Oct 10, 2014 8:00 am
By John Barritt
Consultation, Mr Editor, I am all for it. Our people deserve the opportunity to be engaged on the issues of the day and the difficult decisions facing their government. I would even go so far as to say that as voters they are entitled. Attempts this week are therefore welcomed. They are steps in the right direction. But they are only steps and whether it is a question of too little too late ó or more accurately perhaps,...
Oct 3, 2014 8:00 am
The joke is, Mr Editor, that we obtained responsible government almost 50 years ago with passage of the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968 and that it has grown increasingly irresponsible ever since. You think I jest. I donít.
It depends on how you think government should work. But letís get one thing straight right from the start. I am not going after the UBP or the PLP or the OBA. Rather this is a critique of how our government has...
Sep 26, 2014 8:00 am
You thought maybe I might touch on Scotland this week, right? Wrong. Try Botswana. Yes, Botswana, Mr Editor, and if space permits I think I can bring it back to what happened in Scotland. Stay with me now.
I have just finished reading a fascinating book, Why Nations Fail, the product of 15 years of painstaking research, co-authored by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson, one a professor in economics at MIT and the other a professor of...
Sep 19, 2014 8:00 am
Speaking is relatively easy. The thinking bit is harder. So always be sure the brain is in gear before putting the jaw in motion: I have never forgotten that admonition. The same is true for writing, donít you think, Mr Editor? Well, we try. So when readers write it gets even better; right on, readers, even when, no especially when, you think weĎve got it wrong. What was it that Alan Greenspan, the famed US economist was reputed to have said...
Sep 12, 2014 8:00 am
Functional unity is a beautiful thing, I reckon Mr Editor. But like beauty, functionality is in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps when it comes to politics in the eyes of the beholden. Of course, we would all like to see a little more functional unity among all of those who constitute our parliamentary functionaries, known collectively the Legislature, whose chief function, according to the Bermuda Constitution Order, is to make laws for...
Sep 5, 2014 8:00 am
Position is the art of gunnery, Mr Editor, or words to that effect. A former comrade in arms, politically speaking of course, not literally please, used to remind us of this at critical junctures in caucus discussions on issues of the day. I think we all understood what he meant. Strategy is important in politics. Timing isnít everything either, but itís important too.
Two very recent events prompted the remembrance and I will come on...
Aug 29, 2014 8:00 am
If it ainít broke, donít fix it. Itís an old saw, readily understood by most, which I have always rather liked, Mr Editor, and thatís because I also happen to think the reverse is true.
Thatís why, for those who wonder, I go on from time to time (actually pretty regularly, I will concede) about the need for parliamentary reform and why I believe it was one of the keys to changing the way in which we run our government and conduct our...
Aug 22, 2014 8:00 am
People are looking for answers, Mr Editor, and when people want answers they start by asking questions. Hmmn, questions. Fair enough.
On the Hill in the House, there is a parliamentary version: Question Period. A fair chunk of time is set aside each morning, our representatives meet to give members an opportunity to question Ministers of the Government. Albeit narrow in scope and limited in purpose, the goal here isnít just to elicit...
Aug 15, 2014 8:00 am
This is one for the books, Mr. Editor. Literally. In the Canadian province of New Brunswick the Progressive Conservative Government there brought in legislation that requires the government of the day to provide voters with a fiscal update of public finances 60 days before an election, and further that all political parties contesting the election tabulate and publish a costing of their promises in advance of polling day. Wow. This particular...
Jul 30, 2014 8:00 am
T & A, Mr Editor, transparency and accountability, are the key to good governance. Both words are bandied about frequently by those in and out of politics, myself included. The two principles are, we are told, the dynamic duo to democracy, the Batman and Robin if you will, that can set things right; or, on the other hand, the one-two counter punch should you be on the wrong side of whatís right.
The challenge sometimes is figuring...
Jul 25, 2014 8:00 am
Disappointing, Mr Editor, is just one of the words that comes to mind (there are others) ó and on so many fronts. First, it took ten weeks to produce the report. Ten whole weeks. It should never have taken that long and the blame here doesnít fall entirely to the party chairman. The people who knew what was what were in the OBA caucus. They only had to tell each other and the party chairman what went on. I think we all thought that would...
Jul 18, 2014 8:00 am
Bob Dylan wrote it. Jimi Hendrix aced it. From All Along The Watchtower:
ďThere must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief.
ďThereís too much confusion, I canít get no relief.Ē
Maybe so, Mr. Editor, maybe so.
First, it should come as no surprise that I believe in a strong and independent Legislature. It is key to good governance. The role the Legislature is required to play is set out carefully...
