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Party or country?

“I don’t want your vote. For what? So you feel like you have some kind of control or say over what I do in the future?”— Jason Hayward (House of Assembly 2023)

Loyalty is respected, admired and considered essential in our most sacred relationships. It is ordinarily a human virtue. In marriage, we vow loyalty for better and worse until death. Our most valuable friendships have stood the test of loyalty when we are supported, even after falling flat on our faces in embarrassment.

Voters become party loyalists in the first instance because we identify with what the party stands for. In other cases, we become loyalist because we have inherited it from the generation preceding us. At its root, the give-and-take aspect of loyalty to a party is in the hope that the party will act in the best interest of the country and its people. So the question is, what do we do when a party fails to carry out its end of the bargain?

One option is to change the party from within — if one is in the position to do so — or to abstain from voting/supporting the party at the polls, or do the unthinkable and vote for another party.

Loyalty to a party creates the dilemma that should the third option be exercised, even when necessary towards the ultimate goal of acting in the best interest of the country and its future, it would be betrayal.

Unfortunately, owing to blind party loyalty, democracy is the loser to authoritarian regimes worldwide, especially over the past couple of decades.

Sir John Swan recently seized upon this dilemma to offer a “non-party/independent” candidate option to Bermudians. He was unsuccessful in landing victory in the recent by-election in Constituency 10.

However, on his first try he succeeded in demonstrating the high degree of disillusionment among voters by finishing second.

The Progressive Labour Party came last in a three-horse race. Pundits and political commentators can offer their interpretation of what the outcomes mean.

However, politics is a zero sum game, where a win is a win and a loss is a loss.

Political parties campaign on deserving our loyalty because they will act in the best interest of the country. Decades ago, the PLP cleverly seized upon this by locking its members in with the slogan “PLP all the way and all the way PLP”. It is a reminder to its members that they are supposed to support the party come hell or high water.

However, in this relationship there is no reciprocity. The PLP politicians and a few chosen ones are winning while the majority in the country — and, I dare say, their loyal supporters — are doing worse.

What this party loyalty is proving is that If you are for the PLP, the PLP doesn’t have to be for you. Loyalty to the PLP means that it can do no wrong worthy of losing support; hence the term “party above country”.

Cleverly, to lock its supporters in even further, the PLP married its political strategy to the race/class divide which is deeply rooted in Bermuda. The unfortunate result of this, on some level, is that it robs the PLP supporters of having a choice. Blind loyalty to the party, even when it has blatantly failed, is tantamount to a deal with the devil.

PLPers cannot vote for their own upliftment, the betterment of the nation, a better future for their children or anything other than the careers of PLP politicians — ie, the PLP of today. Bermuda's tiny size makes it almost impossible to change parties openly with anonymity beyond the voting booth.

After two decades of PLP governance, Bermudians are generally feeling the pain of a declining nation. Our nation is being squarely confronted not by being in hell yet, but certainly in high water. Many Bermudians have already run to other countries because they can no longer afford to live here.

Our roads and infrastructure are crumbling in front of our eyes. We are being crushed by the highest cost of living in the world, but an increasing number of us are nowhere near the highest standard of living.

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that every day there is a new scandal about alleged PLP corruption and government dealings that mystify and anger the population. Repeated accusations of the PLP being a “can do nothing right” government have proved to be true time and time again.

The Casino Gaming Commission is the latest revelation to be an expensive scandal with no casino to show for it. We only have inflated salaries totalling millions of dollars, years of doing nothing and countless broken promises.

The Fairmont Southampton remains dead in the water. It remains to be seen whether the asphalt plant sees the light of day. Grand Atlantic continues to be an economic travesty. Healthcare is unaffordable.

Education standards continue to erode and the Department of Statistics repeatedly warns of the dangerously widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Bermuda, faced with this voter loyalty to a failed PLP party dilemma, the solution turns out to be very obvious and simple. To change our nation’s fate, voters will have to exercise their choice to stop supporting a “can do nothing right” PLP party and vote for the good of the country instead.

Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017, and more recently a candidate in the 2020 General Election in Smith's West (Constituency 9)

Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017, and more recently a candidate in the 2020 General Election in Smith's West (Constituency 9)

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Published June 13, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated June 13, 2024 at 7:20 am)

Party or country?

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