By-elections and London buses

  • Political departures: Like London buses, more than one came along at the same time this week

    Political departures: Like London buses, more than one came along at the same time this week

I actually had another topic to write about but I had to put it aside for the moment given the sudden departure of Jeff Baron from Parliament. But, like London buses, by the time I finished writing about him, Grant Gibbons announced his retirement, so a rewrite.

“’Tis the season to be political.”

The departures of two men at opposite ends of their political lives have brought the political dynamics front and centre again and will undoubtedly give us another revelation of where the electorate is.

The key factor in any General Election is hope. By-elections, on the other hand, do not carry the same level of interest unless they are crucial to the balance of power in Parliament. In this case for Constituency 25, whether the Progressive Labour Party or One Bermuda Alliance win will not have an impact on the balance of power. Twenty-five seats for the PLP do not provide any more advantage than do 24 seats. For the OBA, retaining would salvage only a degree of pride, but no more power than what it already enjoys; the same would be the case if it loses.

The Paget East seat will go to whomever the OBA selects or endorses. The real dynamic of that change is the particular stature of Gibbons, who is a firm pillar of the old guard. Whether these back-to-back resignations are being massaged or simply organic remains to be seen.

Elections in Bermuda since the 1960s have been won and lost because of the idea of hope. The 1963 election, which featured the emergence of the PLP and six of its candidates winning seats, was fuelled by a hope of a better day when black persons could participate more effectively in the political process.

Following on with the election after the 1968 conference, the United Bermuda Party was handed the mantle. Again, it was because there was the hope that this better day could be best achieved mutually.

The 1998 election, after the failure of the UBP, was based on the hope that the PLP representing the beleaguered people would finally make it better. But then seeing its failures, which seemed insurmountable, there came the hope in 2012 that the OBA could fix things and move the country beyond the old political trenches of the past.

Then in 2017, after it became apparent that the country had returned to a primitive regime, there was the hope that the PLP had learnt its lesson and would not return to its 2012 behaviours.

In each saga, it was a portion of the electorate that demonstrated its hope and put it in the ballot box to achieve a result.

The country has reached an epoch where the issue of patronage and loyalty, while still a factor, no longer dominates the electorate as it once did. We are perhaps as close to political anarchy as we can get.

We have party members on both sides who are self-critical of their organisations and in many cases totally disappointed. The old order of the simple “united we stand, divided we fall” is broken and persons are demanding more vibrantly now — not just for unity under a banner, but for substance under those banners as well.

The populace knows now in unity you can fall also if you don’t have the right plan or idea. The OBA still, for the most part, needs to have learnt that father doesn’t always know best; sometimes a child will lead you, and the real art is to be able to listen.

So how does, or will, hope factor into the two by-elections? Even Baron had little hope in the OBA, and probably the greater portion of the island would concur with his sentiments. If the broad consensus is one of no hope, what would be the purpose of fielding a candidate? Aside from party pride on either side, what is the contest about?

I ask a simple question: is it or will it be about hope? And if so, can we define what the hope is? Otherwise, the upcoming by-elections are simply carrying out a required ritual and perfunctory exercise while having no real consequences.

Now with Grant’s departure, the question of leadership emerges. Will the OBA dissolve and allow something else to form, or will it try to fashion some form of rebranding?

The broader question is: are there political pundits that have expressed a new vision that embodies hope that can be squeezed into the by-election equation and if so, who and how? We can appreciate that most of Bermuda has become party agnostics with a large batch of the electorate nervously hoping the PLP perform this time around.

It’s almost like saying the PLP has to succeed or it, too, like the UBP, will be for ever lost.

The OBA, if it reads the tea leaves properly, needs to have metamorphosed into the mode of the next Bermuda. Right now, that means being “born again”. A new name doesn’t do it; there needs to be a new heart and a new vision.

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Published May 3, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated May 3, 2018 at 6:52 am)

By-elections and London buses

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