Jul 11, 2014 8:00 am
It was a whopper that came up a cropper, you could say Mr Editor. Let me explain myself. The One Bermuda Alliance Government looked to be stuck with an investigation by a Commission that it seemed it neither approved of nor wanted.
Initial reports cast it as a victory for the Opposition PLP (which it was) as it was their motion that succeeded thanks to support from one member of the OBA backbench and the disqualification from voting of...
Jul 4, 2014 8:00 am
Thereís nothing like a road map to see what lies ahead here at home and abroad. But I begin with a disclaimer, Mr Editor: I have no crystal ball. First, our Finance Minister got me to thinking with his frank admission fresh from his promotional reconnaissance in France. We donít see eye to eye, he reported on his return, and nothing he had to say to the French caused them to change their minds. We have some ďphilosophicalĒ (ahem)...
Jun 27, 2014 8:00 am
You could call it the third rail of local politics, Mr Editor: immigration generally, status specifically. For those who donít know, the third rail is a metaphor often used to describe an issue so fraught with controversy that any politician, or Government for that matter, that tackles the subject will invariably suffer, politically. It is the exposed electrical conductor that has to be handled with care, preferably by those who know what...
Jun 20, 2014 8:00 am
The absence of information helps fuel speculation. Dots left dangling get connected, whether the dots warrant it or not, and that which might otherwise be viewed as unreasonable comes across as reasonable.
As you well know, Mr Editor, it happens a lot in politics: sometimes innocently, mostly not.
Let me give you a current example. Developer Nathan Landau was reported as having given $300,000 to the One Bermuda Alliance election...
Jun 13, 2014 8:00 am
GM got me to thinking, Mr Editor: General Motors, that is, the car manufacturer that was recoiling under intense scrutiny and withering criticism for those faulty ignition switches that claimed 13 lives and caused countless other accidents and injuries. It was what GM did in response that caught my attention.
The company commissioned an independent investigation by a former US Attorney and then ó wait for it ó made the findings public.
Jun 6, 2014 8:00 am
Whatís past is prologue. The bard had it right did he not, Mr Editor? Itís also so much better than saying, again, and again, and again, that what we so often see is what we get, i.e. the same old, same old. Like you, I try to keep up with debates on the Hill but when I tune in I soon find myself tuning right back out. They might as well all be on rewind: stuck on stuck. Like so many of their political partisans hiding behind pseudonyms...
May 30, 2014 8:00 am
Fissiparous was a word that had readers thumbing through their dictionaries last week, Mr Editor. It had them thinking and talking too. Good. So, too, did the challenge of trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. It ainít easy.
This week, same subject, but a different approach to change things up, a bit. This is a favourite line of mine that originates in the southern United States, I believe, first employed on the Ďbig stageí by LBJ...
May 23, 2014 8:00 am
Hereís the thing, Mr Editor: ever tried putting toothpaste back in the tube? Try it some time. It isnít easy. But that is what the OBA Government is facing and they need to be very, very careful here as they try to get back to running the country. The usual spin just wonít cut it.
We donít need to be told that there are bigger more important issues at stake here than the sad, sorry debacle now known as the ďJetgateĒ affair. All of us...
May 16, 2014 8:00 am
A son remembers his father, Mr Editor, and I do so today with his words, not mine. Rummaging this week through papers he gave me some time ago, I happened to come across a speech which I think he must have given 46 years ago, on the eve of the 1968 election, I believe ó his first.
It helps explain, I think, how and why he came to be involved in politics. It is also reflective of the man and his times. The speech was relatively short...
May 9, 2014 8:00 am
Everyone has a story to tell and most of us quite naturally want our stories to be heard. So for me last weekís march was no surprise. Nor were the numbers of those who took part. Whether we like it or not, there are a lot of people out there who are hurting, who are angry and who are disappointed. They are out of work or underemployed and struggling, wondering, if not worrying about what may be coming next. For those who were looking for a...
May 2, 2014 8:00 am
Itís ironic really. One party complains about criticism levelled by the other and invariably replies in kind, whether by style or in substance, or both, touching of further rounds of more of the same. So it goes in politics in Bermuda as the kettle calls out the pot and vice versa. Some of it, I swear, Mr Editor, you couldnít make up even if you tried. But please donít. It isnít that it isnít helpful. It is not. Itís just that it only serves...
Apr 25, 2014 8:00 am
Spare a thought for the Health Minister. He hasnít been in office four months and grease balls surface on the South Shore. If that isnít bad enough, the US Consulate issues a travel warning about swimming on our beaches. But look, it happens: the unexpected and the unwelcome, that is. Or to steal a line from Forrest Gump, politics can be like a box a chocolates, you never know what you are going to get from one day to the next.
