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.