Not enough to fall back on OBA/UBP rhetoric
“The Honourable Member is misleading the House. Mr Speaker, I was very clear in validating what the people in this country are saying. What I said was, and it is a fact, that the Opposition used race to exacerbate the issues.”
— Shawn Crockwell, House of Assembly, Feb 12, 2016
Since the Progressive Labour Party's vote of no confidence debate was scheduled, many have speculated on whether or not the Premier would call the election beforehand. I actually had hoped the debate would take place for the simple reason that our dissenting MPs have an ethical responsibility to explain why there is an urgent need to dissolve Parliament this late in the election cycle, especially during such a critical business period.
At this point, we know that the PLP wants the government dissolved. After all, it tried to have Parliament dissolved in 2014. We now know that Shawn Crockwell is fine with the Government being dissolved because he is well aware of the consequences of a “yes” vote. We also know that Mark Pettingill doesn't think enough of the One Bermuda Alliance to remain a member. Finally, with both independents having sided with a PLP-led motion to dismiss the Government's case against Lahey, some might say, “The writing is on the wall.”
So, it's not like the vote will tell us something new about how those MPs feel about the Government. But what every voter is now owed is a rational explanation for destabilising the Government.
Were the debate to take place, there can be no doubt that every effort might have been made to trumpet the PLP's “Two Bermudas” campaign. Equal efforts might have been made to convince voters that the OBA is nothing more than the United Bermuda Party of 1964.
Hopefully by now, everyone recognises that the PLP has consistently referred to the Government as “the OBA/UBP” because of the strong resentment many still have towards the UBP's legacy. The primary exception, of course, would be former UBP politicians who are now fighting alongside the PLP. Jamahl Simmons, Wayne Furbert and Kim Swan stand out as obvious examples of former UBP politicians who have a long history of condemning the PLP, but who have since redeemed themselves, particularly in the case of Simmons and Furbert — Swan was left holding the can when his UBP colleagues jumped ship to the Bermuda Democratic Alliance in May 2011 — by flip-flopping to the Opposition.
It matters not what a former UBP politician has said or done in the past if they support the PLP now and in the future. This point brings me to the curious case of Crockwell. Although he has not moved to the PLP, I really look forward to hearing him explain his loss of confidence in the OBA. Yes, he has already played the OBA/UBP card by making unsubstantiated claims about racial retribution during his resignation speech. But what he has not done is explain why his views before the Pathways to Status civil unrest are diametrically opposed to his views immediately after his resignation from Cabinet.
For example, when Crockwell resigned from Cabinet in March 2016, he accused the Premier of not understanding and being able to communicate effectively with the black community. However, Parliament's transcripts from March 2, the very day after the Pathways protest on East Broadway, Crockwell was defending the rationale for the OBA's immigration policies and defended the airport redevelopment project. Not only did he spar with the Opposition over its repeated insinuations that the OBA was engaged in, “social engineering,” he also came to the defence of PLP Public Enemy No 1, Senator Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs.
Less than one week before, Crockwell proclaimed, “that history will judge the Honourable Bob Richards as the man who rescued this country from financial ruin”. And he described shadow finance minister David Burt as one who was “... in the government that drove this economy into the ground, that drove thousands of people out of this country, that drove unemployment to record highs”.
And, only two weeks before those remarks, he took exception to PLP members who were asserting that the OBA does not care about its fellow Bermudians. Not only did Crockwell go to great pains to explain the economic mess the OBA inherited from the PLP, he also defended the OBA's record on financial assistance, and the investment in the America's Cup.
Without question, Crockwell has to explain what appears to be the inexplicable. The PLP has an even greater task, though. First, it has to dismiss all data that indicates that Bermuda is better off now than we were in 2012. Second, it needs to justify why Crockwell's comments before Pathways ought to be ignored. Finally, it has to explain why it would be a better alternative to the OBA, regardless of its abysmal social, financial and good governance record.
Under no circumstances will falling back on “the OBA/UBP” rhetoric be enough. At least not for this voter.
•To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org