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Crockwell: I will vote against Government

Shawn Crockwell will vote against the Government when the motion of no confidence takes place in Parliament next week, the independent MP stated yesterday.

Mr Crockwell told The Royal Gazette the motion would be posed as a question on whether MPs had confidence in the Government and he would give an “honest” answer, consistent with his position since resigning from the Cabinet and the One Bermuda Alliance last year.

“I’m not looking at the result,” he said. “I’m not here saying I’m advocating and hoping that this vote is successful. I’m saying that I will answer the question when it is put to me in an honest way and I will be consistent in my position over the past year, how I have viewed the way the Government has been managed.”

Mr Crockwell cited a loss of confidence in the OBA under Michael Dunkley when he quit Cabinet in March 2016. In July that year, he left the party, again criticising its leadership.

Yesterday, he said: “Those sentiments have not changed. I can’t see how I can now take a different position. In summary, I will be consistent.”

Asked if that meant he’d vote against the Government, Mr Crockwell replied: “Basically, yes.”

His decision means that Opposition leader David Burt can now be assured of 17 votes in favour of the motion of no confidence, assuming all Progressive Labour Party MPs attend the House session on Friday, June 9.

The Government has 17 MPs in the House, meaning the vote of independent MP Mark Pettingill will be critical to the motion’s success or failure. If he votes with the Opposition, the motion of no confidence will succeed.

If he votes with the Government, it will fail. If Mr Pettingill abstains, it will be a tie - and Speaker Randy Horton, a PLP MP, will be called upon to cast the deciding vote.

According to Bermuda’s Constitution, if the motion is successful, the Governor can revoke the Premier’s appointment or dissolve Parliament on the advice of the Premier, prompting a General Election.

Mr Dunkley also has the option to announce a General Election before the motion of no confidence takes place i.e. within the next nine days.

Mr Pettingill, who runs Chancery Legal law firm with Mr Crockwell, would not comment yesterday on how he planned to vote. He told this newspaper: “That is a matter for the debate. I am not prepared to comment on a vote that hasn’t been taken yet.”

But he too was critical of the country’s leadership when he resigned from the OBA in March this year, describing himself as “diametrically and philosophically opposed” to the Government on various issues. The issues he cited when he quit included same-sex marriage, casino gaming and cannabis reform, with the former understood to be a particular bone of contention.

Mr Pettingill vowed last summer that he would not rest until there was marriage equality in Bermuda and he has spoken of his disappointment with the OBA’s failure to lead on the issue.

He represented the same-sex couple who won the landmark legal victory last month on gay marriage against the Government.

Mr Burt tabled the motion of no confidence on May 19, after the PLP successfully passed two bills in the House.

It calls on MPs to resolve “that this honourable House has no confidence in the Government”.

Mr Crockwell said yesterday the island was already in “election season” and the motion would not “really upset things much at all”.

He asked: “Should a minority government remain the government? I think a government that can’t ensure it passes its legislation has a substantial challenge and, therefore, that fact alone should precipitate an election.

“The reality is that when Mark Pettingill resigned from the party, from a numerical perspective, Michael Dunkley did not control the majority support in Parliament.”

He claimed that made the Government an “illegitimate” one, which was “unable to execute its legislative agenda with confidence”.

The politician added: “I would have thought that the OBA Government would want an election itself. How can you continue to govern when you don’t have the numbers to pass your legislation?”

Mr Dunkley said yesterday he viewed the situation very differently. He noted that on May 19 the Government passed two of its own bills, showing it was still able to legislate effectively.

The Premier said he was “very confident” in the progress his Government had made and claimed Mr Burt’s motion “lacked substance”.

“We’ll deal with the motion in an appropriate way,” he said, adding: “I understand the concern raised by members of the Opposition. I don’t expect them to support government in any way.

“We know there’s an election going to take place sometime this year. I think the Opposition is trying to play every card they can to put themselves in a better position and some of them are, in my humble opinion, disadvantaging the people we serve.”

Shawn Crockwell (Photograph by Akil Simmons)