FRIDAY, JUNE 8: Derrick Burgess still has a strong power base in the PLP — and he could use it to launch a leadership challenge later this year, according to insiders.
PLP figures we spoke to yesterday predict that Mr Burgess will be mulling over his future after his return to the backbenches.
He resigned as Transport Minister following a spat in the House of Assembly building with Cabinet colleague Michael Scott, reportedly over loyalty to Premier Paula Cox.
But PLP sources say the row is unlikely to affect the timing of a General Election — which some believe could come as early as July. The consensus is that if Mr Burgess is to make a leadership challenge, it will be after the election.
One source said that Mr Burgess who, as former president, has close ties to the Bermuda Industrial Union, had always insisted that he had no ambition to take over the top job in the ruling PLP.
But he added: “He has a strong power base in the east — and the east and central parishes control who gets into the top job.
“Now he may find himself ambitious — he may get ambitious. He may well be asked by his considerable support ‘Why don’t you just go for it?’.”
Mr Burgess, although no longer a Minister and deputy Premier, remains as deputy leader of the party.
But others close to the PLP pointed out that it took Mr Burgess four ballots to be elected as deputy leader — implying less support than has been suggested.
One insider added: “No doubt he would have no fear — he’s run a big organization before and he has the experience.”
The insider conceded that Mr Burgess had been dogged by controversy in his various ministries — including a row over the management of the Bermuda Land Development Company (BLDC) and consultancy payments to board members.
An earlier incident where cheques — easily proved to be fakes — attempted to frame him and ex-Premier Dr Ewart Brown as being on the take, also generated negative publicity.
But the insider said: “I thought that the BLDC one was handled very well — the lawyers and accountants said it was alright and those cheques were fraudulent.
“He has been surrounded by controversy — but none of it has stuck. If you go out in the street, people will call Paula Cox indecisive on most things up until this point — but I believe Derrick was left with no option but to resign.”
Another party stalwart added that a summer election was increasingly likely.
The stalwart said: “I think probably now he will be looking at the leadership.
“Let’s put it this way — I would think that any senior politician will sometimes consider the leadership and I don’t think he won’t be considering that now. It’s definitely a possibility.
“That’s a potential scenario for around October and the annual delegates’ conference – he could well mount a challenge then.”
Distinguished PLP veteran and former Premier Alex Scott declined to speculate on Mr Burgess’ intentions.
But he said: “I appreciate his service — I was the one who invited him into Cabinet and he made his contribution and he has had a challenging time.
“It’s now for him to do what a lot of people would like to do – pause and consider his position and his next step.
“He is a young man, therefore I don’t think by any means we have seen the last of Mr Burgess and the contribution he can make and will make.”
Craig Cannonier, leader of the Opposition OBA, declined to comment on last month’s confrontation or the fallout for the ruling party.
He said: “We are talking about an organization that is experiencing some shifts and changes.
“But I have to concentrate on what’s most important – the One Bermuda Alliance and ensuring that jobs are back on the table and that crime is tackled so people feel safe and secure.
“Right now, the polls are saying people are worried about jobs and the economy and that’s what we need to concentrate on.”
He added: “Like most of Bermuda, we’re not quite sure what to make of this.
“The One Bermuda Alliance will remain focused on the people’s business and bringing forward the change Bermuda needs. That’s what people want and expect from us and that is what we will continue doing.”
Mr Burgess did not return calls from the Bermuda Sun yesterday.