I am still astounded that the NewBP has so far failed to relaunch itself, and about the only thing we hear about it is fluffy meaningless rhetoric and sniping between it and the UBP itself. Incidentally though, I happen to think that Mr. Sousa at least has grasped the need for the UBP to stop putting on a blackface. In the mean time I see that the UBP has been making some changes to both its website and its constitution.
As for its website, I see that they have finally gotten around to removing the page with pictures of its MPs and candidates and replacing it with an updated one based on text only. The old page had increasingly become a bit of an embarrassment for the UBP as it continued to show pictures of the NewBP members. In addition, the UBP has finally put their constitution online (I do not recall it being available previously). The various consitutional document are dated to 2001, with the exception of one 2003 amendment.
Over the weekend the UBP amended its constitution, with the main headline being the changes made to the election of its Party Leaders. Other amendments were also apparently made, althought these are not expanded on by the UBPs press release. Also, the amended 2009 UBP Constitution is not available yet, so my thoughts on the issue are based solely on the press release by Mr. Sousa.
I find the amendments made to their leadership selection process curious, but in general to the benefit of the Party, increasing its stability. It seems to broaden the people involved in electing the leader considerably, where previously only the parliamentary caucus was able to elect the leader, now it includes ‘the Central Council of the party, which is comprised of two delegates from each branch (the MP or adopted candidate and the branch chairman), regional chairmen, Party senators, the President of Young United and officers of the party, which includes the party chairman, deputy chairman, secretary and treasurer‘.
These changes do have their problems however, the most obvious one being the criticism that is often made of the PLP’s internal election system, that the PLP constitution conflicts with the Bermuda Constitution, which states that the Premier is elected by the majority of MPs. This conflict has lead to a number of constitutional crises for both the PLP and the Government, with the most notable example being the 2003 ‘palace coup’ that led to Premier Jennifer Smith’s replacement by Premier Alex Scott. More recently some members of the PLP have threatened to adopt this strategy to replace Premeir Dr. Brown, although this seems to have been averted so far. This tension seems unavoidable though, and my position is that both can be maintained, even if this involves losing power, advocating for the Parties to expel any members, in particular MPs, who seek to undermine the Party constituion.
I do think the UBP has made an error in its amendment in one section however. Under the amendments it seems that the UBP Senators are able to vote on the Leadership. While this was a slight bone of contention within the PLP, it was decided (and I agree with it), that Senators, who are appointed by the Leader, should not be allowed to vote, as they would be a bloc expected to vote for the individual who appointed them. While a similar argument could be made for Cabinet appointees, the Senators have a greater interest in voting for the incumbent than Cabinet appointees, and accordingly their votes should be invalid. I would hope that the UBP amends its constitution in the future to account for this issue; in the PLP I believe it has now been established that Senators are excluded from leadership votes.
It is not clear what amendments the UBP may have been made for initiating a Leadership election. Under the 2001 document, the Third Schedule (The Election of the Party Leader and Deputy Leader) states that there should be an election for Leader when (a) the leader resigns; (b) the leader ceases to be an MP; or (c) a motion of no confidence is passed on the leader. I realise that the UBP has been mooting the idea of waiting until the parliamentary Christmas break to sort out the Leadership issue, but to me it makes more sense to get the issue over and done with as quickly as possible so that the UBP can more adequately respond to the Throne Speech and new Parliamentary term. In its current state of confusion, the current Leader, Mr. Kim Swan, comes across as an increasingly lame duck Leader, the Deputy Leader, Mr. Trevor Moniz, looks like he is in open rebellion with his Leader and should just declare himself an Independent instead of dragging it out, and the Great Pretender, Mr. E.T. Bob Richards, seems hamstrung and impotent. I would advocate that the UBP gets itself organised to hold an election meeting under the new rules, and Mr. Swan should offer his resignation and trigger the leadership election, where he and Mr. Richards can then campaign.