Burt’s politics of desperation
“It can be easy to forget the lessons of history, including the tragedies of war, and ramp up divisive and destructive rhetoric without concern for the consequences.”
— Gudjon Bergmann
I have taken the time to review the Premier’s speech at the Progressive Labour Party Delegates Conference on October 28. In an effort to save us $10,000, he substituted this speech for the traditional Governor’s speech from the throne that precedes the reconvening of Parliament.
Whether we are for or against the Premier and the PLP government, we would be advised to pay close attention. What his government says and does will have an impact on all of us, and that impact is likely to be felt for a long time.
This speech had a lot of food for thought for things the Premier said as well as the things he didn’t say. One of the first things to stand out was that the Premier chose to give this speech himself rather than follow the tradition of the Governor reading the Throne Speech. One would be blind to not draw inferences to independence, given the PLP’s stance on the subject. Is this the kind of Bermuda that the Premier is leading us towards?
To me, that was the first indication of division. Separate the Bermuda of today and tomorrow from the Bermuda of the past. Some traditions will be discarded for the good and others will be discarded for political gain.
By the Premier choosing to provide this speech at a party event rather than via the bipartisan Speech from the Throne, it offers a symbolic view that the PLP is a one-party state catering to the core party loyalist — and the rest of us do not matter.
If one considers the tone of the speech, it was also full of divisiveness, including reckless attacks on the United Bermuda Party, a group that no longer exists. There are, however, two former leaders in the present PLP and two Cabinet ministers from the former UBP. In fact, the Premier removed the late Walton Brown from Cabinet and replaced him with a former UBP leader.
Additionally, the speech was also used to attack the One Bermuda Alliance over and over for being the “wayward stepchild” of the UBP.
This certainly did not appear to be a speech that provided a vision for the nation and a unifying call for all of us to get on board. This was a speech that displayed a young apprentice whipping up racial emotions about the past while diverting attention away from the challenges we face today.
We can all feel it and know that we are a country declining in fortunes. Now is the time that we require leadership to pull us away from the economic abyss where businesses are closing at an alarming rate, employment opportunities are scarce, business confidence is low, taxes are continuing to rise, retail sales are in steep decline and there is no end in sight.
Therein lies the unsaid desperation. These are the inescapable truths that the Premier is required to address, and no amount of bravado language will suffice. He needs to provide proven and workable solutions that will benefit the nation.
Because there is no clear vision to lead the nation forward, the tried and tested divisive strategy was deployed with youthful zest. The attacks also continued on insurers, bankers and this thing he called the status quo.
He followed with attacks on conventional processes, institutions, the “real enemy”, which he later described as those who maintain control of the wealth of the economy and also the system itself.
It is not clear what the attack on the system means, but normally a new system such as socialism, communism or dictatorship is offered as an alternative. However, we are not sure if this is where he is leading us.
He even threw punches at dissenters within his own party, whom he described as bickering and fussing while focusing on “disruptive and internal cannibalism”. He then warned us all that the “collective ambitions of the have-nots are about to be unleashed”.
I cannot recall such a speech full of vitriolic language coming from any politician, let alone a premier. It seems that he forgot that it was a speech for all Bermudians and the whole world could listen to it as well.
So, the obvious questions need to be asked. What is the Premier’s endgame? What national ambitions were such a divisive speech supposed to achieve? Why would the Premier believe that he needs to drive a wedge between Bermudians to further the national interests of Bermuda?
It literally makes no sense. The only conclusion that seems to make sense is that he resorted to the familiar divisive, racial and emotional strategy that has worked in the past. He escalated it to match the failures of his government and the difficult challenges of the day without any regard for the unintended consequences. It is a dangerous strategy that must be reined in before it consumes our country, as it has done to other countries.
All of this acrimonious language masks a conservative, albeit questionable, proposal to use our pension money to fund investment in businesses here at home. He believes the magical solution to our national economic woes is to give Bermudians access to their pension funds to finance business ventures. He touted that it was his PLP government that enacted legislation to make this possible. He didn’t mention that the legislation is taking advantage of something put in place by the former UBP.
To make a long story short, the PLP has run out of any further ideas to improve the resources and revenue of the Government. Direct foreign investment is drying up, so the only thing the PLP can come up with is to encourage Bermudians to use their pension money on reviving a co-op grocery store scheme, and some sort of financial institution that will lower mortgage rates and provide business loans.
His government wants to keep spending to appease its supporters. However, it is faced with the harsh reality of bare cupboards and no money. We have been taxed to the hilt and any more taxes would be like squeezing water from a stone.
Bermuda, the stage has been set. This idea, as ill-conceived as it appears to be, is the Government’s grand vision for our future. Anyone who questions it is the enemy or a puppet of the enemy.
Meanwhile, the debt ceiling was just raised by the PLP to $2.75 billion. This equates to us owing approximately $50,000 per Bermudian man, woman and child. This is in addition to operational expenses to run our Civil Service, healthcare system, schools and roads, and to pay our elected officials.
I advise that we all listen to the Premier’s next speech he is to deliver in Parliament tomorrow, and let’s hope that the politics of desperation inciting division are not in it. Escalated divisive politics as usual will dig us farther and even deeper into the economic abyss.
•Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017
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