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PLP’s emerging faces see a need to attract younger members

As the Progressive Labour Party enters 2011 in a position of dominance, emerging key members Michael-Jay Landy, Kim Lightbourne and Curtis Williams told

Tim Smith they won't rest on their laurels, in the final part of our end-of-year series looking at Bermuda's three political parties.

A new leader everyone seems to like, an army of fresh faces finally rising to prominence and an expected huge general election victory it's hard to see how 2011 could go wrong for the Progressive Labour Party.

But the ruling party's seemingly impenetrable lead over its rivals doesn't mask its mammoth task convincing a generation of potential supporters politics is even worth bothering with.

Many observers have pointed to an abundance of apathy at this month's Warwick South Central by-election when a PLP victory margin of more than 50 percentage points couldn't hide a near record-breaking low turnout of 40 percent.

As 2010 draws to an end, three of the party's emerging figures spoke to

The Royal Gazette about their plans to make politics relevant again and reach out to those who've lost interest including many who aren't old enough to vote yet.

New deputy chairwoman Kim Lightbourne, a Warwick Academy teacher, says young people have a lot to offer as Bermuda tries to tackle unprecedented social and economic problems.

“I'm in a classroom with young people day in day out,” Ms Lightbourne told this newspaper.

“I find that I learn from them on a daily basis. I feel they have a lot to contribute on crime and social issues.

“We need to give them a forum so they can express their views. We most definitely can learn from them and it's important to educate them about the democratic process.

“But when they get closer to 18, they have no interest in voting unless their parents are politically astute.”

Press officer Curtis Williams continued: “It's a sign of the times and it depends on the state of society.

“In 1998 it was a totally different mindset. Everyone was making sure they registered to vote because everyone wanted change.

“Right now, it seems this Government is pretty much entrenched as the government and there doesn't seem to be a movement for change.”

So while the United Bermuda Party and Bermuda Democratic Alliance enter 2011 fighting it out over the traditional Opposition vote, the PLP can turn its attention to recruiting those that haven't voted before.

“I would like to see the membership increased and have a lot more educational forums to let people know about the democratic process,” said Ms Lightbourne.

“We probably need to target specific age groups, as young as 18. We have to meet them where they are, on their level, to draw them in. We can't come from the perspective of our generation.”

Membership secretary Michael-Jay Landy expanded: “We need to increase our membership, and also our younger membership. Those that are 16 or 17, but are not yet at voting age, may be old enough the next time.

“We can use whatever avenue is available, whether it's a dance, forum, sit-down talks with MPs and the executive, to tell them what it's all about. It doesn't have to be a formal method.”

Premier Paula Cox, currently contrasting starkly with her predecessor Ewart Brown by winning frequent compliments from PLP foes, has refused to say whether she will cash in on her honeymoon period by calling an early election.

Some party members predict Ms Cox won't send the people to the polls until late 2012, claiming she needs no personal mandate to govern as that belongs to the PLP thanks to victory under Dr Brown in December 2007.

However, former Senator Walton Brown yesterday said there would almost certainly be one either early in the summer when the students return and after inevitable dissent at a tough Budget dies down or late in the year.

When that happens, some say the PLP could get more than 30 seats if the UBP and BDA split the Opposition vote like they did in Constituency 26 this month.

But PLP strategists warn against reading too much into one by-election result noting the voting pattern in a PLP stronghold is unlikely to be replicated Island-wide.

Mr Williams said: “I hear what people are saying and I understand why they are saying that, but at this point we can't be focused on what's going on in either Opposition party.

“We are just worrying about the strength and development of our own party and going from there.”

Emerging faces: (left to right) Curtis Williams, Public Relations Officer , Kim Lightbourne, Deputy Chairman and Michael-Jay Landy, Membership Secretary.

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Published December 30, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 30, 2010 at 7:08 am)

PLP’s emerging faces see a need to attract younger members

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