The UBP & Third Parties

There has been some talk of late on the blogs as a result of Rolfe Commisiong’s musings in the RG article ‘Are White Bermudians Politically Irrelevant?’ about the need for the UBP to remove itself from the scene and allow for an evolution of Bermudian politics. In particular this has sparked some discussion over at Bermuda JEWEL, as well as this piece from 21 Square. This discussion also comes at the same time as particularly active discussions on the need for a third political party.

Mr. Commissiong’s argument is essentially that the continued existence of the UBP is the glue that holds the PLP together, as well as stunting our political growth as a whole, keeping us bound in the politics of race. This argument in itself is nothing new, its been argued for years before the blogs came about, and its been argued since. This blog certainly agrees with its premises.

The problem that people are left with is how does one go about setting up a new party without the support base of the UBP shifting over to it and leaving the new party as basically the UBP in new clothes, and how would this really change anything. Quite frankly, it wouldn’t change anything at all. There may be a small window of opportunity for change in such a situation, depending on what public face the new party presents to the people, but it would be likely that with the creation of a new party coupled with the destruction of the UBP in short succession, the new party will just become a new UBP.

I can only see two possible ways for a new party to emerge without becoming a new home for the UBP. The first of these is for a new party’s platform to have such a radical departure from anything previously associated with the UBP as to not really capture any significant support from the UBP base. This is possible, but would most likely not be very successful in elections (in there current form) and would most likely be a one hit wonder phenomena like the NLP was at one time.

The more viable option in my opinion is not for one single new party to emerge, and not for the UBP to collapse like a house of cards with a slight poke. Rather, it would be best if a number of new parties emerged, at least two, perhaps three, and the UBP continue to contest elections. The initial result of such a situation would be for the PLP to capitalise on split votes – like the UBP did in the 1980s with the PLP-NLP split. Depending on the platforms, level of organisation and strategies (contest all seats or focus on a few strategic ones), this needn’t result in a landslide PLP victory, just a continued PLP majority. What this situation does do is allow for a process of natural selection between the various parties, including the PLP. This could allow for a new equilibrium to develop in Bermudian politics, with the White vote being split between the new parties , and the capturing of votes from the current PLP base.

I would imagine the end result to be the immediate continuation of the UBP as a party, but no longer a viable party for forming a majority government. The PLP would most likely continue as the majority party for at least the next two elections. The new parties would most likely begin to develop as minor parties, with the potential to serve as king-makers in a coaltion format. The end goal of this, and it may take the next two elections before the new voting bases are clear.

In the end it may well be that we just have three parties, with a format similar to the UK with Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. I believe that would have happened here with the NLP split back in the 1980s had it not been for our racial problems and other unique factors. The UBP may in fact continue as a rump party for decades yet, but as an increasingly marginalised force in the face of new political forces. Ideally it would even concede defeat and leave the field for two new political parties to fill.

All of this is totally hypothetical of course. But it doesn’t hurt to do some speculating all the same.

I would imagine the most likely form that any new party’s would take would be along the lines of a liberal democratic type party and a green party. A liberal democratic party, while appealing to sections of both traditional PLP and UBP bases would most likely attract (and this is just my own speculation!) professionals (particularly Black) and women, as well as some of the youth. A green party would likely get a slightly larger chunk of the traditional UBP base, particularly elements of White professional class and students overseas. The PLP would continue to rely on its traditional working class base and elements of the Black businessmen, while the UBP would likely retain most of the White businessmen.

I would imagine that both the new parties, based on the liberal democrats and greens, would focus heavily on political reform (decentralisation of power, proportional representation, etc.) as well as being very environmentalist in perspective. It is quite possible that these two new parties, sharing similar foci, could actually enter into coalitions, either in parliament itself as a bloc against both the PLP and the UBP, or in parliamentary elections (pooling resources or agreeing to not split votes in certain constituencies). In time they may even end up merging into a single party.

One important dimension for these new parties would be to try and avoid falling into the traditional mould of political parties – what they need in many ways is to be an ‘anti-party party’, with an emphasis on community organising.

So, that’s my prescription for how to move beyond the current PLP-UBP impasse that stunts our political growth. At least two new parties organise to challenge the current dominance of the PLP and UBP, we go through a couple of elections with the PLP winning enough to remain the government, the UBP becomes increasingly irrelevant, and the new parties upset the status quo enough to form a new political equilibrium. By 2020 we should have two main Black parties and one small mainly White party (the UBP). As the new parties increasingly upset the status quo, they will take support from both the PLP and the UBP, with the potential to form a political party that more truly reflects (in composition and vote share) the racial demographics of our people.

It will take time and there will be set backs, but the above is the only realistic scenario I see for the next decade. Some people will worry that another decade of PLP in power is too much. I would argue that this would be the likely scenario (at least!) if the status quo continues. Furthermore, the new parties will help invigorate the opposition to the PLP, clarifying the issues away from race, and this will be reflected as the PLP adapts to the changing political environment. While the PLP was in opposition it had a considerable impact on the policies of the UBP governments, and this will also be the case with the new parties. Afterall, as much as any political party wants to stay in power, its a pretty boring game (and the PLP risks getting overly flabby with opportunists) when the opposition is as lame as they currently are. Everyone enjoys a good match and a good challenge.

Anyway, just my thoughts. But if anyone feels like organising a liberal democratic or green party, I’ld say the above is what to expect. It should be a fun decade coming up!

23 thoughts on “The UBP & Third Parties

  1. Hi Jonanthan

    I know you say that this blog supports this ‘glue’ premise, and that it has been argued for years, but how about another scenario.

    Taking a simple view, and you might want to argue it’s simplistic, surely the PLP wants to retain power rather than risk loosing power?

    If I wanted to keep power, then I would be suggesting publicly that the UBP should disolve, knowing full well that that would be the last thing they will do.

    Ok – the tide might turn with Brown’s leadership (for example) ending up as an electoral issue to favour the UBP, but it seems unlikely. The UBP is highly unlikely to be elected – is it?

    Isn’t the status quo more beneficial to the PLP?

  2. The status quo is more beneficial to certain elements of the PLP, yes, in that it provides a bogeyman to both focus attacks and contain dissent. Having said that, even those who most benefit from this situation recognise that having an Opposition as pathetic as this one isn’t good for anyone.

  3. Only a Marxist would make a statement like that. The UBP are not going anywhere Mr. Starling. Deal with it.

  4. Define…Bogeyman…..Does it have a color? An image? A voice? Can it be traced to prior? Prior what.

    So your great grandfather was a Marxist. Please tell me your history with regards to Bermuda. Are you black? Are you white? Are you Portugese? Anglo Saxion? Anglo Saxion with Black parentage?

    I know the answer. Please share it with the world that you wish too convert.

    Step up Mr. Starling. Your verbage is good. I want to know the truth about why you lean the way you do.

  5. f the ubp n f a third party 🙂 bermudians need to grow up politically, ban party politics, and form a bottom up democratic system of governance.

  6. Um, I’m not trying to convert anyone and to the best of my knowledge neither of my grandfathers would call themselves Marxist.

    If you think it is important and you know the answers, feel free to spread the good word.

  7. Baiting again. Jon…as they call you on BIAW…I’m not going that route.

    I thought you would but thats another story. Don’t be afraid of me. I’am on the convert list right?

    Then agian, you jiggle the conver and avoid what I said or what you perceived.

    As for the “Good Word”, I’ll leave that up too you. If you need to correspond, please email me. Laundry can get …well yah no……..

    Back on subject………Third Party?…Damn right..the first two were bummers..wheres the ‘sweezel’…….
    Chill Jon. Mabe in the next generation and they will say…….detz nut wat deddy ann mumma said………….”Seaweed anyone”……

    Gotta run….Tallyban horn de line……damn l…lost connection…….thank God………………………..

  8. Jonathan

    Do you think that politics in Bermuda is ‘mature’?

    Mature even in the limited sense that the PLP’s 1963 objective of “the political education of the people of Bermuda and the attainment of social and economic justice for all” has been achieved?

    I am still struggling to understand why current PLP supporters would change allegiance to a new party. Sure – some of them might be unhappy with the overall progress of the Government over 11 years, sure – some might be angry at the recent Premier’s moments and we could go back and back and add to that two item list easily.

    But – sufficiently unhappy/angry to change? I have often thought that Bermudians ‘forgive’ easily or perhaps put it another way, they don’t react to situations as others might (UK MP’s expenses e.g.). Maybe they are not principled, maybe it’s the old one…”they did therefore…”

    I just can’t see it. Where is the rationale for change. What is driving it? Why now?

  9. the rationale for change = good governance with the people controlling what politicians do…aka voters rights and ensuring that the politicians are fully and totally accountable and controlled by the people with the ability to remove them from office at any point in time

    check all politicians bank books to ensure no personal enrichment while in political office

    the peoples adjenda for a better life in bermuda = the first adjenda for politicians instead of their own adjenda which thus far has not translated into a better life for all bermudians over the past 50 yrs…only the few have been govin a better life.

    the old people who have messed this country up by not being mature politically are dying off and we younger people aint taking the same ole bull that these old politicians think they can get over on us….f that

    politics in bermuda is still very much under developed and still only benifits the rich and the elitists amongsts us

  10. Hi Martin, no, I would not say that Bermudian politics is mature at the moment. The 1998 election certainly helped in maturing our politics, but this maturation slowed down shortly after.

    I doubt that supporters would move from the PLP in large numbers as long as the UBP is the only credible alternative Party. A new Party hoping to capture a significant share of the vote would have to make sure it takes its time preparing its policies, organisational and electoral strategy in advance of a public launch. Otherwise you risk an ABC debacle which actually hurts the chances of a 3rd Party more than it helps.

    If at least one (preferably two) credible political alternatives emerge and execute their emergence well, then I can see elements of the PLP breaking off to support the new movements. The key to this however is clear evidence that these new Parties have truly crippled the UBP’s capacity to capitalise on split votes, ensuring its future as an increasingly minority Party. What would be needed is for the two new Party’s to capture (between themselves) at least, say, half of the current UBP vote, for that to happen.

    Both the PLP and the UBP will always have a core group of supporters, no matter what happens. It is more likely however for the UBP to suffer from new developments and for the PLP to initially benefit from them. Over time this will allow for a new political status quo, which will see the various ideological groupings of the PLP consider relocating.

    That to me would be a healthy sign of our political maturation, at least more so than our current state of affairs. Again, all of this is just hypothetical, but I cannot see any real alternative.

    The rational for change is a disappointment with the too little, too late, overly Americanised PLP combined with the ‘nature abhors a vacuumn’ situation that is the UBP. This will see three developments (already present in various forms). These are:

    1) The need for new political organisations in the traditional sense of electoral politics.

    2) Increased disllussionment with electoral politics and greater grassroots community organising.

    3) Increasing xenophobia – convenient scapegoats…

    I could of course be wrong on all these fronts, but thats just how I’m seeing it. Its possible that some of the new electoral political groups will also seek to work with the non-electoral community activism, and the PLP also will seek to capture some of that. The first two tendencies are certainly beneficial for all of us and our political maturation, while the third would be a threat to go backwards, an infantile disorder.

  11. Thanks Jonathan.

    One wonders on a small island like this just how different the policies of a new party might differ.

    The system here is not the classic lab/con, rep/dem arrangement as you know, so different/opposing views don’t easily spring to mind. It’s often said isn’t it that policy differences between the PLP and UBP are slight – at best.

    Size of population matters too I guess. For example, if you wanted to almost guarantee the gay vote, then you would promise to ammend the HR Act.


  12. Hi Jonathan,
    Pedant that I am, please correct the heading of this thread – “Party’s” ?
    Anyway back to the thread. I think that Bermuda is still sufficiently immature politically that a new Party would not work for many years. I’m sure that when Premier Brown is removed and say Dale Butler replaces him, the PLP could become a real force and perhaps could steer Bermuda into better times. It would not take a new Party, just one that is true to its roots, beliefs and Constitution. The PLP has not done that since becoming the Government, but if it did…..

  13. LOL – I completely admit apostrophe’s mess me up.

    As much as I like Mr. Butler, I really cannot see him as a successful Party leader. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I just don’t see it.

  14. Actually, I agree with you Bryce. Being led down the garden path by some higher ups is the biggest problem. Knowhere in our history has tourism taken such a trun. Years ago it was advertised well, recieved and on the ‘home front’ people were courtious, helpfull et al.

    Economics play are part today for sure but the product sucks.

    As for your comments on Dale Butler Mr. Starling, you make them only because you are a Communist, a rebel with an internet cause, a wanna be revolutionist.

    Mr. Butler has served Bermuda well and he is to be commended. Few people come our way in this life that make a differance especially in Bermuda and I can tell you that he is in the top 20 from 1609.

    If we had more Butlers we would need less maids to clean up, and they (maids) could tend too other needs of the family and community.

    “Perhaps I’m wrong”….yah bet you are. “I just don’t see it”….open your eyes and ears.

    Outside influence is a pain. Ask your friend Fidel.

    Sorry, got that wrong, ask Eisenhour or Kennedy. They made him what he is.

    I know this is your show but “Jingus” man………I can read between lines and see what your agenda is ………

    Gotta run…….Hagis on sale…..’wool over eyes’….70% off…….

  15. if bermudians were smart….they would create a list from the entire population outlining the areas of concern / reform they want in this system and present it to the govenor, who would then be constiutionally responsible to implament.

    if the current governemt administration was smart they would survey the entire population for its input in the areas of concern and reform of the system, So it can get back on track as far as doing what the people voted them in for in 98…change!

    Life here has not changed for the better for the people who dont have the economic resources to do more than survive….meer survival in an environment of wealth is unrealistic in these times and people will do what they got to do…..IE gangs and political parties

    power to the people by any means nessicary

  16. Those are very powerfull words there ‘Blacky’. In one breath you want Government to listen and be helpfull towards the eunder priviliaged and in the next you want a repeat of the 1970’s.

    Ironic. I suggest a meeting with the Premier and his Cabinet. If he’s not available I am sure your MP is more than willing to listen. If not …seek out the help of the Opposition. They are always ready and willing to engage and help.

    A great day too all.

  17. rummy……what u have suggested has been tried and done…with no results…furthermore we have noticed that gropus have put forward petitions on various results….groups have had marches on various issues…no results

    the local politicians have failed and only cater to the elites and the rich.

    as its been stated by the politicians themselves…we dont listen to individuals and small groups. we only recognise large numbers

    what do you refer to when u say wa happened in the 70s?

    **power to the people by any means nessicary**

  18. **power to the people by any means nessicary**”

    Strong words there. But as you have stated prior, Black Press is used by a few people people so that would mean a group of similar beliefs.

    I am sure you have read or heard of the Black Panthers. If you are aware of history then you will have heard of them, know something about them or researched.

    The Panthers first made major news in on 2nd May 1967, when forty memmbers invaded the legislative chambers of the Calafornia State Capital Building in Sacramento, carrying loaded rifles, shot guns and pistols. The alleged purpose of the invasion was to discourage the State lesgislature from adopting more stringent gun control legislation. Six of the Panthers, including Chairman Bobby Seale, were sent to jail with sentences of three months. ( The New York Times, 11.8.67)

    In the early ’70’s’ they wrote a ‘manifesto’ “The Ten Point Programe” et al.

    To sum this up, to protect themselves from the forces and violence of racist police and racist military…….

    Ironic? Yah bet yah………….It still boils down too Government with the comments you and others have made.

    As I stated prior, and you asked about what happened in the ’70’s’…..well it was a reflection of what happened in the late ’60’s’. The Black Beret Cadre had the same motto and is recorded. History will back me on this.

