Finance Minister and George Town East MLA Roy McTaggart said he was taken by surprise when Premier Alden McLaughlin announced this week that he was endorsing him as the next leader of the Progressives party.
McLaughlin made the announcement Wednesday as he also stated his intention to seek re-election in the Red Bay constituency in the 26 May general election.
The premier’s endorsement of McTaggart to hold the leadership reins for the party he has led since 2011 was unexpected, even to McTaggart himself.
“I have to say I was very pleased [Wednesday] afternoon with the premier’s statement. Although I have to be honest and just declare I did not know that he was going to make that statement at this time. Having said that, I’m very pleased with my own decision and very comfortable with it,” McTaggart told the Cayman Compass Thursday.
The finance minister formally joined the Progressives in 2015. Prior to that, he was a member of the Coalition for Cayman (C4C) platform when he was voted in as the second elected member for George Town in 2013.
He then joined the Progressives as an independent backbencher.
In 2017, McTaggart contested the George Town East constituency on a Progressives ticket.
Before his future leadership of the party can be made official, McTaggart must face the Progressives membership.
“I am happy to put myself forward for the leadership of the Progressives as political leader. Of course, all of this is subject to approval and a vote of the membership, which will take place at the party conference at some point closer to the election dates and to be determined,” he said.
If approved, McTaggart will lead the Progressives into the 2021 polls in May, and if the party wins, he will be named premier.
“Hopefully, we’ll do something that hasn’t been done in the history of politics in Cayman, that the party will have a third term in the driver’s seat in the halls of government,” he said.
On Wednesday, McLaughlin, delivering his State of the Nation address in the Legislative Assembly, heralded McTaggart’s management of Cayman’s economy through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Cayman’s position has not come about by accident. … it is the direct result of this government’s fiscal strategy. I must, in particular, pay tribute to the minister of finance. The country has been fortunate indeed to have a figure of his stature and experience at the helm at this time. His stewardship of the public purse has been, notwithstanding, remarkable,” he said.
There were suggestions within local political circles that George Town North MLA Joey Hew would take over the party.
However, McLaughlin put those suggestions to rest.
“I am confident that the man who has managed this country’s finances during this term is more than up to the task in succeeding me as premier,” McLaughlin said.
McTaggart said he was honoured to serve with McLaughlin for two terms, adding that he had learned immensely from the premier’s leadership skills and political acumen.
“I highly respect and regard him. I’m glad that he has firmly indicated that he will be seeking re-election to his seat in the next election. I’m glad to have someone with his political experience as part of our team going forward, and it will only help to enhance and enable us to be able to deliver on the policies that we will develop and form part of our manifesto for the 2021/2025 electoral term,” McTaggart added.