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The second coming

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Election 2020, aside from its questionable timing, has been most memorable as the season for retirements — forced or otherwise.

Gone are three old stagers from the Opposition, four if you wish to include the sprightly 61-year-old Sylvan Richards, and two from the ruling party — all the presumptive kicking and screaming kept behind the scenes.

Who would be next?

So while the hypothetical knives are being sharpened for a particular dairy producer in Smith's North, up pops a blast from the past to breathe phoenix-esque life into what most predict to be a foregone conclusion.

Never has “PLP, all the way! All the way, PLP!” held such prophetic clarity.

When Marc Bean famously spoke of “the politics of plunder” and of “clean hands and pure hearts” — the latter phrase resurrected during Paula Cox's abortive attempt to upset the applecart in Devonshire North West in 2017 — it was never made quite clear what or, pointedly, who he was speaking of.

The United Bermuda Party? A group that has been long since buried but whose carcass is exhumed on an all-too-regular basis for retrospective, political point-scoring.

The still young One Bermuda Alliance? Whose curse was to win the government straight out of the traps before it had paid its party dues and could develop the street smarts inevitably to become a Loyal (and effective) Opposition.

His very own Progressive Labour Party? Where the welcome mat upon his return as party leader from a serious illness was not particularly welcoming, with the bulk of his Shadow Cabinet receding farther into the shadows and leaving him little option but to get off the stage.

Ewart Brown? Who brought him into the legislature for the first time in 2008, but whom he accused in the run-up to the 2017 General Election of exercising “complete power and control over the PLP”.

Or David Burt, the Premier? The former lieutenant and one who had most to gain with Mr Bean out of the picture.

But he's back and it is quite possible we may gain or be now given a better understanding of those clean hands, those pure hearts and the political plunder as Mr Bean and his fledgeling Free Democratic Movement hit the campaign trail.

Or maybe not.

The sense is that Marc Bean Mk 2 is not quite the combative, in-your-face political pugilist of yesterday — the “leader” who felt no way about speaking unkindly in public to or about women, who stood his ground even when that ground was shaky, and who also held some political elders in contempt, with a nod towards a testy relationship with Randy Horton, the former Speaker of the House.

“If you're on the wrong side of me, you gotta go! Woman, cannabis prohibitionist, Somerset Cup Match legend. It doesn't matter.”

That fictitious quote might have suited in 2015, but in 2020 there is a softer and more pragmatic Marc Bean, who appears committed to play the long game, although you dare not call him soft.

FDM's hand has been forced by the snap election call, and it would take a brave soul to wager that it will have any significant impact at the polls come October 1.

Four weeks to pack in three years of work hitting the pavements and knocking on doors is not remotely enough time to make a difference.

So they're not in it to win it, at least not right now, but they do give us something rather entertaining to talk and write about.

And for as much as Mr Bean would like it not to be all about him, he has pretty little say in the matter because — refreshingly appealing though they may be — Kyle Bridgewater, Desmond Crockwell, Eugene Dean, Gavin Smith and Kae Thomas Palacio are not to be found in the “Who's Who of Politicians”, and have a few floors to travel merely to be elevated to the status of political lightweights.

More political pygmies, rather, in the mode of some of the new faces that have been trotted out by the main parties who at least have the benefit of an established machinery behind them.

But FDM has Marc Bean, and that is not insignificant.

September 10, nomination day, will be revealing. That is when FDM has to show its hand on the candidates front.

Who can Mr Bean coax out to support his cause? Former acolytes Marc Daniels and Makai Jevon Dickerson are among the first to come to mind as being among those who took to heart Mr Bean's ouster as party leader. And how much will have been raised on such short notice to fund this campaign?

A whiz through the new party's website shows it to be more than a pop-up that may be here today and gone tomorrow.

Some considerable thought has gone into this project and, with impish hindsight, it is conceivable that the “brilliance of Burt” was at play again in calling the election when he did.

Not before the economy tanked and strengthened the OBA's hand as a viable alternative, but because he caught wind of Marc Bean's rebirth and determined to draw his sting before the former head man built up a head of steam over the next four to 26 months when Mr Burt would have had no choice but to go to the polls.

Silly, maybe, but this is silly season.

