Putting childish things away
In the historic first occasion of the House of Assembly going virtual on April 17, David Burt grasped the nettle almost literally in proclaiming that he had turned over a new leaf.
To quote precisely from the Hansard, the Premier said: “I am going to turn over a new leaf as the leader of this country, and I am going to try to engage in the best bipartisanship that is possible as the leader of this country. And that is what I am going to do because that is what the people of this country require for us to get through this particular thing.”
He later added: “That is the type of leadership of which the Government is trying to provide, recognising that the only way that we are going to get through this as a country is if we use the collective talents of both Government [and] Opposition, public sector, private sector, work-permit [holders] and Bermudians all together to make sure that we can get through this particular situation.”
“This particular thing ... this particular situation” is the novel coronavirus that has become a global pandemic, has claimed almost 330,000 lives worldwide, and which prompted the Premier to share the national stage with the Leader of the Opposition in a love-in that possessed all the nervous anticipation of an awkward first date.
As is the case with many first dates, Craig Cannonier left unfulfilled and unempowered, having brought little to the occasion other than bipartisan, “make sure not to put a foot wrong” fluff.
But it was the magnanimity of the gesture from Mr Burt that spoke volumes.
So it is against this backdrop that we arrive at the quite unappetising tiff between One Bermuda Alliance shadow minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Jason Hayward, still feeling his oats as the newest invitee to the Lower House, and Lawrence Scott, the Government Whip — the Progressive Labour Party MPs having accused Ms Gordon-Pamplin of having referred to low-income earners as being “at the bottom of the earth” during a March debate on the Payroll Tax Amendment Act 2020.
Reminiscent of his days leading any number of union protests against the former government, Mr Hayward stood tall in his condemnation: “How dare a Member consider people who are low-paid in this country at the bottom of the Earth?”
The senior MP protested her innocence to no avail and had to bide her time for almost two months before being vindicated by the recording on Hansard, which proved what she had said all along: that her comment was “ ... people on the lower end of the earning spectrum would be able to see some relief”.
Cue her outburst two weeks ago during the motion to adjourn, when the emotion in her voice rendered Ms Gordon-Pamplin almost unrecognisable.
She even went as far to apologise for an “unparliamentary” later comment directed at Mr Hayward that suggested he was a liar.
But, save for Christopher Famous’s theory on bats soon after, there were crickets coming in the other direction.
True, these events occurred before Mr Burt’s epiphany — however long it lasts — that “all for one, one for all” is better than the bitty and oftentimes childish politics of our recent past, but the May 8 sitting provided the opportunity for Messrs Hayward, Scott and one other whose voice was indistinguishable to offer a mea culpa and move on.
But we got nothing and, further, Mr Hayward refused to comment when this newspaper reached out days later.
Maybe he and his wingman who normally carries the whip hand were waiting to do the right thing today when the House resumes.
Maybe, with the Premier having got the ball rolling, his colleagues in the ranks will show some belated buy-in to give the Bermuda public reason to believe that there is real integrity in that most august, albeit virtual, House and that the childish things that Barack Obama so famously spoke of on that great day 12 years ago can be finally put away.
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