The establishment and status quo

On the day that the Finance Minister launches her bid for the party leadership and Premiership, there's two big time takedowns of her tenure and a very clear letter to the editor several days ago about the poor terms of the recently placed 500M bond.

Michael Fahy of the BDA is on point laying out the situation international business finds itself in, and also has been put in because of the policies of the PLP (tourism too by the way).

Peter Everson of the Chamber of Commerce delivers a devastating rebuttal to the big lie that Bermuda's debt explosion was an outcome of external economics not Government policy.

Obviously I don't have a horse in the PLP leadership race, but I do have a dog in the fight for the future growth, prosperity and stability of Bermuda. It seems self-evident to me that what Bermuda needs is a change in Government and governance, not just a shuffling of seats among the PLP.

Paula Cox's roll out seemed to be punctuated with 'more of the same' and 'status quo'. The imagery of her being literally backed by the current establishment was undeniable. The strategy appears to be to win based on natural progression and inevitability (didn't work for Hilary Clinton but I don't see either Mr. Lister or Mr. Butler being able to muster much of a challenge).

With respects to Mr. Lister, I must say that I can't really reconcile his launch with his time in Cabinet. It's been in my head all week since it was such a polite repudiation of everything his party has stood for.

This Gazette editorial does a good job of laying out the challenges and issues he faces, but despite his distancing himself from Dr. Brown over the past 12 months or so, he was a big advocate of term limits - calling then UBP leader Grant Gibbons's election denouncement of it "a wolf in sheep's clothing" - and spent substantial time in Cabinet implementing the policies which have led us here. So he does have a fair amount of culpability for the PLP's legacy of division and financial mismanagement, notwithstanding his come to Jesus moment which is what his speech can only be characterised as.

It was a good speech, a great speech actually. It just felt like he was running for leader of the UBP which doesn't compute (or seem smart for a pitch to PLP delegates). That was a textbook UBP election campaign speech. Dale Butler as well has sounded the same UBP-ish notes.

So I struggle with what he says based on what we know, and the devil is in the details around tax reviews etc., although I live in hope that what he says should happen and will happen. Perhaps his intent is to at least drag the PLP back to moderation and away from the extremism that they've inhabited in the Brown years.

Mr. Butler, a colourful if hyper-active character who does well as a good parochially driven party maverick, really doesn't strike me as Premiership material. He hasn't waded in particularly strongly yet, but we'll see what he does over the coming months.

It still seems to me that this is Paula Cox's to lose, with the party hierarchy and establishment lining up behind her - which is an endorsement of her fiscal mismanagement. But she does have an ability to get cross over support, despite her speeches which are vacuous and littered with platitudes and cliches.

What I was left with from Paula Cox's launch today is that the PLP's Parliamentary group and party membership are collectively just wrong on the issues and tone and intend on continuing on with business as usual which Bermuda just can't afford.

Leadership matters of course and can chart a new course and set a tone. I suspect all 3 campaigns will implicitly if not explicitly acknowledge that Dr. Brown has got the party too far out on the extremes of conflict and racialism.

The past 4 years have demonstrated that Premiers matter even in our non-Presidential system - as hard as Dr. Brown tried to turn it into one. But at their core I don't see the PLP as a group really yet grasping and acknowledging the fundamental character, complexity and needs of our economy. There was no recognition by Ms. Cox of reining in the spending and acknowledge that in life there is nuance and complexity.

The PLP is still very much driven by dogma and caricatures of segments of the community and outdated stereotypes and politics. At least that's how it appears from the outside looking in.

The Bermuda of 2010 should not be about sound bites and cheap button pushing about oligarchs, race and democracy, as they managed to boil the Corporation issue down to.

Reality is not so simple. The Corporations issue is not so simple. The reality for Bermuda right now is that we can't afford - financially or socially - a continuation of the policies which have have so quickly undermined one of the world's most vibrant economies from a position of sustained surpluses into exploding debt and an exodus of talent and brains - both Bermudian and non-Bermudian.

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