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Bean puts FDM on election footing

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Ready for battle: Marc Bean, left, founder of the rekindled Free Democratic Movement party, with acting chairman Rayki Bascome-Emery at this morning’s press conference (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The island’s third political party, the Free Democratic Movement, has confirmed that it is preparing to fight the next General Election with a full raft of 36 candidates.

At a press conference yesterday, Marc Bean, the leader of the party, declared that the FDM “is back on the runway and about to take off, and we’re inviting people who are like-minded to join us”.

Mr Bean, a former leader of the Progressive Labour Party, formed the FDM in September 2020 after David Burt, the Premier, called a snap election for the following month.

The fledgeling party was able to field 14 candidates in the October 1 vote, and although it did not secure any seats, it beat the One Bermuda Alliance into second place in four constituencies.

Since that election, the FDM has remained largely out of the spotlight, although Mr Bean has given the occasional interview.

Yesterday Mr Bean confirmed that the party had been working behind the scenes in the past year, putting together a slate of candidates and developing policies — and will be battle-ready ahead of the next General Election, which must be held by the end of next year.

He said: “Our purpose is to position ourselves as the next government of Bermuda.

“Thirty-six candidates will be presented for consideration to the public, but our focus is not just on 36.

“Our focus is on the development of a pool of candidates whereby we can choose and select who we think is best suited for various constituencies and various tasks.

“We knew that when we first emerged in 2020, we were ahead of our times. We realised that while the people didn’t appreciate what we were attempting to do in 2020, three years later, you realise that time is longer than rope.

“Through the experiences of the current Government and the Opposition, we realise that the time will come when what was not appreciated in 2020 will certainly be appreciated now.”

In a statement read out at the press conference, Rayki Bascome-Emery, the party’s acting chairman, said that the relaunch “represents a new beginning for all Bermudians, both locally and overseas”.

Mr Bascome-Emery said: “Our strategy over the next few months will be what we refer to as the three Cs — communication, canvassing and candidates.”

He said that party members will be out canvassing “to listen to your ideas and concerns”.

He added that the party was continuing its development of “a substantive pool of potential candidates”.

Explaining why the party had adopted a low-key approach in recent years, Mr Bascome-Emery said: “We chose this approach of strategic silence because we support democracy and in recognition that experience is often the best teacher.

“During this period, the FDM has proceeded to rebrand and revise its policies to ensure that Bermuda has the government-in-waiting that she truly deserves.

“Our founder and leader, Marc Bean, has spent the last year preparing for this very moment.”

Mr Bean was keen to emphasise that he had no intention of attacking either the PLP or the OBA.

He did speak in broader terms about a growing disenchantment with politics among the public.

He said: “The FDM has no opinion or comment on what the PLP has done. If people feel that there’s a gap in terms of ethics, then it's for them to make that clear at the next election.

“I have heard, and I’m sure all of us have heard, the disenchantment with our politics in Bermuda today, but hopefully what we are undertaking now can give a new source of hope that there is an opportunity for us to navigate out of the challenges that we’re facing.

“Clearly there is a serious gap in terms of the connectivity between those in politics today and those who are supposed to be represented by those persons who have put themselves forward.

“We can offer a lot, starting with emphasis on our principles, which are accountability, honesty, being able to speak truth.

“We’re not here to criticise either the Opposition or the Government, but we’re going to make sure we conduct ourselves in the highest principled manner and hopefully that reflects well in the policies we’re able to present.

“What we do know is, what the FDM is able to represent is going to be a complete alternative to the status quo of politics that we have in this country, particularly in the last few years.

“It’s an alternative that’s nothing new, nothing that I myself have created, but we have a government over the years that has followed a particular path based on their ideals.

“I think they consider those ideals to be essential but oftentimes the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I think that’s the challenge that we’re facing today — what we think and what we say as a government does not always match, and that’s to the detriment of the people of this country.”

We don’t intend to close schools, Bean says

Marc Bean did not reveal how many candidates were lined up to stand at the next election, and he also did not give too much away about the FDM’s platform.

When pressed on education reform, the FDM leader did outline stark policy differences between his party and the Government.

The public education system is undergoing a massive overhaul that will result in the closure of more than a dozen schools. The Government has claimed that dwindling pupil numbers is one of the reasons for the changes.

Questioned by TNN’s Trevor Lindsay, Mr Bean said: “It’s not our position to criticise the current Government, but what I can say is that we have a totally different approach to addressing the concerns regarding educational reform. I don’t want to pre-empt presenting our ideas, but I can say that the different approach means that we do not have any intention to close any schools.

“We will be looking to sit down with the concerned institutions at either end of the island.

“Yes, it’s potentially a political opportunity to take advantage of the ill-feeling that people might harbour towards the Government, but in the end education is about the cultivation and development of our minds, in particular our children and as adults.

“So while it can be used as a political football, our focus is ensuring that we have a system that speaks to growth and development and ensuring that the island is able to advance.

“Most of the feedback that we have seen over the last few months and years is reflective of the fact that people are not comfortable with the approach we are going through. Basically, look forward to us presenting that alternative vision of education.

“The fact is that if, on one hand, we are saying that we need more people in the country — we need to attract more Bermudians back to the country and new persons, non-Bermudians to the country — then it’s kind of contradictory to seek to close schools.

“That shows that the vision is not coherent. What’s important is for us to understand is that if we’re going to build our education system, it’s one that doesn’t remove facilities or schools. The idea is to grow and not to diminish. That is going to be the overarching focus of the government-in-waiting, which is the FDM.”

Mr Bean described the Government’s 30-6 majority in the House of Assembly as “a double-edged sword”.

He said: “On the one hand, you have a super-majority and so you’re able to get as much legislation as you desire passed through Parliament without too much of a hiccup.

“But at the same time, when you have such a large majority, it becomes a balancing act for the leadership to be able to satisfy the needs and desires of their entire back bench and caucus.”

Asked to comment on remarks by Sir John Swan that the island would be better served by independent MPs because politics had become “tribal”, Mr Bean replied: “Certainly persons have switched allegiance and loyalties based on the candidate, but at the same time you have a large group of persons who are loyal to their particular party.”

He added that party affiliation stemmed from historical and cultural reasons more than anything else, but that people had the ability to change their minds.

‘My mind is sound and my physical being is strong’

Mr Bean entered politics in 2008 as a government senator under Ewart Brown, the former premier.

He was elected MP for Warwick South Central — Dr Brown’s former seat — in December 2010, after Dr Brown stood down as premier.

He served in the Cabinet under Paula Cox, the former premier, and took over as leader of the PLP in December 2012 after the party’s General Election defeat.

Mr Bean was forced to step down as leader less than two years later because of health reasons.

Asked about his health, he said: “My health is good. I feel good. I hope I look good. Clearly I’m not 100 per cent, no one is, but I can say that I’m in the upper 90s.

“My mind is sound and my physical being is strong. I’m pretty pleased with how I’ve progressed personally from that setback a few years ago.”

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