Strong opposition to PLP is needed

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  • Jeanne Atherden, new leader of the OBA, must learn lessons from the past (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Jeanne Atherden, new leader of the OBA, must learn lessons from the past (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The story is told of a man who became very irate with his wife when she told him that the car broke down and had to be towed to the garage. He yelled at her that she was ripped off because she paid way too much for the car to be towed one mile to the garage. She responded: “You are right, but I didn’t make it easy for him. I had my foot on the brake for the entire drive!”

This woman thought she was being clever by making the tow truck work harder to get her car to the garage to get it fixed, even though it was a needless exercise.

Similarly, when there is strong political opposition, this sort of self-defeating cleverness is likely to occur.

A strong opposition can effectively diminish the growth of a country by not allowing an elected government to operate and then position blame on the same government for its inability to deliver on its policies and law. This happens when politics and politicians become self-serving rather than advocating for the people at large to benefit from an improving country.

When there is a strong opposition that benefits the country, the governing party will be held accountable. The ruling government’s actions and policies will be sufficiently held in check and in balance. Competitive ideas will be proposed to further progress or to solve problems.

The Government will be questioned sufficiently and it will be forced to answer to the people. A strong opposition is good for a democracy to work effectively. When there is a strong opposition, governments tend to communicate more and discuss issues sufficiently before moving further.

In Bermuda, the July 18, 2017 election resulted in not only a resounding Progressive Labour Party victory, but also a severely weakened One Bermuda Alliance opposition, with only one third of the seats in Parliament.

Even with a marginal victory, the “winner-takes-all” Westminster system makes for high-handed governance. Indeed, this accusation was persuasively projected at the OBA.

This means that to safeguard the integrity of our democracy we are called upon at present to be more vigilant against unchecked governance. The adage is never more apt than during these circumstances: absolute power corrupts absolutely.

We hear the words of the present PLP government when it rightfully asserts that it was given a mandate to govern.

But it falls upon all of us to make sure that it does not cross that fine line between “democratic governance” and “dictatorial rule”.

It is plausible to surmise that the landslide victory was more a protest vote against the OBA rather than a mandate for the PLP. The OBA was deemed a “caretaker government”, but it is no less plausible to see the PLP’s ascendancy as a happenstance of “caretaker leadership”.

In hindsight, the OBA’s missteps are traceable.

First, there was a trust deficit of the United Bermuda Party element within the OBA.

Second, there was a burying of heads as it concerned the referendum where more than 14,000 voters stated their desire regarding same-sex marriage after their input was invited.

Third, there was gross miscalculation of the public’s appetite for Pathways to Status. And, fourth, the December 2 airport protest ...

But without transcending these blunders and mounting a strong opposition to hold the PLP to account, Bermuda’s political landscape is weakened to the detriment of us all. It will inevitably lead to the PLP returning to the misadventures that resulted in its defeat in 2012 and the OBA’s that led to theirs in July.

So it is important for the OBA to move in earnest to capitalise upon the lessons of the distant and recent past to provide the Bermudian people with an attractive alternative to PLP governance.

To do so, at a minimum, OBA MPs must be consistently present in the House of Assembly.

With such a slim minority, it is imperative that everyone is present to the extent feasible. Showing up is the bare essential of what even a numerically weak opposition is elected to do. If this minimum standard cannot be upheld, they should do the responsible thing.

There is no greater indicator of overstaying one’s time in political office than when the chips are down and we fail to rise to the minimum demanded by the occasion.

When tried-and-tested politics does not work any more and there is no vitality to reinvent oneself, it is time to call it quits.

Ways have to be made for new and potentially more popular persons whose time it is to rise to the occasion.

This is the most difficult and inevitable decision that confronts spent leadership.

However, it is the cornerstone of a strong democracy and the best hope for a better country for us all.

Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017

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Published Dec 8, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 8, 2017 at 8:07 am)

Strong opposition to PLP is needed

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