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Analysis: Are David Burt’s six years at top of PLP coming to an end?

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David Burt, the Premier (File photograph)

Praised for his handling of the initial stage of the Covid-19 crisis, the Premier seemed almost unassailable when he led the Progressive Labour Party to a landslide victory at the last election — but has Mr Slick now become Mr Lost the Grip?

With the old political maxim being that every crisis is an opportunity, David Burt — perhaps more opportunistically than most — seized the moment in October 2020, called a snap election and obliterated the One Bermuda Alliance at the polls.

But is it Mr Burt who is now in danger of losing as PLP delegates head to their conference this October?

Mr Burt, who lacks a firm base in the party’s grass roots, is especially vulnerable to a sense of dissatisfaction that appears evident in the party.

The year started badly for Mr Burt, who became party leader in 2016 and Premier less than a year later, and continued to unravel from there.

After he allowed most of the Cabinet to be out of the country around the same time, including himself, a sense of a rudderless government took hold after the ill-judged decision to reopen schools overwhelmed the Covid-19 test system.

The decision also led to New Year’s Day chaos at the airport and left classrooms closed with parents given little more than 12 hours’ notice of the change of course.

The shabby treatment of top scientist Carika Weldon, whose repeated warnings about the looming test crisis were ignored, only added to the sense of a loss of control.

Then Curtis Dickinson stormed out of the Cabinet just over a week before the Budget after a behind-the-scenes bust-up with the Premier over plans for a $50 million guarantee for the developers of the Fairmont Southampton hotel.

But Mr Dickinson, a political gentleman, kept his powder dry until the Budget was through the House of Assembly.

Then he skilfully slipped in the knife as he insisted he quit as a man of principle — the implication being certain other people might not be — and that the Premier was wrong and had “confused” voters over the guarantee terms.

So, the strange situation over Renée Ming’s exit from the Cabinet was an unedifying episode as the ex-national security minister and the Premier, effectively, accused the each other of giving a misleading account of events.

Ms Ming insisted she quit, but Mr Burt is adamant that she was fired.

Whatever the truth, it’s an unusual way to run a government.

Two high-profile ministers walking out within weeks of each other does not look good.

Could that be why Mr Burt insisted one of them was fired?

Mr Burt made the legalisation of cannabis a flagship proposal, but 40 per cent of PLP MPs failed to back it in the House of Assembly last week.

Some in the PLP believe the way Ms Ming, who was among those who did not vote for the controversial reform, was humiliated radiates weakness and insecurity on the Premier’s part.

He would like it to look like strength.

Either way, delegates to the PLP conference may have the final say in the next few months.

Here are some of the runners and riders who could take over.

Curtis Dickinson, the former finance minister (File photograph)


The ex-finance minister was very unhappy with the way Mr Burt tried to spin his departure by denying it was over the Fairmont Southampton row.

Mr Dickinson, however, insisted it was.

He also poured cold water Mr Burt’s claim that he had agreed a $50 million guarantee for the hotel project in 2019 while finance minister.

Mr Dickinson maintained he did not, and implied that Mr Burt, now finance minister, either did not understand how such financial matters work, or that he did not care such information was incorrect.

But Mr Dickinson appears to lack a political killer instinct and, although he relished the financial brief, he gave the impression that running a government was not for him.

But the door could still be open to the top job as his reputation is intact, which could see him persuaded to ride to the rescue and put the country in the recovery position for the tough times ahead.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (File photograph)


The health minister is generally seen to have done well in the Covid-19 crisis as the Government grappled with an unprecedented medical and economic emergency.

Popular in the PLP for her no-nonsense style, Ms Wilson is also an effective communicator — usually.

She stumbled earlier this year after she was responsible for a very public slight to the highly-thought-of Carika Weldon, at the time the director of the Medical Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, and insisted the scientist’s departure would have no impact on the battle against the coronavirus.

Few agreed with Ms Wilson’s analysis.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs (File photograph)


The Deputy Premier is a safe pair of hands if the PLP decided it needed a stopgap premier.

Never a threat to Mr Burt — perhaps why he is deputy in the first place — the home affairs minister does not rock the boat.

He is also never one to use a single word when 100 can be used instead.

Mr Roban would need to take a red pen to his public speeches to get his pitch across.

Jason Hayward (File photograph)


Seen to be an effective minister, he took over a lot of Mr Burt’s economic role when the Premier appointed himself finance minister in the wake of Mr Dickinson’s resignation.

But the economy and labour minister needs to show a better mastery of key facts when he faces the media.

Wayne Caines, a former national security minister (File photograph)


A long shot in any possible leadership race, the Devonshire North West backbench MP and former national security minister could still pull off a surprise.

A graduate of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Mr Caines is no stranger to controversy after being “invited to resign” by the Premier from his Cabinet post in July 2020 after his attendance at a restaurant party in Warwick drew a barrage of criticism for breaches of Covid-19 health restrictions.

Mr Caines also faced calls to quit two years earlier after he asked a young woman assistant at a London breakfast cereal restaurant, the Cereal Killer Café, if they had any “titty milk” while he was on an official visit to the city.

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Published April 01, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated April 01, 2022 at 10:18 am)

Analysis: Are David Burt’s six years at top of PLP coming to an end?

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