The people have spoken

  • Shock and awe: Christopher Famous produced the most stunning result of the General Election, handily beating Bob Richards, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, who promptly announced his retirement from politics (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Shock and awe: Christopher Famous produced the most stunning result of the General Election, handily beating Bob Richards, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, who promptly announced his retirement from politics (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

It is not too often that a political party can leave the public purse in such a state of disrepair and then return to government at the first time of asking. That the Progressive Labour Party has managed to pull it off says more about who the people want in power than it does for how that authority is to be exercised.

It also presents a resounding condemnation of the One Bermuda Alliance for its inability to rally the masses on the issues when it really matters.

With so much positivity to come out of Reid Street in the past 12 months, you could be forgiven the question: “What do we have to do?”

The OBA halted and turned around a sagging economy, it arrested the slide in tourism arrivals, it delivered the 35th America’s Cup, and it broke ground on both a new airport terminal and the first hotel in St George’s since the days of Club Med.

But the former ruling party also alienated a significant percentage of the electorate through a series of missteps, including but not limited to the public deliveries of the airport development project, Pathways to Status and furlough days within the Civil Service.

The PLP’s many years as the Opposition made it adeptly expert at exposing the flaws of a group that features many relative newcomers to the political arena.

It is for that reason, when Craig Cannonier determined that his position was made untenable by the Jetgate controversy, that the fledgeling group turned to one of only two members to have led a party — Michael Dunkley, the other being Grant Gibbons.

So the optics were not great.

In a country where race is digested even before decisions are made whether to have the Frosted Flakes with or without milk, handing over the reins to a seriously well-off white man with significant ties to a party whose disbandment was seen as essential if modern politics was ever to be distanced from a privileged and entitled past was viewed as a step backward, not forward.

No matter how hard Dunkley worked for the people — and he did work hard; no premier has ever been more visible — a result this devastating would normally mean the end for him as a party leader after a second successive defeat at the polls, having been outgunned by Ewart Brown and Co in the 2007 election.

But who would have forecast the manner of defeat by Bob Richards, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, and the one most likely to pick up the pieces going forward? And by a PLP backroom organiser who was given no hope?

The name Christopher Famous will now go down in the annals of Bermuda election history.

The stunning defeat and subsequent retirement of Richards not only leaves Dunkley without a trusted ally but it significantly weakens the hand of the Opposition in waiting.

So now on to David Burt, Bermuda’s premier-elect. When the PLP presented its platform for Election 17, he pledged to form a collaborative government. There will be many watching closely to see if he follows through on that, especially now that the PLP has doubled up on the OBA in the House of Assembly. Burt can even afford to surrender an MP as house speaker, such is this new advantage in the corridors of power.

First, though, there is the matter of his first 100 days and the commitment to re-establish the Bermuda First advisory group, beginning the installation of wi-fi in all public schools, providing more capital for entrepreneurs through the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation — the irony being it is run by his vanquished opponent in Pembroke West Central, Nick Kempe.

He has pledged to work for all the people and it is they who Burt would do well to appease.

This is still a country of two Bermudas; that will not change overnight.

And the PLP has an obligation to embrace all our citizens, black and white, local and foreign.

Putting Bermudians first still can mean putting Bermuda first.

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Published Jul 19, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 19, 2017 at 10:21 am)

The people have spoken

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