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Looking beyond the divorce from labour

Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, has no qualms over labour deserting the PLP at the next election (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Chris Furbert levelled a threat in a recent address without any hint of frailty in saying that labour could bring down the Progressive Labour Party government. He went on to say that there are five members on the back bench they could count on for support. But there are likely more than that when you consider those who would straddle the fence to see which way the momentum builds.

If we presume that 20 per cent of labour decided not to vote for the PLP in the next election, what political dynamic would that present? If we took the last General Election as an indicator, it might have meant either a very close victory for the PLP or a loss by a similarly close margin. That's assuming the One Bermuda Alliance’s core support behaved as it did in 2020 and stayed away from the polls.

However, If they turned out as they did in 2012 and 2017, the 0BA could squeak to a victory — albeit a narrow one at best. Yet that would be a huge gamble with no assured success.

However, if several members of the PLP were to join a third entity, and if the OBA folded its tent recognising that it inevitably would be left with a diminished support base because the disaffected PLP support would never support them, the prospects would be better. It would be a far more viable proposition for them to be a part of something completely new and organic. Under such a scenario, a new entity could form a new government convincingly at the polls or even before. A three-way race confuses the picture and no matter who wins, the result is a weak victor.

Naturally, even a third entity is not automatically a given because a new organisation would have to have credible representatives. Bermuda is in short supply of political material; invariably it would need to be a remix of familiar faces and some new.

What would be more important for any emerging political organisation would be to have a “new” inspiring vision and format that is inclusive. It is something new that the Bermuda population, which has been suffocating through years of social evolution from the lack of modernity and harmony, could embrace.

In the past, it has been an impossible dream to consider anything except one of the two main parties having success at the polls. At the same time, It has been on the lips of many and the hearts of many more that Bermuda needs a change. The question was always how, and sociologists would argue that it takes major dissatisfaction or a calamity of sorts to trigger change.

In the Bermuda context, there is nothing more seismic as a political shift than a Bermuda Industrial Union break with the PLP. We know the BIU will never form a political organisation of its own to contest a General Election; the issue would be where it would unanimously toss its support.

This type of political quagmire isn't new; similar episodes have occurred around the world — it is a norm in Israel. The core ingredient towards success with this type of political crisis is that of finding a neutral source of trust. A trusted source can stitch together fragmented pieces to build cohesion between persons who would not ordinarily communicate with each other.

At the moment, with the BIU distanced from the PLP, we will have 20 per cent of the electorate marooned and looking for an acceptable companion. We have another 20 per cent to 30 per cent tired of everything they see but wanting something credible. Those two sentiments combined are a collective majority and a political goldmine for the savvy to harvest.

Only arrogance, party posturing and pride can prevent what could occur as a new beginning. It's important to emphasise that a new beginning does not eliminate the true vision behind the PLP or the OBA. In fact, a new beginning can be the fulfilment of those higher aspirations and visions of both.

Tactical considerations: it would take 13, preferably 15, PLP Members of Parliament to join with the “OBA Six” to form a new government instantly. It has happened before in 1965 when the United Bermuda Party formed out of existing Members of Colonial Parliament then later contested the General Election of 1968.

Similarly, but not as dramatic, was the change of PLP leadership after Dame Jennifer Smith won her second election but could not form a government under her rule. With our existing constitution, Parliament is supreme and whoever holds the majority will form the government.

Will any of the above happen? Possibly not, but the potential exists, and only time and the level of determinism will tell.

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Published September 07, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated September 06, 2021 at 3:43 pm)

Looking beyond the divorce from labour

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