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Independent voices struggle when one party has all the cards

Taking on the giant: Michaelangelo’s David and Goliath

When a government politician has to go public on public media (as was the case with Christopher Famous ) and call the opposition "the silent six" for non-appearance, to me it’s either facetious or a troubling state of affairs for the country. It's like a Goliath beating his chest begging the opponent to send out a fighter. Then worse, no one appears.

I asked once does a snake have a natural predator and the answer was of course everything has a natural predator, the interesting thing for a snake is if its tail gets in the way it will eat itself. Once it starts to eat itself, it usually dies because it can't cough up its own tail fast enough.

The Progressive Labour Party has swallowed its own tail at least twice in its history and survived, so anyone sitting around waiting for it to implode should bring a very long book to read. It is just as unlikely that the One Bermuda Alliance will suddenly re-energise or grow jaws big enough to eat the PLP.

Yet Bermuda needs a competitive political system because that is where the best good governance emerges. The big question is how can that happen with the current dynamics of 30 seats to six, where more than half the government are either ministers or heading up a significant paid quango or committee. When you have an opposition party who is silent because they have nothing to say and silent backbenchers waiting to be the next one to be named either for a ministry or committee position or any other ad-hoc premise that pays. Under these circumstances, Parliament is a one-way street.

Or, maybe it was just facetious and a cynical call to wake up the opposition to at least give the appearance that a real game of politics is happening at a parliamentary level. If power is the name of the game then picking an opponent that guarantees serial victory is a means of sustaining that power. So why not glorify them and encourage them to put up a fight?

On the opposition benches, I'm sure there are many who feel obliged to provide an opposition and fulfil the role of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. The moral, if not logical question should be, at what cost? Do I remain as opposition even if it makes no sense? Should I remain in opposition if it effectively blocks the chance of anything with meaning having the possibility of materialising?

In the meantime, any would-be politician or third-party enthusiast realises that Bermuda is a two-party state with a proven record of having no room for a three-way race. Even if ever I had the thought of running, I would not run as an independent, nor would I choose to run with a party that has no chance at the polls. Political life and the dire needs of our country have become too critical to run to make a statement or raise awareness. To gain the ability to bring change requires political power and influence.

While we need to have free and independent thinkers in Parliament, the only means of achieving that is through group and organised activity. The long-term remedy is a sweeping progressive change in party format and rules. Make political parties an instrument of the entire electorate and not a private club. The parties need to become modern with enshrined rights for everyone and freedom of speech and political opinion as a fundamental right of everyone including the parliamentarian inside and outside of Parliament.

When we achieve that we will truly have independent voices in Parliament. There is no use having an independent voice if it cannot garner support and be effective. That’s the only way David can appear to slay Goliath.

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Published December 21, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated December 21, 2021 at 4:45 pm)

Independent voices struggle when one party has all the cards

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