Log In

Reset Password

Voters: Crockwell move politically risky

First Prev 1 2 Next Last
Sharing their thoughts: voters react to Shawn Crockwell leaving the OBA to become an independent MP. Pictured is a Granaway Heights residence

Shawn Crockwell’s departure from the One Bermuda Alliance may prove costly in a constituency that firmly backs the ruling party.

While Mr Crockwell still enjoys support, some voters in Southampton West Central told The Royal Gazette that Constituency 31 was no safe seat for an independent.

A survey of the district, beginning in an affluent neighbourhood off Church Road, started with an OBA supporter admitting to feeling “let down that he did leave; I was hoping he would stick around with the party”.

Characterising himself as voting by party rather than candidate, he believed Mr Crockwell to be a man of good character and strong values who would have been unhappy with the OBA’s handling of the same-sex marriage referendum.

New to the area, he had not voted for Mr Crockwell in 2012 — and needed to learn more about his MP’s stance before deciding if Mr Crockwell would be stronger as an independent unfettered by party lines.

But a nearby resident said that Mr Crockwell’s citing of race-based tactics in his resignation at last Friday’s House of Assembly had brought up issues that were already common knowledge among black Bermudians.

He said he had voted in 2012 and not for the OBA, but preferred to choose by candidate rather than party. In his speech, Mr Crockwell accused the party of adopting the strong-arm tactics typical of the United Bermuda Party, including coercing black people who challenged the status quo.

“These are things that have been said throughout the black community for years,” the voter said. “The only reason why he says it now is he’s gone through it. Many of us have; it doesn’t come as a surprise. To us, that’s what happens.”

He likened the charge that the OBA “embraced the methodology of the UBP” to the adage that “if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig”.

Asked if Mr Crockwell was thus stronger as an independent, he said: “Politics in Bermuda is changing, because people recognise that they have a voice. What’s pushing us is that, once upon a time, you sent your child to school and they were guaranteed a job. That’s gone.”

Class trumped race as a grouping factor for voters, but white Bermudians still tended to do better than blacks, he said, and for many, the backlash over proposed status and permanent residency for long-term residents had been the final straw.

Ultimately, Mr Crockwell could be stronger if an issue came down to a crucial vote, but he said the Westminster system was wrong for Bermuda.

“If you get six or seven independents, that’s strong. One or two, that’s not strong.”

At a residence off Middle Road, sporting a Portuguese flag, a young woman voter admitted to a blissful ignorance of political issues, saying she didn’t even know Mr Crockwell.

In an upscale seaside home farther west, a ten-year resident from overseas who has a local partner said that while he couldn’t vote, he preferred the OBA’s policies — and said going by party or by candidate made little difference since MPs toed the party line in the end.

Mr Crockwell’s decision was “probably not going to help make a difference — but it might be easier for him to at least voice his opinion”.

Up on Granaway Heights, a black male voter said that group thinking inevitably took over in politics, independent or not.

“I wasn’t surprised to see him leave, particularly after he stepped down as minister. I always thought he would leave the party or join forces with the PLP. I would never vote for Shawn, even as an independent; I am strictly PLP.”

Calling it the “OBA/UBP”, he said the party had demonstrated that its policies favoured the fortunes of whites. He called it “galling” that the party wanted to court foreign workers without getting unemployed Bermudians working again first — and said Mr Crockwell ought to have resigned with his colleagues caught up in the Jetgate scandal.

As for the charge that Mr Crockwell had been singled out as a black man, he said Mr Crockwell had wrongly believed “they won’t do that to me”.

“Shawn means well, but it’s the end of his political career. There’s no way, come the next election, that he can stand as an independent in an OBA/UBP stronghold.”

He cited Stuart Hayward as an example of an independent MP who thrived, being able to speak out on environmental issues, but maintained that an independent would still have to throw in with the existing parties to get anything done.

A woman on Southampton Road, declaring herself “not OBA”, said Mr Crockwell’s departure was no surprise — and that Mr Crockwell had never responded to her family over an issue they had flagged: “I don’t think he cares about this side of the constituency. It’s very disheartening to know you can’t reach your MPs. They are so busy arguing between parties.”

Southampton West Central remained an OBA stronghold, she added. “I’ve been here a long time. We’ve never had a PLP representative elected.”

Asked if an independent MP could be stronger, she said: “Definitely not. He needs to decide what he is going to do. United we stand, divided we fall. I can’t remember one independent that has been elected for some time.”

Shawn Crockwell