PLP’s continued hold of West End under threat

  • Sources believe Jamahl Simmons, seen here on Election Day 2017 when he easily outpaced Georgia Marshall, could be in trouble if Marc Bean decides to campaign in Sandys South (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Sources believe Jamahl Simmons, seen here on Election Day 2017 when he easily outpaced Georgia Marshall, could be in trouble if Marc Bean decides to campaign in Sandys South (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

  • Early warning: Charles Jeffers says the OBA could come out of the election in worse shape

    Early warning: Charles Jeffers says the OBA could come out of the election in worse shape

The Progressive Labour Party’s traditional grip on the West End could be under threat at the General Election on October 1, according to a source within the PLP.

The freshly unveiled third party, the Free Democratic Movement, is led by former PLP leader Marc Bean, who has family roots at the West End.

The PLP source said the announcement last week generated “a lot of talk up at Somerset”, where voters are said to feel neglected on infrastructure issues such as rundown roads.

“Nothing is being done in Somerset. You can’t even get Bob’s Valley Road paved. People just want to see some direction and they are being taken for granted.”

The source claimed there was talk of a potential sweep from Sandys South, Constituency 33, to Sandys North at Constituency 36, but a second PLP source called that “a stretch”.

Much of the island’s west has stood as a PLP stronghold over repeated elections.

The second source said: “Marc Bean might make inroads — but when you look at the voter spread between the PLP and the [One Bermuda Alliance] over the years, you would have to be working there for months and years to build up those relationships. These are generational voters.”

The insider flagged up Sandys South, held by Jamahl Simmons of the PLP, as the one place an incursion by the new party might succeed.

They added: “That’s where Marc comes from. That would be the one to look out for.”

A party spokeswoman said there was “no use speculating where candidates will run”, and that candidates would be declared today.

She added: “We are proud of our team of 36 candidates who come from all walks of life — educators, accountants, lawyers, finance professionals, blue collar workers, healthcare workers, and so much more.

“Our team is led by David Burt, who is a competent and intelligent leader who we need to see us through these difficult times.”

Mr Bean, when asked if the new party posed a threat to the PLP, said yesterday: “One of the biggest cancers of politics is the cult of personality and popularity.

“It’s never something I sought to cultivate for myself as the leader of the PLP. We need more substance over style.”

Mr Bean added: “Style doesn’t feed people, educate them or provide opportunities for young people.”

He said that whether the FDM took votes from either the PLP or the OBA, “time will tell”.

“The idea is not to hurt either organisation. It’s to provide impetus for us as a country to grow.

“Right now the leaders on both sides are not providing leadership or direction for growth.”

He added: “We might win a few; we could get absolutely none, which would indicate people are satisfied with things as they are.

“Or there will be a statement from them to say they are not happy with the so-called status quo, and a desire for something different has arisen again.”

Mr Bean said he had been too busy to “gauge the full sentiment out there — not the way I usually do”.

He added: “Politics is divisive by nature. You have people who support and who are opposed.”

Mr Bean said he had sensed “a general apathy on both sides” until recently. He added that the Covid-19 pandemic’s hit to the economy, and on gatherings such as weddings, had left the community “not in a happy mood”.

“The people who are happy are those close to political power, with good financial positions,” he said. “That’s the haves.

“We are speaking on behalf of the sufferer, and the sufferer today in Bermuda is white as well as black.”

Charles Jeffers, a veteran political pundit who once led the National Liberal Party, said the OBA could emerge from the General Election in worse shape, thanks to the FDM capturing votes.

But Mr Jeffers said the island had little space for a third political force.

Mr Jeffers said: “Even if there’s no space for a third, that doesn’t mean that the parties remaining are going to be the same two.

“I have doubts it will happen this time around. But if this party takes away from them, the OBA may as well say goodbye.”

Mr Jeffers added: “Look how many of their MPs are not running. That’s unprecedented. They are left with a very small group.”

Rumours have been rife of another party in the making, Mr Jeffers said, until the calling of an election for October 1 “accelerated it”.

He added: “I wasn’t surprised at all. But this could certainly throw a spanner in the works.

Mr Jeffers said he was “surprised at some of the things I’ve been hearing, that some in the party are not happy with David Burt”.

“A number of so-called PLP supporters, no matter how unhappy they are with the party, they’re never going to vote OBA.

“They’ll grit their teeth and vote PLP or they won’t vote at all.”

He said Mr Bean enjoyed his share of supporters, and that if the FDM appealed to labour-oriented voters, it could threaten the PLP in areas that the party did not win by large margins — or where their candidates for October 1 were not strong.

But Mr Jeffers cast doubt on the OBA’s political future, adding: “They’re so weak right now — what are they going to do? It’s going to be interesting.

“I hate using the term ‘spoiler’, but I believe there could be one or two surprises.

“The votes that candidates could normally win could be cut in an area this new party fields somebody. It could really take from the OBA.”

The NLP, which lasted from 1985 until 2003, made modest electoral gains in 1985 with two MPs, Austin Thomas and Gilbert Darrell.

They each respectively lost their seats in the General Elections of 1989 and 1993.

Stuart Hayward, as an independent MP for Pembroke West Central between those same elections, was the last MP elected to the House of Assembly from outside the main political parties.

All eyes will lie on the FDM today as it reveals its candidates for on Nomination Day.

Mr Bean said yesterday: “We can’t expect to have a full slate. Our intent is to come with a presence. We look forward, after nomination day, to continue rolling out policies. The most important thing for us is to get people thinking.”

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Published Sep 10, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 10, 2020 at 12:47 pm)

PLP’s continued hold of West End under threat

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