Door closes, window opens… Welcome back 21square!

While I’ve ended commentary on local politics, I’m pleased to see that 21square has come back to life.

I always appreciated 21square’s perspective and reasoned commentary, even if we naturally had our ideological disagreements. So, I’m happy that while I may be ending local political commentary another site has come back to life right at the same time.


So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night.

This site has been operating now since January 2007. Throughout this time it has changed quite a bit, both in terms of its focus and its writing style.

I’ve enjoyed writing here.

The flame's not out. Just taking a break. :-)

The flame’s not out. Just taking a break. ūüôā

However, after almost eight years, it’s time for a change.

I’m not saying the blog is dead.

I’m not necessarily stopping the blog. However, it is going to undergo a change.

A good chunk of this blog has focused on local politics, first as an independent pro-PLP site when I was an active member of the PLP, and since then as an independent, non-aligned, political blog.

I am not able to continue that particular line of writing going forward, at least not for the forseeable future. Effective immediately I am ceasing all commentary on local politics.

What that means for the blog, I don’t really know. I’ve been experimenting over the last few months with a non-political writing style.¬†Thoughts on books or articles I’m reading, a review of this or that legislation (in a non-political way), or a look at historical (or other) speeches/writings which I think are simply interesting.

I’d like to experiment some more with such an approach.

I realise they don’t quite have the same popular appeal as posts framed around local politics. However, I’ve enjoyed them and found them quite stimulating. Whether readers agree, I don’t know. But needs must.

So, as regards blogging about local politics, adieu, adieu to you and you and you!

And for the sake of clarity, the above also applies to Facebook and Twitter.

My Vote Starling page on Facebook has already been converted to this blogs Facebook page, and my Twitter handle has changed to a non-political one. The Vote Starling website that I set up for the election has also been retired. The ‘About’ page has¬†also been changed already to reflect this change in direction.


I have tried over the years to engage in reasoned discussion.

I have my positions; I’ve never hid them. I have, however, tried to listen to others and been willing to change my mind if convinced by an argument. I’ve tried to be respectful of others and their positions. To what degree I’ve succeeded in any of that is not something I can really judge however. All I can say is that I’ve tried my best.

I am hopeful that other voices will continue to grow in strength and number to continue these political discussions going forward, even if I am not able to participate actively along with them.

While much of these conversations are quick to descend into partisan shouting matches and personal attacks, there are also good conversations where individuals come away from them with healthy respect for the other, positions have been clarified and perhaps even one or two minds changed.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, however, I’d like to think that – in time – we’ll have more of the latter and less of the former.

On a related note, I realise that my ending local political commenting further reduces the number of local blogs providing local political commentary. Blogs provide a much different contribution in terms of such commentary, very much different from the more rapid-fire conversations that social media like Facebook and Twitter offer. They provide a greater in-depth more constructed argument in my opinion.

If we are to achieve a sustainable Bermuda then one thing we also need to achieve is sustainable and respectful conversations that are based on constructive dialogue, mutual respect and and reasoned debate which together contribute to positive change for our island. Central to this is the ability to listen to the other and reflect on what is being said rather than reacting. We must learn to listen to each other with enough care to learn from each other if we are to work together for our common interests.

I remain hopeful that such is achievable, and I wish you well.


One last note. I hope that someone else will pick up the baton of local political commentary. There is a space there for a critical progressive voice out there, and that’s what this site tried to do.

While I’m no longer able to continue that, I am happy to help facilitate anyone that wishes to do so. Just drop me a line.

There are already a number of other voices out there, writing on their own sites, on Facebook or in the media. I’ve enjoyed sharing the platform with them and learning from them.

Here’s Johnny!

As luck would have it, only a month after officially winning the 2015 Best of Bermuda Award for blogging, I lost my home internet access. I was expecting to only be offline for a week or two, however that turned out to be wildly optimistic.

Two months later, I’ve finally got internet back!

Being more or less offline for the last two months has been interesting. It certainly has its pros and cons – however, with our increasingly technologically dependent society, I feel the lack of email access was certainly a major con.

The time has allowed me to focus on some other matters, and I am continuing to consider a different approach for this site. I haven’t made a decision yet, but I hope to trial a few things media

Limited internet access…

Apologies to readers, however I have had limited internet access for the last two weeks, and likely for the next two weeks also.

So posting is kind of on hiatus at the moment – think of it as an extended CupMatch blogging holiday….

As soon as I’m able to get a regular and secure connection, I’ll be back to posting properly.

Welcome ‘bermudavoices’!


Things have been somewhat dismal as regards the Bermudian blog environment of late.

My own site has taken a bit of a back-seat to my studies, with the number, quality and frequency of posts being greatly reduced. ¬†While Bermuda Blue and Beachlime continue to post, like me their postings haven’t really been as regular as in the past. ¬†And while a number of new blogs emerged last year, I fear many underestimated the time and energy required to sustain blogs – Bermuda Independent hasn’t posted since the beginning of January, and The Soap Box has been dormant since last September. ¬†21 Square and remain inactive also.¬†New Blog

Despite this, online discourse continues strongly primarily on Face Book, the various traditional media sites and, to a degree, Twitter. ¬†And in many ways I think these alternative commenting sites continue to suck the energy away from ‘blogs proper’. ¬†I still think the two can complement each other, and I’ve tried to do so with this site, as has Bermuda Blue.

