THE Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) says its choice of political newcomer Dr Nigel Clarke for the North West St Andrew constituency will strengthen its team for the next general election.
Party Leader and Prime Minister Andrew Holness told an Area Council One meeting in Pembroke Hall Sunday night that while the party recognised the importance of the loyalty of its supporters to its prosperity agenda, it has to move to strengthen 'Team JLP' to make it ready for the next general elections.
“To make sure that when we call the next general election we are not only depending on your support, because you are loyal, but that you will vote for Labour because Labour (party) has produced results,” Holness told hundreds of bell-ringing supporters at the conference.
He said that the JLP was already planning its campaign, and it would not depend on pure loyalty of its members. He also said that a number of complicated issues would have to be resolved during the rest of his current administration, and the team would need Dr Clarke's special skills in making those decisions.
“We are going to make sure that we come to the country with results,” he added.
Holness also had expressed consolation for Duane Smith, son of former 29-year MP for St Andrew North West Derrick Smith, who had been the frontrunner for the nomination until the party's executive made the decision in favour of Clarke.
“Life is not always a straight line. Sometimes to make many steps forward, you have to take a few steps backward. Sometimes it makes you stronger. Duane has increased his political stocks by what he has done today, which is way beyond anything that he could have done otherwise,” Holness stated.
He also paid tribute to Derrick Smith, whom he described as “one of my political fathers”.
“He is a humble man, a loving man, a father-like man… and a man in whom we can say, job well done and whom you can be proud that your party has produced,” Holness said.
Introducing Dr Clarke to the crowd, he said that he had known him for as many years as he had known Duane Smith.
“Nigel shares the core principles of what it means to be a Labourite; humble beginnings, hard work brings success: That is the sign of a true Labourite,” he argued.
“We don't believe in reward without work. We understand that to be successful, you have to make sacrifices. That is the core of the JLP: By the sweat of your brow, you shall eat bread,” he stated.
On the constituency itself, Holness said that the departure of Derrick Smith would leave a huge void.
“It is a big void, and Nigel will have to grow in his own shoes, but Derrick's shoes will be right there waiting for him to fill,” he said.
He noted that roads were a major problem in the constituency, which the former MP had consistently sought to have fixed. He added that Government intended to address some of those roads, as well as other roads which have been long ignored around Jamaica.
He said that the government did not wish to have an extended gap between the retirement of the former MP and the election of a new one, and therefore had decided next Monday, February 12, as nomination day and March 5 as by-election dates for both the parliamentary seat of St Andrew North West and the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation division of Norman Gardens, which had been represented by former Mayor Brown Burke prior to her election to represent South West St Andrew in Parliament.