PLP leadership vows to carry on

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  • Where did it go wrong? Wayne Furbert and Zane DeSilva exchange words after the result was known.

    Where did it go wrong? Wayne Furbert and Zane DeSilva exchange words after the result was known.

There was no victory party last night on Court Street as many had hoped, but the party’s leadership vowed to carry on and fight for the people from the Opposition benches.

Shortly after calling the One Bermuda Alliance leadership to inform them that she would be visiting the Governor to discuss handing over power to her opponents, Ms Cox spoke to the media for the second time before heading out to address her supporters.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Paula Cox told the gathering of about 200 party faithful outside Alaska Hall.

“We thank you for being here, that’s the first thing,” said Ms Cox. She was interrupted by shouts of “We love you”.

“We love you too,” replied Ms Cox.

Ms Cox told the supporters that the results meant that “there is both a challenge and an opportunity as we continue to deal with the difficult economic situation. Now, more than ever, it requires leadership and it requires cooperation if we are going to put the people of Bermuda first.

“The PLP is not going anywhere. And the people you see on stage are men and women of commitment, conviction and courage. They have earned their seats and they will continue to be your voice”.

“And just in case you are left in any doubt, my heart is with the PLP and the fact that I don’t have a seat doesn’t mean that you won’t continue to have my undying attention,” she said to loud applause.

“So tonight, or this morning, feel disappointed, feel hurt but recognise also that a message was sent about the people hurting and we’re listening. So thank you for being here. I’m sorry we didn’t have more to celebrate but we love you and we’re here to continue to fight for you.”

Ms Cox had first addressed the media following her shock defeat in Devonshire North West. It would be another two hours before the final results were to be confirmed, and those gathered at Alaska Hall told of the party’s defeat at the polls.

The One Bermuda Alliance had won 19 seats to the PLP’s 17 in an election which saw just 30,862 registered voters participate — a surprisingly low 67.42 percent turnout, as compared to 76 percent turnout in 2007. A total of 43,653 people had registered for yesterday’s poll.

A total of 14,218 votes had been cast for the PLP, compared to 16,800 in 2007. But the OBA gained 15,949 votes a marginal increase over the 15,161 who voted for the United Bermuda Party in 2007.

In what appears to be a historic first, the proportion of votes gained by each party nationally was equal to the proportion of seats gained in the House of Assembly. The first past the post system is notorious for over rewarding the victor.

The 15 independent candidates got a total of 695 votes among them.

Some agreed that a key reason for the defeat was that many party faithful expressed their disenchantment by staying away from the polls.

Stephen Todd who lost his bid to represent district 30 said he was surprised at his loss. “We had commitments from a number of the electorate but they did not show at the polls. That’s a disappointing statistic from the standpoint that had we had 50 percent of the just over 400 voters that did not show at the polls today, the seat would have been retained. Clearly there’s a message in that — they were unhappy. The disappointment was that they chose not to tell us that.

He agreed that his party’s failure to get supporters out to vote could have been key to the party’s first defeat in 14 years.

“My understanding is that we were one of the two boundary changes that were most significant, in terms of the loss. The realignment of the boundary in Constituency 30 — we lost some core votes, strong support in Sunnyside Park, Palm Valley and Hillside. And that in itself represented just over 200 voters.”

Ms Cox rejected a suggestion that her party had taken the voters for granted. “What we have to recognise is that this is a difficult time. People are hurting and that certainly shows in the poll results.”

She added: “The PLP continually looks at how it can improve and raise the bar and that commitment to the people remain undimmed.”

As to her future as leader, she said that the decision was one for the party. “The party has to choose a parliamentary leader. You can’t have a leader by remote.”

She said it was not practical to have a leader that was not in Parliament.

A special delegates conference would have to be held to choose a new leader as the next scheduled leadership contest is at October’s annual conference.

But no one expected a leadership selection contest to happen until after the holidays.

“Given at this point we were not successful collectively at the polls, I think we have some time to spare to enjoy the Christmas,” said Patrice Minors.

Jonathan Smith, who did not succeed at his challenge for the Warwick West seat speculated that the overall loss may not have been as severe as it appeared as the OBA had won by a wafer thin margin in a number of constituencies.

“For now, the PLP returns to opposition and we go on and we rebuild and we strengthen our team.”

Patrice Minors who lost her seat to Michael Dunkley said that she had had a sense that she would not remain in parliament, but was shocked at the overall result.

“I actually sensed my defeat last week. So I’m not shocked with my result. I obviously am shocked with the collective result but the people have spoken, the people have made known their decision. My hope is that the grounds for which people have made their decision and the expectations that they have now for the OBA to deliver, will be realised. As we intimated, we are not going anywhere. We’re going to come back and fight another day.”

She said there were many contributory factors to her party’s defeat. “I believe that the boundary changes, the impact that the downturn in the economy has been having on people and there being a lack of patience to stick with us until we got to that point where we were indicating was going to take us through a growth period obviously wasn’t something that the voting populace was prepared to wait for.”

Former PLP MP Renee Webb was not surprised at the party’s loss. “I’m not disappointed. Democracy works,” she said.

“People voted for the OBA and the PLP needs to regroup and look at why they lost the election because I maintain that the election was for them to lose and they lost it. And the OBA has won the election so the party needs to regroup, learn from it, go from strength to strength and stop running negative campaigns.”

Asked if the campaign was so negative that it put people off, she said: “It put me off. Which is why I kept saying ‘don’t do it’ but it didn’t make a difference.”

She said: “The campaign was just very negative. It was just a very negative campaign. You run on your strengths when you are the government. You don’t have to be attacking nobody. You’re not Opposition. Run on your strengths.”

Asked who may emerge as the next leader, she said: “I don’t know. Who cares? It’s the leader of the Opposition.” But she noted that a two-seat margin of victory in the House could make it difficult for the OBA. One person away and that’s a no-confidence vote. The PLP could get that back in no time.”

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Published Dec 18, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 18, 2012 at 4:34 am)

PLP leadership vows to carry on

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