I admit I was slightly caught out by Lt. Col. Burch’s resignation over the weekend. I did not see it coming at all. Almost immediately the Bermudian rumour mill began to churn, and the most commonly accepted view that I recieved up here in Scotland was that he had resigned as a result of a resurgence of his earlier illnesses. The line went that he wanted to concentrate on his health and felt he could not give his position the concentration it deserved. It seemed plausible and, even if not the complete truth, allowed for a dignified exit for the individual also known as ‘a train wreck in slow motion’. The subsequent – and apparently official – line that he resigned in a pique of anger over perceived ‘disrespect’, while also plausible with his temperament, were however unexpected. They were unexpected partly because he leaves know having allowed others to tarnish his reputation (even if he gave such people plenty of ammunition to do so), and also because of how this official line reflects on the leadership of Premier Cox.
Lt. Col. Burch
Now, it should be said that Lt. Col. Burch was our own ‘marmite’ politician. You either liked him a lot or you detested him a lot. There didn’t seem to be anyone who had no feelings, positive or negative towards him, while most other politicians at least had a more even spread of likeability. I have to admit I fell into the negative camp as regards the Senator. I need to qualify here that I personally think Lt. Col. Burch has a great sense of humour, one which is not often captured in the media representations of him, and I cannot deny he had elements of professionalism that seem somewhat lacking in other political figures. My own dislike for him stemmed from personal interactions with him and for his tendency to fly off into non-sensical and confusing rants.
Over email or phone Senator Burch was very much engaging, warm and funny as jooks. However, whenever he met me in person he came across as extremely arrogant and disrespectful, at least to me. Perhaps he was unable to connect that I was the same person he had spoken to by phone or email, or perhaps he has someone else that impersonates him over the phone or emails. I don’t know. But the behaviour he displayed in person left a poor impression of him in my eyes, and was definitely an area he needed to improve should he realistically seek an elected position.
His non-sensical rants are somewhat legendary, and have been covered by many others. Some people regarded them as him ‘speaking his mind’ and thus to be respected. Personally, I’m all for people speaking their minds and the party line be damned, but not when they come across as borderline lunatics with no concern for the consequences of their actions. And that was how, to me, Senator Burch’s rants often came across. Non-sensical, often contradictory, occassionally offensive, often damaging economically and politically and generally not contributing to raising critical consciousness but more an example of someone venting built-up frustration.
If it is true that the final straw in the breakdown of Senator Burch’s relationship with the Premier came about because of her meeting with the Police Commissioner without informing him, well, to be frank he just looks childish. Our politicians are supposed to be serving the people, working to look after the ship of state and not letting personal feelings of disrespect to guide their actions. And for someone with such a key Ministry and associated responsibilities as Senator Burch held, his actions come across as particularly poor. Of course, there is a need for all politicians to act in what they believe is in the best interest of the people, even when this is contrary to Party allegiances. This really doesn’t seem to be one of them, unless there is a lot more than has been made public.
Premier Cox’s Leadership
I am increasingly disappointed with Premier Cox’s leadership. I didn’t support any of the three leadership candidates, although I acknowledged Mr. Lister’s attempts to launch a proper campaign which had the potential to be an inclusionary discourse. Of the three though I believed Ms. Cox was the best of the available candidates, and I still think that is the case (which isn’t necessarily saying much). Personally, I did see the election as more of a coronation than an election, with Ms. Cox practically guarunteed the position. One gets the impression sometimes that the Party makes decisions, like this, based not on the quality of the candidates and their positions but more on ambiguous feelings that the person somehow ‘deserves’ the position, more for ‘doing their time’ and proving loyalty to the Party than anything else (like what they intend to do with the position and what they stand for).
Despite the above, Ms. Cox offered some attractive potentials. She had the image of being more of an Old Labour, that is, traditional pre-1998 PLP, candidate, a direct contrast to the very New Labour/Clinton Democrat person exemplified by Dr. Brown. She also seemed to be a supporter of what I call ‘soft power’, which is a leadership style that seeks to influence through inclusionary discourse, empowerment and consensus building rather than the ‘strong man’ ‘do what I say or jump’ hard power leadership that Dr. Brown seemed to embody.
Increasingly I am questioning how much Ms. Cox truly is – or ever was – an Old Labour person, and whether she is a proponent of soft power or abdication of power. It is clear that under her leadership much of Dr. Brown era policies are being reversed, which makes for a degree of comedic situations for the Party which had previously served as boosters for Dr. Brown era policies and now have to say with a straight-face that they are reversing or cancelling those policies. The political acrobatics being done is surely a great testament to the opportunism and non-critical thinking that passes for politics these days.
Many of the policy reversals I think are actually good. But increasingly the policy discourse is being dictated by the tyranny of the bottom-line, with no regard to the long-term consequences of some of the cuts (particularly to social services, education and police). It may well be that the costs of these cuts will far outweigh the short-term benefits of their cuts now. They are made increasingly difficult to support when the reason for the shortfall is partly the economic crisis but largely the failure of the now Premier to have exercised her power as Finance Minister under Dr. Brown. She abdicated her responsibilities then and we – as a society – are having to take the fall for that. Her infamous ‘cog-in-the-wheel’ comment seems to still echo in her now leadership position, where she says she doesn’t control her Ministers and leaves them to look after themselves. This is an abdication of power.
Premier Cox has failed to articulate a guiding overall policy direction or leadership position for the Party or the government. Instead, we have a zombie leadership and a zombie government where policy is being dictated by past failures and business as usual rather than a new unifying theme and direction. Her doctrine of ‘resetting the dial’ is all very fine, but the next step is to indicate the new direction. Instead we seem to be in a collective neutral gear. At best Ms. Cox gives the impression of trying to please everyone (or, at least, offend no one), but the end result of that is that she offends everyone. At worst she is giving the impression of a complete abdication of power and lack of direction.
It is possible that an election is coming this year. Originally I thought we would wait until next year, but I no longer think the Party – or the country – can afford to wait that long. The PLP will win either way, but the question is how damaged it will be, and an earlier election will minimise the damage. Crucially, it will force Ms. Cox to outline a policy direction and general narrative for the PLP. At the moment the PLP appears bankrupt of ideas, bankrupt of motivation and bankrupt economically. The Opposition parties too seem bankrupt of ideas and motivation. The entire political leadership of the country is in zombie mode.