PLP ‘driven nail in coffin’ of election hope
The Progressive Labour Party has “driven a nail in the coffin” of its General Election hopes, according to elder statesman Reginald Burrows.
Mr Burrows, a PLP MP and senator from 1968 to 2005, warned that the split — which has seen seven MPs resign from Marc Bean's Shadow Cabinet — could set the party back years.
Recalling infamous divisions during the 1960s and 1980s that cost the PLP seats in the House of Assembly, Mr Burrows said history appeared to be repeating itself, telling The Royal Gazette: “All it does is strengthen the other party.”
Zane DeSilva, Walton Brown, Derrick Burgess, Kim Wilson, Wayne Furbert, Rolfe Commissiong and Glenn Blakeney all quit the Shadow Cabinet this month.
Mr DeSilva, who is said to be being encouraged by senior figures to push for leadership, has stated that his resignation was based on Mr Bean's leadership.
Mr Bean has also been threatened with legal action by the former Premier, Ewart Brown, previously his mentor, over alleged defamatory remarks he made at a series of meetings at Alaska Hall. Reflecting on the split yesterday, Mr Burrows told this newspaper: “It is too bad when these things happen as it usually sets a party back a few years.
“When you have a good chance of winning the government in the next election you can almost forget about that once you get those splits. That is from my experience.
“I would hope they could make peace and get back to where they were before. Once you have these kind of splits it is very difficult that you can be successful because an election is only about 18 months away and there is no way you can get the party ready for an election when it is split like that.
“We had splits back in the 60s, believe it or not. That was when the Bermuda Democratic Party was formed. All it does is strengthen the other party.”
Mr Burrows recalled the snap election called by Sir John Swan in 1985, after the PLP split to form the National Liberal Party.
At that election, the United Bermuda Party picked up 31 of the House's 40 seats, a setback from which the PLP took years to recover.
“This is history repeating itself right before their own eyes,” he said.
Asked whether he thought Michael Dunkley, the Premier, would be wise to call a snap election, Mr Burrows said: “He can win the Government without even having to call a snap election.
“There's no way we can get our forces ready when there is a split. It would be very difficult.
“They have driven a nail in the coffin for the next election. This will be the third or fourth time this has happened to the PLP. I hope it is not the end of the party. They are strong enough to remain as a party. A lot of supporters will be discouraged and won't come out and vote.
“We had that problem in the last election.”
Another former PLP MP said about five MPs may consider themselves serious contenders for the leadership — Mr DeSilva, Ms Wilson, Mr Burgess, Michael Weeks and David Burt, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
The source, who asked not to be named, said Mr Burt “has played the smart move” by staying loyal to Mr Bean, explaining: “That will appeal, in some ways, to the membership.”
The former MP said Mr Bean should hold his position until the delegates voted him out.
Referring to the dispute that caused the early departure of Dame Jennifer Smith as Premier, he said: “Some would argue that it didn't enhance the party and that it enhanced the desires and political ambitions of a few.
“The best thing for the party is for it to remember its history because they have a history of turning on its leadership and some will question whether that has been the best thing for the party in the long run.
“Historically, they will turn on a leader that they have put into power and supported and once that happens, they almost have to replace them with a compromise leader.
“That often doesn't last long and begins to erode any continuity in leadership.”