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Why the grandson of a PLP original joined the UBP

Montell Currin, the grandson of the PLP's first chairman Hugh (Rio) Richardson. He was recently made joint deputy chairman of the UBP.

In the second of our three-part series looking at Bermuda’s political parties as 2010 comes to an end, the United Bermuda Party’s new recruit Montell Currin explains to Tim Smith why he was nervous telling his grandmother he was signing up with the official Opposition.Having a grandson join the Progressive Labour Party’s oldest rival probably wasn’t what Hugh (Rio) Richardson had in mind in the early days of Bermuda’s party political system in the 1960s.Mr Richardson was the PLP’s first chairman and it was in his garage that many of the party’s seeds were sown by the “Desert Group” in the days before it formed in February 1963.So it was no surprise grandson Montell Currin got actively involved with the PLP when he returned to Bermuda from college in the late 1990s, becoming part of the youth wing executive and helping run Dennis Lister’s Somerset branch.What was less expected was when he sailed against a tide of UBP defectors to join the official Opposition this year, being named joint deputy chairman earlier this month, alongside a fellow descendant of a big-name politician, Nicholas Swan.Leader Kim Swan had convinced him the UBP was more prepared to put Bermuda’s young people first than the PLP has shown throughout its 12 years of power, Mr Currin explained in an interview with The Royal Gazette.Putting the turnaround into perspective, Mr Currin, a 41-year-old father-of-two, recalled the stories he grew up listening to about his grandfather who died in 1997.“In my eyes he was a seemingly ten-foot man even though he was only five-foot ten,” he said.“I remember a lot of the politics, his political buddies or colleagues: Walter Robinson, Peter Smith, Wilfred Allen, coming over all the time and having great political debates either in the garage or around the table.“These gentlemen were members of the Devonshire Rec, members of the union, and their interest at the time was equality for all: blacks and whites. At that time there wasn’t equality for blacks, so these gentlemen felt that black Bermudians needed representation within our Government system, which did not have a party.“It was a non-party system of mostly whites. That was the spark that created the PLP. The labour worker needed representation and that’s what the PLP provided. Those were the stories I grew up with.”Mr Richardson later left the PLP due to a legislative disagreement and became the first President of the Senate in 1980, where as an Independent he led the charge for one of the PLP’s fundamental goals: splitting from the UK. In 1986, he failed with a private member’s bill demanding a referendum on Independence.Mr Currin had his own disagreement with the PLP in the days of Dame Jennifer Smith’s leadership, claiming the voice of young people was being overlooked while he was on the youth wing.He became focused on non-political community work before being encouraged to attend UBP events by his friend Devrae Noel-Simmons, the party’s controversial selection in this month’s Warwick South Central by-election.“The more Kim Swan invited me to meetings to become more involved in party activities, the more I wanted to join,” he said.“But first I was to discuss the matter with my mother and grandmother, Edith Richardson.“We were reluctant to tell my grandmother. I wasn’t sure what she would think because my grandfather spent all those years developing the PLP so, yes, I was a little timid and not sure of her reaction.“The frustration about what the then-UBP Government was doing was always a topic at the dinner table.“But when I told her, she just said, ‘That would be good for you’. She was unbelievably supportive.”The PLP counters Mr Currin’s claims over its youth policy by pointing out more than 90 percent of its executive is now aged under 45.Mr Currin argued: “They are trying to say that now. My experience with them has always been the party focus was not with the youth of Bermuda.“Even today, after 12 years of the PLP Government, we still see a limited number of programmes for the youth. The drop-out rate is one of the educational problems; jobs aren’t taking a lot of our young people because they are not educated, so they end up sitting on the walls.“That’s 12 years. When will the Government start focusing on the youth?”