A ray of light for the Opposition?
A few months ago, while we still were meeting in person, a senior parliamentarian stood to his feet in the House of Assembly and spoke, ever so briefly, on a topic of great importance.
He spoke of the Common Room, which is a rather large room on the floor above the actual chamber of the House of Assembly.
In that Common Room, parliamentarians from both sides are able to have coffee, eat, watch television and generally converse about anything and everything in a non-combative manner.
More often than not, one would witness persons from either side cracking jokes with each other about the debates that had just ended, sharing family photographs and/or giving each other advice.
You know, the stuff that most friends and family do on a daily basis.
His short but succinct message was this: what goes on during a debate amounts to persons having different perspectives on any given issue. While we differ on many issues, it does not mean that we have to be disagreeable towards each other outside of the chamber.
In essence, the Common Room is home for all.
Opened homes, opened minds
That message was not simply about what goes on at the House of Assembly, but moreseo how we as Bermudians should deal with each other.
Over the past few months, we all have gone through the traumas of Covid-19, months of lockdowns, economic peril, mass unemployment, adjusting to the new norms, two hurricanes and the advent of Black Lives Matter.
During the recent election, Bermudians from all walks of life had zero appetite for the negative campaigning of the past.
Many who had voted only one way all their lives were now opening their minds to hear differing viewpoints and having healthy dialogue with those they had never really spoken with prior.
Bermudians of all pigmentation have made significant progress towards having common ground.
Unholy political alliances
In the aftermath of the October 1 General Election, it was clear to all that the One Bermuda Alliance support base had either switched its vote or refused to come out and vote. In 2017, the OBA had approximately 13,000 votes. By 2020, that decreased to approximately 8,000 votes – a clear decline of 5,000 votes.
OBA supporters clearly demonstrated that they had lost faith in Craig Cannonier, and in his ability to get candidates, have a cohesive ground game, and present anything closely resembling a decent platform.
After the traumas of 2020, Bermudians were clearly not going to support a campaign filled with attempted character assassinations, mistruths, unproven conspiracy theories and unholy political alliances.
So, therefore, it was clear that a new Opposition leader was needed.
For nearly one month, speculation was rife as to which of the remaining five OBA MPs could possibly become the next party leader.
It was unlikely that it could be Michael Dunkley because, despite his personal election successes as an MP, he has had a very long losing streak as a party leader. Clearly, he is not able to lead the OBA to a political victory.
Many, rightly, thought that it was time for Susan Jackson to step up to the plate and become the next female Opposition leader – something that would have sealed the legacy of her parents, who were political giants.
However, that was not to be. Well, not as yet.
Others had put money on young Jarion Richardson as he seemingly has some qualities of leadership that could help to attract persons to support his party.
Once again, that was not to be. Well, at least not as yet.
On October 26, Whatsapp messages from trusted sources indicated that the OBA had, via its own internal mechanisms, picked a new leader.
Cole Simons, a 22-year political veteran, voted in twice as an United Bermuda Party MP, was to now become the latest Opposition Leader of Bermuda.
What I can say is that Mr Simons is one of the least confrontational MPs that I have ever come across.
In person, he displays a quiet demeanour and very rarely will he give anyone a “Point of Order” during their presentation. In face, he is more likely to give “Points of Clarification”, which helps to clear issues up in a non-confrontational manner.
No one knows what the future holds for the OBA; perhaps this change in leadership will usher in an era of peace and true co-operation versus the erratic behaviour and internal strife that have plagued that group for the past six years.
In closing, let me go out on a limb to say that over the past three years, many MPs have learnt the salient lesson of bridging divides in the Common Room.
Thank you, Cole Simons.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com