is not the man for the job. The utter mess that JDIF has been. The massive costs over runs on public works projects. All these issues make it clear to me, he is not the man for the job.
This leadership race is going to be a critical turning point in the political life of Jamaica. The JLP delegates have a chance to finally break the sense of entitlement that so many of our elder politicians seem to have. Those delegates have a chance to herald in a new era of politics and of politicians. This change will force the PNP to contend with policies rather than personalities. The Manatt issue becomes almost a non issue. Without the option of attacking Bruce, the PNP is like a deer caught in headlights; and while they may try to put on a brave united face in the media, make no mistake, they are afraid. The issue of age vs stagnant experience will be put squarely before the country. The dynamic of the general election has changed. The PNP must now change. The Opposition must now take a real hard look at itself and it’s leader and ask, are we viable? This is a time for real and substantial change in Jamaica; I hope the JLP delegates are paying attention.
If we take a look further afield, we realise that other countries are injecting youth and new life into the top leadership posts. In the United States there is Barack Obama, the United Kingdom has David Cameron as Prime Minister and Ed Milliband as Opposition Leader and Barbados had David Thompson upon till just recently. All of these leaders are under 55 years old. In fact, when Obama demits office, assuming he gets a 2nd term, he will be just 56 years old. Jamaica needs to take heed. We need to inject new life into Jamaica House. I am pleased that Andrew Holness is not bowing to the alleged pressure that he should step aside and allow Shaw. I endorse Mr. Holness 100% and I call on all those who are tired of the old style of politics to do the same. Make no mistake, he is not just young, he has experience. He is a three term member of parliament, communications director for the JLP, Minister of Education (a senior post in the Cabinet), Leader of Government Business in the House and to top it off, he has been a model politician. I can’t recall hearing his name in any allegation of corruption or mismanagement. That’s just me, I can’t recall. The only experience I see Shaw having that would eclipse Mr. Holness is the fact that Shaw has been around longer.
Interesting times are ahead; the writing is on the wall, let’s wait and see who Jamaica’s 9th Prime Minister will be.