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By-election candidates grilled by youth group

Down to the wire: Robert King, Lindsay Simmons and Sir John Swan will be contesting the Smith’s North by-election this week (File photograph)

The three candidates standing in this week’s Smith’s North by-election had the opportunity to address younger voters at the weekend.

Former premier Sir John Swan ― running as an independent candidate ― along with Lindsay Simmons, of the Progressive Labour Party, and Robert King, of the One Bermuda Alliance, were interviewed by Ajai Peets and Halle Teart, of Bermuda Youth Connect.

The organisation’s goal is to “bridge the gap between the youth of Bermuda and our leaders”.

Under questioning, the three parliamentary hopefuls revealed differences in their policies and personalities ― and how they would each represent the constituency.

Sir John was first in the hot seat. Interviewed via video link from his high-rise office on Front Street on Friday, Sir John urged constituents to take “a leap of faith” and vote for him to break up the two-party political system.

Dressed in a business suit, he said he was “honoured” to be interviewed by Ms Teart and to be given a platform to connect with younger, first-time voters “because the future belongs to them”.

Ms Teart asked Sir John ― who was premier between 1982 and 1994 ― to give some background information about himself for those who were unfamiliar with his legacy.

The 88-year-old talked of his humble origins, successful career as a property developer and rise in politics, which saw him meet world leaders such as former US president Ronald Reagan and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

He added: “What has always been the best for Bermuda has always been my objective and I’ve never stepped away from that. I’ve done it overseas and I’ve done it locally.

“I am here today because I have received a lot of requests from people saying we’re not moving in the right direction. I decided that the only way I can do anything is to make myself available.

“My objective is to bring about a Bermuda of independent thinkers and independent doers ― not committed to party politics but committed to serving the people of Bermuda.”

Sir John said that the Westminster system of party politics was “polarising rather than collaborative”.

He said: “I’m asking the voters of Constituency 10 to take a leap of faith and not stick to the traditional methods, because your leap of faith will determine the future of Bermuda.”

Sir John added that a government of independent MPs could run the island as a corporation, with politicians acting as directors and voters taking on the role of shareholders.

“We have a crisis on our hands right now and we see our standard of living slipping and slipping and slipping, and something is happening and I want to be a part of it.”

Ms Simmons was interviewed via video link by Ms Peets yesterday.

Casually dressed and seated on a couch in her living room, the PLP candidate said she would be a hands-on representative of her constituents who would address the individual needs of residents.

Inspired by her daughter, she said she decided to enter politics to bring about change ― and the best way to do that was to “be in the room where decisions are being made”.

She said: “I think people resonate with me because I’m a people person. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t pretend that I do.”

Ms Simmons said that the problems of young Black men was a pressing issue that the youth faced.

She said: “We’re having children raised without fathers because they’re either murdered or locked up. It’s Black men that we’re losing.

“We need to fix the village. I believe the village is broken and we need more people to step in and raise our children as a whole.

“There’s always something more that we can do. We need to be advocates for our children. We need to get back to the basics of how we grew up.

“I believe I’m the best choice because I am a doer. If it’s a problem I can fix by myself, I will do it, and if we need help from someone else, then I will do that.“

She said: “I am somebody who is going to do the work, from now until my political career ends. My track record proves that I am somebody who is going to do the work and I get my hands dirty.”

Mr King, the last of the three candidates, said that politics was a calling and that he felt compelled to enter the race because of his experiences in the criminal justice system.

The former corrections officer said that the system was failing “those that needed help most” and that the only way to make positive change was to go to “the legislative branch”.

He said: “It was basically a moment of epiphany where ‘OK, this is the logical next step’.“

Mr King said that he had made connections with constituents and had made “a commitment to them”.

He said that canvassing with former MP Michael Dunkley, whose resignation forced the by-election, he learnt that he had to be consistent and not only listen to residents’ concerns but “to do something about it”.

Mr King said that he felt he was “exactly the right person, in the right place, to do this work”.

“I really feel that if you’re a spiritual person, this is the time … I’m so excited to work with the incredible people of C10 and that’s why I’m the best person, because I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

The Smith’s North by-election will be held on Wednesday.

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UPDATE: this article has been amended to correct that Sir John Swan was interviewed by Halle Teart and not Ajai Peets