UBP about to self-destruct, says Gordon

The United Bermuda Party appears ready to self-destruct over Independence, a Cabinet Minister said last night.

Breaking a long silence on the Independence issue, Youth and Sport Minister the Hon. Pamela Gordon said "healing is needed'' in the UBP.

The United Bermuda Party appears ready to self-destruct over Independence, a Cabinet Minister said last night.

Breaking a long silence on the Independence issue, Youth and Sport Minister the Hon. Pamela Gordon said "healing is needed'' in the UBP.

In the battle over Independence, "all the stops were pulled out, and the people lost sight of respecting one another,'' Ms Gordon said.

And the situation may have passed "the point of no return,'' she said.

"I can not see the present incumbents pulling together to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.'' While she did not rule out serving in Government if Premier the Hon. Sir John Swan resigns as a result of a "no'' vote in next Tuesday's referendum, Ms Gordon said: "I have no intention of serving in a Government that is going to be right of centre.'' And she ruled herself out as a successor to Sir John. First, "it wouldn't happen'' that she would be asked to lead the UBP, she said. Secondly, "to work with this Parliamentary group, and seeing what I have seen, no thank you.'' Ms Gordon's comments partly echoed those of Deputy Premier the Hon. Irving Pearman, who yesterday ruled himself out as a successor to Sir John, and warned of a possible shift to the right in the UBP should the referendum result in a "no'' vote, as polls indicate it will.

But Ms Gordon went further, saying she was gradually coming to agree with Mr.

Pearman, who she said told the party caucus nearly a year ago that the UBP appeared to be "an experiment that has failed'' in uniting Bermudian blacks and whites.

But unlike the Premier, Mr. Pearman, Health Minister the Hon. Quinton Edness, and Transport Minister the Hon. Maxwell Burgess, Ms Gordon did not link her vow to retreat to the back benches with a call for Bermudians to vote `yes' on August 15.

"People must vote their conscience,'' she said. "That was the importance of having the referendum and giving the people the choice to make that decision.'' Caucus members who oppose Independence have pointed to an "orchestrated campaign'' of threatened resignations intended to swing the outcome of next week's vote.

Ms Gordon said she would continue to keep to herself how she would vote in the August 15 Independence referendum, though she left little doubt where she stood on the issue.

Noting that the UBP had governed Bermuda for 27 years, she compared the Country to a business that had prospered under Bermudian management.

"Then you're given an opportunity to buy it, and you tell your boss that if you own the business, it's going to fail. It doesn't make sense to me.'' Asked if she would be willing to serve under a Government headed by Tourism Minister the Hon. C.V. (Jim) Woolridge -- who opposes Independence and along with Mr. Pearman has been considered a front runner to succeed Sir John -- Ms Gordon said it would depend on whom he surrounded himself with.

Ms Gordon said she believed in the timing of what was done on Independence and that a referendum was the best way to decide the issue. It could not have left Cabinet without consensus, and "if we go under that premise, then no-one in the existing Cabinet who chose not to resign when this issue came up should be eligible to sit in a future Cabinet.'' She joined the UBP because she believed it stood for creating "a balance for both the whites and blacks''.

But she had detected "a shift in attitude'' against blacks in the UBP. Caucus members who she would not name felt "too many concessions were being made for black people,'' and Government was doing "too much to level the playing field.'' And she was "offended'' by concerns recently expressed about "ballot box stuffing,'' when the Country had never experienced that before. Others had told the Premier he must resign, then attacked him when he promised to do so.

While she had seen "more venom'' from those who were anti-Independence, others in the UBP were not blameless, she said. "When someone eggs you on, you react.'' UBP MPs had been so busy acting and reacting against one another, they forgot they were elected to govern the Country, she said. "I have major concerns when I see what has been allowed to happen in the last two years.'' At a news conference, Mr. Pearman ruled out running for the leadership of the UBP if Sir John steps down and re-affirmed that he would move to the back bench.

In announcing his decision, Mr. Pearman said the Community Affairs Minister the Hon. Wayne Furbert had publicly expressed hope he would take over from Sir John in the event of a "no'' vote.

"I would like to make it clear that I have no intention of leading the Country under those circumstances,'' said Mr. Pearman.

He said he was "shocked, dismayed and profoundly embarrassed'' by attacks on Sir John mounted by anti-Independence UBP members.

"For pro-dependence supporters to attack Sir John, to attack the Government saying it has lost its way and to attack the very integrity of the very Green Paper they supported in Cabinet, caucus and the House is in my view clearly unprincipled behaviour.'' He added: "I could not serve on in the Cabinet with those who would go to such lengths to advance their cause and I will so inform the Chairman of the Party.'' Mr. Pearman said as early as the 1980s he had shared a common view with Sir John about Bermuda and its people.

He added: "One can only suspect that if the people of Bermuda vote no we would see a shift to the extreme right. The UBP is moving more to the right.

That would not be to the advantage of this Country and is something that I would not participate in.''

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