Monday, September 14, 2009

My Two Cents

Bermuda has reached a crossroads.

The United Bermuda Party, long lambasted as the white supremacist party of old and recently under renewed fire for being a weak, impotent opposition, has finally begun it's death throes. Six members of the UBP including three MP's and a Senator have tendered their resignations with the intention of forming a new party in the new year. This would appear to be the final nail in the coffin of a long dying political entity.

Or is it?

Many will cite the failures of the NLP which emerged from a split with the current ruling Progressive Labour Party as proof that it is impossible for any newcomer to break the stranglehold that the PLP and UBP hold over politics on this small island. The PLP survived that split, why can't the UBP survive this one?

Well the situations seem astronomically different. Bermuda's political realm has not been so open to the formation of a new party in a long, long time. The UBP is critisised almost daily in the media or in the blogging community and admitidly has done little to dispel those criticisms. Whether because it is a weak opposition (fact) or because it is the old racist party (fiction) these critisims have taken a heavy toll on the party. It's leader Kim Swan has approval levels close to those of our Premier Ewart Brown. Suprising given all that Dr. Brown has done recently, from complete disregard for the constitution to complete disrespect for parliment. Mr. Swan was never the man for the job but, internal politics must have won out because in the end he is the one sitting as Leader of the Opposition.

The six rebels identify a lack of reform as the reasons for their decision to break from the UBP and I think this is a cause that Bermudians can respect which is important if the new party is to move forward. However I have to admit that although reform of the UBP is talked about often I can never seem to figure out what that reform is supposed to entail. Moving away from it's past by changing it's name is one possible reform I can identify, another would be more democratic internal processes but, again it's all very vague to me. Perhaps someone could enlighten me.

The UBP is doomed, thats my honest opinion. UNLESS it can move away from it's past which it has proved it can't. The PLP has grown complacent, corrupt and incompetant during it's long stint in power, the simply fact that Dr. Brown remains Premier illustrates this fact. Bermuda's political system needs a major shake up, I hope this new party can be this shake up. The rebels are quite right that the racial divides need to be broken and this new party is going to have to be very careful to ensure it cannot be labled as the "New UBP".

The PLP has the ability to turn itself around, to step away from the race based politics and campaign purely on it's ideals for a better Bermuda. The new party has the ability to provide a strong opposition and even government when the time comes.
Unfortunatly for the UBP it would seem that their time is nearly over. Public perception is everything and the hurdles the UBP would need to overcome to be viable again are humungous. But, perhaps it's possible, I'd be careful in pronouncing a death sentance on such a long standing political institution just yet. The most important question is not whether the party will survive but rather if it will ever be able to contest the government again. If not then it is in for a very slow, very painful death.


  1. "However I have to admit that although reform of the UBP is talked about often I can never seem to figure out what that reform is supposed to entail. Moving away from it's past by changing it's name is one possible reform I can identify, another would be more democratic internal processes"

    Changing names is pointless. You've hit it with reforming internal processes. The only way the UBP can rejouvinate itself is to be the change it preaches. It needs to make itself as transparent as possible so that people can clearly see that candidates are no longer selected as puppets, that a hidden white cadre no longer controls the party and that the party is wholly dedicated to practicing and demonstrating what it preaches.

    Quite unfortunately there seems to be some truth to the UBP selecting puppet candidates, there is also some truth to there being a group of legacy whites who hold tightly onto the reigns of the party.

    As long as Bermudians believe that these things are true they will never trust the UBP. The only way to gain that trust is transparency. Transparency in as many meetings and processes as possible. Transparency in elections of candidates and party officials.

    The problem with the UBP is that there are those in the party who have become too corrupted by power to loosen their hold on the reigns and in the end they will ultimately strangle the party into non-existance.

  2. I don't believe change within the UBP is possible. I fear that no matter what they do, they will always carry the UBP stigma so effectively attached to them by the PLP. Even a major split by young progressives won't stop a new party from being labelled the "New UBP". I believe in order for any new party to be effective it must have broad grass-roots across-the-board support... and the UBP (along with the PLP needs to fade into the history that spawned them.

  3. I hold little faith that reform within the UBP is possible either Lewis Padgett. However at the same time one can never discount what a sticky situation can drive a leader to do. But does the UBP have such a leader? Not in Kim Swan anyway and I don't think they have it anywhere else either.

    As for a party with across the board supporty, that isen't going to happen anytime soon and to be honest I don't think it would be a good thing. The country needs an opposition as much as a government, the current situation shows what can happen when both of those fail.

    I wince every time I hear the words "grass-roots" now. It's a done to death political cliche and while I understand the ideals behind it (and agree with them) the pragmatist in me conceeds that such things are rarely possible. It is far easier to change a system from within and as much as both the PLP and UBP are critisised there are some very intelligent members of both. I would rather see a party with transparent and democratic internal mechanisms that was formed by a number of rebel MP's from both sides of the house with the support of the everday Bermudian behind them than the mythical grass-roots party. In fact every time I hear the words "grass-roots" party I pretty much immediatly assume it is anything but.

  4. A "grass-roots" party is as much of a rhetorical cliche as an "obama-like movement". It would be worthwhile not useing these and showcasing what you are through your actions rather than words.

    "It is far easier to change a system from within"

    I highly disagree with this. The problem with large hierarchical organizations is that you have to rise the ranks before you have any influence. By the time you've climbed the ranks you've become so cooerced by the organization's ideals and ways of doing things that you've often forgotten most of what you set out to change to begin with.

    Sometimes you can change an organization from the outside by changing the perception people hold of it.

    My thoughts are that we'll end up with a minority government at some point in the future when people get fed up with the PLP having too much power.

  5. I didn't mean to say that it's always possible to change it from within. Rather that it's easier to do it that way than as an outsider looking in. I don't disagree with you but, even an orginizations perception doesn't always change it. That is why I am skeptical that it's even possible to change it. In fact by now I'm almost certain it isen't.

    Why do you believe that we'd end up with a minority government?