Strong Leadership?

Handing over the petition…

On Friday I, along with Kim and Cindy Swan, officially handed over copies of the petition for a referendum on casino gambling.

The tally itself is actually going to increase, as we were made aware that additional petition sheets are still being held by some in the community, so we need to add them and provide the updates to the Premier & Opposition Leader as soon as possible.

The new Premier did politely accept the petition, but he did dismiss the possibility of a rethink on the referendum – basically he said that the OBA’s position to ditch the referendum that they themselves promised and were elected to hold in the 2012 general election will remain the case.

The introduction of casino gambling will be done through parliament, where the OBA has previously said they will employ a three-line whip, which essentially guarantees the introduction of casino gambling seeing as the OBA has the numbers to carry any legislation in the HoA.

In his comments on this, the Premier sought to justify his position on the basis of ‘strong leadership’ – that he, and by extension the OBA, were elected to be strong leaders and to make decisions.

Election Promises?

Now, this opens up an interesting question of whether political parties/candidates are elected on the basis of their electoral promises, as contained in their platform, or do we elect them to make whatever decisions they want, to ‘lead’, regardless of their electoral promises?

In short, are election platforms simply meaningless?


That was indeed one of the key motivations behind my being involved in the petition for a referendum on casino gambling – the need to stress to parties that they were elected to enact their promises, their platform, and are only excused from so doing if they are able to give a reasonable argument for not doing so.

Seeing as the OBA decided to officially ditch the referendum under false pretenses – a manufactured conspiracy that existed in their own fevered heads, and the subsequent Jet Gate revelations reveal that they were under pressure from investors and campaign donors to ditch the referendum, I personally don’t feel that the OBA has given a reasonable argument for breaking this promise.

To date we still barely know what the OBA’s vision of casino gambling – ‘integrated resort gaming’ – entails, what the pros and cons are, etc, all of which would have been brought into focus via a referendum process – and hence one of the important reasons why the OBA, when in Opposition (in its various forms) so strongly advocated the need for a referendum to decide this issue.

By ditching such a massive election promise, the OBA has effectively torn up their entire pre-election promises, along with their credibility.

And that their membership has largely accepted this, they now have a more or less white card to rule with impunity.

Challenging that was as important as trying to get the referendum restored for the sake of forcing clarity on the pros and cons of casino gambling for Bermuda and ensuring stability and stakeholder buy-in on the issue.

Strong Leadership?

I digress.

To me, the Premier’s dismissive attitude to the idea of restoring the referendum is not ‘strong leadership’ as he professes.

I was quoted in the RG on this, but unfortunately only half the quote made the final cut:

“He is trying to appear strong, but, if anything, he appears weak.” 

The second part of that quote went along the lines of:

“It’s never a sign of weakness to face the people, to accept that the way the referendum was ditched, especially in light of the Jet Gate revelations, was wrong, and go to the people to ask for forgiveness, to restore the referendum and restore faith in the Government.  If he’s genuinely convinced that casino gambling is right for Bermuda, then go to the people, through a referendum, and explain that.  If he wins then that’s fine.  Going to the people, democracy, is never a sign of weakness.  It’s the right thing to do.

In general, whenever someone, especially a politician, invokes the rhetoric of ‘strong leadership’, it is an attempt to hide weakness using the mentality of ‘the best defense is a strong offence’.

It’s essentially a rhetorical device, and one that I perceive as a sign of weakness.

Now, it works, especially for ones support base.  It’s a rallying call, in a way.  If it didn’t work it wouldn’t be invoked so often by political leaders.

Strong leadership, to me, is recognising when you’ve made a mistake, being frank about that, being humble, and seeking to do the right thing in order to restore community trust and faith in ones leadership – in the Government.

I don’t think the Premier has done that here.

At best he’s rallied his base.

At worst he’s appeared dismissive and failed to end the concerns of Jet Gate.



6 thoughts on “Strong Leadership?

  1. It might not have been what you wanted to hear, but at least he was straight up with you. The fact is that Bermuda wants/needs a new hotel. The only way investors will build a new hotel is if it involves a casino. So why waste the country’s time with a referendum? It is the same as term limits when everyone knows what needs to be done but people like you want to hold a referendum because it was a promise. Get over it man. The country needs to move ahead as quickly as possible. There is no time for pussy footing around.

    Any comment on the threats made by Cindy Swan? Do you support what she said?

  2. If the OBA were genuinely concerned with either time-wasting or eliminating the costs associated with providing a referendum, they’d have gotten this thing done in 2013.

    The argument provided by the OBA is instead “we’ll take it from here. We’ll make all the decisions,” which is nothing like their election promises and slogans. So, they’ve lost any right to claim that they respect the people. This is irrespective of whether passing the bill is a right thing, or if they feared some kind of PLP sabotage of the process.

    If people “got over it” all the time, then people should shut up about the Uighur thing, among other Government decisions.

  3. And that’s the point – Rather than wasting public monies on developing a strategy to ditch the referendum (Gambling Brief No.1), they should have released the full Innovation Report in the first quarter of 2013, used those public monies to outline their vision of casino gambling in Bermuda, engage in a series of town-hall meeting throughout the second and third quarter of 2013 and held the referendum by December 2013, or January 2014.

    Their argument about the PLP planning to sabotage the referendum rings hollow (at most the PLP was going to try and amend the original referendum question, which was an Act to be debated and voted on, and so open to amendments in the process).

    And with all the revelations regarding Jet Gate, the entire handling of the referendum issue is called into question.

    They’ve essentially squandered their political capital with this – to the point of even having lost their first Premier and AG within 17 months of coming to power – and have a huge trust deficit now, which makes governing all that much harder for them.

  4. Well if you rewind back 17 months the minister of tourism was busy getting the politics out of tourism by setting up the tourism authority. Meanwhile the OBA was probably focused on more pressing issues such as the government being able to pay their bills because when the PLP left office they had very little cash in the bank which required the OBA to obtain emergency financing just to pay the bills. Also, since they were elected in December they were immediately tasked with their first budget. These are just two of the many large issues that immediately faced the OBA. I’d say their plate was pretty full so the gaming issue was probably put on the back burner. Do you people recall this?

    I’m not sure how you can compare the Uighur issue to a gaming referendum. Was bringing in prisoners EVER mentioned to us before it actually happened? Did the OBA break the constitution when they decided against the referendum on gaming? Clearly you are comparing apples to oranges. Jonathan, did you ever publicly criticize Ewart Brown when he said he had to deceive us? Did you call for him to resign?

    If the PLP had won the election in 2012 do you think Bermuda would be in a better economic state today than it is now?

  5. Justin, I’m a bit pressed for time at the moment, but I don’t think I brought up the Uighers in this thread?

    Anyway, since you asked, yes, I did publicly call for Dr Brown’s resignation and did believe the constitution was breached at the time and said so publicly. I’ve since looked closer and have to concede it’s a bit of a grey area whether the constitution itself was breached, but I still think he should have been made to resign. You may recall that that incident was the final straw for me, leading me to allow my PLP membership to expire and continue as an independent political position from then on.

    I’ll try and respond more in depth when less pressed for time.

  6. It was I, who referenced the Uighurs, in response to the belief that an individual should “get over it” when a politician does something that they don’t like.

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