A star is gone
There was a time when Jeff Baron and Michael Dunkley, the former Premier of Bermuda, were inseparable. They were like peas in a pod, one entirely in step with the other, looking to do “the people’s business”, an impressively indefatigable and well-manicured one-two act.
For those who disapproved of their closeness, and there was rarely a shortage of objectors during the never-ending electioneering cycle that so defines Bermuda politics, Baron was often crudely depicted as “Mini-Me” to the senior man’s “Dr Evil”.
It is with that in mind that Dunkley’s faux surprise over the glossy magazine-style soft exit from the cut-throat and unforgiving world of local politics ranks as the most significant reaction to news that was surprising only for the lateness of its timing in the wake of the One Bermuda Alliance’s crushing defeat at the polls in July 2017.
“The sudden resignation with little notification to his colleagues brings to an end his short and promising political service.”
That quote from Dunkley reveals they were no longer like peas in a pod and highlights not so much the divisions within the OBA but almost a functional breakdown at a time when the country desperately needs the Opposition to be strong and to be the first to hold the Government to account.
There is much to be said for Baron’s ambitions of becoming a superdad, but let’s not get ourselves too caught up in familial emotion here — the OBA would not be losing one of its brightest sparks had it won the General Election.
Plain and simple.
Not a mere nine months later.
Not after Baron canvassed in a new constituency for the first time, having succumbed in 2012 to the veteran Rolfe Commissiong in Pembroke South East, and defeated in Kathy Lynn Simmons a candidate so highly thought of by the Progressive Labour Party that she was appointed to the Senate and made Attorney-General once the dust settled on “24-12” and it was time to get to work.
That is what makes the parenthood line, as genuine in parts though it may be and notwithstanding exceptional circumstances, appear as little more than a smokescreen.
To borrow a phrase from David Burt’s “affront to” tantrum over the selection of the new Chief Justice, Baron literally putting family first in his scripted explanation to cosily accommodating interviewers can be taken as an affront to the many politician dads who have come before him but yet have managed effectively to at least share in the raising of well-adjusted sons and daughters that evolved into upstanding citizens.
There are few people in this world who would not be affected adversely by a more than 50 per cent pay cut. That is what seems at the heart of this decision — seeing a salary of $131,208 shrink to $56,023 overnight.
A 57 per cent slash, to be precise.
Baron is well within his rights to seek to better his circumstances, but he has left the 493 constituents in Warwick North East who voted for him to speak and act on their behalf in the House until 2022 up the swanny — opening the door for the PLP to exacerbate what is already an unhealthy balance in Parliament.
Five years may very well be a long time in Bermuda politics, but history will show it to be only a snapshot.
The life of a politician should never deign to be minimalised as a snapshot, and that is the greatest shame here.
A career that promised so much to so many; here one minute and gone the next.
Baron’s absence from the House of Assembly will be felt acutely, starting today, when Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security whose cricket video follies this week confirmed that he has indeed chosen the correct career path, makes a belated and much awaited statement on why the plug was pulled on Operation Ceasefire halfway through its remit.
With the shadow minister having resigned himself to the shadows, literally, Caines should fare far better attempting to score into an open goal with no opposition than he did in the vain pursuit of his GPS when trying to land a cricket ball in the appropriate time zone.
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