Log In

Reset Password

The Opposition’s fundamental problem

“On the night of the election of the PLP leader, MP Michael Weeks gave a good speech to become leader. He was not selected. Walton Brown was excellent. He was not selected. They both addressed the issues and had solutions, but they lost. Clearly the delegates do not know how to pick a leader. Marc Bean repeated two sentences and the audience jumped to their feet. Two sentences. Clever. Hit them between the eyes and built their expectations. Blinded them and he was voted in. Dale Butler was the only person to remain seated. Now we know why.”— Dale Butler, August 17, 2016

Only three months ago, former Progressive Labour Party MP Dale Butler decided to publicly share his opinion on the PLP's leadership battles. It was one of those rare moments when outsiders were given a glimpse of the internal dysfunction that we all felt, but never actually get to see because of the PLP's longstanding practice of stonewalling the public.

Now with the PLP leadership change, we are once again learning about what has been going on behind closed doors at Alaska Hall. What was initially billed as a retirement is now being seen as a bitter leadership coup. And, as should be expected, the losers with the least to lose — Marc Daniels, Coy Millet and Makai Dickerson — have been quick to voice their disgust for the new leader and his so-called rebel supporters.

Although only insiders know precisely how Bean fell, it seems highly likely that David Burt's resignation as Shadow Minister of Finance doomed him. The PLP had no alternative shadow minister for a ministry that will likely have the greatest impact on the next election. Additionally, the PLP desperately needs Burt's debating “talents” in the House of the Assembly. What choice did Bean have without Burt? No choice at all, if you ask me.

So exactly what kind of leader was Bean, and why did his term last only four years? Well, that depends on who you ask, but the two primary theories being offered are not without some significant contradictions.

Theory one is that Bean is a born-again, good-governance reformer who was too honest for his own good. His downfall was brought about by a band of rebels who engage in “politics of plunder”.

If you subscribe to this theory, then by default you believe that those who undermined him are the ones who cannot be trusted with the public purse. Especially if those persons remain on the PLP bench, you have to ask why the PLP has rejected reform and embraced those supposedly unethical persons whom Bean was supposedly fighting against.

Theory two is that Bean is the source of all the PLP's troubles, and now that he is gone, the party can unite and be a viable alternative to the One Bermuda Alliance.

If you subscribe to this theory, then by default you believe that those who undermined Bean were victims of his four-year track record of demagoguery. And now that Bean's reign is over, you believe that the PLP can move ahead without alienating moderate voters. Still, how can one excuse the rebels' failure to act over all these years?

In the case of both theories, there simply is no way of avoiding the PLP's fundamental problem. Whether Bean was a saviour or a tyrant, the party's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The party almost always comes first and, as such, rarely if ever can you find a PLP MP or supporter who is truly willing to put the voters first by holding one of their own accountable.

Back in 2014, Ewart Brown, the former premier, chastised voters for not sticking with the PLP despite all manner of controversies. He condemned them for voting for the OBA, or not voting at all, because they allowed themselves to be “bamboozled”. After this, he called for “functional unity”, which essentially means stick together at all costs to win the next election.

The obvious problem with this ideology can be seen throughout the active Commission of Inquiry, where we have witnessed the most absurd, twisting justifications for indefensible conduct. It can also be seen throughout Bean's tenure when you consider how so many MPs and supporters failed to speak out — or actually attacked those who dared to question the conduct of PLP MPs.

In my very strong view, Bean is not really out because of any ethical concerns about good governance or demagoguery. He is actually out because the PLP failed to make the OBA collapse, and with a strengthening economy, he became a political liability.

Consequently, while the changing of the guard may help the PLP's re-election chances, it really means nothing because the coup fails to address the PLP's party-first political culture.

To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail bryanttrew@mac.com

Demonstrably unimpressed: Dale Butler has made no secret of his distaste for how Marc Bean rose to power in the PLP (File photograph)

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published November 14, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated November 14, 2016 at 9:14 am)

The Opposition’s fundamental problem

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon