Its pretty much obvious to even the most casual observer of Bermudian politics that the UBP is currently going through a severe crisis. With their defeat on Tuesday they have suffered a severe shock, partly due to their own pre-election hype that deluded them into believing they would actually win this election. And truthfully, they didn’t do too badly, they did get about 47.5% of the popular vote after all. However, it is clear that the UBP could not win the election even when they honestly had a lot going for them, and many UBP insiders and big wigs are now publicly commenting on the ‘unelectability’ of the UBP and the need to either rebrand or dissolve itself and give another Party the oppurtunity to form as the Opposition. One needs only to read the recent newspaper articles to get a sense of the deep malaise the UBP is in.
Limey makes a very good point that any newly formed Party would simply assume the mantle of the UBP and be seen as no different from the UBP as the post-1998 ‘New’ UBP was seen as the same as the pre-19998 ‘Old’ UBP. I don’t entirely disagree in that if the UBP were to formally dissolve and a new Party form Phoenix like out of its remnants it would be the UBP with a new name, but the UBP nonetheless. A name change is only cosmetic, and cosmetic just isn’t going to do the job to be frank.
What I see as a more likely scenario is the fracturing of the Opposition into at least two Parties, and possibly a third. I wouldn’t be suprised at all if in the new year (I think things will be quiet with cocktail conspiracies and maneouvering for the immediate holidays) a section of the newly elected UBP MPs breaks away and forms a new Party, similar to how the NLP split from the PLP in the early 1980s. I would imagine this new Party will be composed more of the younger and black members. With them will come a division of the UBPs branches – almost every branch will divide between those who feel the UBPs time is done and a those who for whatever reason cannot leave the UBP itself. Overnight a new Party will be formed, with representatives in Parliament and branches throughout the country.
The remaining rump of the UBP will soldier on, probably engage in bitter polemics with its spawn, but also seek to form almost a coalition Opposition, and in the future event a potential coalition government. There is the possibility of oppurtunist elements also fleeing the UBP for the PLP.
There is also the factor of the All Bermuda Congress, and whether it will continue with its original idea of forming a new Party, whether it will siphon off some factions of the current UBP, or will it merge with a UBP spin-off Party.
I am also of the belief that the environmental movement here will spawn a political Party as well. In most countries Green Parties form confused coalition of conservatives and progressives, and this tension is found in them throughout. In general they are regarded as centre-left, but due to the particular phenomenae of Bermuda’s race and class dynamics, which sees environmental activists coming from the mostly White middle classes, there is the potential that any Bdian Green Party could actually become a rather reactionary Party in the coming period due to the prevailing mentality within the White community at the moment (essentailly a rather negative and reactionary one). Whether this Party will form itself or its energies will merge with a fraction of the UBP I can’t tell either. We are afterall discussing hypotheticals here.
This fractured opposition will compete, almost like natural selection, for hegemony in the non-PLP, and there is every possibility that one of the factions will also draw support from the PLP. It is no secret that the PLP has its divisions and factions. In the ‘green book’ L. Frederick Wade; In Words and Pictures one finds an article by Meredith Ebbin entitled ‘Wade:Keeping the PLP United’. This contains the illuminating passage:
“A former teacher and lawyer, he was firmly in the labour faction of the PLP. The PLP has had to contend with two factions since its formation in 1963 – grass-roots labour and professional/business/middle class. Those competing factions were at the heart of a 1985 split that led to the formation of the National Liberal Party and the election of Mr. Wade as Opposition Leader, replacing Mrs. Browne-Evans.”
It should be noted that the ‘Labour Aristorcracy’ would fall more into the professional/business/middle class faction despite their union origins. Despite this there is of course another plane of division between a socially progressive wing and a socially conservative wing, this crossing and overlapping the grassroots labour/professional middle class divide.
It is not exactly wrong to say that what keeps the PLP united is their common opposition to what the UBP represents, and it is not unthinkable that with the fracturing of the UBP there would also be fracturing of the PLP, although this would not at first be obvious. There would be no Party split of the PLP, at least not for a long time, but support could be captured from it by an entity spawned from the UBPs fracturing. It is likely that should this occur the PLP will remain the Party of Labour, its more conservative and pro-business elements eventually sloughing away to a new entity – although as long as the PLP is in power it will be butressed by fair-weather oppurtunists.
Anyway, these are just hypotheticals. I could be way off. But the fracturing of the UBP seems to me the most likely consequence of this election result, and the best way to avoid appearing as the UBP in new clothes. It is possible that Dr. Brown would take advantage of this scenario much as John Swan took advantage of the PLP-NLP split. Thats okay. Really. As Freddie said to the 1995 Delegates Conference:
“…our opposition is undergoing major political and philosophical differences which I believe can only be resolved by a rebuilding from the ground up. This rebuilding can only take place while they are out of power.”
While in the short-term formal Opposition would be considerably weakened by such a scenario it is self-evident that informal opposition will form internal to the PLP, and this itself is a necessary phenomena for the long-term benefit of the Party itself. In this one is reminded of the words of Rosa Luxembourg:
“Freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party — though they are quite numerous — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. The essence of political freedom depends not on the fanatics of “justice”, but rather on all the invigorating, beneficial, and detergent effects of dissenters. If “freedom” becomes “privilege”, the workings of political freedom are broken.”
Opposition internal to the Party can only benefit progressive labour and the struggle in the long run, and must be embraced as necessary for its success. With the fracturing of the formal Opposition and the threat of more oppurtunists infecting progressive labour, it will be of even greater importance than before to employ critical reason to ensure the Party continues to be progressive labour in more than name alone.
“Marxism is a revolutionary worldview that must always struggle for new revelations. Marxism must abhor nothing so much as the possibility that it becomes congealed in its current form. It is at its best when butting heads in self-criticism, and in historical thunder and lightning, it retains its strength”. – Rosa Luxembourg.