Disappointed at retreat to corridors of spin
Well, we have been presented with the Progressive Labour Party's report on its first 100 days. I'm disappointed that not only were there fewer updates than I expected to see, but also that there was a considerable amount of spin.
David Burt proclaimed “we have successfully completed or significantly advanced 21 of the 21”. When pressed in parliamentary questions of actual completed number, he reduced this to 14.
With such a massive majority and mandate, why is this sort of spin necessary? Why do we hold our politicians to such an unreasonable standard that they tell us only what we want to hear? Are we unable to handle the truth?
When looking closely at the actual pledges, only a handful have been fully completed by the 100-day mark. That should not discount that there indeed has been significant progress on a considerable number of them. Some, such as the MPs' code of conduct, are justifiably delayed because of the process of passing Bills through the Senate. Others are held up for welcome consultation with stakeholders, which is to be applauded over rushing ahead.
Then there are the ones that have surprisingly no progress. Wi-fi installation in schools is at the same state it was on September 8. Communication with clubs regarding loan guarantees will commence shortly, when communication was already said to have begun on September 7. Negotiations with public-sector unions were to be concluded and yet they are still negotiating, with the only update having been that Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert is “satisfied” with wage negotiations. Others still are “completed”, but remain little more than an idea with no real explanation of how they have been completed.
With the PLP gaining the biggest majority and mandate in recent history, one has to wonder why it is necessary to spin the results rather than just tell us the truth. Only a fool expects our leaders to be perfect and deliver on every promise. It should, however, be reasonable to expect explanations for delays, course corrections and updated delivery dates.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch's statement in early October on the complications related to the relocation of the airport mail facility was a perfect example. He outlined issues encountered, their causes, options considered and the reasoning for an urgent choice of solution. Why isn't that approach used across the board? Why is it only when the One Bermuda Alliance is the cause of the delay that things can be fully explained?
Why is it unreasonable to take an honest approach to pledges and say this is where we are, this is what happened, this is where we will be and this is our plan for how we're going to get it done, even if delayed?
Why do our politicians feel the need to spin things as if everything is perfect and going according to plan when they aren't? Have we taken to upholding our politicians to impossible standards such that few can measure up? Is it of any surprise that few want to get involved? We pressure our leaders to create the perception that they are perfect when it is impossible for anyone to be.
We all make mistakes, no one is perfect and for the most part we are all learning as we go.
So, not all the pledges are completed: many have shown strong progress, some are in a holding pattern and a couple are still unknown. It is to be hoped that regardless of the 100-day target, all will ultimately be competed and none will be conveniently forgotten.
A real measure of progress and continuing updates to ensure that happens would be welcome, but, sadly, surprising to see. Doing so would require admitting that not all promises have been fully delivered and we expect our politicians to be perfect. It doesn't say great things about our future if it is unacceptable that our leaders be less than perfect. It simply ensures that we will not manage the future we desperately need. Our politicians need to be focused on delivering on their vision and working with the people, even if it takes longer than expected, rather than telling us only what we want to hear.
• Denis Pitcher is an independent political commentator who compiled a live progress report on the Progressive Labour Party's 100-day pledges on his blog 21 Square