Log In

Reset Password

Sir John: independent MPs would listen to the people

First Prev 1 2 Next Last
Agent of thought: could former premier Sir John Swan return to the House of Assembly as an independent MP? (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Independent MPs would be more sensitive to the needs of the people and not bound by a system that is focused on party survival, according to former premier Sir John Swan.

The 88-year-old declared last month that he will stand as an independent candidate in the by-election for Smith’s North.

Announcing his decision, Sir John said he wanted to encourage more people to put themselves forward as independents because the Westminster system of government in Bermuda was broken, with party loyalty the priority.

“You see around the world a form of the Westminster system where the majority really takes full control of everything,” he told The Royal Gazette yesterday.

“The end result is, instead of doing the people’s business, they start doing the party’s business and it’s about their survival. Tribalism sets in very quickly.”

Sir John added: “My hope is that when you take away the party politics, people see that they don't have to be involved in a tribal process, but be an independent thinker and participant in the process so that their loyalty is to the voter and to the people.”

Put to him that it was the same system that served him well as the island’s longest-serving premier and leader of the United Bermuda Party, he said the world had changed dramatically, adding “ … so why should the system itself remain the same?”.

Sir John said the framework collapsed when a party had a large majority.

“We had 32 seats and the Governor said to me, ‘John, remember power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, don’t fall into that trap’.

“We fell into that trap then. Everybody thought, ‘well, we’ve got this big majority, we can do what we want to do’.

“Then we went from 32 seats down to 22. So, you know, it’s not something that has not happened before. What we want is a balance.”

Sir John references the Isle of Man where, despite the existence of two political parties — the Manx Labour Party and the Liberal Vannin Party — the majority of MPs are independent.

The leader of the MLP recently said she believed that having a party system on the Isle of Man would speed up the Government's work.

Joney Faragher told Manx Radio she has been surprised at how long it takes to make legislative changes since being elected in 2021.

“Well, it slows you down, but it’s better than racing ahead and falling off the edge of the cliff before you decide where you need to be going,” Sir John countered. “We’re falling off the edge of the cliff.”

He added: “Our finances are in bad shape, but nobody talks about them. Our healthcare system is collapsing, whether people know it or not. People can’t pay their bills for healthcare.

“Inflation is rising and debt is rising. You’ve got everything going in the wrong direction.

“We need to slow it down. We need to get data, we need to get statistics. There’s nothing wrong with going slow — if you’re going in the right direction.”

Sir John was asked how Bermuda would benefit if the vision of a majority of independent MPs came to fruition.

He replied: “That would help because we will have a plan. We will take it to the public, then we'll take it to Parliament and then we’ll work towards implementing that plan.

“We’ll embrace the whole community. There are a lot of resources in Bermuda that are untapped, people who’ve done fantastic things, but they're kept out of the system out of fear of offending one party, or immigration.”

On whether backing independent candidates would require a significant shift in voting culture, Sir John added: “Well if you don’t want to change it, keep it the same and see what the consequences are.

“I’m only here as an agent of thought. I’m here to put forward my thoughts and I’m sure the public have their own thoughts, but the public has to ask itself a question, ‘Am I to keep walking down the same road when I see the effect, or do I stop and say, wait a minute, I need to change direction?’

“It doesn’t mean that I’m absolutely right. It means that we will have to work together to get it right.

“This is not about me. I’m at an age where I shouldn’t be involved with politics, but I see Bermuda heading in the wrong direction and I see nobody else stepping up.”

The by-election will take place on May 22. Lindsay Simmons is representing the Progressive Labour Party and Robert King is standing for the One Bermuda Alliance.

• Comments are closed on political content until after the by-election on May 22 to stem the flow of purposefully inflammatory and litigious comments during the election cycle. Users who introduce extreme partisan comments into other news content will be banned