Principled leadership gone Awol
What do you look for in political leadership?
The May 6 sitting of the House of Assembly saw a marked contrast of political styles from two MPs sitting on the government benches.
One MP was very much the slick politician of the modern age: smooth-talking, spinning, mischaracterising the positions of those who disagree, deploying deflection and, from time to time, a touch of deceit.
The other MP embraced the role of “anti-politician”: calm and to the point, focused on the facts and figures, setting out his case carefully and clearly. Quite compelling, really.
The first tells you what you want to hear; the second tells it like it is. Which do you prefer?
And as I see it, this contrast is about far more than political style. It reveals something about their leadership qualities too.
Today’s Progressive Labour Party does not tolerate dissent. As one PLP MP once famously admitted during a parliamentary debate on December 11, 2020: the PLP “go behind closed doors and sort our business out”; not a free and fair discussion of competing ideas.
For former finance minister Curtis Dickinson to take such a bold stand against David Burt, the Premier, took real courage. Truly.
Whether MP Dickinson proves to be right or wrong on the issue itself, his behaviour demonstrates principled leadership. Sadly, that is something that is far too rare in today’s politics.
Barrier to entry
Speaking of courage, is it not about time the PLP Cabinet finally scrapped the costly Travel Authorisation Form?
Recently, the One Bermuda Alliance’s shadow health minister, Michael Dunkley, reiterated (yet again) the Opposition’s call for the removal of the travel form. The response from the government spokeswoman revealed — if there were ever any doubt — that it’s all about the money, stating: “The [Travel Authorisation Form] fee is an important revenue source for the Government to help fund the island’s Covid-19 response, which has been extensive ...”
No doubt the costs have been extensive. Yet that misses the point.
The pressing issue is that the TA makes it more difficult for people to travel to Bermuda. At a time when Bermuda desperately needs more visitors spending their foreign capital, the TA is a barrier to entry. Stories abound of stranded air travellers, and cruise passengers who simply remain on board — spending dollars on their ship instead of on our island.
The OBA has learnt of travellers who have been prevented from boarding a flight despite filling out the form. This is not the fault of the people processing the TA; it is the requirement to have one before you fly that is the problem. The system is so confusing that even if you follow it correctly, you still might not get home.
Simply put, we should not be making it harder for travellers to enter the island. If, like the OBA, you believe the travel form needs to go — that we must lift the barrier to entry now — then please contact your MP.
This weekend will see the return of SailGP to our shores.
And the fleet of eight racing vessels has now expanded to ten, this time including foiling catamarans from Canadian and Swiss teams.
At a time when our economy, and our community, desperately needs some good news, it is fantastic that we have this opportunity once again to showcase Bermuda to the world.
Like that old radio spot used to say: “Let’s make our visitors feel welcome.”
• Scott Pearman is the Shadow Minister for Legal and Home Affairs, and the MP for Paget East (Constituency 22). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org