Lister poised to lead new party
Support for a third political party grows
By Raymond Hainey
A third force in Bermuda politics aims to break the two-party system and draw in disillusioned supporters from both main parties, The Royal Gazette can reveal.
And veteran politician and ex-Progressive Labour Party Minister Terry Lister, now sitting as an Independent, is slated to lead the new party.
The group — which could also pull in some disgruntled MPs from the One Bermuda Alliance and PLP — is looking at a launch well before the next election, due in 2017.
A political insider confirmed: “It will be a new unifying force — Bermudians, right now, especially with where we are, are looking for solutions and answers, not fuss and fighting.”
The insider, who asked not to be named, added that the recent row over a trip on a private jet by Premier Craig Cannonier, two Ministers and a fourth man, his personal business advisor, for talks with a millionaire developer in the US had added to a groundswell of support for a third party.
The row — dubbed Jetgate — led to angry exchanges in the House of Assembly and a series of questions on the affair from the Opposition side.
But the insider said: “The public don't care who the fourth person on the plane was — all this time has been wasted. I think people are willing to look at another direction.”
The source added the move came amid grassroots OBA discontent with the ruling OBA and Premier Craig Cannonier's performance in the House of Assembly over the Jetgate issue.
And he said that many black voters had been diehard PLP — but that supporters had been disappointed with the party's 14 years in power and were ready for a change.
“A new party would draw support from both sides — it would be a UK Liberal Democrat kind of thing which can see both views.”
It is understood that around six current MPs from both sides of the House of Assembly could be in the frame to defect to the new third force — although the insider declined to identify them.
The British Liberal Democrats were formed through a merger of the Social Democratic Party, founded in the 1980s by MPs who defected from the Labour Party due to its left wing stance, but which also attracted defectors from the right wing Conservatives and the Liberal Party.
The Liberal Democrats are part of the UK Coalition government with the Conservatives after the Tories failed to win a majority in the 2010 general election.
Mr Lister could not be contacted for comment last night.
But former UBP Premier Sir John Swan said that third parties had failed to do well in Westminster-style systems and that the UK Lib Dems holding the balance of power in Britain was an exception.
Sir John added that the Island's short-lived National Liberal Party had failed to win enough support and folded.
And he said: “Neither leader at the moment is pulling what appears to be any great consensus on leadership — but what sounds good on paper doesn't necessarily work out in people's interests.”
Sir John added that a third party would also introduce another layer of uncertainty when the country needed to be focused on attracting “capital, product and intellect” from overseas and providing jobs for Bermudians.
“What we need to do is ensure we maximise our position vis a vis Bermuda and the rest of the world — clouding it with political manoeuvrings is not going to help.”
He added: “When you have been given a job to do — and it was given to the OBA, it wasn't given to the PLP — they should get on with the job and be judged on their performance, not by the person who wants the job and didn't get it.”