Well, the third, and presumably last, contender for the Leadership of the PLP has formally launched his campaign today. Dale Butler now joins Paula Cox and Terry Lister in this important election process.
While I know there is some concerns by some members that the very public nature of the campaign so far could be detrimental to the Party, I personally think that it has an equal, if not greater chance, of benefitting the Party. The concerns are that the rival candidates campaigns could tear the Party apart in factional rows, descend into mudslinging or generally lead to a refutation of the past PLP Governments. I believe the Party, its members and Leadership contenders, are mature enough to be able to disagree with each other and campaign in a positive manner. If the previous PLP administrations come under criticism, then the Party should be able to judge whether or not this criticism is warranted or not. Quite frankly I don’t think there are all that many members who believe the last twelve years has realised all the potential that could (and arguably should) have been acheived. Mistakes have been made. The key question is whether the Party is mature enough to recognise these mistakes and determine a way to collectively address both these, and additional issues.
I feel that the benefits of this very public contest far outweigh any possible negative consequences. The ability to demonstrate the Party’s maturity, and to debate various policies for the future direction of both the Party and the country, has the potential to even bring new members into the Party. More importantly, it gives the Party a chance to collectively take stock of the past eleven years and prepare to move forward in the present, as well as planning strategy for the next decade.
Having said that…
So far I haven’t been all that impressed with the Leadership campaigns. It’s true, the only people that matter, in that they are the ones casting votes, are Branch Delegates (and Alternates), as well as the MPs who also cast a vote. As such the candidates are no doubt conducting a lot of their campaigns within the internal structures of the Party, attending Branch meetings and putting forward their case. That’s fine, and that should be the case. However, I feel that the external campaigns, that is, the public face of it, should indicate the quality of the internal campaign, kind of like the proverbial tip of the ice berg.
Based on the external campaigns only, I would have to say I’ve been quite disappointed with those of Paula Cox and Dale Butler so far.
Ms. Cox’s campaign seems to be little more than advocating continuity, more of the same of the past eleven years. While she is right to defend the good work the Party has done, it reinforces her new, and self-inflicted, moniker of a ‘cog’, simply continuity and nothing new. For many in the Party she was viewed as the ‘anti-Brown’, in the sense of being viewed as more a traditional Old Labour candidate to Dr. Brown’s New Labour Leadership. I still think she is more of an Old Labour candidate, and I mean that in a positive sense, but I’m not really seeing her arguing her case. It is almost as if she is campaigning more on the expectations of the past four years where she was the unquestioned heir to the leadership.
She certainly is quite popular and the clear frontrunner at the start of the campaign, and she will exercise (in my estimation) a more soft-power, strong but consensus based leadership. To me though, that isn’t enough. I want to know more about what she will do in addition to continuing the good work of the past decade, and I want to see a much more active and policy based campaign from her. For someone who was expected to contest the leadership for years, it was disappointing to see her stumble out of the starting gate, clearly caught out by Mr. Lister’s pre-emptive strike, and her launch, though well-attended, was quite dismal compared to what I had expected.
Mr. Butler was the first candidate, back in spring, to announce his intentions (Ms. Cox’s candidancy was just assumed), and yet he has been the last to formally launch. And his launch itself, while highlighting a good cause, didn’t inspire me with confidence with him as Party Leader. I would have expected him to have had a meticulously prepared and detailed launch. I didn’t see that. Particularly worrying to me was his discussion of appointing a Senator to serve as ‘the voice of the Church’, which, quite frankly, puts me off considering him as a viable Leader. I can see how it could strike a chord with some of the traditional social conservative members of the Party, I personally have issues with the already strong Church-State relationship in Bermuda, and I also wonder if this is merely opportunism from him, a sort of peace branch to the Church in light of his championing issues viewed as controversial within the Church.
I don’t fully agree with all of Mr. Lister’s positions so far, but I do need to read them in greater detail. What I can say is that so far he is the only candidate that has out forward an actual platform, and, in my opinion, has approached the Leadership election in a positive and proper manner. I look forward to seeing his campaign develop, and I continue to hope that the other two candidates will respond in kind and we’ll see a proper campaign develop, which will come to a climax in October. At the moment though, Mr. Lister strikes me as the only credible candidate so far, although I sincerely hope that Ms. Cox and Mr. Butler also, rise to the occassion and develop their policies.