WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10: Although Transport Minister Terry Lister was political road kill last week in a juicy news story, it was the best thing to happen to his party since the implosion of the official Opposition.
I’ll explain why, but first we should relive how Minister Lister was squashed like a frog on the hot summer asphalt.
Minister Lister told local media in his typically professorial way that Anthony Santucci was hired as a consultant at the Ministry of Transport to help draft road safety legislation.
Mr. Santucci is a curious choice for many reasons, having lost his management job in the hospitality industry, having taken a leave of absence as PLP chairman and having limited experience as a legislation drafter. He is however, chairman of CADA — a responsible alcohol consumption organization that does great work in the community.
Even with that last qualification — a clearly relevant one — Mr Santucci doesn’t scream out as an obvious or logical choice, unless of course, the objective was political cronyism for an out-of-work political ally. And that was the judgment most people made. Plenty of people were angry and I imagine some of them were party loyalists.
The next day brings a statement from the Cabinet Secretary. It was brilliant. It did not name Minister Lister even once, but it absolutely steamrolled him.
The Cabinet Secretary called the Santucci hire “categorically untrue” because there was a “Review Committee” in place to vet all consultancy hires and no one had put Anthony Santucci before the committee.
This is how a veteran Parliamentarian and Government Minister got squashed. But I have to tell you Mr Lister did his party a tremendous favour — especially with an election coming soon.
The Government institutes new measures and passes new laws all the time. The public yawns through most of it. And although this Review Committee is in place the public would not have really believed it unless something spectacular happened. Last week was pretty spectacular.
Without last week’s juicy story, voters on bar stools and standing around water coolers would have continued to talk endlessly about Government Ministers who give contracts to friends and appoint political allies to consultant jobs without checks or balances. That’s been the narrative for years. It doesn’t matter how much public relations you do, you can’t break the narrative unless there is one spectacular political car crash.
And just like any real life traffic accident the country was rubber necking as it went by the Lister story last week. As it gawked, it saw something it hadn’t seen before.
Political cronyism and staving it off will be a major issue in the next election. I can already hear politicians talking of a culture of PLP cronyism that can’t be broken. Now that argument will ring hollow because the public knows there’s a system in place to crush even the appearance of cronyism.
The Transport Minister has the tyre tracks across his back to prove it.
Glenn Jones is general manager of bermuda.com, a sister company to the Bermuda Sun.