PLP branch accuses Burt of ignoring Smith
A clash over the choice of a by-election candidate appears to have taken place between a Progressive Labour Party constituency and the Premier, according to an e-mail circulated yesterday.
The apparent stand-off came after Jason Hayward, a PLP senator, was said to be the only candidate put forward by a party sub-committee for Pembroke Central, left vacant after the sudden death of PLP MP Walton Brown.
But the e-mail claimed 65 per cent of branch members voted on Sunday against Mr Hayward and that a motion to field Jamaine Smith was ignored by David Burt, who attended the branch meeting.
The e-mail added that Mr Burt’s “decision to take over and control” the meeting “could be misinterpreted as him influencing the process or demonstrating favouritism” towards Mr Hayward.
It said that supporters of Ms Smith maintained she should be unveiled as the by-election candidate today for the November 21 contest. The e-mail added: “We — the Progressive Labour Party — should accept the will of the members of the branch, C17.”
It was not clear last night if the party had decided to endorse Ms Smith as the candidate for the November 21 by-election.
Mr Brown defeated Andrew Simons, of the One Bermuda Alliance, twice at the General Elections of December 2012 and July 2017.
The e-mail explained that Mr Burt indicated at the branch meeting that 293 voters were polled last Thursday.
Respondents were asked about possible PLP candidates “against prospective OBA candidate Nick Kempe”, who is the Opposition leader in the Senate.
Results showed Mr Hayward, the Bermuda Public Services Union president, enjoyed a 16 per cent lead over Mr Kempe compared with a 9 per cent lead for Ms Smith.
Pollsters were said to have found that George Scott had a 5 per cent lead on the OBA member. The survey also found that Curtis Richardson, who contested Paget East in the 2017 General Election and a later by-election caused by the retirement of One Bermuda Alliance MP Grant Gibbons, was 2 per cent behind Mr Kempe and Vance Campbell, a PLP senator, was 8 per cent behind.
The e-mail said: “With quorum established, the branch members of constituency 17 listened to the persuasive recommendations and explanation around the science and importance of polling made by MP Chris Famous, sub-committee chair, and the party leader and Premier David Burt on the importance of the branch approving the sole candidate recommended by the Campaign Sub-committee, namely BPSU president and senator Jason Hayward.
“Sixty-five per cent of the branch members voted against the recommendation of the campaign sub-committee and party leader.”
It added that the result suggested that Mr Hayward “cannot be presented to the branch again, at a later date, for adoption as the candidate for constituency 17”.
The e-mail said that poll ratings for proposed PLP candidates showed Mr Hayward in the lead with Mr Scott in second place. Ms Smith and Mr Campbell were joint third, ahead of Mr Richardson in fourth place.
It added: “We note that Jamaine Smith was only officially notified by the Candidates Committee, via e-mail on Saturday, 26 October 2019 at 2.27pm, that she had been cleared as an approved candidate to participate in the pool of candidates for the branch meeting on Sunday October 27 at 5pm.”
The e-mail, addressed to the party chairman and candidates sub-committee members also highlighted “potential irregularities” at the meeting.
It claimed: “The party leader decided to take over and chair a branch meeting, presumably to direct the branch and persuade them to accept the recommendation of the candidates sub-committee, which was nonetheless rejected.
“We note that, although the PLP constitution permits the party leader to be ex officio chairman of all committees and party organs, including branches, that his decision to take over and control the constituency 17 branch meeting, on 27 October 2019, appears unprecedented in contemporary PLP history and could be misinterpreted as him influencing the process of demonstrating favouritism towards the sole male candidate recommended by the candidates sub-committee, against the will, and 65 per cent vote, of the branch.
“A motion was put on the floor by branch member Ms S. Smith, as follows, ‘that the branch adopt Jamaine Smith as the candidate for constituency 17’, this motion was seconded by Ms S. Simmons and two branch members also commented that there was a substantive motion on the floor, yet, the party leader, after he took over the meeting as chairman, decided to ignore this motion and did not put the motion to a vote of branch members.”
The e-mail said that the majority vote against adopting Mr Hayward as the candidate, the polling results and favourability ratings, along with the motion, indicated that Ms Smith should “represent constituency 17”.
It added: “Kindly advise where Jamaine Smith should present herself on 29 October 2019 to be formally announced as the candidate.”
Mr Hayward said yesterday that he had expressed interest in being considered as the candidate for Pembroke Central, but that he was “the type of person that lets the process play out”.
He explained: “I was aware that my name was used in polling, I was aware of the meeting last night. I was briefed after the meeting that at this point they don’t know who the candidate is. I guess when they decide who’s the actual candidate to roll out I would be formally informed.”
Ms Smith could not be contacted for comment. A PLP spokeswoman said yesterday: “The Progressive Labour Party candidate selection is an internal process and therefore will not be discussed in the media.
“It is customary that when the party selects a candidate, they are announced to the media at a press conference.
“The same practice will be followed when a candidate for Constituency 17 is selected.”
Mr Burt and Mr Famous did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
The OBA did not reply to questions on who it planned to field in the Pembroke Central by-election.
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