I’m not very suprised at the RG’s dedicating quite a bit of space to the potential issue of a leadership challenge in the PLP Annual Delegates Conference (ADC). As I noted earlier this speculation has become relativley routine in the media during the Party’s ADCs. Most Party members and supporters traditionally read the RG with the proverbial grain of salt, while swing voters and political hobbyists (yes, I’ll include myslef in that I guess) will read them with much interest, while anti-PLPers will generally look at these reports with much relish and predict the imminent self-destruction of the PLP.
While I accept that it is important to recognise when an argument may be the result of ‘axes to grind’ as Mr. Hall alludes to Mr. Scott and Mr. Perenchief, or from potential conflicts of interest as Messrs Scott and Perenchief point out about Mr. Hall (and admitted to, to his credit, by Mr. Hall in his article), I personally am more interested in the arguments presented than anything else. I will keep the idea of axes to grind and personal conflict of interest in mind, but these should not in themselves detract from the arguments themselves. Its not easy to do, but I will continue to attempt it all the same.
I think Mr. Perenchief presents some valid criticism of Mr. Brown’s leadership style that is a problem and as far as I’m concerned is creating some friction within the Party. This largely boils down to what the editorial terms ‘imperial premiership’ and what I liken to ‘presidentialism.’ This is translated practically into a sense that Dr. Brown does have a tendency to be very much a ‘photo-op’ personality and very much in appearence attached to the superficial and tacky trappings of power (his ‘entourage,’ his chaeffur, his wining and dining, his private jet travels, hobknobbing with the rich and famous, etc.). In many ways it appears to sections of the Party that the whole struggle of the progressive labour movement boils down to achieving a state of affairs where a Black can be incredibly wealthy and demonstrate all the trappings of such power, right down to golfing at Mid-Ocean. For those who have dedicated their lives to fighting against racism and the oligarchy, this is not, I think, what many had in mind. There is also a sense that Dr. Brown has centralised decision making, both in the Party and within Cabinet/Government.
Now, none of the above may actually be true. I tend to believe through my own experiences, along with others, that quite a lot of this criticism has a good deal of substance to it. As readily admitted, my perception of what progressive labour should stand for (basically democratic socialism along with a committment to correcting the racial injustices of the past) and what I percieve Dr. Brown’s perception of progressive labour to be (basically Third Way New Labour – a la Clinton and Blair – but with a committment to making Bermuda’s class demographics more representative of our racial demographics) are quite different.
This goes right down to our conception of the Party itself. I tend to view it more as a vehicle to strengthen grassroots direct democracy and popular particiaption leading towards the selfgovernance of the territory and economy by the people, while I percieve Dr. Brown to view the Party more as an electoral vehicle in the modern liberal democratic sense with which to achieve state power and ‘represent’ the people. As such I encourage wide discussion of the direction of the Party and policies ennacted by it as Government along with constructive criticism, strengthening grassroots and serving as a ‘school’ for popular power. This is in contrast to a centralised machine where people must stay ‘on-message’ and where the components of the Party are there to execute decisions from above. The differences are much more complex, to be sure, but the above gives a decent summary I think.
But what is important of Mr. Perenchief’s argument is that I think it is shared by increasing numbers within the Party. They may not be at a critical point, and they may indeed be being artificially inflated by media and the Opposition, or they may be being artificially minimised by those connected to the Leadership with whose interests it is to do so. Its hard to guage the actual level of discontent, thats about as conclusive one can get. But I don’t think it is possible to dismiss these criticisms out of hand – it would be far better to address.
And to that, I find myself in agreement with Mr. Hall. I personally don’t see a leadership challenge during this ADC. As I wrote in ‘Et tu, Brute?’ I think it is important to maintain some leadership continuity for the moment, and I do believe that Dr. Brown is the best leader of the Party at the moment (enhanced by the failure of possible rivals to step up to the wicket I might add), and he has the potential to be an even better and ‘transformational’ leader as Mr. Hall states. But in order to do this I think it is important for Dr. Brown to note that there is some valid criticism of his leadership, and rather than ignore it away as ‘axes to grind’ or ‘sulking’ or as an insignificant minority, he should start addressing it. I think that Mr. Hall’s advice, that Dr. Brown has some ‘splaining’ to do is quite honest and practical. A return to greater grassroots particaption and interaction will go a long way to reducing much of the existing friction within the Party.
Will Dr. Brown take this advice? Will he adapt it in a cynical way and use it to strengthen the ‘top-down’ approach of politics through micro-management (this is perhaps not the appropriate term, I’m trying to say something along the lines of sweet-talking away criticism at the grassroots level)? I can’t really say. But I think I can safely say that if he doesn’t take this advice by Mr. Hall then friction will grow within the Party (especially with the vacuumn left by the irrelevant UBP), and he will be effectively ‘given the boot.’
On a separate note I also have to side with Mr. Perenchief’s interpretation of the Party Constitution in opposition to Mr. Hall’s. The ADC is the supreme sovereign body of the Party. It can adapt its agenda as it wishes by democratic vote, and it can adopt any resolution from the floor should it so choose, and such decisions are binding on the Party. These can be appealed by subsequent ‘Special Delegates Conferences’ and in the ratification of the ADC held shortly after the ADC proper. Furthermore, a Special Delegates Conference can be held at any time should three branches call for one, and a SDC is no different from the ADC except not being regularly scheduled. Any ‘DC’ is the supreme sovereign body of the Party, be it Special or Annual.
The only other note in regards to these articles is that I am wholly in agreement with the closing bit by Mr. Hall:
The dirty PLP secret, as far as I am concerned, is that the delegate selection process is about as democratic and as transparent as the machinations of the College of Cardinals in the Vatican.
This is a severe problem, and one could even argue that as a result all decisions made by ADC’s of late are illegitimate as a result of a flawed and broken delegate selection process. This of course would include the election of Dr. Brown to Party Leader in 2006.
I also think its important to reinforce the comment by Mr. Perenchief that the Premier can very well be ‘transformational’ but for ‘all the wrong reasons.’ Thoughts to ponder at least.