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It comes down to us, the people

Let me go out on a limb this week, Mr Acting Editor. There are those who question (not unfairly) my apparent preoccupation with process. They think that we ought to be more concerned with turning the economy around, that is generating more business for Bermuda and creating more jobs. I don’t disagree. But let’s be clear: this is not going to happen overnight. The ship of state tends to move slowly too — and here’s my favourite analogy on that: a government changing course is more like turning around one of those girt big mega cruise ships than it is a Boston whaler.

But here’s the key: to turn things around, and sticking with the nautical theme, we are going to need all hands on deck, or at least as many as possible. That’s why I also think we need to change some of the fundamentals in the way we do our politics in Bermuda as well as the way in which we conduct the business of running the country — and here’s where I go out on that limb, sir.

I have come to the conclusion from my years of experience in public life that one of the more serious impediments to making progress in Bermuda, economic and social, isn’t just money or our limited resources. To this point, it has been petty partisan politics, and you know the kind about which I am talking, the old tit-for-tat, you said, we said, yes we did, no we didn’t variety, coupled with the absence of the political will to change. Finger pointing and grandstanding do not get the job done.

It may be trite but it’s true, a good idea is a good idea no matter where it comes from, no matter who brings it forward, draft or otherwise. No one political party has ever had a monopoly on wisdom. Never will.

We need to change and my view is that we need to start to develop a more contemporary political culture that is less polarised and more collaborative, and more attentive to events and issues which bring about change, particularly in the outside world, which are at the same time, are restricting if not limiting the choices our Government can make, regardless of who is in power.

Regardless of who is in power may be viewed as heresy in some quarters. It shouldn’t be. More mature jurisdictions have long since adapted to the fact that changes in government can occur, and do occur, with relative frequency. Bermuda may now be on its way to getting there. With the recent election behind us, and with a change in government, this is an opportune time to step back and think about what sort of system of government we need.

In so doing, we might try placing less emphasis on who forms the government and focus more closely on how that power is exercised on our behalf, and for our benefit, again regardless of who forms that government.

This should prompt us to examine what we have and to work on how it can be improved so as to create greater opportunities for collaboration rather than constant confrontation. The Hill is a good place to start. I have already written about the potential positive benefit from a far more robust, rigorous and better-resourced network of parliamentary committees which will feature members drawn from the backbenches of both Government and the Opposition. There are opportunities outside the House too, on the advisory bodies of Government, and in this regard the Opposition has declared that its members should feel free to serve on the Boards if asked. Nice change; good stuff.

Any change in political culture may not be instant. It rarely is. It will ultimately come down to people. It always does. But it’s a first step, in the right direction, and a step that is clearly within our grasp if there is the will to make it happen. No constitutional conference is required, no amendment to legislation, no change in rules.

It is hoped that these changes will help bring about better public insight into the enormous challenges Bermuda is facing on so many fronts; and so few of them, if any, will ever be solved by long speeches or lengthy debates and late nights on the Hill, no matter how entertaining (or not); similarly neither will they solved by short, snappy sound bites preferred by the broadcast media, no matter how carefully crafted they might be.

A system that values collaboration and consultation in a meaningful and effective way could go a long way to ending a lot of the politicking that frustrates the development of constructive post-election relationships, and that might well lead to broader and more informed decision making, Mr. Acting Editor — on and off the Hill.

* Comments, suggestions or queries always –welcome. E-mail jbarritt@ibl.bm

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Published January 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm (Updated January 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm)

It comes down to us, the people

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