Jamaica Labour Party

Last updated
Jamaica Labour Party
Leader Andrew Holness
Chairman Robert Montague
General Secretary Horace Chang
Founded8 July 1943 (1943-07-08)
Headquarters20 Belmont Road, Kingston 5
Youth wing Young Jamaica
Generation 2000
Women's GroupWomen's Freedom Movement (WFM)
Trade Union Wing Bustamante Industrial Trade Union
Ideology Nationalism [1] [2] [3]
Fiscal conservatism [4]
Conservatism [5] [6] [7]
Fabianism (originally) [3]
Political position Centre-right [8] [9]
Regional affiliation Caribbean Democrat Union
Colors     Green
House of Representatives
48 / 63
13 / 21
Local Government
129 / 227
Parish Councils
9 / 13
www.jamaicalabourparty.com OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is one of the two major political parties in Jamaica, the other being the People's National Party (PNP). While its name might suggest that it is a social democratic party (as is the case for "Labour" parties in several other Commonwealth realms such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom), the JLP is actually a conservative party. [10] [11] [12] However, it has longstanding ties to the Jamaican labour movement.


It is the current governing party, having won 48 of the 63 parliamentary seats in the lower house of parliament (House of Representatives) in the 2020 general elections.

The JLP uses the Liberty Bell, the victory sign, and the colour green as electoral symbols. The JLP is a member of the Caribbean Democrat Union.


The party was founded on 8 July 1943 by Alexander Bustamante as the political wing of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union. Bustamante had previously been a member of the PNP.

It won the 1944 general elections with 22 of the 32 seats. [13] It went on to win the 1949 elections with a reduced majority. The PNP received more votes (203,048) than the JLP (199,538), but the JLP secured more seats; 17 to the PNP's 13. Two seats were won by independents. The voter turnout was 65.2%.

The JLP lost power to the PNP in the 1955 elections. The PNP won for the first time, securing 18 out of 32 seats. The JLP ended up with 14 seats, and there were no independents. The voter turnout with 65.1%. As a result, Norman Manley became the new chief minister. [14]

The JLP remained in opposition following the 1959 elections, when the number of seats was increased to 45. The PNP secured a wider margin of victory, taking 29 seats to the JLP's 16.

Manley was appointed Jamaica's first premier on 14 August 1959. [15]

The JLP was victorious in 1962 and was therefore the Government when Jamaica gained its political independence from Great Britain on 6 August 1962.

Bustamante suffered a stroke in 1964 and largely withdrew from politics. However, he did not relinquish the title of party leader for another decade. Donald Sangster took over as acting prime minister after Bustamante's stroke. He was named First Deputy Leader in 1967, and led the party to victory as of the 21 February 1967 elections. Sangster suffered a brain hemorrhage and died about six weeks after the elections, while he was preparing for his budget presentation.

Hugh Shearer succeeded Sangster as First Deputy Leader and Prime Minister, defeating David Clement (DC) Tavares by two votes in a run-off by of the JLP parliamentarians. Tavares had come out on top in the first ballot, with Shearer and Robert Lightbourne being the other candidates. Under Shearer, the JLP lost power for the first time to the People's National Party and Michael Manley in 1972. Shearer served as Opposition Leader until 1974.

Bustamante finally gave up the post of party leader in 1974, and Edward Seaga was elected his successor. The party lost the 1976 elections, but Seaga became Prime Minister after victory in 1980 when the party won by a landslide, capturing 51 of the then 60 parliamentary seats. In 1983 with the JLP achieving a spike in popularity, in part because of Seaga's support of the US-led military invasion of Grenada, Seaga called early elections and won all sixty seats, the majority by acclamation, mainly because the opposition PNP boycotted those elections. The JLP suffered defeat in the 1989 elections and went on to lose elections in 1993, 1997 and 2002, all under the continued leadership of Seaga.

In 2005 Bruce Golding succeeded Seaga as leader of the party, and led it to victory in the 2007 elections. Golding resigned as head of the party and Prime Minister in October 2011 and was succeeded by Andrew Holness. Soon after becoming leader, Holness called an election over a year before it was constitutionally due, and the party lost by a 2:1 margin to the PNP. Holness was not blamed for the defeat, and continued to lead the party as Opposition Leader

The party held a leadership election on 10 November 2013 where Holness was challenged by his deputy, Shadow Minister for Finance Audley Shaw. Holness defeated Shaw by a margin of 2,704 votes to Shaw's 2,012. [16]

Holness went on to lead the JLP to a one-seat parliamentary majority (32–31) in the 2016 general election, reducing the PNP to the opposition benches after one term. In the 2020 general election, Andrew Holness made history for the JLP by accomplishing a second consecutive win for the Jamaica Labour Party. The last time a consecutive win occurred for the JLP was in 1980. [17] This is what Jamaicans classified as a "landslide victory". [18] [19] [20] [21]

Political positions

The JLP is a conservative party. It believes in a market-driven economy and individual personal responsibility.

In May 2008, in an interview with Stephen Sackur of the BBC, Bruce Golding PM and Party Leader declared that any cabinet formed by him would exclude any MP known to be gay. [22] In previous statements, Golding stated that he and his party strongly opposed public displays of homosexuality in Jamaica and that he felt that they should continue to be illegal in keeping with Jamaican societal norms. [23] He justified the illegality of homosexual acts by referring to Christian values and the integrity of the family. [24] [25]

Electoral performance

House of Representatives

Jamaica Labour Party

ElectionLeaderVotesShare of votesSeatsResult
1944 Alexander Bustamante 144,66141.4%
22 / 32
1949 199,53842.7%
17 / 32
1955 189,92939.0%
14 / 32
1959 247,14944.3%
16 / 45
1962 288,13050.0%
26 / 45
1967 Donald Sangster 224,18050.7%
33 / 53
1972 Hugh Shearer 205,58743.4%
16 / 53
1976 Edward Seaga 318,18043.2%
13 / 60
1980 502,11558.3%
51 / 60
1983 23,36388.0%
60 / 60
  • PNP boycotted the elections. JLP won the 6 seats contested along with independent candidates and gained the other 54 for which only the JLP had nominees.
1989 362,58942.9%
15 / 60
1993 263,71139.1%
8 / 60
1997 297,38738.6%
10 / 60
2002 360,46846.9%
26 / 60
2007 Bruce Golding 410,43850.0%
32 / 60
2011 Andrew Holness 405,92046.3%
21 / 63
2016 436,97249.5%
32 / 63
2020 406,08557.1%
48 / 63

West Indies

Jamaica Labour Party

ElectionParty GroupLeaderVotesSeatsPositionGovernment
1958 [26] DLP William Alexander Clarke Bustamante451,23352.2%
12 / 17
70.6%1st WIFLP

List of party leaders

1. ^ Donald Sangster and Hugh Shearer were not actually leaders of the JLP but were de facto leaders during Bustamante's illness/withdrawal from active political life.

Related Research Articles

History of Jamaica Aspect of history

The Caribbean island of Jamaica was inhabited by the Arawak tribes prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1494. Early inhabitants of Jamaica named the land "Xaymaca", meaning "land of wood and water". The Spanish enslaved the Arawak, who were ravaged by the enslavement from the Europeans and the foreign diseases that the Spanish brought with them. By 1600, the Arawak tribes were extinct. The Spanish also transported hundreds of West African people to the island.

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Michael Norman Manley ON OCC was a Jamaican politician who served as the fourth Prime Minister of Jamaica from 1972 to 1980 and from 1989 to 1992. Manley championed a democratic socialist program, and has been described as a populist. According to opinion polls, he remains one of Jamaica's most popular prime ministers.

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