September 01, 2006

Shuffle follow up

It will take a bit for the dust to settle on this unexpected cabinet shuffle. But here's my early and probably slightly uninformed but probably not that far from the truth interpretation.

Firstly, Terry Lister's resignation from Cabinet can only be a move to clear his path to challenge the Premier at the approaching PLP delegates conference in Oct. Judging by his reaction at the RG reporter, which you could hear in the background of the ZBM radio broadcast with Gary Moreno, Mr. Lister went nuts at the Gazette reporter for not asking the right questions.

What was the wrong question? The one about whether this cleared the way to challenge Alex Scott. An obvious question that he obviously didn't want to answer.

Secondly, Neletha Butterfield leaving Environment on the heels of the Hospital announcement can only be interpreted as an unwillingness to come onboard with the plan to build on the Botanical Gardens, her careful denial notwithstanding. If that's the case I respect her for being an advocate for her Ministry and the environment.

Thirdly, Randy Horton's move to the Environment is clearly a demotion, and his disappointment in his voice was evident on the radio.

Fourthly, putting the radical recently retired head of the Bermuda Industrial Union Derrick Burgess at Labour & Home Affairs will shake the confidence of the business sector...to its core. There is no other way to say it. The Premier acknowledged as much in his prepared comments:

Over the years we have had outstanding businessmen serve as labour Ministers and we did not see it as a problem for labour or the country. Therefore, now that we have appointed an outstanding native son with labour roots, we too, should not regard it as a potential problem for business or the country.

So why would the Premier make such a move with Mr. Burgess?

All of this comes back to the first point, which is that Mr. Lister is positioning for what must be an imminent leadership challenge, although he did say to ZBM's Gary Moreno that he didn't see it in the near term (5-10 years - which is more like the long term in a political timeframe).

When one part moves in a precariously stitched together Cabinet, other parts kick in as well. Alex Scott needs to keep his Cabinet members' interest aligned with his when it becomes time for any leadership challenge(s) and not Mr. Lister who would be going trying to line up support and cutting deals.

The Premier kept Neletha Butterfield happy with Education, a decent fit for her although a tough portfolio; he made Derrick Burgess extremely happy by putting the power over work permits in his hand; while keeping Randy Horton on board but obviously less happy, but presumably content to keep his recently increased Cabinet paycheck.

The big unknown now is what does the ever-present Dr. Brown do now? Derrick Burgess used to be in his camp by all accounts, but now seems to have his future tied to Beam me up Scottie?

Dr. Brown recently declared that he would not challenge for leadership at the pending Party conference.

This will be fun to watch.

If anyone has any other insights/interpretations I'd be happy to post them - anonymously of course.

Posted by Christian S. Dunleavy