Frontline position is only one that gets a rise out of Dunkley
“Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in”
— Silvio Dante (The Sopranos)
Sil’s party piece was but a respectful depiction of Al Pacino in The Godfather, meant to lighten the mood or ease tensions around the New Jersey Mafia who were rarely a scene from life-altering tragedy.
And although the brilliant crime drama series, which ended in June 2007, left us hanging in bewilderment over the fate of Tony Soprano, one thing that was unmistakable was that Tony’s No 2 was the only significant “made man” not to get whacked — you would have thought the character played for eight years by Steven Van Zandt might have been long written out of the HBO classic, just for his outrageous hairdo alone.
But while all fell around him, Sil kept coming back, episode after riveting episode.
As consiglieres do. Until the bitter and confusing end.
For Silvio Dante, see Michael Dunkley.
It would be wrong to suggest that the former Premier of Bermuda has more lives than a cat, but Dunkley as a phoenix rising from the ashes is not far off the mark.
Dunkley’s first date with crash-and-burn came at the 2007 General Election when the United Bermuda Party that he led suffered a crushing defeat by the Progressive Labour Party under the stewardship of Ewart Brown.
The Opposition party leader even deemed to lose in his own constituency in Smith’s North ... to Patrice Minors.
Not as sensational as the 2017 win by rookie Christopher Famous over heavyweight Bob Richards in Devonshire East — a David v Goliath tale if ever there was one — but defining all the same.
The failed attempt to unseat a comparative lightweight in Minors had taken such a toll on his family that Dunkley questioned whether he could continue in politics before determining within a fortnight of a 22-14 defeat at the polls that he had more to offer.
In an open letter to the country that had more burning desires than one man could possibly hope to unsheathe without being admitted to the burn unit, he wrote:
“They [my family] are well aware that I still have a burning desire to serve and to contribute to the future wellbeing of the island. They are aware that I still have a burning desire to work on bringing people together and to building our community. They are also aware that I still have a burning desire to make a difference by providing a message of hope, building respect, understanding and tolerance.
“In this regard I am pleased to say that they are fully supportive of my continued involvement in public service and I am now taking this opportunity to let you know that now more than ever I am ready to serve. I am ready to work towards the Bermuda all of us want to live in, no matter what position I am in, no matter what setback I receive. I have a vision of what this island can be, and the changes that should be made, and I will not give that up.”
Fast-forward ten years, and not only is Dunkley back, having retaken Smith’s North, but he has been elevated to the role of leader of the country after Craig Cannonier’s brief tenure as premier became compromised by a thing called Jetgate.
In virtually four years at the helm, he oversees far more wins than losses for the One Bermuda Alliance, but the losses are cataclysmic and lead to a record 24-12 defeat come election time — his charismatic rival changing from a pre-eminent medical professional to a tech-savvy 38-year-old businessman.
Again, Dunkley found himself at the point of no return. And again he offered himself up for more, while this time declaring that he was stepping away from frontline politics.
The quote that follows from a Royal Gazette interview at his residential home proves that ambition to be unrealistic and ultimately contradictory: “I don’t care who I’m working with to get it done, we just have to get it done and I will work until I decide to retire with all of the energy and commitment that I have, but I want to see results. I’m here to support, not undermine, but I will be vocal when I have to be.”
Having stepped down as official party leader, Dunkley took to social media to lead the charge for the OBA — on some occasions, tirelessly engaging and debating those who hold opposite views in the extreme; on others, planting landmines to unsettle the new government in the name of accountability.
With new party leader Jeanne Atherden often missing in action in the early months, the Opposition could be argued to be solely Dunkley and his trusty mobile phone — before Michael Fahy, whose unfavourability rating west of the Korean Peninsula is exceeded only by Donald Trump, got in lockstep by starting a weekly op-ed in this parish.
Inevitably, Dunkley would arise from the back benches to the front, with Cannonier again taking a step back into the ranks. To lose your position to the same man once may be considered unlucky; to do so twice is just darn careless.
We will discover if Cannonier couldn’t care less after this retreat the OBA is meant to be going on with a view to re-establishing itself as a going concern in local politics. Absolutely essential if the ruling government under David Burt is not to run roughshod over the legislature.
What should not be overlooked in all the fuss about whether Michael Dunkley is coming or going is that he genuinely feels for Bermuda and all Bermudians. He has not always got it right, but you cannot deny — as Marc Bean is famed for saying — that he has clean hands and a pure heart.
Not clean or pure enough to lead a party to election victory, and he would be best advised to avoid the intoxicating pull to replace Atherden as 2022 nears, but a veteran politician who is more appreciated than his critics would ever give him credit for.
This, as he accepted the role of Shadow Minister of Government Reform: “The most important thing is that I want to work with my colleagues to be the best Opposition we can, to grow the party, and to make it as strong as possible. I can fill any role.”
Any role? Hmm ...
His days as leader should be over. But with Dunkley, you never know.
He is among the eldest Members of Parliament but is very likely the fittest with a daily regimen that could have the old Tiger Woods looking over his shoulder.
Proof that, like a Timex, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
“Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.”
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