Burt could face challenger in October
David Burt, the Premier, has faced pushback in some of his recent meetings with the Progressive Labour Party faithful, with a party source saying a leadership challenge was likely to come.
But despite a swirl of rumours around Mr Burt’s leadership, two party sources said no one so far had openly put themselves forward as an alternative contender to lead the ruling party.
One source maintained it was “fair to say there will be a challenge” by the PLP delegates’ conference in October.
But another defended Mr Burt’s overall standing within the PLP, saying the Premier overall had made few missteps.
A claim that Mr Burt hoped to change the party’s rules of who could be eligible to run for leadership – as outlined in the PLP constitution – was said to be an unpopular move.
But the party’s rules, as laid out in its constitution, cannot be altered ahead of the delegates’ gathering, when alternative contenders could come forward.
Mr Burt has recently arranged to hold a series of meetings with party membership in various parishes.
Some were described as contentious while others were poorly attended, with members at a meeting in the central parishes reportedly telling Mr Burt they felt it was time for new leadership.
The atmosphere at St George’s meeting was described as “extremely hostile”, with some attendees calling for Mr Burt’s resignation.
Unhappiness among attendees may have been worsened after public anger boiled over at the East End over marina work disrupting much-anticipated ferry service for St George’s.
Renée Ming, MP for St George’s North, and Kim Swan, MP for St George’s West, this month called for the work to be put off or fast-tracked.
But Mr Burt’s party meetings with St George’s members were said to have come before the ferry cuts came to a head with residents.
Support for Mr Burt is said to run strong among the new seats gained by the PLP in its 2020 landslide at the polls.
But the bulk of the parliamentary group that strongly backed Mr Burt for leader in 2016, after Marc Bean stepped down when the party was still in Opposition, was said to be “unlikely to do so right now”.
The party source said Cabinet members were sure bets for Mr Burt – but not all were said to control the party branches within their constituencies.
Mr Burt was said to be facing an uphill battle to win support from a dozen PLP branches – potentially even in the West End, where support for the PLP runs high, delivering the party a sweep in the 2020 General Election.
Constituencies without properly constituted branches, or where the MPs and branches are not in alignment, could prove a headache for Mr Burt in seeking the continued endorsement of his delegates.
The second party source said “robust debate” on leadership was welcome around party meetings, which can often turn heated.
The eleventh-hour emergence of a challenge can come as late as the conference itself.
Ms Ming, former finance minister Curtis Dickinson, and former tourism minister Zane DeSilva were confirmed as top names alluded to as potential challengers.
But the source added: “It’s all rumour.”