EDITORIAL – Eric Bush: Our man in London

Flags-_0077-aa-(Read-Only).jpg“Bittersweet” is how Premier Alden McLaughlin described the news that Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush will soon depart the Cayman Islands for the United Kingdom, where he will lead our government’s London office.

We think the premier’s choice of adjective to be most appropriate. Mr. Bush’s absence from the on-island civil service will be keenly felt, yet the London posting, in our opinion, presents a considerable opportunity for Mr. Bush, personally and professionally — and also for our country.

During his tenure as chief officer, Mr. Bush has repeatedly demonstrated the qualities of toughness, fairness and openness. He is a reform-minded individual who has stepped on plenty of toes during his worthy quest to improve the quality of the civil service — through promotions and subtractions. On top of that, he is personable, has an understanding of the media’s role in informing the public, and is adept at making that crucial “good first impression.”

Those are characteristics that Mr. Bush will have to call on when he officially takes up his appointment this July. As Deputy Governor Franz Manderson rightly stated in Thursday’s news story, the importance of the London office should not be underestimated — particularly as Cayman faces increasing pressure from Europe and the U.K. on a myriad of measures, from same-sex marriage, to financial blacklists, to centralized beneficial ownership registries.

Our advice to Mr. Bush is that Task One on Day One be a thorough evaluation of the London office staff. The international humiliation caused by two staffers several years ago, when they led a six-month revolt against their boss Lord Blencathra (a mutiny ultimately put down by Mr. Bush in July 2013), has left the reputation of the London office in ruins. The rude and crude emails disseminated by that pair of unprofessional underlings (still employed in that office, bafflingly) are enough to give any new manager pause.

We commend Lord Blencathra (formerly David MacLean of Scotland) for persevering with dignity and aplomb through that shameful debacle, while representing our country to the utmost of his considerable talents. In the time he was lobbying on behalf of Cayman, political enemies were attacking him from the front, and the very people he was trying to defend thanked him by pressing cold, sharpened steel against his back. To use words uttered by the head of the U.K. Overseas Territories Association, “It is embarrassing.”

Similar to Lord Blencathra, Mr. Bush possesses far more class than crass. Although we have not spotted him at any of Ariane Dart’s famous annual tea parties, we suspect Mr. Bush has the ability to handle a cup and saucer with the best of them. If he requires any training in that area, we suggest he ring Governor Helen Kilpatrick; surely she can quickly bring him up to Earl Grey standards.

While they’re chatting, perhaps Governor Kilpatrick can also give him some pointers on diplomacy, and share connections she has with the U.K. Home and Foreign & Commonwealth Offices. (Hypothetical words of wisdom on media relations, drawn from Governor Kilpatrick’s experience: “Stay away from the BBC. Stick with the Financial Times.”)

Mr. Bush won’t be stepping into the role of Cayman’s lobbyist to the British Parliament, but he will be the public face of Cayman in our Mother Country, and will be the closest thing our territory has to an ambassador.

We can think of few people — actually, no others immediately come to mind — who are better suited than Mr. Bush for this vital role. He has our full confidence. We wish him the best. Godspeed, and farewell.