New blog!

Having said all that, I’m happy to announced the emergence of a new Bermudian blog – bermudavoices.

It’s run by Thomas Christopher Famous, who’s emerged as a key personality in online discourse, especially on Facebook, but also through his numerous opinion pieces in various traditional media. ¬†As a pro-PLP voice, his presence goes someway to address what has historically been a political imbalance online, at least prior to the emergence of Facebook as a site for political discourse.

So far his blog seems to be more of a repository of his various opinion pieces rather than unique blog posts. ¬†And that’s okay and welcome in its own right. ¬†Whether it will also feature unique blog posts going forward is up to him, but as it is it is still a welcome addition to the Bermudian blogs, and an additional site for political and cultural conversations. ¬†I also have a feeling that this blog will have a greater staying power than many of the other blogs that have come and gone to date.

I encourage readers to add his blog to their regular online visits Рand hopefully it might inspire additional voices to also set up blogs and further diversify our online discourse.  So, yeah, go check it out!

Best of Bermuda Award!

Yay! I won!

I am proud to announce that I’ve won the 2015 Best of Bermuda award for the category ‘columnist/blogger’!

I would like to thank The Bermudian magazine for the award – I’ve been running this blog since 2007ish, and it’s nice to get some recognition! ūüôā ¬†Hopefully I’ll be able to keep posting to justify the award going forward!

The award blurb itself goes:

Columnist Jonathan Starling has been sharing his educated opinion on all matters of local issues‚ÄĒincluding everything from breed-specific legislation to same-sex marriage, cabinet shuffles, the casino gaming act and more‚ÄĒsince 2007 when he first set up his blog ‚ÄúCatch a Fire‚ÄĚ as an alternative political voice. The social research and policy analyst who ran as an independent candidate in the 2012 general election currently shares his discourses regularly on Bernews. Catch his latest insight at

Thank You!

I’d like to thank my folks and my partner for their support and encouragement; ‘Limey in Bermuda’ of course deserves a shout-out for helping me set-up the site in the first place, and I think it’s important to give a particular thank you to the media proper, Bernews, the (unfortunately now defunct) Bermuda Sun and the Royal Gazetter. ¬†All of these have, at times, given me a platform for opinion columns, as well as feedback and the opportunity to learn from their readers.

Over the years my writing skills have improved (I hope) and they’ll continue to improve with any luck.

Similarly, my understanding of certain technologies/software has improved over time – and this experience has proven to be a constructive and challenging experience so far. ¬†Additionally, it’s forced me to learn and research topics that I doubt I’d ever have considered in the past.

To be honest, I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say that this blog/column-writing experience has profoundly affected my world-view and the certain decisions I’ve made in my life since 2007.

I know a lot of political and social discourse has largely moved away from the blogs and forums and onto Facebook and Twitter. ¬†And there’s only a handful of blogs and forums (with various degrees of activity) still clinging on compared to the ‘golden age’ of Bermuda blogging.

Nonetheless, I think blogs still retain certain qualities that the Facebook and Twitter threads miss out on, particularly the ease of finding articles and those conversations.  Facebook/Twitter are more like a flowing river, a stream of consciousness Рan active ongoing conversation Рwhile the blogs serve more as more detailed and solid writings.  Fleeting conversation versus the solidity of writing I suppose.

The two, of course, can be used to complement each other. ¬†I do hope we’ll see a few more – and more ideologically diverse – blogs in time. ¬†Perhaps we’ll even see a backlash against Facebook/Twitter and a return to more full-on blogging? ¬†Who knows?


I’d be remiss to not recognise that there’s been some criticism – on Facebook and Twitter – to this particular category of ‘blogger/columnist’.

I don’t think the criticism is personal against me, against me winning this years award. ¬†Rather, the criticism seems to be that there should be two separate categories. ¬†Some seem to interpret the combined category as meaning one has to be both a blogger and a columnist in order to win it.

Myself, I took the category as meaning ‘and/or’ and that it was created to expand the pool of possible winners away from just traditional columnists in the media proper, recognising that bloggers also contributed to opinion-forming in the Bermuda context. ¬†Not that one had to be a blogger and a columnist to win it, but that one could be a blogger and/or a columnist. ¬†I happen to be both, but that doesn’t mean that someone who just blogs or just writes columns couldn’t win it.

Anyway, as the saying goes, one can’t please everyone all the time. ¬†There’s always going to be some criticism when it comes to handing out awards, and I’m not taking it personally. ¬†Just thought it important to recognise that there is such criticism.

Hog Money on Channel 82 (Bermuda)

I hope everyone’s enjoyed a good National Heroes weekend – I’m still in Scotland working on my PhD research, hence the general lack of regular posting at the moment.

