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The power of 51: kingmaking system a relic of the past

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The delegates conference is looming and there is lots of talk going about. The Progressive Labour Party delegates will meet on October 13 and will choose their leader the next day. That person, if it is someone other than David Burt, invariably will be invited by the Governor to become the Premier of Bermuda for the rest of this electoral cycle.

David Burt, the Premier (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Ten years ago, an epochal moment presented itself to the One Bermuda Alliance. The fledgeling party’s future was shrouded in “to be or not to be” with internal divisions about to cast them into oblivion.

Curtis Dickinson, government backbencher (Photograph supplied)

I was in the vicinity of the Fairmont Southampton lobby, not actively a party to the political comings and goings. But there was a buzz and enthusiasm, with more than a thousand OBA supporters and members clamouring to back Bob Richards or Craig Cannonier to be leader.

The country was faltering and the outlook dire; there was a real determination to bring about change. Cannonier, in a fairly contested run-off, became the new leader and went on to gain victory at the polls at the next General Election.

That was then, this is now.

The mood in the air today is not so different from the final days of Paula Cox. The country is crying for direction and security in our leadership. We can’t stop the rumours that keep popping — they all cannot be true, but can there be a leadership that rises above the muck and mire? Integrity should be an essential hallmark for our leaders.

In our present-day gobbledegook about who will be, should be or could be leader, we know one thing for sure: it will not be “more than a thousand people” clamouring for change but rather thousands, as the PLP is significantly a bigger party. It will not be the members or the supporters, who are in the tens of thousands, making the final decision, it will be 100 delegates — and 51 of those wield the power to decide on the next leader of the country!

Now take that to Politics 101 and democracy of the modern-day PLP, after marching 60 years ago to open up the franchise to give the people the right to vote in their leader, a mere 51 persons out of an electorate of 40,000 will decide on the leader. They are still holding on to a relic from the Kremlin and communist era.

Can we do a check to see how long those delegates have been delegates. Rather cosy, isn't it? Persuading 51 is not a lot of convincing to do. How many have good government jobs? Do some sit on government boards? Or maybe need a little financial assistance? The point here is that it is not a democracy, but another sham operation which is easy to manipulate and which should have disappeared a couple decades ago. “The people” have no control over what has been rhetorically called “The People’s Party”.

From the talks on the street, there are two main contenders: one is the incumbent David Burt and the other mooted as Curtis Dickinson, who has yet to confirm whether he will stand on that night of the delegates conference. There are a couple other names floating around also, but none represents the “Thriller in Manila” as might the Burt versus Dickinson ticket.

Hard times and a sluggish economy are probably affecting everything, including information. There was a time when polls were an important and regular feature of our island politics. What is the island thinking? I would like to know which of the two the island would have as a leader?

I shall take this moment to rub sand in our eyes because we all know already we don’t have a say in who will lead, despite the public knowing more about the candidates than the decisive 51 of 100 delegates.

The only thing the public can do is vocalise their support and send smoke signals to the delegates; hopefully enough of them will listen and show some level of consciousness for the good of Bermuda. It would nice if the public knew who the delegates are and, like in the United States senate, they declare their hand for whom they chose.

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Published August 17, 2022 at 7:47 am (Updated August 17, 2022 at 2:00 pm)

The power of 51: kingmaking system a relic of the past

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