Apr 11, 2014 8:00 am
A change is as good as a rest, Mr Editor, so this week a break from my usual.
Everyone wants more and few among us desire less. As a general rule I think thatís pretty true. The trouble is that it also presents a challenge in todayís economic climate and Bermuda is no exception, perhaps even the more so given what we are: an isolated island community of 20 square miles with limited resources.
Economic growth is often advanced as...
Apr 4, 2014 8:00 am
The annual Budget Debate is behind us. Time to take stock. How was it for you? The debate, I mean.
Frankly, I wonder how many people bothered to listen in. Even for a period of time.
Mind you, there was plenty of opportunity for those who were interested, spread out as it was over three days a week for just over two weeks for a total of 56 hours.
You might however, have had difficulty following along. It is far easier if you...
Mar 28, 2014 8:00 am
The Bermuda Legislature is threatening to catch up to 21st century governance. I kid you not.
A Joint Select Committee (JSC) is proposing an independent commission of legislators to manage the operation of both the House on the Hill and the Senate below. Yawn?
The committee doesnít stop there either. The JSC is also calling for the establishment of an Ethics Committee and the drafting of a comprehensive Code of Conduct to which...
Mar 21, 2014 8:00 am
The value of an independent, objective opinion is not to be underestimated, particularly perhaps in politics, and not withstanding if it is the work of a lawyer. No, Mr Editor, I am not thinking of my own. I am referring instead to the opinion of a London QC which was obtained by the House Committee on Elections courtesy of the Centre for Justice here in Bermuda, which has certainly set the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons. Or so it would...
Mar 14, 2014 8:00 am
The politics of distraction, some call it. I am not so sure. Itís all plain politics, if you ask me: the good, the bad and the ugly.
We really shouldnít be too surprised either. Politics is what politicians engage in, some of them being obviously better at it than others.
The criticisms, the accusations, the questions and the answers (or not) are all grist for the mill of public opinion, another means by which voters get to...
Mar 7, 2014 8:00 am
Politics will change when politicians change, one reader told me after last weekís column. He has a point. Albert Einstein put it another way: ďThe world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.Ē That too, strikes me as a good place to begin: with our thinking.
But that may not be so easy. First, there is the very nature of politics. Here I can think of no better...
Feb 28, 2014 8:00 am
The devil is in the detail when it comes to the Budget and the beauty of the Budget Debate is that MPs are given the time to examine Government accounts a.k.a. the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure ó and in detail should they wish. In fact, a total of some 56 hours is set aside for the annual exercise; usually over two weeks, starting Monday meeting three days a week. You might think that sufficient. Maybe. It all depends on how well our...
Feb 24, 2014 8:00 am
You asked, Mr Editor, for my take on the 2014/15 Budget. Here you go in no particular order: ó
First, I thought the Statement was pretty faithful. It followed the One Bermuda Alliance script as we have come to know it since their election. There were as a consequence no real surprises.
Nor was there any immediate pain or disappointment with no new or increased taxes, and no claw back of concessions. Apparently no job losses in the...
Feb 21, 2014 8:00 am
He said, he said, all right: a good headline, Mr Editor, and a fair summation of what has become a sad, sorry spectacle. Sordid too: disclosure of the existence of a surreptitious tape recording by one MP of another, the contents of which we have yet to hear, and an open mic the contents of which were there for all to hear. No question that all of this has become a talking point up and down Bermuda, Iím sure, and most probably abroad as well,...
Feb 14, 2014 8:00 am
There is nothing quite like a good PQ to start the day ó on the Hill, that is, where parliamentary questions (PQs for short) are now a featured part of the dayís agenda. It is known as Question Period that typically comes up fairly early in the morning and lasts no more than an hour. How boring, you think. Not so. Question Period can make for a very lively exchange that is both educational and entertaining as the Opposition (and backbench...
Feb 7, 2014 8:00 am
The news made my head spin too: Bermudians are better off now than they were ten years ago. The average income of a two-person home was reported to be $2,767.00 a week or $144,000.00 per year. I expect a lot of Bermudians were wondering just who these people are ó and here I am thinking of our seniors, the underemployed and the unemployed, all of whom must number in the thousands, and who are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to make...
Jan 31, 2014 8:00 am
There is no need for debate on conscription, we are told. The two parties are agreed. There will also be no referendum on gaming, and not because the two parties necessarily agree on gaming, but because the OBA Government believed the Opposition PLP had plans to sabotage the vote, which is denied, as it so happens.
Either way the people wonít be having much of a say. Except maybe on how integrated casino resort gaming should be run in...
