Talk of PLP coup rejected despite friction
There is “no truth” to rumours of an attempted coup within the Progressive Labour Party, according to an Opposition source — but there are senior members unwilling to serve with Marc Bean as leader.
While several within the PLP's upper ranks are viewed as capable for the task, there has been no concerted effort to dethrone Mr Bean, who has lead the Opposition since 2012.
However, some members felt betrayed after the Opposition's Reply to the Throne Speech, which contained some items that had been agreed to be left off. With the belief that there had been a consensus, the Reply on November 20 was the final straw.
That about-face, combined with public statements that many viewed as highly inappropriate, a tendency to be baited by the One Bermuda Alliance and a “contemptuous” handling of meetings, triggered the rift that culminated last week in seven members of Mr Bean's Shadow Cabinet quitting their posts.
However, there was said to be a general willingness within the PLP to smooth out internal issues through ongoing talks. Mr Bean, who is 41, was elected leader as the face of youth and change in the wake of the PLP's election defeat in 2012, and is still seen as approachable and straight talking.
But strong-arm and even “threatening” tactics against dissenters within his own ranks had alienated some MPs.
Of particular concern were the liability issues raised by comments Mr Bean was alleged to have made about women, and the fact that government MPs have been able to “push buttons” and lure the Opposition Leader into making remarks that had proved politically troublesome.
Meanwhile, the party's ideological focus has gradually tilted away from the centre and more to the right.
As of yesterday, the constituency of Devonshire North Central — held by MP Glenn Blakeney since 2003 — was up for by-election.
Mr Blakeney, who turned 61 yesterday, reportedly resigned for personal reasons, including spending more time with family, and working on his business. However, a source close to the PLP told The Royal Gazette that Mr Blakeney had handed in his shadow ministry of the environment and infrastructure in June of this year.
Instead of making a public statement or informing Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House, Mr Bean was said to have assumed that portfolio for himself — which was seen as sidestepping protocol.
Asked if the public rift had left the PLP vulnerable to a snap election being called by the OBA, the Opposition source said such a move could easily backfire.
OBA policies that are viewed as anti-Bermudian, along with widespread scepticism of the OBA's promise to turn around Bermuda's ailing economy, would leave the governing party in a difficult position with many voters.
“For the PLP, that would be the catalyst that would rally the party's supporters,” the source added.
With a significant number of Bermudians unhappy with their lot in the present economy, going to the polls sooner rather than in 2017 could help consolidate an Opposition in need of unification.
Now that Glenn Blakeney has announced his resignation as the Progressive Labour Party’s MP for Devonshire North Central, prospective representatives for Constituency 13 have 60 days to declare themselves as candidates.
According to the Parliamentary Registry, the clock started ticking once Mr Blakeney made his announcement public on Friday.
There were no words last night from the PLP on who might campaign for the Opposition — although several sources said that Diallo Rabain, the Opposition Leader in the Senate, had been making the rounds.
The area has long been viewed as leaning towards the PLP, although Mr Blakeney’s victory in 2012 was narrowly won: the incumbent beat One Bermuda Alliance challenger Anthony Francis by 19 votes.
Asked last night if he planned to throw his hat into the ring once again, Mr Francis said no decisions had been made, but “the party and I are in discussions”.
“I have not stopped canvassing since the election,” Mr Francis added. “I am still staying and living in Devonshire. I have been going around the neighbourhoods continuously.
“Whether or not I choose to run or the party wants me to run, we have not come to any firm conclusions yet, but we will be putting a quality candidate in Devonshire. It is the party’s candidate selection committee that votes on all the people willing to stand.”