Dickinson: not a ‘David v Curtis contest — this is about ideas. This is about Bermuda’
Curtis Dickinson has insisted that he wants to work with David Burt in government if he topples him in the looming Progressive Labour Party leadership fight.
With the two former Cabinet colleagues going head-to-head in the contest’s first debate tonight, Mr Dickinson also said he “bristled” at claims that Black people were not qualified for certain jobs.
Portraying himself as a “non-political politician”, the former finance minister said he entered the October 20 PLP showdown for the party leadership because Bermuda “needs to do better”.
He told The Daily Hour yesterday: “I have made a very concerted effort not to make this a ‘David versus Curtis contest’.
“This is about ideas. This is about Bermuda. I look at where the country is today, and I take the view that we need to do better and we need to take the country forward.
“What’s important is that this contest not be turned into a battle of personalities.
“It needs to be about the articulation of how do you intend to take the country forward.
“The Premier and I have differences of opinion — those differences of opinion do not need to lead to division.
“Inasmuch as I am successful, and he would like to be part of the effort to continue the work to bring Bermuda forward, I’m willing to work with him. As I am sure he would be willing to work with me.
“But what we can’t afford to do is to marginalise people who want to help our country move forward because we have had a difference of opinion.
“My hope is that when this is all over we can come together and move forward for the benefit of the country.”
However, in what could be taken as a swipe at the Premier, Mr Dickinson said his dramatic exit from Cabinet days before the February Budget was a matter of “principle” because he and Mr Burt had sharply different views on taxpayer-funded sweeteners for the massive $376 million Fairmont Southampton revamp deal.
He said: “If a member of the Cabinet cannot agree and support government policy, that person should resign.
“I am a person of deep principles. My mother and my father raised me right. And they instilled in me values of honouring those principles.
“I had a deal with my wife when getting into politics that I would not compromise my personal principles in the pursuit of my political position, and so, when I had a disagreement on a policy matter, I chose to tender my resignation.
“The issues revolved around how the Government was approaching the Southampton Princess opportunity.”
Asked if small contractors would get a look in if the Fairmont Southampton deal goes ahead, or if it would be a “friends and family” situation, Mr Dickinson said: “Friends and family always takes on a negative connotation, especially when it is directed at the PLP and I bristle at that because there is a notion, unfortunately, that Black people are not qualified and that is a nonsense.
“I have a Columbia MBA, my brother has a Harvard MBA. Should I not work with my brother because he’s my brother? Even though he may have a skill set and a set of experiences that would be very valuable to me?
“Friends and family is a pejorative term that is thrown around willy-nilly and far too often a lot of people are on the back foot about it.”
On deciding to run for the top job, Mr Dickinson insisted that an excellent leader did not pretend to have all the answers.
He said: “I came to the view that there are still things that I wanted to contribute to in a more substantial, leadership capacity.
“I think one of the fallacies about what a leader is is that a leader knows all the answers.
“In fact, an excellent leader is someone who is able to bring people together with various skill sets and work together to find answers to complex problems.”
Mr Dickinson suggested it was wrong to portray him as aloof, stating: “I’m a public person who is private. I’m not a hermit.
“I don’t mind being referred to as the unpolitical politician.”
The former Wall Street banker said that if he lost the leadership contest he would remain an MP, but also work in the corporate world.
Mr Dickinson denied allegations on social media that Mr Burt had put a memorandum of understanding in front of PLP MPs after the 2020 elections so they would pledge not to challenge him.
The PLP has emphatically denied the existence of an MOU and Mr Dickinson said: “I have not signed any MOU.”