Jan 24, 2014 8:00 am
Unruly and disruptive behaviour was back in the news again recently but, no, not in connection with the House on the Hill, members are still on recess, and for another three weeks, which will make it nine weeks in total. No, this time the headlines were about students and our schools, and ironically these disturbing reports about student behaviour surfaced around the time Government, under yet another new Minister for Education, was unveiling...
Jan 17, 2014 9:04 am
Trust is a small word with big implications. It cannot be manufactured. Nor can it be conjured up at will. Trust has to be earned. It is the critical ingredient in any good relationship and, you donít need me to tell you, very few relationships survive long without it. On the other hand, with trust much can be achieved.
Okay, already, I hear you: enough with the preaching. So hereís the point: politics too, are ultimately about...
Jan 10, 2014 8:00 am
Much has already been written and said about my former colleague and good friend Mrs. Louise Jackson, all of it complimentary, all of it deserved, and today, on the eve of her funeral, I want to begin the column with my own special tribute.
Louise was a regular reader too, who, and this wonít surprise any of you, always told me what she thought in clear and forthright fashion. Sound familiar? It should. You always knew where you stood...
Jan 3, 2014 8:00 am
This column is for all those readers who think I am too darn serious, too darn often. I know, I know, I can be: just not this week, for a change.
Instead I give you my idea of a fun way to see off the old year and to usher in the new, as well as a chance to pocket $100.
I have literally combed through my back issues of The Royal Gazette (yes, really) to come up with a set of quotes, reported remarks of various people over the...
Dec 27, 2013 8:00 am
I donít know whether you know, but there is a committee of the Legislature that has been meeting secretly on the Hill, doing some pretty important work. I know because I was called to appear before the committee recently. They wanted to grill me about some of the things that I have been writing about in this column. Sort of. I confess that I am exaggerating some to make a point and, yes, to get your attention.
The committee is the joint...
Dec 20, 2013 8:00 am
Betcha didnít see that coming, did you? I know I didnít. Mind you, neither was I aware that the Opposition PLP were apparently plotting to undermine the referendum. I had not heard a peep until the Premier claimed a plot was afoot, and quite how that would work and to the detriment of those wanting a yes vote, is still not clear to me.
On the other hand I was aware that the PLP, like many others, myself included, were unhappy with the...
Dec 13, 2013 8:00 am
Better late than never, mother used to always say. Government has now given us some better idea of where they intend to go with the SAGE report and its recommendations. There will be a take note motion in the House on the Hill today ó which means members get to air their views and ideas and concerns, which should make for a long day and evening, assuming all speak, and barring any surprises, there will be no voting ó which is to be followed...
Dec 6, 2013 8:00 am
Somebody somewhere, I bet, must have thought that they were pretty darn clever. I donít. First of all it took them practically a year to come up with the referendum question. Secondly, none of us likes to be played for a fool or for stupid. The question is anything but even-handed, not by any stretch of anyoneís imagination, political or otherwise.
ďDo you favour the introduction of regulated casino gambling for the purposes of...
Nov 29, 2013 8:00 am
Talk about calling it like you see it. There is this paragraph very early on in the Report of the SAGE Commission that is very hard to get over. It reads: ďThe Commission has identified that the Civil and Public Service does not have sufficient leadership skills and capabilities at the right management levels, nor are the necessary skills and capabilities present in an appropriate number of individuals, to meet the challenges that Bermuda is...
Nov 22, 2013 8:00 am
It was an effective and memorable advertising campaign that Avis once ran: weíre number two, we try harder. This same principle is probably equally applicable in politics, most especially in two party contests where finishing second means last, out of the running and definitely without power.
So you have to try harder, not just to win back the confidence of a majority of the people, but also to be noticed, to be heard and to be...
Nov 8, 2013 8:00 am
Throne Speeches tend to be overrated, I think, mostly by the politicians and those who write them- and, no, they are not always one and the same. A wordsmith (or two?) is often required to weave together all the disparate pieces which often come in the form of contributions from each of the various Ministries. The hope and the aim is a coherent and appealing plan of action that reads well. It was ever thus.
But in all my years, first as...
Nov 1, 2013 8:00 am
A few further words this week on collaboration or clobberation if you prefer, prompted in part by a new book which I have just finished reading: “Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked”.
It is written by Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s “Hardball” fame who worked for the former US Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.
The Gipper was of course US President Ronald Regan. It was the subtitle that first...
Oct 25, 2013 8:00 am
Desperate times often call for desperate measures. On the other hand, desperate people are known to do desperate things. The two are not mutually exclusive. Discerning the difference is key ó and thatís not always that easy to do. Washington D.C. is a prime example. But, hey, weíve got our own problems so letís stick with whatís been happening (or not) here in Bermuda.
The SAGE Commission is about to deliver its much anticipated report.
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