Senior Cayman Islands civil servant Eric Bush has been appointed to lead the government’s London office, a post he once had oversight responsibility for during the tumultuous tenure of former office chief Lord Blencathra.
The London office, which has not had full-time leadership since March 2014, when Lord Blencathra’s contract was not renewed, is responsible for coordinating and directing Cayman’s lobbying and intergovernmental relations efforts in the U.K. and Europe.
Ironically, it was Mr. Bush who delivered the news to Lord Blencathra two years ago regarding his contract not being renewed. Since then, London office staffers have been filling in, but no clear leader for the office has been identified.
The leadership vacancy has come at a crucial time for the islands, given the U.K.’s mounting pressure on the overseas territories to accept some form of centralized beneficial ownership registry.
Mr. Bush’s appointment is effective July 1. His government chief officer post, technically a step up in the civil service pecking order from London office director, will be advertised and a replacement sought as normal.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said Wednesday that the London office’s importance to Cayman cannot be understated and that Mr. Bush’s career would actually benefit from the move.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, for whom Mr. Bush served as chief officer of the Ministry of Home Affairs, called the appointment a “bittersweet” selection.
“I know that he will leave a big void,” Mr. McLaughlin said. The London office is now managed under the Cabinet Secretary’s portfolio, which also falls under the premier’s oversight.
Mr. Bush said he was looking forward to the new challenge and would be relocating to the London area with his family.
The former director of the Cayman Islands London office was left idle for nearly two months in 2013 after statements indicating he was “no longer in charge,” leaving the highly paid lobbyist unable to work with U.K. government officials or the British foreign office.
That claim was one of several made by Lord Blencathra, formerly known as David MacLean of Scotland, in a complaint filed with the Cayman Islands government regarding the “rude behavior” of some of his staff members in the London office. The House of Lords representative served as Cayman’s London office director and the territory’s chief lobbyist in Europe between late 2011 and March 2013, when his contract with the Cayman government ended.
“The London office is totally dysfunctional and it will have to be sorted out one way or another before we have a real catastrophe on our hands,” Lord Blencathra wrote in a June 2013 email to Cayman Islands government chief officer Dax Basdeo and Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose. “If the Hon. Premier wants to cancel my contract, then so be it. But if not, then two people in the office must start behaving professionally.”
Angry and sometimes expletive-laced emails obtained by the Cayman Compass that went back and forth between Lord Blencathra, members of the London office staff and the local government in Cayman, revealed a culture of bickering, backbiting and bureaucratic delay in the office that interfered with the territory’s ability to present its message effectively. The former London office director also flagged instances where the situation caused other overseas territories leaders to tell Cayman to “get its act together” and which led the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office to temporarily cut off communications with the U.K. Lord.
According to the formal complaint made by Lord Blencathra in July 2013, he said he was informed in late January 2013 that another London office employee was now “in charge” and that he was “just a consultant with no authority.” This message was also apparently delivered to the chair of the U.K. Overseas Territories Association during a Jan. 31, 2013, annual general meeting.
After months of confusion over the issue, it was chief officer Mr. Bush who ultimately stepped in to resolve the situation.
In summarizing his complaint to Cayman Islands government officials in July, Lord Blencathra stated: “[The employee’s] interference in delicate policy matters at a high political level, for which I am responsible, has resulted in some shambles and almost catastrophe.”
On July 26, 2013, Mr. Bush responded to the complaint by Lord Blencathra, stating he was “struck by the disrespectful tone” of an earlier email sent by the London office employee.
“While I appreciate that there may be differences of opinion between you and Lord Blencathra, you must recognize that he is your line manager …,” Mr. Bush said. “I would advise you that any further discourse/communication which is undertaken in the disrespectful tone of some of your recent emails to Lord Blencathra will be considered to be in direct contravention of the code of conduct and values and may result in disciplinary action.”
The two employees referenced in the complaint by Lord Blencathra still work at the Cayman Islands London office.