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Bean faces deep split in party

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Seven Progressive Labour Party members have quit the Shadow Cabinet, with Zane DeSilva declaring his move a result of Marc Bean's leadership.

The Leader of the Opposition's harsh style with some members, as well as his perceived misogynistic behaviour, are said to have been key reasons behind the split, with PLP sources saying his position as leader is looking increasingly precarious.

As well as Mr DeSilva, Glenn Blakeney, Walton Brown, Derrick Burgess, Rolfe Commissiong, Wayne Furbert and Kim Wilson were missing from a reshuffled Shadow Cabinet announced yesterday; the PLP described its reduction to nine MPs as a streamlining measure.

Southampton East MP Mr DeSilva has long been touted as a potential party leader, and some sources have said he is being encouraged by senior figures to try to oust Mr Bean.

He said in a statement: “For the sake of clarification, I wish to inform my constituents and the Bermudian public that last week, prior to the announcement of the Shadow Cabinet shuffle, I resigned as Shadow Minister for Tourism.

“After months of careful consideration, I came to the conclusion that I could no longer serve in a Shadow Cabinet led by Marc Bean.

“I have expressed my thoughts to the Opposition leader and he is fully aware of my concerns. I shall remain in service to Constituency 29 and the Progressive Labour Party.”

Mr Blakeney, who held the environment portfolio, is understood to have resigned from Shadow Cabinet some weeks ago.

One PLP source told The Royal Gazette Mr Bean's relationships with a number of his MPs have grown increasingly rocky, and it is understood the party's central committee has met several times to discuss factional rifts, including an emergency meeting on Tuesday night.

Ms Wilson is a close political ally of Mr Brown, who launched an unsuccessful leadership challenge at last year's delegates conference. Some have named her as another possible challenger, with her moderate approach contrasting sharply with the current leader's radical style which has upset party stalwarts.

Meanwhile the relationship between Mr Bean and Mr Commissiong is said to have been strained for some time over an internal party matter.

Another source said that some party stalwarts had been “appalled” at Mr Bean's behaviour, and had reached a point where they would not support the Opposition in an election with him at the helm. “I think that he has been riding high and has misjudged a few people and a few things — this has been a sobering experience for him, in that now he knows there is a deep, deep split,” said that source.

“When you get split almost half and there are so many against you, and if they are able to persuade their branches or delegates, he may be in a heck of a position. He may just be delaying the inevitable.”

According to the PLP constitution, leadership challenges take place at delegates' conferences, but Mr Bean is understood to have come under serious pressure at recent meetings involving MPs.

The source said: “It could be mistaken for just an internal struggle. It was actually an attempt to raise the bar, and give the PLP a new image through new leadership. I think now the thinking is to at least cobble together something in order to ride out this session of Parliament, and then to have a series of meetings and sort themselves out going forward.”

In the new Shadow Cabinet, deputy leader David Burt, another strongly tipped as a potential replacement for Mr Bean, retains the finance portfolio.

Jamahl Simmons is the only new shadow minister, taking over tourism and economic development — combining the two roles previously held by Mr DeSilva and Mr Furbert respectively.

Michael Weeks takes over the health brief from Ms Wilson, while retaining community affairs, and Walter Roban's role changes from public safety to the broader home affairs.

Michael Scott remains Shadow Attorney-General; Lovitta Foggo keeps the education brief, adding training to her portfolio; Dennis Lister retains public works and takes over environment from Mr Blakeney, and Lawrence Scott keeps transport.

The PLP said in a statement: “This shift in parliamentary responsibilities is intended to increase efficiency, reinforce that we are a government in waiting and that we are prepared and capable of handling the people's business in the most responsible and respectable manner.”

Controversies involving Mr Bean include his reference to former One Bermuda Alliance senator Toni Daniels as a “political whore” at a polling station last year, which was dismissed as a “spirited political exchange” in Magistrates' Court; as well as alleged remarks at government MPs, including a threat to “take you out” that resulted in a successful motion of censure against him in May.

At a PLP founder's luncheon shortly after becoming leader in 2012, he described the OBA as “demonic”, while he was in the headlines in May 2014 with an off-the-cuff remark in the House of Assembly that he once treated his three-year-old daughter's asthma with ganja tea.

Cabinet reshuffle: the changes to the Progressive Labour Party Shadow Cabinet (Graphic by Subha Chelvam)
Strained relationships: Marc Bean, the Leader of the Opposition, is said to have upset Progressive Labour Party stalwarts with his radical style (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 03, 2015 at 12:14 pm (Updated December 04, 2015 at 8:35 am)

Bean faces deep split in party

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