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Bean resigns from PLP and politics

Marc Bean (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Marc Bean, the Leader of the Opposition and MP for Warwick South Central, has declared his retirement from politics — bringing to a close an increasingly troubled tenure.

“I’m at peace,” Mr Bean told The Royal Gazette, shortly after the Progressive Labour Party announced that his letter of retirement had been submitted to Ginny Ferson, the Acting Governor. “My hands are clean, my heart is pure and my conscience is clear.”

The 42-year-old, who took a lengthy medical leave after battling health problems in March, declined to specify his reasons.

It ends almost a full year of tumult, with his leadership repeatedly questioned, and will likely have ramifications for the ruling One Bermuda Alliance, widely perceived as benefiting from the Opposition’s disarray.

The move also spells a by-election for Constituency 26, which Mr Bean retained capably against Ras Mykkal, the OBA contender in the 2012 General Election.

Mr Bean’s youth, with a reputation as an uncompromising straight speaker, won him favour in the wake of the party’s General Election defeat of 2012 — and his popularity endures, with many supporters viewing him as cleaning house within the PLP.

However, his outspoken stances, which could turn aggressive behind closed doors, also cost him crucial support.

Many within the Opposition were angered by Mr Bean’s remarks in August when he condemned a “politics of plunder” prevalent in both parties.

Erratic behaviour in the House of Assembly and in public also proved damaging, such as the impulsive threat in March 2015 to “take out” government MPs that got him a week’s suspension from Parliament — or insults directed at former OBA senator Toni Daniels outside the Sandys South polling station in November 2014 that offended many supporters.

Mr Bean had already crossed a line in the party after telling MPs that he had cured his daughter’s asthma with “ganja tea”, during June 2014 remarks in the House

In December last year, internal dissent culminated in the departure of seven MPs from his Shadow Cabinet — and David Burt, who stood as Acting Leader of the Opposition during Mr Bean’s medical leave, stepped down last month as Shadow Minister of Finance,

Political commentator Phil Perinchief said the PLP would have to find a “face of neutrality” to carry it through the next election — even if that person did not remain leader.

Mr Perinchief ranked backbencher Dennis Lister as the best option.

“Because they are so polarised right now — those who sided with Marc and those against him — and the divide is so deep, for the PLP to move forward they are going to have to find a way to blend elements from both sides.

“Unless they involved an entirely untainted group among them so they can have a better public face, that would include some of the more competent members on either side of the divide, as well as a new group of people who are brought in without any axe to grind and a proper blend of seasoned and youthful people, then the PLP may actually not make it through to the next election, because the knives are likely to be out on both sides.”

Mr Perinchief warned that the PLP could falter without a buffer of people with no “skin in the game either side”, who would put the interests of party and country at the fore.

“That would be a caretaker group, and they may want to find somebody as neutral as they can to lead them through that transition. I think the best from what is left would be Dennis Lister.”

Otherwise, Mr Perinchief said the Opposition might have to “draft in” a personality with no stake in party factions, but carrying enough stature and trust to lead.

“That will get them through the next election,” he said. “But I think the process of reformation will have to continue. Otherwise, after the election, they will fall into the same abyss.”

Mr Bean was first brought into the legislature by Ewart Brown, who as Premier appointed him senator in the summer of 2008.

He came to Parliament in 2010 when he won the by-election to replace Dr Brown as the Warwick South Central MP. Less than a year later, Paula Cox, the Premier, appointed him Minister of the Environment.

Mr Bean’s career as leader began with a comfortable landslide against rival Terry Lister, at a party conference in the aftermath of the PLP’s 2012 defeat.

With another General Election on the horizon, the Opposition’s next conference to select a leader can only be seen as critical for the party’s future.

UPDATED: More reaction to Mr Bean’s retirement