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Is the OBA different from the old UBP?

Was the formation of the One Bermuda Alliance a question of a leopard changing its spots? Or do we have a completely different animal compared to its ancestor, the United Bermuda Party? Critics could claim it is simply a rebranded UBP with the same practices, support base, key influencers, funders and institutional behaviour. Reporter Ayo Johnson grilled OBA members who had been UBP stalwarts on just how different their party is from the party that ruled for 30 years and to a handful of new members.

According to Pat Gordon-Pamplin who has been a politician for 12 years, the OBA brings a more conciliatory approach to politics than the UBP did.

This, we understand, was a directive from its leader and advisers.

But for Ms Gordon-Pamplin, who was once dubbed a “political pit bull” by former UBP leader Kim Swan for her combative style, it is an absolutely essential change given the tough times Bermuda is going through.

“I think sometimes in the rancour of politics the message gets lost. Sometimes people may believe that they are being ill-served because all they hear is bickering. And I think people deserve a little better than that,” Ms Gordon-Pamplin said.

“So what we want to do is to ensure that the message that we give to people is that we are formidable, we have good ideas and that the Government will do well to integrate our ideas with their policies and programmes because it will deliver a better outcome for everybody.”

She added: “These are very perilous times for the Country economically, educationally and certainly with respect to crime.

“We have serious issues and the lifeblood of our Country is being undermined by some of the Government policies. And I think the time is right for us to work together and be seen to work together. I think that's critical.”

Senator Michael Fahy, who has been chairman of United Bermuda Party, Bermuda Democratic Alliance and One Bermuda Alliance, said that there had been “a significant change”.

“I was one of the founding members of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance and did that for change. By coming together with others who also believe in change we have made significant inroads.”

Asked what specifically was different between the OBA and the UBP, he said: “The very people that we are going to be fielding as candidates. You'll see that there's a big difference there.

“I think generally though it's a far more progressive, and perhaps a less conservative, outlook in the way in which we are approaching things. You're going to be looking at people who are far more willing to not just hold the Government to account, but dealing with solutions.

“That's from the base of the membership who are tired of the simple back and forth, and who are saying 'that's all well and good, anyone can criticise'. Well we're going to be about solutions.”

He said the shadow board concept had helped to drive that solution-oriented approach.

Another big difference, Sen Fahy added, was the OBA's strong youth movement.

“We have young people in the room at caucus level who are making a contribution. It's about overall inclusiveness. That, to me, is the biggest difference of all. The overall inclusiveness.”

“There were a lot of changes and they were intentional,” said Bob Richards. “We have new people and we're doing things in a different way.

“We have a defined philosophy and a set of principles. We never had that in the UBP. We had an understanding but it wasn't brought through. At least I didn't think it was.”

Like Sen Fahy, Mr Richards also talked about a difference in membership, especially a slew of young people in the party.

“We really dismantled the UBP in every sense except the two people who are hanging on, but what they're hanging on to is nothing. The UBP is dismantled. We started from scratch. We got a room to meet in that had no furniture.”

He added: “One of the biggest differences is the enthusiasm level a huge amount of enthusiasm. It clearly was the right move. Clearly.”

Donte Hunt was one of the original UBP rebels who formed the Bermuda Democratic Alliance. The short-lived BDA then agreed to a “merger” with the UBP to form the OBA.

Mr Hunt struggled a bit when asked to explain how different the OBA is from the UBP.

“We have a new energy, and I think it's an energy that Bermuda's feeling in general from having a new political force that's bringing solutions to the table. We do have some UBP members, myself included, but we also have fresh faces who may not have come into the room at the UBP. People feel this is a genuine group that made this hard decision. The OBA is a fresh political group. It's new and fresh and it's what people have been wanting.”

Dub poet Ras Mykkal is one of those who would never have joined the UBP. He has been a member of the OBA for two months now. “The UBP represents Bermuda's colonial history, and I would not have joined the OBA if it was a rebranding of the UBP,” he said.

“I joined the OBA because of the make-up of the members younger people with newer ideas and a new era are associated with them.

“You do have the Michael Dunkleys and the Michael Fahys and the Grant Gibbons who came from the UBP. They have to understand that the OBA has a different way of thinking.

“If you want to change how people behave, then you have to change how they think. That has to be understood by the former members of the UBP. It's a different way of thinking and a different way of behaving.”

Asked if they are thinking differently, he said: “They have to. From my involvement, this is what I bring to the table.” So far, he said, his input had been embraced. The OBA is the first political party Mr Mykkal has ever joined, although he has been a “big supporter” of the governing Progressive Labour Party.

“Bermuda has major social issues. I bring solutions to Bermuda's social issues to the table and it demands a new way of thinking.

“You can't think black and white. People must come first. The people make up the country and we've never behaved like a country. Bermuda has never valued people beyond labour, cheap labour and there has to be a new way of thinking.”

One Bermuda Alliance leader Craig Cannonier shakes hands with a senior at a constituency event.

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Published November 10, 2011 at 8:00 am (Updated November 10, 2011 at 8:52 am)

Is the OBA different from the old UBP?

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