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PLP MPs assess their leader

With less than a week before a new PLP leader and Premier is elected, The Royal Gazette spoke to some PLP MPs about their thoughts on Premier Ewart Brown.

Walter Lister called the Premier outspoken, but co-operative. "I always found him very co-operative. He had a mind of his own but that's not a criticism. He was always very co-operative with me.

"I think Dr. Brown made a very valuable contribution to Bermuda. He moved the Island forward in many different ways.

"He was very outspoken in many areas that other leaders had not spoken about. He spoke about race, which is something a lot of people didn't. Some people took it in a negative way, but I think he put a positive spin on it."

He said that while Dr. Brown didn't make as much progress in solving racial issues on the Island, he "brought Bermuda awake" on the problem.

"He could have achieved more in the area of racism and bringing black people forward, but it was not a conversation a lot of people wanted to have."

Mr. Lister also credited Brown with working long and hard to keep the Island's tourism industry alive despite a global recession.

"As far as tourism, I think he worked very hard to drive tourism in a difficult market. He maintained the figures as well as he could, and he has done a great job."

Minister without Portfolio

Zane DeSilva said he felt Dr. Brown was under-appreciated, but over time people will begin to realise how much of an impact he has had.

"I think he'll go down as one of the Island's greatest leaders," Mr. DeSilva said. "I don't think his work has been appreciated yet. We appreciate him now, but not everyone does. I think over time Bermuda as a whole will come to appreciate a lot of the things he has done for the Island.

"I don't want to compare him with other Premiers, but I think he was more aggressive. He was aggressive in the completion of his vision.

"Dame Jennifer and Alex Scott had very different qualities. Dr. Brown is just a different kind of guy who just really set his agenda from the outset."

While he said the Premier himself would admit that he had not advanced education as far as he would have liked, there were many other areas that the Premier has made major improvements.

"Bringing more airlines to the Island was something significant for the people of Bermuda. It was through him that West Jet came to the Island, Jet Blue came to the Island, we started getting direct flights to Miami. The Mirrors programme was another achievement, as was the Big Conversation."

PLP Backbencher

Ashfield DeVent described many of Dr. Brown's decisions as controversial, saying the merits or downfalls of his tenure will only be determined in time. "I think the Premier's record will speak for itself. He did it his way.

"The Uighurs will be remembered by some as a great humanitarian gesture, but others will remember only that he made the decision without consulting anyone else, including members of his own party.

"He spoke a lot about empowering the black businessmen, but there are some to say that nothing has changed, and others say it's gone the other way, with fewer blacks being awarded contracts.

"The polls speak for themselves. They show that he managed to isolate himself, and the PLP, from young voters. History will really decide how well he did."

Leadership contender

Terry Lister said: "Dr. Brown has certainly worked hard. He was committed to getting the things he believed in done.

"I know Dr. Brown fairly well. He has a forceful style of leadership. He set his goals very clearly. He was not ambiguous and has been very driven to accomplish them.

"From a personal level, Dr. Brown was very committed to doing the Mirrors programme. He spoke about it several years prior to becoming Premier, and as Premier he was successful in establishing it with the Department of Social Rehabilitation."

Former Premier

Alex Scott said he was reluctant to talk about Dr. Brown's term of office. He called the past four years "ones of transition from my Premiership and Dame Jennifer's ... it's been eventful."

However: "I don't think he's ever gone on the record about Alex Scott as Premier. I think it would be best to do the same for him."

Noting that the PLP faces a change in leadership, he said: "Delegates have had a chance to see Dr. Brown put his ideas, thoughts and energies into policies. It will be interesting to see who they select after Dr. Brown, and what that individual chooses to do — if they choose to ratify his policies or revert to the more traditional PLP labour-oriented issues and style.

"As I say, it has been an eventful and an instructive four years."

Another leadership contender

Dale Butler was enthusiastic for the Premier's work ethic, adding: "He certainly ruffled the feathers of a lot of people."

He said Dr. Brown was "a motivator, a tactician, somebody who asked for and trusted your judgment, someone you could go to for an answer and get one.

"He was not a dictator and he generally gave total accessibility. It was all about work, and it used to frustrate him when Cabinet Ministers couldn't get simple things done."

Mr. Butler said he and the Premier had fallen out on the Uighur issue. "I thought we should have been kept in the loop. I wondered if he was wondering if he could send a good omen to the United States and Obama. He took risks and suffered the consequences on the vote of no confidence, but at the end of the day he was a survivor. He made that one mistake which led me to resign."

Describing Dr. Brown's successes as too numerous to list, Mr. Butler singled out reduced air fares to Bermuda, the child care allowance and the Mirrors programme.

He said the Premier's chief failing had been "a constant preoccupation with race". "It indicated he was locked in the Sixties Black Power domain and couldn't leave it alone. Everything boiled down to black and white. He came in with a strong Black agenda but I would say it blinded his judgment. He'll look back and realise it got in the way."

Michael Weeks said that as a new MP he had only briefly known the Premier, who had guided and assisted him. "He has an open door policy to us as MPs and, as far as I know, to the public as well."

Finding the Premier "energetic about getting results", he said he liked Dr. Brown's style of leadership.

"With people who are willing to stand up and make decisions, that's when you're going to stand on some toes." Mr. Weeks also said the Premier had "ruffled feathers", but in a positive way.

"I came in when a lot of the shootings had started in my constituency and when I looked to him for advice I found him very helpful.

"It was about social issues and occasionally protocol. He's always been willing to advise and to guide."

Health Minister

Walter Roban said that during Dr. Brown's tenure, "nothing has been linear". He said: "It's been very dramatic, filled with trepidation and sometimes there were disappointments."

Mr. Roban said the Premier had been successful as a leader, as well as internally with the Party. "When he has an idea he's convinced will work he's very persuasive — never a 'my way or the highway' type of person."

He commended Dr. Brown's interest in challenging the healthcare system in Bermuda. "One success was ensuring every Bermudian was dealt with from a point of dignity, which is why the Indigent Clinic was removed.

"There was his initiative around FutureCare for seniors, and ensuring with the late Health Minister Nelson Bascome that the hospital project became a reality."

Mr. Roban praised the Premier's efforts to revamp the Island's air service and profile with visitors.

"Overall he pushed to make Government better at what it does. With mixed results, I think he would admit. There was his passion to get public access to information legislation passed and have greater accountability with the internal audit process."

He called Dr. Brown the most charismatic politican Bermuda has had.

Wayne Furbert called the Premier determined and confident, but also "a nice guy." "He's a kind fellow if you get to know him. He cares about Bermuda and does it his way. It's clear that some people don't understand that.

"He doesn't take 'no' easily. Being a doctor, he knows when a problem has to be fixed. He's a go-getter."

Mr. Furbert said Dr. Brown's most successful initiative had been the FutureCare health programme for seniors. "It came controversially, but seniors are paying less than before."

He also said the Premier had "a starting discussion on tourism and trying to get it improved. Seeds have been planted which will have to wait for a better climate for investors".

Lovitta Foggo and

Stanley Lowe both said they could not offer a comment for this story citing their roles as the Government Whip and the Speaker of the House respectively.

Works and Engineering Minister

Derrick Burgess and Education Minister

El James both declined the opportunity to comment. Efforts to receive comment from other MPs were also unsuccessful.

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Published October 22, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 10, 2010 at 10:06 am)

PLP MPs assess their leader

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