    Now your talking the same type of language and that bothers me because we have discussed avenues of addressing frustration, feelings and being left out of the “loop”, and thats the ironic part. Suppressed feelings and emotions and with this new avenue of Blogs/Forums instant communication.

    I also learned a lot from a great author, Mel Ayton. He has written many books about conspiracy’s and facts. Plus I was there when all this was going on so I have first and second hand knowledge of it all.

    I need a rum……………

  19. Ok…now I follow your reference to the 70s @ Rummy.

    I would say this in responce…….the Black beret cadre may have had good intentions when they formed and I suppose they thought they were an extension of the black panthers….yes ive heard of them etc etc,

    I was attending the 2009 black power conference, and a guy pointed out that many of the black berets have now infiltrated government….the plp….and other institutions in bermuda, and that none of the high ideals they were marching and causing civil disobedience over have been translated to reforming this system since they are now in the seats of power.

    In other words all the former black berets…with the exception of a few….have sold out the cause of change in bermuda since they have reached the lofty cushioned seats of power…premier brown was one of these black berets.

    we can clearly see the lack of a social adjenda in his administration.

    they have gotten rich and switched.

    Our use of the words

    **power to the people by any means nessicary**

    are used to reawaken the change movement in this country….we are a new generation, but the power of these words old words will hold truth.

    as long as systemic reforms are un achievable my lobbying these corrupt politicians in bermuda, there will always be a portion of a society who will reach back and put that ralley cry to use.

    the system has failed…the government is still corrupt as the ubp administration…and the people are still suffering while living in paridise.

    what better way in there in addressing frustration, feelings and being left out of the “loop” but creating a new peoples movement for systemic change.

    So rummy we who use that cry are not gonna spill ya drinks or take ya rum……if you are not in the way of change u …meaning the wider u have nothin to fear of these words…..

    **power to the people by any means nessicary**

  20. Never been in the way of change ‘black press’. As I stated, the system is there whether we/you like it or not.

    This is an opportunity to dispell myths. An opportunity for you and yours to gather information and try to see how to overcome obsticles that others use as a crutch.

    There is an election comming up shortly in Pembroke. I would say to all, let the people speak. How do they speak? We all have answers for that but I would rather have the guy/girl that runs the store around the corner or the one/’s that help out at parent teachers meetings or the one thats always there when a crisis arises to be my MP.

    This conversation is going somewhere and I am glad that you and yours are putting your views forward. Grandma and Grandad would be proud of you. I am. Your finally making sense and wanting dialogue.

    As for your last paragraph…. Your pretty close too the money but you could never take away my rum. I don’t drink rum. And I would never be in your way, that is why I am here having words with you/yours.

    And if I was in your way, I would think that you would respect my opinions.

    As for fear of your words? Been there done that. You use your words and demeanor and you can change many things. It takes time and fortunately you and your have it.


    ps. As for your words about the BBC, Mel Ayton has written about this and yes I now whom are where, how they got there and where the “One that got away” is………..

    Lets move on and take control of our destiny and that of our children. The rest will fall in place when the “Community” falls in place………………………………..

    El Rummo………….

  21. The Black beret cadre may have had good intentions”……..Guess I missed that part as I was sunning and having a beer and read it but did not fully digest it..

    Are you serious? Sorry, too late ..I typed what I did but need to reflect more on this even though the shadow resembles the past.


  22. About the only thing that causes most politicians to even _start_ to pay attention to what’s good for ordinary citizens is fear of being thrown out of office. That’s something that Bermuda has almost never had – for many decades the UBP had a lock on power, and now it’s the PLP’s turn to put their feet up and do what they darn well please, with no fear of getting turfed out.

    Until Bermuda develops to a point where it has two parties that a good chunk of the electorate will vote for, and an electorate which is willing to actually vote for ‘the other guys’ (whoever they might be at any moment), if the ‘current guys’ are not doing that good a job, stand by for more of politicians taking care of their own interests first.

    Simple motto: If you aren’t ready to vote ’em out, you’re stuck with ’em.

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