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BDA candidates: 'We have a mammoth task ahead'

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Michael Branco

Some predict their very existence will hand the Progressive Labour Party 30 seats at the next general election.But Michael Branco and Dueane Dill say you can forget any notion of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance joining forces with the United Bermuda Party to stave off a landslide PLP victory.“We are going to keep doing what we are doing,” Mr Branco, the BDA's Southampton East Central candidate, told The Royal Gazette.“Even if Bermuda wants to elect a large majority PLP Government, we are going to keep doing what we are doing.“Particularly the newer members like Dueane and I we don't have seats to worry about or egos to satisfy.”Music to the ears of PLP strategists who hope the BDA will take enough UBP votes to let the ruling party clean up in marginals and dominate the House of Assembly, maybe.But Mr Branco argues the BDA is not about playing political games; it's about putting forward ideas and letting people decide whether they want to vote for them or not giving them an option that isn't entangled in the back and forth rowing of the UBP and PLP.Mr Branco and Mr Dill spoke to this newspaper to reflect on a year which saw Bermuda's newest political party crash down to earth with a by-election defeat so heavy it prompted UBP leaders to hint at an amalgamation.“That's not on my horizon,” insisted Mr Dill, the Alliance's St George's West candidate.Mr Branco continued: “If you look inside our room, that would be offensive to those who have joined the BDA.“We have to be cognisant of the need for a strong Opposition being formed, but I don't think anyone has that answer at the moment.“The BDA will continue to move forward and work hard. What serves Bermuda best is the answer. We believe the BDA is that. I don't think the UBP can be.”The BDA had been confident it would get second place at this month's Warwick South Central by-election, only for Sylvan Richards to come third with 70 votes, eight less than Devrae Noel-Simmons of the UBP and way behind PLP candidate Marc Bean's 310.“This is no way taking away from the other candidates, I just thought our platforms, what we are trying to do, would be enough to get a comfortable second place,” said Mr Dill.“Up until the results came out I felt we did what was necessary. It taught me we have a mammoth task ahead of us.“You either run away with your tail between your legs or dig in. The people around us, the membership, everyone's saying let's dig in, it's a battle worth fighting.”Mr Branco said: “It was a steep learning curve and a reality check. I had a little bit of idealism that Bermuda was ready for that change. The lesson learned was we know how much work we have to do.“As a group, we could have done a better job of telling people who we were as the BDA. I think a lot of people don't fully know who the BDA is.“I didn't sleep that night. I was trying to reconcile what happened, what did we need to do next. I got up the next morning and said I'm still in, it's worth it.”The message the Alliance is in it for the long haul will meet with rolling eyes from rivals keen to point out all three BDA MPs' absence from the by-election polling station.Mark Pettingill and Shawn Crockwell were off Island on vacations booked months earlier, according to party officials, while Donte Hunt was tied up with his new business.And as sceptics continue to point to that trio's UBP roots and dismiss the BDA as a newer version of the party they left behind, Mr Dill and Mr Branco say members need to get out and about more to spread their own word.Mr Dill said: “Once we roll out our candidates, people want to get out more with details. We have got to get out more, plain and simple. I do find it amusing when people say, ‘Who are you?' It seems odd, but it shows we have to be out there more.”Mr Branco, who says 2010 was largely spent putting together platforms, establishing its legislative credentials and structuring leadership, said: “Now it's getting back to more of the movement aspect of the BDA and getting back to the doorstep.“It's showing them we're not about party politics, we're about contributing to Bermuda, bringing talent to bear.“We are the next generation of leaders. If you look around the room, it's the balance of black and white, experience and energy, a great amalgamation of talent and life in Bermuda. We need to talk and engage people.”Mr Dill continued: “We have got to get beyond, and I don't feel we have got beyond, that whole payback mentality, us versus them.“We need to develop an all about us mentality: Bermudians and residents. How do we make this paradise beneficial for everybody?“I think when the PLP came into power it was expected to be a little bit of payback. But it's still going on today, even now there's a new Premier. Look at Zane DeSilva saying ‘what goes around comes around' the other day.”TOMORROW:UBP new face Montell Currin gives his end-of-year thoughts on his party.

Dueane Dill