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OBA leader: lack of preparation let us down in election

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Cole Simons, Opposition Leader (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Cole Simons, Opposition Leader (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A lack of preparation and a failure to connect with voters led to the One Bermuda Alliance’s overwhelming defeat at the last General Election, the party’s leader admitted yesterday.

But Cole Simons, who took the reins about a month after the October 1, 2020 drubbing, said in an exclusive interview with The Royal Gazette that he had started work to make sure the party is ready for the next contest.

Mr Simons added: “I think we failed to connect with the people.

“In addition, at the end of the day we didn’t have our s**t together, to be honest.

“We were caught unprepared for the election, from the party point of view, and we have to own that.”

He said that members of public had “confidence issues” with the party leadership, which he insisted was “unfair”.

Mr Simons added that the OBA’s Parliamentarians were “on top of their game”.

But he said that the party did not get its message across to voters.

Mr Simons, a politician for 22 years, added: “We needed to be more proactive and I think the mistake that we made was that we were depending on the media to do more.”

He added: “The media had their own challenges as far as resources … I don’t believe that we had the appreciation for how difficult it was in the media industry.”

The grandfather of one was unopposed in his bid to take over the OBA helm from Craig Cannonier after the party won only six House of Assembly seats – down from 11.

A total of 30 Progressive Labour Party candidates were elected.

Mr Simons said: “We have to take ownership of the fact that we didn’t connect the way that the PLP connected and we could have done better at keeping connected over the years.”

He added that the OBA’s new strategy was to be “more proactive” in the delivery of its message.

Mr Simons said: “We represent transparency, equity, responsibility, integrity.

“As a new leader, I’m insisting upon all four of those features.

“I told my MPs I would like nothing but the best behaviour from all of you – I want you to act responsibly, with integrity and act like the leader that you are.”

Mr Simons added that Dwayne Robinson, a former OBA senator, was working with other young people to develop a “youth strategy”.

He said the party would do its best to talk to young people “so that they can make a contribution to our party and to the community".

Mr Simons, who was first elected in 1998 as part of the former United Bermuda Party, vowed that OBA members will increase doorstep visits and community events.

He said: “I have made a commitment that in 2021 the chairman and I will visit each constituency from Somerset to St George’s, all 36 of them, and talk to people in the neighbourhoods so that they can feel comfortable with us, and so that we, more importantly, can share and understand their concerns and issues.

“We will listen more and speak less because politics is about making sure that you understand what the people want.

“It’s all parochial – how we can make their lives better, how we can make their children’s lives better and, at the same time, provide the country with a secure economic future.”

Mr Simons said: “I also would like for us to have a country where we are at peace with ourselves, at peace with what we achieve, how we live, how we treat each other, how we work together.”

Mr Simons said he had asked a “former senior statesperson” – whom he did not name – to help develop the OBA team.

He added: “We will have a training curriculum for our new politicians and our potential candidates.

“They will basically look at things like canvassing and branch work, they will look at parliamentary procedures, they will look at communications, media training.”

The OBA failed to field a full slate of 36 candidates at the last General Election.

But Mr Simons said preparations have started for the next time voters go to the polls.

He added: “We are looking for people committed to serve this country.

“We’re looking for people that can make a contribution, bring something to the table, their rich experience from a career point of view, from a personal experience point of view.

“We want representatives that can represent a cross-section of the community.”

Mr Simons said: “We are an inclusive party that represents all of Bermuda – rich, poor, Black, White, Portuguese and the newly evolved citizens of this country.

“In addition, we represent all of Bermuda and not just Bermudians.

“When I canvass I go to everybody’s door, ex-patriots and locals.

“I say to expatriates, you have an interest in this country, you pay taxes and you contribute to our economy so I want to represent you as well – you have a voice.”

Mr Simons, a vice-president at Butterfield Bank, said a healthy population would lead to a healthy economy.

He added that the public should help limit the spread of Covid-19 through mask-wearing, maintaining social distancing and good hand hygiene.

Mr Simons also weighed in on the controversy over the public private partnership contract to build a new airport.

He compared the deal – struck by the last OBA Government with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and Aecon, CCC's contractor – to a mortgage on a house.

Skyport, a subsidiary of Aecon, was contracted to cover the design, finance and construction of the new terminal, as well as its operation and maintenance, for 30 years.

Mr Simons said: “You take a mortgage over your house and your bankers take the deeds until the house is paid for.

“The principle is the same, so to say that Bermuda doesn’t own the airport, doesn’t have access to the income – when you have a mortgage you have to pay monthly amortisation payments.

“It’s no different.”

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Published January 08, 2021 at 8:38 am (Updated January 08, 2021 at 8:37 am)

OBA leader: lack of preparation let us down in election

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