Well, I suppose I should comment on the RG article about the UBP’s continued self-destruction. The late Julian Hall once referred to Lt. Col. Burch as a train wreck in slow motion. I wonder if this description would be more apt for the UBPs agonisingly slow descent into irrelevance. Anyway, this ‘ultimatum’ by three UBP MPs and a Senator seems to be perhaps the final blow to the UBP as a viable political party. It is hard not to look at the UBP as ever successfully contesting an election again with the intent of forming the government. They may very well continue, but they will continue as little more than a rump party from now on.
The fracturing of the UBP is not really anything new. The UBP has been a fractured Party almost since its inception, united more by power and mutual opposition to the PLP than anything else. One need only look at the Black Caucus and reformist factions that egged the UBP in the 70s and 80s, where ‘small-whites’ and Portuguese Bermudians sought to challenge the Forty Theives dominance of the Party in a series of primaries. Indeed, it was the breakdown of unity, in the aftermath of the hamburger wars and 1995 Independence referendum that led to the 1998 PLP victory.
The late Freddie Wade, shortly before his death and the 1998 election, argued that the UBP was broken as a Party and would need to spend some time in the wilderness in order to fix itself – it could not resolve its internal divisions any longer while in power. The 1998 defeat cut off the Party from the trappings of power as well as robbed them of their chief weapon, their argument that the PLP were incapable of governing. Post-1998 events have shown that the PLP can govern (or is it mis-govern) as well as the UBP could. This situation left them increasingly incapable of attracting high-quality candidates along their traditional strategy of ensuring an election slate approximating our racial demographics. And without access to political power their ability to remain united further degraded.
While the 2007 election was close (in the popular vote), it was the 2003 election that was, to me, the UBPs last best chance of regaining power. The 2007 election just confirmed their irreversible decline. The rebels ultimatum of 2009 renders the UBPs decline in farce.
In my opinion the UBP should have split in the immediate aftermath of the 2007 election. This would have been the best solution for the UBPs crisis. That they have dithered as long as they have robs both the rebels and the UBP rump of any credibility.
I do not know the UBPs constitution, but from my perspective these UBP rebels should be expelled immediately. Yes, this will of course lead to the complete split of the UBP, just as the PLP-NLP split developed. Yes, it is quite possible that this would give Dr. Brown a very good reason to call a snap election, just like John Swan did in the midst of the PLP-NLP split. Yes, this would ensure the PLPs power till at least 2014, and give Dr. Brown an opportunity to ‘leave on a high’, and silence internal PLP dissent for the immediate timebeing. These are all quite possible, and if I were the Premier I probably would be announcing a snap election in the run up to the October Annual Delegates Convention.
There are many UBPers and rebel supporters who will look at this with horror and seek to mend the rift within the UBP. I believe that would be a mistake. The UBP as it is has too many problems in it, and it needs to deal with them and not keep trying to superficially fix them and hope they will sort themselves out. They need to have a frank and open discussion about their problems, and it needs to act decisively. Their failure to act decisively and work out their problems is one, of many, problems that leaves them an increasingly irrelevant political entity. A snap election may be called. The UBP and its spin-off Party may indeed loose their seats. The PLP could indeed win a landslide. Quite frankly I don’t think we can continue along the current status quo of an ineffective Opposition, and as difficult as it may be for them and its members, its better they rip off the bandages all in one go and help change our political landscape. The splitting of the UBP seems the best way to do this.
I believe that the rebels have spent the last few months, if not the whole time since the 2007 election, getting organised so that they can launch as a new Party almost immediately, expressly due to the fear of a snap election. I doubt the UBP proper has been totally ignorant of this and should be able to also contest a snap election. They may even agree to some form of strategic voting in order to not totally surrender parliament to a PLP landslide.
In my opinion having the UBP split, leaving the UBP and some new Party of these rebels, without the UBP itself dissolving, is the best strategy to ensure that the new Party cannot be attacked as the UBP under a different name. The existence of both Parties will allow the new Party to define itself and forge a new identity for itself. As has been noted before, even by PLP stalwarts (for example Rolfe Commissiong in a relatively recent RG article), the dissolution of the UBP as a viable Party will lead to change within the PLP, even perhaps leading to a spin-off of its own, if not the capturing of support by a new Party. Ultimately, this should lead to a fundamental redrawing of Bermuda’s political map.
As to the rebels themselves, I will be frank and say that I am hardly inspired with confidence by any of these persons. I have some respect for Mr. Donte Hunt and Mr. Mark Pettingil, but I have not found reason to have much time for Mr. Fahy or Mr. Crockwell. And if, as is likely, they will seek to include Mr. Darius Tucker and Mr. Wayne Furbert, well, I certainly don’t see them as having much credibility to be frank. And while they claim to have a former PLP MP on their side, I would find it surprising if they were able to capture even a small amount of disgruntled PLPers. Their support will be almost completely within the existing UBP support base. There is nothing wrong with that, the break up of the UBPs base is a necessary step towards reshaping the political situation.
I believe that it is likely we will see at least two new Parties emerge in the next period, perhaps spurred by the UBPs apparent split. As I wrote in a previous article, I expect (based on the various chatter online – blogs and Facebook – and LTTEs) these two new Parties will take the form of a Green Party and a new Liberal Party. In total then one would expect a total of five Parties: the PLP, the UBP, a UBP spin-off, a Green Party and a Liberal Party. Whether all of these Parties will be able to sustain themselves, either to the point of contesting an election or after an election (and whither away like the old NLP), is difficult to tell. It is possible that some will coalesce into a new political formation.
Of course, the UBP may decide to stay united and continue to be the acme of impotency when it comes to parliamentary opposition, and our politics will remain stunted. I personally believe that this rebel ultimatum will prove to be the bomb that fell on the house that Jack built, and out of its ruins we will be able to build a new and better Bermuda.
I should also note that parliamentary politics is not the only way to move forward. It is entirely possible to replace our existing parliamentary system with an alternate grassroots democracy, with civil society replacing the state. The level of political consciousness however does not seem to be sufficient to achieve this state though, but it is likely that any new Party that seeks to become the new Opposition or even the future government, will have to not simply be a parliamentary party but an anti-party Party, combining the best of parliamentary politics with community activism and organisation.