September 9 2011
Over the last few months, many political pundits have suggested that the next leader of the One Bermuda Alliance should have legislative experience. This is also the line often used by long serving politicians who feel that lengthy service in the legislature means you should eventually get the top job. Is experience in the Bermuda legislature really what is required to be Leader of the Opposition or Premier? In my humble submission — no.
So what kind of experience is required? In my view you need, at the very least, charisma, brains, a reputation for honesty and forthrightness as well as real everyday life experiences in leadership roles. Some of the world's most renowned leaders barely had any legislative experience before being elected to highest office — but they brought experience in many other ways. Let me give you the names of some international political leaders that are simple demonstrations of why the suggestion that a Bermuda political leader must be a long serving member of the Bermuda legislature is, with respect, without foundation:
Nelson Mandela was not a legislator prior to being elected President of South Africa — rather his immense life experiences made him a leader.
President Barack Obama did not even complete one term as a US Senator before being elected to the most powerful position in the world.
The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, aka Finance Minister, is 40 years old and was appointed Shadow Chancellor after only four years in Parliament.
The current UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, had only been an MP for four years before being elected Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition.
President Sirleaf of Liberia held legislative office for only one year some twenty-five years prior to being elected President of Liberia.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held office for less than a year before being elected President of Russia.
Jesse Venture, ex-Governor of Minnesota, held no legislative offices before becoming Governor.
Michael Ignatieff, ex-leader of the Federal Liberal Party of Canada was an MP for less than two years before being elected as Leader of the Opposition.
Ex-Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, served only four years as a Council member before he was elected Mayor.
Finally, closer to home, Dr Grant Gibbons was appointed to the Senate in 1994, made a Cabinet Minister and by 1995 was appointed Minister of Finance.
Each of these politicians brought life experiences to the leadership roles they eventually played. Each of them surrounded themselves with others who had legislative experience — Barack Obama is a prime example when he chose Joe Biden as his legislative expert. Often these leaders I have listed were elected, despite their lack of legislative experience, because they brought a fresh approach and a new way of doing politics. In other words, many of them offered hope for change.
On 10th September 2011, the members of the One Bermuda Alliance will elect a leader that will eventually become Premier. One leadership candidate runs on a message of legislative experience and the other on a message of bringing a fresh leadership approach based on life experience. Experience comes in many different forms. It does not need to be legislative.
C. Anthony S. Francis