No regrets: Premier Brown reflects on his four years in power —  and what’s ahead — during his interview with the Bermuda Sun yesterday.
No regrets: Premier Brown reflects on his four years in power —  and what’s ahead — during his interview with the Bermuda Sun yesterday.
By the end of this afternoon Dr. Ewart Brown will be gone. The family photos, the Malcolm X picture, the personal memorabilia will have been packed into boxes and his office at the Cabinet Building will be ready for a new incumbent.

The superficial signs that Dr. Brown inhabited this seat of power for four years will be easy to erase.

The dent he has made on his country in that time — for better or worse — will last far longer.

After a ‘long goodbye’ that has seen almost six weeks of ‘farewell’ events, his final day will be comparatively unceremonious.

By 5pm this evening, the Premier and his staff will have cleared their desks and he will step out of the Cabinet building for the last time, as leader of the country.

As he walks away from politics for good, he insists he has no regrets.

The emotion of the moment, he recognizes, will probably catch him for a minute or two.

Emotions

But he is not a man to dwell too long on emotions.

He has dictated the terms of his departure and he insists he is walking out with his head held high, having given the job everything he has got.

“I feel fine. It would be different if I was upset or angry, if I felt like I had fallen short on more things than I had succeeded at. But I have given it my best.

“No-one can complain that I didn’t give it my all.”

He expects to experience ‘withdrawal’ from the adrenaline of the job after ‘four action packed years’.

Dr. Brown openly sought the Premiership. He likens the process of getting there to the process of becoming a doctor —  crossing off courses passed on his bulletin board as he qualified for the job, step-by-step.

Even his critics agree he has conducted business at ‘maximum pace’ with a tremendous work ethic and commitment.

It could be dispiriting then, to look at the shape of Bermuda in 2010,  with crime escalating and the economy struggling, and wonder if it was all in vain.

But Dr. Brown won’t spend too much time on regrets. He believes significant strides have been taken during his tenure that put Bermuda in a good position to come through its current struggles.

And he predicts the significance of initiatives like Futurecare and Mirrors, the addition of new air carriers like WestJet and JetBlue and hotel developments like Park Hyatt will be more obvious in time.

He says he is not prepared to be judged on factors outside of his control.

“I can’t take the hit for the fact that Bermuda is not a safer place.

“A fairer approach would be ‘how did our Government respond to the increase in violence?’”

He points to the ‘transformative’ Mirrors programme, a raft of anti-crime legislation and a new energy and spirit of co-operation between authorities as evidence of progress on crime.

Dr. Brown still looks at former Governor Sir John Vereker’s decision to block a plan to bring in the Giuliani Group, a private security and intelligence agency run by the former New York mayor, in 2007 as a missed opportunity.

More confident

He said a “no nonsense” approach at the outset might have stopped gang violence from getting out of hand.

But he believes everyone is now aware of the immediacy of the problem.

“I am much more confident today than I was a year ago and I think that is due to the fact that for the first time in a long time you have Government House, the police and Government in lockstep with respect to the industry and the innovation that is required for the fight.”

Of his own personal style — an issue for many — Dr. Brown has no regrets.

He accepts he has been uncompromising at times. But he makes few concessions to those who have disagreed with him.

“I heard Mayor Bloomberg say this week, real leadership means that some people are not going to like you

“I never wanted to be a fence-sitting leader saying yes out of different sides of my mouth, I would rather leave than have to be that kind of person. I am an opinionated person, I do speak out.

“By definition that means you will generate some response and I dared to touch the unspeakable subject of race and racism — for a lot of people that was it, they were not going to have that.

He added: “I admit I don’t feel the need to apologise when there is nothing to apologise for.”

Don’t expect an apology either for Bermuda’s unemployment situation.

“I can’t control a global recession I don’t even feel partially responsible for that…

“We are unable to point to the kind of accomplishments that we would have in a better economic climate, but we don’t mope, we move forward.

“The fact that these are difficult times speaks to the quality of our effort.

“There aren’t many announcements of hotels being built anywhere in the world. “When you attract a Park Hyatt in this climate that says to me that you might have had three or four hotels in better times.”

Bermuda could still see that kind of development. Coral Beach, Four Seasons and Lantana are all on tap for 2011, says Dr. Brown.

He cites the decision to build a new hospital on the current grounds in Paget, rather than at the Botanical Gardens, and link-ups with medical facilities in the U.S. as quiet examples of moves that have benefited Bermuda, but get little mention in the media.

Asked where he went wrong in his four years as Premier, Dr Brown is less forthcoming.

He is disappointed that more progress was not made on education.

He wishes he’d been able to do more to improve the taxi-service.

Uyghurs

He regrets “not being able” to share his decision on the Uyghurs with Cabinet.

But he stops short of saying he was wrong on any of those things.

If he feels a pang of emotion as he leaves office today it won’t be over the work he has left undone, it will be about leaving behind a job that he has relished, even in difficulty.

Despite his combative public image, it’s the camaraderie and the team-spirit of politics that he says he will miss the most.

He cooked barbecued shrimp and chicken for his cabinet colleagues earlier this week and told them thanks for their support.

“We didn’t discuss politics per-se, we talked about life in general. The bond was solid,” he says.

The ‘farewell tour’ as it has been dubbed was not, he says, about himself. It has been simply about saying thanks.

“Somebody said it’s been a protracted farewell – it’s actually in proportion to the number of people I have to say ‘thank you’ to.

“They gave me the opportunity not for personal achievement but achievements which I believe many Bermudians will be happy about, whether it is today or in five years.”