More Reflections A Year On – From Red & Green To Sweden?

Just building on from an earlier post, reflecting on my running as an Independent candidate in the 2012 election.

PLP, OBA or time for something completely different?

Having decided that the PLP had gone too far to the centre/right, politically, for my own comfort, and that in addition to my feeling that they had committed too many tactical and strategic errors, I ruled out supporting the PLP.

I felt that I could do more, in a way, for the PLP as an Independent.  I hoped that by running as an Independent I might be able to encourage the remaining leftists within the PLP and help swing them back to the left.

A long shot, perhaps, but I felt it was the only way I could maintain my own political integrity, rather than supporting a PLP I felt had long since betrayed its heritage and purpose.

As for the OBA, as far as I was concerned, in my analysis of their constitution, discourse and composition, they were nothing more than a reconstituted White oligarchy, a rebranded UBP, after a fashion.

Their discourse reminded me very much of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government in Westminster.

If I thought the PLP was too far away from my ideological position, then the OBA was even further away.

And so, I had the choice of abstaining from the vote, spoiling my ballot, or running as an Independent.

I felt that the third option allowed for being an active participant, an opportunity to articulate a new vision of politics.

I realised my chances of winning were slim, but I hoped to make a difference, at least in the long-term, rather than the short-term of the actual 2012 election.  To quote a famous saying of the ancient Chinese philosophy LaoTse, “千里之行,始于足下” – “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

Putting together the platform…

As noted in my earlier reflection, having made the decision to run, I set about putting together a platform.

My idea was simple – if I didn’t think the PLP or the OBA represented political visions I could support, what kind of political vision could I support?  What kind of platform would win my vote?

So, I drafted some policies, and then thought I’d check out some election platforms from other jurisdictions.

Being in Scotland, I reviewed particularly the last few election platforms of the Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Green Party.  I also looked over the platforms of the Green Party of England & Wales.

Drawing on my connections in Canada, I also drew on documents from the New Democratic Party and the Green Party of Canada.

Looking for jurisdictions closer to a Bermudian context, in terms of being a small island similar to the Caribbean islands, I also checked out the Jamaican Progressive National Party, the Bahamian Progressive Liberal Party and the St Vincentian Green Party.

I also drew heavily on the Scandinavian social democratic tradition, particularly from Sweden.

Having identified some policies which I thought were good and could be adapted to a Bermudian context, I also set out to get the background information to defend my positions – which meant going through lots of policy papers and academic research literature.

Bear in mind, I was running on a tight time schedule, and with more time I would have been able to put together a more detailed and comprehensive platform, but I hoped to at least get a basic one together.

I also had the assistance of some excellent individuals who were willing to critique my platform, which helped whittle out some things that just were too out there.  Particularly my proposal to reduce the voting age to 16, which was changed for the final platform.

Branding & Design!

In this I took the cue of both the PLP and the OBA in their use of branding and design.

I’ll be frank – people aren’t likely to read X number of pages in black and white.  It’s ‘boring’ for the average voter, and it’s not memorable.

I needed something to catch the eye of voters, to make it easier for them to latch onto.  I needed a brand and some nice designs.

I focused initially on red and green.  Red for socialism and green for environmentalism.

Unfortunately, in Bermuda, the PLP (labour) use green, while the OBA (conservative/liberal) use red.

The PLP though, is not a Green Party, and the OBA are not a socialist/social democratic party.

And adopting the red/green symbology I quickly found to be confusing for voters who thought I was either OBA or PLP…

So I decided to scrap my red/green symbology with the green star and red hibiscus and set about finding a different brand.

I did some research on political branding.  It was eye-opening.  There was no way I was going to be able to hire an actual graphic designer or political consultant.  But I could learn what I could.

One key thing I learned was the importance of having contrasting colours – at this point I gave up on the political colour symbology.

I also read up on things such as what font to use!

Looking at the contrasting colour options, the one that stood out to me was the blue and yellow system – traditionally, ironically, the colours for conservatism and liberalism, respectfully.

I’m not sure why it stood out to me.  But I recognised that the Progressive Liberal Party of the Bahamas used a similar system, and I also thought it made for a nice homage to Sweden, whose social democratic model was a particular inspiration for my platform.

And so, I took the blue-yellow system.

In hindsight, blue and white would have been perhaps just as ideal, and would have saved on printing costs, with two colours being an added cost, compared to a single colour (white not being counted as a colour) – and would also have paid homage to the inspiration I also took from Scottish politics.

Flags of Sweden (L) and Scotland (R)

Flags of Sweden (L) and Scotland (R)

The final version of the platform design.

The final version of the platform design.

For Future Independents/Third Parties

One objective of my running was to help inspire other citizens to take a more active role in our politics, be it in putting themselves forward as Independents, organising new political parties or in other means.

I remain committed to the belief that our existing two-party system has deformed our political and social development, maintaining social division across race and class and retarding ideological positions.

I hoped that by running, and putting together the platform like I did, might inspire others to do the same, and they could build on my experiences.

I hope that future Independents will follow my example, of adopting some basic design ideas, and putting together even a basic platform and online presence.

In the past it was too cost prohibitive for small parties and Independents to rival the branding and messaging to captivate the peoples imagination.

That is no longer the case.  With access to a computer and the internet (still a cost, I concede) anyone can put together a half decent platform and online presence to make yourself identifiable and to get your message across.

It doesn’t even the playing field as regards the machines of the two big parties, but it does reduce, even a little, the gap between what they are able to do and what a small party or Independent is able to do.

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