OBA determined to stay and fight, says new deputy leader
The One Bermuda Alliance does not have “the luxury” of giving up despite holding only a handful of seats in Parliament, the new Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said.
Jarion Richardson, whose election to the four-year term was announced by the OBA over the weekend, added that he relished taking on a difficult role.
“I recently saw a comment about the One Bermuda Alliance being dead,” Mr Richardson told The Royal Gazette.
“My response is that’s not factually accurate. There would be no one answering the Government.
“But also, the Opposition does not have the luxury of dying. In the last election there were 15,000 votes for the Government, 30 to six, but there are 40,000 electoral voters. That means 25,000 voices are unrepresented, and that’s the job of the Opposition.”
He added: “We cannot just go away quietly into that good night. We are obliged to be the counterpoint, the eternal sceptics.
“Otherwise the Westminster system does not function.”
The former Opposition senator retained Paget West for the OBA in the October 2020 General Election, in which the party was otherwise trounced by the ruling Progressive Labour Party.
Mr Richardson, who will continue to be Opposition Whip, admitted the party was “at a disadvantage” with numbers.
“We have to do the job – no one says that six can do the job of 12,” he said.
“We have more work to do with fewer resources and that work is more vital than ever.
“I do not see our circumstances being adverse just for the Opposition. It’s adverse for the whole island.
“The role of the OBA is to do the job of Opposition with the resources it has, while appealing to the hopes and aspirations of Bermuda and demonstrating that there’s a better Bermuda, a better version that can be.”
Mr Richardson was voted to second Cole Simons, the Leader of the Opposition, in accordance with the OBA’s constitution.
Previously, the deputy job had been filled in an acting capacity by OBA MPs when Mr Simons was overseas.
Mr Richardson said: “The thing that makes this worth doing is how hard it is to do it.
“We cannot give up because something is hard. We can’t kick the can down the road.
“The OBA has to make hard decisions every single day because one Member of Parliament is handling typically three shadow ministries. That’s a lot of expertise.”
He added: “You’re trying to make the best decisions possible but a lot of the time you’re making it with half the information that the Government has.”
Mr Richardson said he had spent his time since the election immersed in “the learning curve”.
“You have to know the Government not just as a spectator, but as someone whose job is to scrutinise policy and resource allocation.”
He said he got on well with PLP MPs and did not see “any strained relationship” with the governing party.
“I do not dislike the PLP. I’m not coming out of the gate like I have something against the party. I don’t come at it as a personality contest.”
He added: “I think that’s what allows me to have a healthy rapport. I might at the end disagree, but it’s just a difference.”
Mr Richardson said major events such as the upcoming Cup Match highlighted that the island’s community was “more similar than not”.
“We have a lot of different families, different socio-economic groups, different races. But the differences are not enough to make us not one people.
“I am never drawn to look for the differences first.”
He said the OBA would continue holding the Government to account by “bringing attention to the things the Government can do better”.
“Ultimately, to be fair, they’re going to make the final decision.
“But they know they must always be ready to provide justifications for their actions. We are constantly on the front foot in raising issues.”
He said he was drawn to the nuts and bolts of party work, including “improving our communications and improving our back office in how we keep records, working on responsiveness and outreach – there’s a lot happening and this is an area I am attracted to”.
“I’m not a glamorous politician. I don’t find that part of the job attractive.
“This job is one of service and service means effectiveness. I like organisation and professionalism and I admire complex organisations that have to produce excellence in demanding circumstances.”