Calling No Challengers: The Hypocrisy Of The PLP

By Rogan Smith |
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Well, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, I guess. 

Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, I. Chester Cooper and Fred Mitchell were returned as leader, deputy leader and chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) during its 54thNational Convention last week.

The suspense was killing me. 

Some 1,800 PLP delegates from throughout the country re-elected Messrs. Davis and Cooper unopposed. Mitchell, meantime, bested his competitor, Obie Wilchcombe 802 to 338.  

The results followed days of back and forth between the party’s leaders and Wilchcombe, a former chairman and West End and Bimini MP. 

That very public spat saw Davis discouraging Wilchcombe from challenging the chairmanship and Mitchell accusing his competitor of gunning for Davis’ job.   

Davis wants a loyal team. I’m not sold on Mitchell’s or Cooper’s loyalty to Davis. But, time is the ultimate truth teller. 

Clearly, he saw how many in his own party plotted against his former leader, Perry Christie, for years and wanted to avoid a similar fate at all costs. 

He also wants to be prime minister. In fact, he’s wanted to be prime minister for some time, even while serving as the deputy to Christie. So, he knows a thing or two about ambition and wanting someone else’s job. 

No doubt his ascent to the post of deputy prime minister of the country whet his appetite for an even bigger position.

PLP Leader, Philip Davis

Davis On Ambition

Davis says he’s never discouraged ambition. But, he hasn’t encouraged it either. 

In the run-up to this recent convention, he told the delegates charged with voting just who he wanted on his team. He intimated that he didn’t want anyone contesting the leadership and later went a step further and told the public and Wilchcombe, Mitchell’s challenger, that he didn’t have a chance in hell of winning the chairmanship post. My words, not his. 

Wilchcombe later said he felt Davis should not have told reporters he couldn’t win. 

“I think he should not have been saying that to start with because I have not disclosed what he and I spoke about when he asked to meet with me,” he said. 

I agree. It was quite sneaky. 

What was Davis trying to prove? He invited Wilchcombe to talk and then revealed the details of their private conversation.

He knows that a leader’s words have power. They carry weight. What did he think the delegates were going to do after he said what he said?  

Mitchell was also out to discredit Wilchcombe. In a widely shared voice note, he chastised Wilchcombe for contesting the post. He even accused him of having a sinister agenda.

“The chairman of the party has to get along with the leader of the party [and] can’t be interested in getting the leader of the party’s job or working on behalf of someone else to get that job,” Mitchell said.

“The constitution of the party says that the chairman is responsible for the public image of the party. He’s the spokesman for the party in and out of government. So, you can’t have somebody who is after the man’s job aspiring to that office of chairman. That’s important to remember.”

PLP Chairman, Fred Mitchell

Mitchell Is Funny

Now, after putting Wilchcombe on blast and accusing him of ulterior motives, Mitchell turns around and issues guidance notes for candidates vying for office in the PLP.

He said candidates should avoid making public comments which “may have the effect of bringing the business of the internal party campaign into the public domain to the detriment of the PLP and bring party members falsely into disrepute.”

“It is inappropriate to lead public attacks on other party members,” he said. 

Well by damn. 

You’ve gotta love Frederick “Do as I say, not as I do” Mitchell. 

He attacks Wilchcombe then offers up guidelines on how others ought to conduct themselves. 

I don’t know, but for some reason I immediately pictured Mitchell in PLP headquarters late at night printing off copies of these guidelines, then passing them around to his colleagues with a note in red ink that reads, “act accordingly.”

Seeing that Mitchell enjoys speculating about people’s motives, the public may want to consider that the reason he wanted to keep Wilchcombe at bay is because he, too, has aspirations to one day be leader and prefers to remain firmly in the seat of the leadership team. 

The PLP “A Big Tent”

On the final night of the convention, Davis reminded his base that the PLP is indeed a big tent. Essentially, what he was saying is that the PLP is a party that welcomes people with diverse views and beliefs. 

That’s a pretty progressive sounding statement to utter on a party stage. But, if the party is not living that principle, it doesn’t matter.  

If Davis et al. felt confident in their abilities to lead and felt they had the support of the delegates, they should have been encouraging challengers. That’s what fearless leadership is all about.

While Mitchell may not have wanted a challenger, in the end, he can boast of having defeated his opponent. Davis and Cooper can’t say the same. 

I would have appreciated seeing others throw their hat in the ring for leadership posts. Even if they didn’t win. That would have at least given the appearance of democracy. 

I hasten to add that Davis is well within his right to want the team that has assisted him to be re-elected. No leader wants to deal with someone that is undermining him or her at every turn. We have all seen how that has worked out in both the PLP and the Free National Movement (FNM). 

Trust me, it’s never good. 

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