It is the season when a longstanding MP walks away from a safe seat because he does not want to become a distraction to a party that holds an already ridiculous advantage, which some pundits believe may become more ridiculous after October 1.

This “distraction” comes as a result of an incident that happened more than two years ago, but which resurfaced or was leaked right around election time.

How convenient is that?

And before you know it, the finance minister, whom the Premier has not let us forget we are so lucky to have, is out canvassing in his “new” constituency, having turned his back on the comparatively marginal Warwick North East.

That is called covering all your bases, folks, for Mr Burt will be taking no chances that he could lose his right-hand man, notwithstanding that the “official” right-hand man is Walter Roban.

Inasmuch as having a senator in Cabinet had to be rectified by moving Michael Scott out of Sandys North and moving in Kathy Lynn Simmons, Mr Burt would have no appetite for Curtis Dickinson being relegated to voicing his finance briefs from the Upper House.

Meanwhile, and it gets better, the Premier is rid of the one truly maverick backbencher in his midst with the departure of Rolfe Commissiong. Which makes one think this “one-off inappropriate comment” that somehow required a non-disclosure agreement to be kept out of the public domain, and which the all-seeing, all-knowing David Burt knew nothing of until a fortnight or so ago, is far more serious than everyone is letting on.

If only we could mute and white out from the Hansard the inappropriate comments coming out of the House of Assembly for much of the past seven years.

We should only be so privileged. (Tongue in cheek intended.)

If you thought the silliness of silly season was restricted to the paranoid and safety-first leadership within the PLP, you thought wrong.

Already significantly handicapped as a political entity after July 2017, and further so in the wake of the retirements of three heavyweights in Jeanne Atherden, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin and Trevor Moniz, from across the aisle comes the birther controversy.

While it is difficult to get one's head around why Leah Scott felt the need to challenge Mr Burt's Bermudian authenticity, it completely boggles the mind why Ben Smith, hitherto unique in being respected throughout Parliament, allowed himself to be a part of such a video nasty.

The fallout has meant that they have turned marginal OBA advantages in their neighbouring Southampton constituencies into pick 'ems, with the PLP's Crystal Caesar poised to take advantage in her second go-round against Mr Smith and newcomer Jason Wade, as much of a son of the soil as can be found in any of the 36 branches, salivating over the prospect of cashing in on Ms Scott's Freudian slip.

With the silliness out of the way, interest is high in where Marc Bean plans to plant his constituency flag — the logic being it is the only place where FDM can be realistically given a shot to land a seat in the Lower House.

The electorate has been harsh on those from outside the establishment since Stuart Hayward was voted in as an independent in 1989, the most high-profile example being the 41 votes “amassed” by the Marc Bean-backed Paula Cox out of almost 1,000 cast in 2017 — a terrible way to treat a former Premier of Bermuda. (Again, tongue in cheek intended.)

It is a trend that Mr Bean is attempting and should be expected to buck while retaining underdog status.

His former constituency of Warwick South Central is held by the newly minted transport minister Neville Tyrrell, who may be still in an admitted state of shock over his Cabinet ascension past retirement age and who at 72 is three weeks shy of being more elderly than any of five recent departures from the parliamentary landscape.

But there should be cause for concern, too, in Warwick's four other constituencies, notably in Warwick North East, where the widow of the beloved late party leader L. Frederick Wade was rolled out last week.

Or Mr Bean could stay on his home patch and take a run at Scott Simmons in Constituency 32.

Whichever zone he marks, the second coming of Marc Bean has answered his calling — a portent of which could be found as recently as last November during his speech at the Berkeley Institute's prize-giving ceremony:

“You have two voices within: the voice that tells you to do what you like, and the voice that tells you to do what is right.”

Unfinished business: Marc Bean has breathed life into election season with the launch of Freedom Democratic Movement as a third option for the electorate. But is the former PLP leader kidding himself? (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Man with a plan: Marc Bean's return to frontline politics would find favour with former PLP senator Marc Daniels, left, who quit the party sensationally in 2016 after Bean was ousted as leader, citing “subterfuge and deceit” (File photograph)

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Published September 08, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated September 08, 2020 at 1:57 pm)

The second coming

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