Bermudian Premier loses re-election bid

Bermudian Premier Paula Cox lost her Devonshire North West seat Tuesday night after 16 years and a political career that has seen her hold virtually every major Cabinet post.

Glen Smith of the One Bermuda Alliance polled 470 votes to Ms Cox’s 377 and his party won the general election overall.

Ms Cox said after the announcement she’d lost her seat: “I think the voters spoke. It’s disappointing but the voters spoke. A good fight was waged by the Opposition and I think that they deserved their win.”

She said she had always viewed her constituency as a marginal, as factors including boundary changes meant it was no longer the PLP stronghold it was when she was first elected there in 1996.

“Part of leadership is you don’t necessarily get a safe seat. I paid the price of not being in a safe seat. It was hard fought and Glen Smith won the seat fairly and squarely,” she said.

When Ms Cox, who was also Finance Minister, was asked if she had lost touch with the people since becoming Premier, she replied: “Not at all. I think the issue is the economy and the fact that people are feeling that. One thing about me is they don’t see me as losing touch. I’m seen as perhaps one of the most common in terms of being accessible and reliable.

“I think the boundary changes were a factor. It made it a marginal seat. We acknowledge that and move on.”

Referring to her failed bid to run for office when she was still a student in 1985, she said: “There’s life after defeat. I lost in Sandys North you know.”

Asked what is next for her, she said: “To continue to work for the party. My role in working for the party is not about the position, you know. I actually care. I actually care.”

Ms Cox said the results meant that “there is both a challenge and an opportunity as we continue to deal with the difficult economic situation”.

“Now more than ever it requires leadership and it requires cooperation if we are going to put the people of Bermuda first. The PLP is not going anywhere. And the people you see on stage are men and women of commitment, conviction and courage. They have earned their seats and they will continue to be your voice.

“And just in case you are left in any doubt my heart is with the PLP and the fact that I don’t have a seat doesn’t mean that you won’t continue to have my undying attention.

“So tonight, for this moment feel disappointed, feel hurt but recognise also that a message was sent about the people hurting and we’re listening. So thank you for being here. I’m sorry we didn’t have more to celebrate but we love you and we here to continue to fight for you.”

Ms Cox has been at the heart of PLP politics all her life.

Her father, Eugene Cox, was a leading Progressive Labour Party MP from the 1970s on, and for much of that time was Shadow Finance Minister when the PLP was in Opposition before taking that role in Government when the party took power in 1998.

Ms Cox first ran for the House of Assembly while still a student in 1985, but after being defeated, she returned to her studies and became a lawyer.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from McGill University, a postgraduate Diploma in International Law from the University of Manchester, England and is a member of the Bermuda Bar, having trained in the United Kingdom as a solicitor.

Most of her legal career has been spent as a corporate counsel, at the Bank of Bermuda HSBC and now at ACE. Ms Cox is married to a businessman from Cameroon, Germain Nkeuleu, and they have a son. She also has two brothers, Jeremy Cox, the chief executive officer of the Bermuda Monetary Authority and Robert Cox, an electrical engineer, who currently works in the US.

An aide to Opposition Leader Frederick Wade before his death, she was also a protégé of the late Dame Lois Browne Evans and Dame Jennifer Smith. Ms Cox won Mr Wade’s Devonshire North seat in the by-election after his death in 1996 and joined the Shadow Cabinet.

When the PLP took power in 1998, Ms Cox, still in her 30s, was given the critically important Labour and Home Affairs Ministry, where she crafted the legislation granting greater rights to hundreds of non-Bermudians but restricting work permit stays at the same time.

She also tackled a succession of crises at Westgate prison and began the drafting of the Employment Act.

She moved to the Education Ministry in late 2001 and, following the 2003 election, had the Attorney General portfolio added to her responsibilities.

Ms Cox replaced her father as Finance Minister when he died in January 2004, becoming Deputy Premier as well in 2006 when Dr Ewart Brown defeated then-Premier Alex Scott for the leadership of the PLP.

For much of her career she has enjoyed widespread popularity and built a reputation as a person who listened to all sides and developed a consensus on policies before enacting them. That reputation contrasted with Dr Brown, who was often seen as combative and confrontational. Ms Cox was also critical of the Premier in 2009 at the height of the Uighur crisis when she said she felt “politically neutered”, but she rallied the party to successfully defeat an Opposition no confidence motion and then remained in office, while leadership rivals Terry Lister and Dale Butler resigned from Cabinet.

She replaced Dr Brown as party leader in 2010 and remained as Finance Minister as well as Premier in order to steer Bermuda through its worst financial crisis in living memory. In an interview with this newspaper in May, Ms Cox, who was the third woman to lead Bermuda, shared the top ten tips she’s learned in life, which she dubbed the ‘Cox Rules’.

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