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If the slipper fits ...

In 52 years of party politics in Bermuda, there has been nothing approaching the likes of a national debate in advance of a General Election. And now that we are on the cusp of such an unprecedented spectacle, the goalposts are being shifted in an unedifying way effectively to suppress one third of the conversation.

All attempts by the Progressive Labour Party to give the Cinderella treatment to Marc Bean, its former leader, should be met with the requisite disdain — either he is allowed to cross swords with David Burt and Craig Cannonier or there is no debate at all.

It confounds belief why Mr Burt would be against an opportunity to show once and for all that he has emerged fully from the role of apprentice, as he was for a spell under “the master” that was Mr Bean, to being the ruler of his own domain.

He has acquitted himself masterfully in the presence of Mr Cannonier — pre-Covid and during — and would feel supremely confident of doing so again one-on-one with the cameras rolling.

But against Mr Bean, or even facing the prospect of an old-fashioned “double-banking”, we are not quite so certain.

And that is what should be most appealing to the Bermuda electorate.

Mr Bean's Free Democratic Movement, albeit arriving late to the ball, has been the talk of Election 2020.

A fresh face introduced at a time when the Loyal Opposition has been at its weakest point of representation in the House of Assembly since 1985 when the PLP were left with seven seats in the wake of a snap act of ruthlessness from Sir John Swan.

Nine days after inviting the media to organise a national debate of party leaders with a set of rules dictated to by the PLP, the ruling party took a step back to “clarify” what it meant.

In declaring that the FDM was incapable of forming the next government, it said:

“Marc Bean is just one candidate for election. He is not in a position to be part of a national leaders' debate. He is the head of an untested political party with no seats in the House of Assembly and no prospect of forming a government.

“He has as much right to be in a leadership debate as any candidate for the House of Assembly. If he wishes to engage in a debate on issues relevant to voters, he should be looking to debate those contesting the seat in which he is running.”

Can there be any greater insult than to tell your former leader that he has to play with the children in the backyard while the adults take care of grown-up business in the cigar room?

For what it's worth, basic mathematics suggests that the FDM can at best form a minority government or coalition government.

With 15 candidates at its behest, a hypothetical final count of FDM 14, PLP 13, OBA 9 would make it so.

Realistically impossible — imagine as many as 13 Famousesque moments required.

But for the purpose of this argument, there really should be no argument — Marc Bean must be free to debate Mr Burt and Mr Cannonier.

All of which may be a moot point if the media refuse to play ball to host this thing. There has been little movement to this point and the Government's favourite media apart from itself, Bernews, has already declared its reluctance to take it on.

Which leaves the big two. With only nine days before voters go to the polls, the odds are firmly against the debate happening.

But if we can pull it off, it is essential that Marc Bean is part of the equation.

With his gaze set squarely to the future and not the past, it is to be hoped he would keep Mr Burt and Mr Cannonier focused on the real and present dangers, rather than revisiting Jetgate, billionaire boat races, seniors being pepper-sprayed on one hand, seniors being used as human shields on the other, millionaire doctors receiving million-dollar payouts and the Arbitrade embarrassment.

It is a dynamic most of the country wants to watch unfold. The rest is old hat.

Grin and fear it: Marc Bean, left, and David Burt were so comfortable in each other's company as the top two in the Progressive Labour Party while in Opposition, but much has changed since Mr Bean's departure (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 22, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated September 22, 2020 at 8:14 am)

If the slipper fits ...

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