Expectations running high — now its time for delivery
You know the saying, Mr Acting Editor, the more things change the more they stay the same. The Throne Speech ritual endured once again — with some minor variations. It was long, yes, (45 minutes or so) but it was mercifully short, perhaps pointedly so, on too much vision. Instead, it got down to business pretty quickly and set out in workmanlike fashion all the things on which the new One Bermuda Alliance Government intends to concentrate to turn our economy around. Sounded like, and looked like, an ambitious programme notwithstanding the early indications from the now Opposition Progressive Labour Party that most of it contained matters on which they were working when the election intervened. Figures. Governments have a way of working like that.
Long live the Government!
More flesh was spun on the bone by the OBA at the now traditional post-Speech press conference which followed, where Cabinet Ministers, backed by backbenchers, offered an early preview of the detail sure to follow in the Throne Speech debate which starts today on the Hill, which could of course continue on into tomorrow, if the past continues to be any indication. Déjà vu all over again?
But the message so far is clear enough. The economy is Job One, stupid: jobs, and more jobs, please. That was the promise of the 2012 campaign and it remains the promise of 2013. That, and that the OBA can do a better job at turning things around than the PLP.
All words, yes, but the right words. Expectations run high as a result and voters now look for delivery.
It will not be easy. It was no coincidence — or was it — that the Auditor General also chose the first day of Parliament to table her report on the state of Government finances: not a pretty picture. Qualified again and confirmation that the debt stands at a staggering $2.4 billion. The lady pulls no punches and eschews political spin when she tells that she has concerns about what has been done and what can be done to turn this around.
The promises of the Throne Speech may yet turn out to be as half as important as the Speech which is to follow next week: the Budget Statement which will actually have to set out the nuts and bolts of what can be done. Stay tuned.
However, the most-talked about story of the day — and that is putting it mildly — had to be the election of Randy Horton as Speaker, judging from the bloggers. There was plenty of vitriol, too much in fact, as readers could see first-hand how out of hand rabid party partisans can become when decisions disappoint.
Get over it. What happened here was pretty straightforward. There was a convergence of two compelling factors:
1. The closeness of the votes (19-17) was a strong motivator for the OBA Government and it is to their advantage to have one less vote on the Opposition benches; and,
2. Mr Horton happened to be the best and most qualified candidate for the job and I expect that he would also have been in the running had the PLP won the election.
But lets also not get too carried away with what it was. While the choice had the feel and the look of bipartisanship, it was not as magnanimous as some were making it out to be. It is far different when you actually give something up that benefits the other side, or the Country, and not yourself, and when it is done without apparent advantage to yourself or your party.
Mr Horton knows that, I am sure, and, please, dont sell him short or the position of Speaker. It is an important post and from that lofty chair on the Hill the holder can be of great service not just to his constituents by the entire community. He can set the tone, establish the tenor and lead the Legislature on a new path (much-needed) of greater independence from the Executive so that it can become a stronger check and balance on the exercise of power by the Cabinet. Mr Horton will be able to do this because he did not come from within the ranks of the Government party, yet, having been nominated and seconded by the Premier and his Deputy no less, enjoys their full support.
Despite the initial, early criticism, I would like to think that he will also soon come to enjoy the support of his former colleagues — and I say former deliberately because as Speaker he is now expected to give up, renounce even, party affiliation. It is a long-standing requirement of the job. Crossing the floor isnt necessary; neither is party expulsion. If the official statement issued by the PLP later in the day is any indication they may already be thinking twice as they may soon realise that a change in direction on the Hill under Mr Horton may be of greater advantage to them than Government now that they sit in Opposition.
LETS DO IT AGAIN
The online chatter with readers after the Throne Speech was interesting, engaging, and enjoyable, and I am grateful to all those who participated, including even the one blogger who came on with a personal axe to grind with me, hiding behind anonymity. Sadly, that seems to be the way these days, not just to make points and levy criticism on issues of the day, but to go after people personally. It is very disheartening to see. I am told, and I have to remind myself, that this is the price we pay for freedom of speech. But I have to also admit to having second thoughts when these vicious personal attacks are launched by people who choose to hide behind noms de plume or, rather, more appropriately, noms de guerre. Oh well, over to you, Mr Acting Editor, its your call.
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