April Fools – Or the bankruptcy of Bermudian Politics

I apologise to readers for the recent lack of posts.

I recently returned back to Scotland to resume my PhD research, and had to commit myself to catching up on my research.  I’m catching up to where I feel I should be, but I’m still quite busy and cannot promise to write as regularly on Bermudian politics as I would like for the time-being.

To be honest, I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with our local politics.  Not with politics itself, but just with the current state of politics in Bermuda.

Of course, I grew disillusioned with the traditional party system some time ago, hence my decision to run as an Independent.  This was partly a result of my increasing dissatisfaction with the traditional party model and with the lack of vision and ideological coherence within our political discourse.

This is not to say there are not ideological aspects to our current parties.

The PLP is very much a social-democratic party, albeit one in the Clinton-Blairite cast, and increasingly under the sphere of influence of the US Democratic Party as opposed to its origins within the UK Labour Party.

And the OBA is generally a party of neoliberalism, influenced, it would seem, by the ConDem Coalition Government in the UK.  In many ways I think the OBA can be seen as a formalised coalition of conservative and liberal (in the UK sense) factions in a single party structure.  While it is a reunification of two UBP factions that split and then recombined, I don’t deny that this process did develop a novel organisation, even if it is ideologically and materially almost identical to the UBP.  I think it is a mistake to underestimate the role that a novel internal structure can play in such a situation.

100 Days Later

The OBA’s first hundred days of power have now come and gone.  I can’t say I’ve been terribly impressed.  I haven’t really been surprised by any of their policy moves, other than their reversal of the pre-election promise regarding suspending term limits for two years.  I thought they would at least drag that on longer to minimise the potential political fall-out.

What has disappointed me though is the tone of the OBA in governing.  I’ve found them to be just more of the same, of barbs and arrogance.  Rather than focusing on governing they’ve so far seemed to relish goading the PLP and blundering from one incident of unnecessary political capital loss to another.

Tactically, I’ve found them wanting.  It’s very much ‘business as usual’ politics in the worst sense.  Stategically, it’s a bit too early to tell, however.

Social Polarisation

One thing I have definitely seen, at least in my opinion, is a decided acceleration of political tribalism – of polarisation.

I feel that our political discourse has become much more divisive than it was prior to the election.  And it was already quite tribalistic then!  Far from

The PLP has the problem that whenever it quite legitimately points out OBA mistakes, the OBA and its supporters seem to have fallen into the mode of ‘shooting the messenger’ rather than addressing the message itself.  In many ways I see this as a repeat of some errors the PLP and PLPers committed during their rule.  And it doesn’t exactly instill me with confidence in our political discourse improving.  For one thing, I can easily see the OBA becoming so resistant to criticism that it renders itself arrogant and decays organisationally and intellectually, much as the PLP did.

The PLP has a branding issue now, much as the UBP did.  It has been quite impressive in its Budget Reply and Reply to the Throne Speech, but much of it has fallen either on deaf ears or has been ‘preaching to the choir’.  I’m not sure how it can re-brand itself right now, other than giving a frank assessment of its errors when in power and articulating a clear alternative vision to the OBA.

Right now I see it as more likely to simply benefit from disillusionment with the OBA and winning the next election almost by default, much as I feel the OBA won the 2012 election (largely through disillusionment with the PLP).

Options for Alternatives

One thing the current impasse does offer though is the potential for new alternative oppositions or strategies to emerge.  There will be (and is ongoing) a struggle within the PLP over its future vision and direction.  I know they are in the midst of a post-mortem of the last election campaign, which will also become a post-mortem of the PLP’s 14 years in power.  It will be interesting to see what develops.

The 2012 election saw a record number of Independent candidates, including myself.  It is possible that some of those involved may seek to forge a new political entity for the next election, and it is also possible that a number of small ‘3rd parties’ may evolve and compete for the mantle of being an alternative opposition.

Just before the 2012 election the group ‘Restore Bermuda’ emerged, and some of its personalities were involved in the election, with its main personality running as an Independent.  Between the 2007 and 2012 elections there was also a short-lived (and mysterious) attempt to organise a Bermudian Green Party, and I am aware of at least two other groups (one current) that have been involved in trying to organise alternative political parties.

The Immediate Perspective

In the short-term I see a coming storm of industrial action in response to what I see as a very aggressive and clumsy neoliberal agenda by the OBA.  I am pessimistic about their chances, especially with the semi-paralysis of the PLP – a paralysis more borne of public reception to them (in light of the last 14 years) than internal to the PLP itself.

Nonetheless, with the explosion of social media, and the combination of ongoing global resistance to the resurgence of neoliberalism with local developments, along with novel organisational and ideological currents overseas (from Greece to China to Venezuela), the coming period may very well be a firestorm that helps forge new political perspectives and entities for Bermuda.

Alternatively, we will see a wave of disillusionment with local politics, with more and more feeling as if they’ve been made April Fools as of December 17th, 2012, and opt out of politics altogether, both formal and informal.

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