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Election winner David Burt faces internal challenge

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David Burt, Premier of Bermuda in 2020. At rear are portraits three of his Progressive Labour Party predecessors, Dame Jennifer Smith, Alex Scott and Ewart Brown. All three were to some degree forced from power by their party members - now Mr Burt is facing his own challenger. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Just two years after powering the Progressive Labour Party to an historic general election triumph, David Burt now faces a battle to keep his post as he faces a credible challenger for the twin crowns of leader and premier.

After initially winning widespread praise for the way his government dealt with the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Burt, a technically shrewd politician, saw the opportunity in crisis, called an early poll and crushed the One Bermuda Alliance in the process.

But from that political peak it has been mainly rough and tumble downwards via very public Cabinet clashes to a growing sense of drift and disappointment among some of the PLP grass roots.

The year started badly for the Premier and appeared to unravel further from there.

The blowback from the most explosive political moment of the past 12 months - the shock resignation of Curtis Dickinson as finance minister just days before February’s Budget - has now put the premier in clear and present danger.

Mr Burt has capitalised on his reputation as a national election winner to ensue loyalty but it will now be left to some 150 delegates at the party’s October conference to decide who will be the final winner of the pre-Budget bust-up and will now steer the party forward.

Renee Ming former minister of national security, who left Cabinet in disputed circumstances (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

In the wake of the Dickinson walk out, Mr Burt seemed to loose his typical slickness again with a unseemly public spat with departing national security minister Renée Ming.

Mr Burt said she was pushed overboard, Ms Ming insisted she jumped ship.

Either way, it looked like government was in rocky waters.

And then the crashing wave of the cost of living crisis surged across the island, and Mr Burt has been accused of talking big but delivering little.

Gas prices were frozen in March, though, suppliers insist this cannot be sustained for long, and the much vaunted $15 million relief package announced in July has yet to materialise.

Even the one off $150 ‘back to school’ payment was only coming through after pupils had already returned to the classroom.

There was also the long predicted failure to get the PLP’s flagship cannabis legislation approved by London, and the still to be seen deal with the Fairmont Southampton developers - the very issue that ignited Mr Dickinson’s fuse and blew him out of Government.

British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli famously described politics as “the greasy pole”, and Mr Burt’s rise was rapid - elected an MP in 2012, opposition leader four years later and Premier in 2017.

Having now been at the top of the greasy pole for longer than any premier other than Sir John Swan, can Mr Burt maintain his grip?

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Published September 22, 2022 at 7:43 am (Updated September 22, 2022 at 7:43 am)

Election winner David Burt faces internal challenge

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