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PLP split over timing of election

Premier Paula Cox is said to be weighing up an early summer General Election as the Progressive Labour Party considers cashing in on disarray in the Opposition ranks.

But PLP members were yesterday split over the best time for Ms Cox to send the people to the polls, with some saying an even weaker Opposition would be bad for the Country.

The ruling party increased its lead to more than 50 percentage points at last week's Warwick South Central by-election, with non-PLP supporters dividing their votes between the United Bermuda Party and the Bermuda Democratic Alliance.

Some party members say an election within six months could allow the PLP to clean up in marginals as the BDA takes support away from the UBP.

They say Ms Cox could take advantage of her honeymoon period - while allowing for any dissatisfaction from February's inevitably tough Budget to simmer down - by calling an election when students return in May.

This would give Ms Cox a mandate from the people who voted the PLP into power under her predecessor Ewart Brown in December 2007; however, the Premier has previously argued the party itself carries the mandate to govern.

Ms Cox has declined to comment since ruling out a pre-Christmas election two months ago, but one PLP source said talks on the subject had been ongoing in recent weeks.

“If she called an election for June, it would allow her to push back some of the negative feelings still hanging over from the Brown era. She would be able to establish herself,” said that member. “That school of thought says she could capture as much political capital as she can before it tapers off.”

PLP supporter and political commentator Jonathan Starling argued an election might not happen until the end of the current term in late 2012.

Mr Starling said the PLP is in line for a landslide victory as the BDA and UBP are “cannibalising the Opposition vote” and pointed to former Premier Sir John Swan's snap election shortly after the PLP split to form the National Liberal Party allowing the UBP to pick up 31 of the House of Assembly's 40 seats.

But he said this scenario would likely unfold at any time over the next two years, rendering an early election unnecessary.

He said Ms Cox doesn't need an election to enforce party loyalty, is not seeking a personal mandate and would be wary of the costs incurred during the economic crisis.

“The only real pro I can see is an early election will have the potential to facilitate either the further destabilisation of the UBP or annihilate the BDA before it begins to become even a mild threat,” he said.

“And calling that a pro is questionable. I think Ms Cox herself would agree we need an effective Opposition and would gain little from further weakening it.

“Besides, the UBP and the BDA are quite capable of destroying themselves as is without assistance from the PLP.”

Former Senator Walton Brown said an early summer election would make sense but would depend on the response to the Budget, while party member and former UBP MP Jamahl Simmons said he would opt for late May, with the 24th holiday putting the Country in a good mood.

One PLP backbencher said he didn't think Ms Cox would call an election soon because she is “determined to show some accomplishments”.

“So much depends on tourism, housing, breaking ground for hotels, debt, the Budget, a real improvement in education, lessening gun crime. Once you see that list, then maybe,” said that MP.

“I don't see summer, although she favours when students are at home.”

Meanwhile one former UBP MP said last week's by-election results would probably not encourage Ms Cox to rush into an election because the PLP failed to increase its overall share of the vote against poor opponents.

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Published December 21, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 21, 2010 at 7:23 am)

PLP split over timing of election

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