Reece Chipman announced his resignation from the Free National Movement (FNM) yesterday.
This parting of the way from his party was long in the making.
Chipman, a long-time FNM, was the party’s standard bearer for the St. Thomas More Constituency in the 2012 general election. He lost.
In 2017, he was the party’s standard bearer in the Centreville constituency and was considered something of a “wonder boy” after he eked out a four-vote margin to wrest the Centreville constituency from the hands of the incumbent of 40 years, the sitting prime minister, Perry Christie.
The FNM did not capitalize on its surprise win in Centreville, failing to provide Chipman with the kind of support which could have solidified the FNM’s position in a former PLP stronghold.
Chipman was appointed chairman of the Antiquities Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC) and became intimately engaged in the business of the corporation but he never seemed to find a comfortable place in his own party.
Less than a year into his chairmanship, Chipman’s resignation was requested by the prime minister for reasons never made public, flying in the face of the new government’s campaign promises and commitments to transparency and accountability. The prime minister’s public statements on Chipman have been terse.
In June 2018, Chipman joined three other FNM MPs — Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine and Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson — in voting against the government’s bill to increase value-added tax (VAT) from 7.5 percent to 12 percent.
Each, including Chipman, maintained at the time that their opposition to the tax measure did not affect their loyalty to and membership in the FNM nor their continued support for the FNM government and its leader.
But an undercurrent of dissent, with origins in the pre-election FNM leadership contest, continues to pervade the governing party.
Brent Symonette’s resignation from Cabinet at the beginning of July was not entirely disconnected to that undercurrent.
The parliamentarians have continued to separate themselves from the government on other issues though efforts at enticing Robinson back into the fold appear to be underway.
Chipman found it difficult to be a team player.
He was inclined to speak to and propose parliamentary action without consultation with his caucus as in calling for a select committee to explore improved protection and use of natural resources – aragonite, oil, sun, wind, sand and sea; in submitting a petition calling for a review of the Quieting Title Act; and in chastising the government in Parliament for not following the very laws they enact.
While not party to a protest about land ownership by a family member which interrupted parliamentary proceedings ahead of the 2019/2020 Budget Communication, MP Chipman later admitted that he fully supported her claims.
For his part, McAlpine, who has a history of flouting party discipline, appears to welcome opportunities to demonstrate his differing views to that of his party’s leadership.
Miller, Minnis’ handpicked candidate for the Golden Isles constituency, following his rejection by FNMs in South Eleuthera, will have been a great disappointment to the prime minister.
One year into government, he opined that there “was a disconnect between the Bahamian people and the Minnis administration” — a theme picked up by Chipman in his letter to the speaker of the House yesterday.
The resignation from the party by a nonconforming backbencher while the government holds an overwhelming majority in the House of Assembly will have little if any practical impact on the Minnis administration.
However, to the extent that the resignation manifests the continued festering of internal discord among the party’s parliamentary caucus, the prime minister would be wise to revisit his reluctance to consider, much less accept, views different to his own.