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Prospect of PLP breakaway group entertained

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A breakaway group could form in the Progressive Labour Party if its back bench continued to grow with another landslide General Election victory, a political adviser has claimed.

Phil Perinchief said that the possibility of opposition within the ranks combined with a “burgeoning disgruntled support base” could result in a new political grouping prepared to challenge the Government in five years.

He added that the General Election could be the final blow for the One Bermuda Alliance.

But Craig Cannonier, the OBA leader, insisted that his party was “alive and well” with “outstanding” candidates ready to fight for House of Assembly seats.

David Burt, the Premier, announced last week that the island will go to the polls on October 1.

Mr Perinchief said that long-term consequences for the PLP were more complex than the minimal short-term risks associated with an election almost two years before the end of the parliamentary term.

He added: “The Premier and PLP stand to strengthen its mandate, increase its House seats, shake out the political deadwood within its ranks and solidify those in the higher party and government echelons by ensconcing them in safe constituencies and ministerial portfolios come next General Election and its immediate aftermath.

“This will cement the Premier's hegemony and control over his party and government for years to come.”

But Mr Perinchief cautioned: “The risk or downside for the Premier, and the PLP as a party, is that with such a large back bench it will potentially have its very own ‘internal opposition' vying for validation, recognition, and legitimacy as potential leaders themselves.

“In the longer run, this internal opposition, coupled with ‘a burgeoning disgruntled support base', could form a new party and successfully challenge at the next General Election.

“If that party is staffed and led by a more progressive wing or group than the current group of conservatives and moderates then they could form the next government in a General Election, say in 2025.”

Mr Perinchief added: “The issue then would be more about class rather than race in a socioeconomic ‘clash' between the haves and the have-nots, as the Black Beret Cadre predicted as far back as the 1970s.

“Many PLP supporters see this current administration as paying only lip service to fundamental socioeconomic change as they constantly pander to, and cower from, ‘big business'.”

But a PLP spokeswoman hit back yesterday: “The PLP is led by strong, capable leaders who are committed to rebuilding our economy so that it works for all Bermudians.

“Some may wish to divide us and incite division, but the fact is we are attracting strong candidates who are focused on service to the community and the people of Bermuda.

“The PLP has a heart for the people and our track record of navigating tough times speaks for itself.

“The PLP is a party that is focused on rebuilding our economy in a way that does not just give concessions to those who have always succeeded, but creates ownership opportunities for all Bermudians.”

Mr Perinchief claimed that the 2020 General Election will “deliver the ‘coup de grace'” to the One Bermuda Alliance.

He said that since its “disastrous” results in the 2017 vote — when the party won 12 seats in the House of Assembly compared to the PLP's 24 — the OBA had “in a vegetative state ... lumbered, laboured and lurched forward”.

Mr Perinchief added that the potential loss of seats “coupled with the concomitant and further erosion of the OBA's fast-disappearing support base generally and youthful recruitment pool in particular” would mean its end.

But Cordell Riley, a political commentator, said that the General Election offered a chance to introduce fresh talent. He said: “The OBA could use the opportunity to inject some new faces into their line-up, similar to a cricket team building a formidable force for the future.

“Of course, this is something that both parties could be doing.”

Mr Riley added: “In 2007, I predicted that if the United Bermuda Party lost the election that they would disband and reinvent themselves. That's exactly what happened.

“Should the OBA lose this coming election, I should think that they, too, would have a rethink.”

Craig Cannonier, the OBA leader, said: “The One Bermuda Alliance is alive and well. Our support base is solid.

“The core of those who helped bring in $1 billion of investment into Bermuda in four short years is still here and we have some outstanding candidates to roll out, all of whom will make excellent MPs.

“We will continue to fight to restore hope and faith in the future for Bermudians.”

He added: “I like Mr Riley's analogy and rest assured, we will be rolling out some good fast bowlers, a wrist spinner and excellent batsmen who I expect to be around for some time.”

Mr Cannonier said that Mr Perinchief was “entitled to his opinion, but he was only in politics for just a hot minute” and was “a staunch PLP supporter, so I would expect him to say this”.

Mr Cannonier added: “Did he think the same thing when the PLP was reduced to seven seats?

“It is a shame he is not analysing the current Government's appalling record over the last three years.

“We have had broken promise after broken promise, we have had more and higher taxes, and we have had two finance ministers, three ministers for gaming, three ministers for immigration and three tourism ministers. That is a sign of failure and panic.”

He said: “In the last 12 months, our debt has increased by $1 billion — almost $15,500 for every man, woman and child in Bermuda — with no plan to bring economic hope.

“Bermudians are having to queue for food and rely on charity handouts to survive.

“Perhaps Mr Perinchief can analyse why there is no plan to help create new jobs or is he blind to the PLP's many failings?”

Political pundit: Phil Perinchief believes the election will finish the OBA as a frontline party (File photograph)
Alive and well: OBA leader Craig Cannonier (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 26, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated August 26, 2020 at 8:03 am)

Prospect of PLP breakaway group entertained

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