Opposition leader: integrity at heart of new platform
A clear-cut strategy for taking on the island’s problems has been crafted by the One Bermuda Alliance, with its new platform “a declaration of specific intent”, the new Opposition leader has said.
Jarion Richardson told The Royal Gazette: “I look forward to rolling it out — it will be a declaration of very specific intent.”
Mr Richardson was appointed Leader of the Opposition on August 10 after his predecessor, Cole Simons, announced his retirement from politics.
The by-election looming for Mr Simons’s former constituency, Smith’s South, will be the party’s “first opportunity to demonstrate in an election what we have been doing since the 2020 General Election”, he said.
Mr Richardson, whose political career began in 2020 with his appointment to the Senate, said the OBA had drafted a mission statement and vision statement “that our intention is to strengthen the community”.
“Our value sets are inclusivity, integrity and financial prudence. Our vision is of ample economic opportunity for all and a world-class education.
“We are not going to interpret the best interests for Bermuda through an ideology.”
Asked about the identity of the “modernised” party in the wake of its 2020 electoral rout, Mr Richardson said: “We want Bermuda to be less a place of ideology and more of practical, pragmatic solutions that get people the things they need.
“How we get there, we are happy to take a number of different roads. But what we are not going to do is adopt a strategy of blind devotion to an ideology. That’s not what the OBA is about.
“Unfortunately, a consequence of that is we are not a simple thing — you can’t put us in a box.”
Mr Richardson stated after his appointment that the OBA had a full slate of 36 candidates ready for an election, and yesterday he said the roll-out of those candidates would be set by the party’s “wider strategic plan”.
“Our tempo of roll-out is deliberate, it’s intentional, and we look forward to continuing it.”
The Opposition leader added that much of the party’s strategy came from its political candidates and the concerns they heard on the island’s doorsteps.
He said there had been “a sweeping, huge set of activities taking place” involving working groups examining specific issues.
“This is why I’m so thankful for volunteers,” he said. “Volunteers and members are the lifeblood of the OBA.”
Jarion Richardson said the One Bermuda Alliance would not set its agenda by the actions of the Progressive Labour Party — including election timing.
“What we’re here for is not dependent on the PLP and its calendar and its desires. That can sound maybe politically delusional, but the key here is that we have to have reasons to do the things that are so hard that they will be thankless.
“This can’t be just about popularity. It has to be about creating outcomes for the betterment of the country.”
He added: “As it relates to an election, the PLP are welcome to call an election any time they want as government.
“We’re mindful that this is entirely the decision of the Premier, and we have a hard-enough time figuring out his logic on a good day. He is free to undertake his role as he sees fit.”
Mr Richardson said the OBA aimed to focus on its democratic role to “provide a coherent political party who have a job to play in fixing Bermuda’s problems”.
Mr Richardson told the Gazette it would be difficult to highlight top challenges out of the island’s intertwined issues of crime, education, healthcare, the economy and infrastructure.
“Our problems are chain-linked together. You can’t pick up one link any more; you have to pick up several at one time.
“The fundamental issue that the OBA has when we look at the state of Bermuda, what we detect is there are too many things broken at the exact same time.”
He said the diversity of Bermuda’s 40,000 voters, coupled with the adage that “all politics is local”, meant the OBA had to ensure it adopted core principles that “as many people as possible can identify with — that’s where we generate policy”.
“We are going to enforce integrity in politics.”
Mr Richardson singled out immigration, however, adding: “Today Bermuda is dealing with the consequences of immigration as derived from ideology, instead of immigration as derived from practical solutions.”
He called the OBA’s controversial Pathways to Status immigration reforms in 2016, while the party was in government, an “example of making hard decisions in a particularly sensitive area”.
The proposals were dropped after mass demonstrations in which protesters blocked legislators from attending Parliament.
Mr Richardson said the topic was less rancorous in the wake of Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, signalling last September that the island urgently required a 25 per cent boost in the size of its workforce — an estimated 8,418 extra people.
“It’s taken us years to get the Government to acknowledge that we need more people, and they’ve finally conceded,” Mr Richardson said.
“It’s likely these thousands of people will be from overseas. That was hard to get them there.”
He added: “The hardest part of selling Pathways was there was someone committed to weaponising and politicising it.
“That having taken place, the consequence of which in part is the electoral success of the current government, we are now at least past that point.”
He said the Government had “conceded the underlying principles of Pathways”, enabling discussions on “actual decisions instead of the sensitivity surrounding them”.
Mr Richardson said the dates for an OBA leadership election would become clearer as the Smith’s South by-election drew closer.
Whether his leadership would remain in place was a matter for the procedure as set in the party constitution.
“This leadership contest is not something that will be decided,” he said.
“Someone called my appointment ceremony at Government House a coronation. I could not disagree more.”
He added: “This is a party of equals who will decide who will be the first among equals.”