How to sum up Dr. Brown’s four-year leadership in a single word? Exhausting.

Never has a modern Bermuda leader been at the centre of so many controversies, battles, stand-offs and confrontations.

Never, indeed, has a modern Bermuda leader been the focus of so much attention – both from the people he led and from himself.

Did the accomplishments match the levels of sound and the fury?


In virtually every category of government and Bermuda life, his government leaves a record that is a mix of good and bad –- and the bad is sometimes very bad.

There are a handful of unmitigated disasters with no clear end in sight: Government spending and debt accumulation comes to mind, as does gun crime.

More often, his legacy is one of reasonable accomplishments that his fans tout as triumphs, balanced by the new problems he created or failed to deal with.

In transport, for example, fast ferries are counter-balanced by poor maintenance, a huge increase in car and truck sizes that crowd roads and damage roadways, and an alarmingly high level of road fatalities.

Here’s another example: Good governance should be boosted by the Freedom of Information Act he introduced (though that’s still not implemented).

It is counterbalanced, however, by a lack of transparency in contracting, the routine bypassing of planning regulations and an ugly political partisanship which the Premier himself has worked hard to stoke.

Here’s a third example that’s quick and simple: The Premier’s supporters praise his “FutureCare” insurance programme for the elderly but just about everybody in government, insurance and the health industry agrees the costs cannot be sustained.

In tourism, the Premier has presided over something he calls “platinum period” – which produced record-breaking lows in tourism income and air arrivals.

Uncertain future

Here, as in many other areas, the legacy of Dr. Brown depends on an uncertain future.

He has laid the groundwork for unprecedented new luxury hotel construction. Will it really happen? Will these hotels turn our fading tourism industry around?

If so, Dr. Brown will be a hero after he’s gone.

So too with education. Dr. Brown has been more brutally honest about the sorry state of public education than any other Premier I can think of, more willing to confront the status quo and insist on improvements.

Yet concrete results elude us still.

And hopes for the future continue with race.

Dr. Brown has given us the “sound and fury” of election campaigns, a destructive habit of race-baiting the Opposition, and a ‘Big Conversation’ that was neither as new nor as constructive as the Premier claimed it to be.

If this remains the way of doing business, it will do serious long-term damage to Bermuda.

But Dr. Brown’s legacy could just as easily be positive and groundbreaking.

He talked frankly about race when too many others were silent. He insisted that race equity must be a priority when many other leaders seem too tired or nervous to tackle it. He pushed forward with such serious examination of the issues as the Mincy Report on young black men.

When Dr. Brown became Premier four years ago, his supporters saw him as one of the most intelligent, charismatic and energetic Premiers Bermuda has ever had.

Maybe he was too intelligent, too charismatic and too energetic for the slow slog and subtle diplomacy that parliamentary democracy requires.

His stand-offs with the British Government, his warfare with taxi drivers over GPS, his battles with the Royal Gazette — none of accomplished  anything significant but a lot of anguish and stress for a lot of people.

Too many of his battles were isolated, uncoordinated and kind of useless – full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.

His successors have a lot to learn from both sides of Dr. Brown.

At his best, he showed them the importance of speaking out clearly and forcefully for the things you believe in.

In areas like tourism, and race and education, he pushed harder and more courageously than his predecessors had been willing to do.

Yet in his failings, which were far too many, he reminded his colleagues that progress is impossible without cooperation, humility, and far more genuine goodwill towards his opponents — real and imagined — than he was willing to give.