Despite this, I was invited to take part in a panel-like discussion on a relatively new show (I believe this was the second one ever) called ‘Hog Money’ on Bermuda’s Channel 82. ¬†The show is co-hosted by Lamone Woods and Robert Stewart, and touches on various political and economic issues, with a particular theme for each episode.

The particular episode in question was focused on welfare/financial assistance and the various pros and cons of it.  Mr Stewart is rather well-known for his rather neo-liberal and, arguably, conservative, positions, and I think myself and the other guest, Cordell Riley Рa social scientist/statistician and former president of the anti-racism group CURB, were invited in order to provide a counter-narrative to his.

I enjoyed the show and the clashing of strongly different perspectives. ¬†It is supposed to be broadcast in about three weeks, so early July, and I’ll write a post about it closer to the time.

As part of my preparation for the debate I did some minimal research and wrote up a few notes.  These notes are such that I think they could serve as a series of posts on different aspects of the issue, and they also expand and could provide links to the various statistics, etc, that I brought up during the debate.  Which I think will help augment the show itself Рand I of course welcome Mr Stewart and Mr Riley to comment here or elsewhere in like manner.

I don’t want to steal the proverbial thunder from the show itself however, so I won’t say much more until it is due for broadcast. ¬†I’m thinking I’ll release a series of posts based on my notes around that time too.

Closing the Recycling Centre a Backwards Step

This is just a short post alerting leaders that I’ve got a new piece on Bernews right now concerning the news the announcement yesterday that Government is to ‘suspend’ operations at the recycling centre based at Government quarry.

In this piece I mostly highlight how this announcement raises more questions than it answers and warn that this decision may prove to be a false economy – providing some short-term savings but risking greater long-term costs.

I am also concerned that this is a move towards privatisation, although I don’t discuss that issue in the piece itself – which was an immediate ‘reaction’ piece.

I hope to release a follow-up piece which highlights alternative policies towards recycling, building on what I’ve already stated publicly in the past, be it in my 2012 platform [pdf] or subsequent statements.

Labour Disputes Act 1992 – Section 19

Labour Disputes Act 1992

Not too long ago the Minister responsible for labour, Minister Fahy, published a ‘Declaration of Labour Dispute’, as per the Labour Disputes Act 1992 (opens as a pdf).

This essentially declared that a labour dispute exists between the Government and X number of Government workers.

Importantly, the publication notes that as a result of this labour dispute has now been referred to the Labour Disputes Tribunal.

Now, while this notice is based on section four (which notes the need for publication of the notice in question) and section eleven (which empowers the Minister to refer a dispute to a tribunal), perhaps the most relevant section of this Act is not mentioned in the notice – section nineteen.

So, what does section nineteen say?

Section 19

(1) At any time after the notice mentioned in section 4 is published or at any time after a labour dispute is referred to the Tribunal and the dispute in either case is not otherwise determined, a lock-out, strike or irregular industrial action short of a strike is unlawful.

(2) It is unlawful to commence or continue or to apply any sums in furtherance or support of, any lock-out, strike or irregular industrial action short of a strike that is unlawful under subsection (1).

(3) Any person who takes part in, incites or in any way encourages, persuades or influences any person to take part in, or otherwise acts in furtherance of, a lock-out, strike or irregular industrial action short of a strike that is unlawful under this section is guilty of an offence and is liable –¬†

 (a) on conviction on indictment to a fine of five thousand dollars or to imprisonment for two years, or both;

(b) on summary conviction to a fine of one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for three months:

Provided that no person shall commit an offence under this section by reason only of his having ceased work or refused to continue to work or accept employment.

So, what does this mean?

Well, it basically makes it illegal to continue the mass strike, to occupy the Cabinet Lawn or, if I’m reading it rightly, for a blog such as mine to write in support of such action.

I don’t think it circumvents our constitutional rights however, which include the right of freedom to assembly and freedom of speech.

As such, I don’t see anyway to stop people continuing to occupy the Cabinet Lawn under the right of freedom of assembly. ¬†So, in theory, workers could occupy the grounds during their lunch hours or using their furlough days (might as well take advantage of them to get rid of them!) as in that capacity they wouldn’t technically be on strike.

And the freedom of speech right allows one to advocate the above and other positions too.

Whether the unions will adopt either of the two, I don’t know.

The unions might agree to the tribunal and call their members to avoid breaking the law.

Conceivably the unions may chose to simply¬†ignore the notice and dare the Government to take action. ¬†It’s a high-stakes game at that point.


I understand that while I was writing and posting this, the union leaders have effectively called the Government’s bluff and ruled out arbitration, and have called for workers to engage in a third day of action. ¬†They’ve also stated they plan to be out all night and have invited people to join them.

I think the potential for an attempt to silence the workers ad crush the unions is suddenly much more real.  I spoke in an earlier post about the need to prepare for potential police intimidation, and with the passing of this notice the Government has somewhat given themselves a carte blanche to do just that.

Technically, the unions are not on strike but at a general meeting. ¬†So that may get around the legal issue of section 19, although I’m sure that will be open to dispute by those opposed to the union and by the Government. ¬†Either way, I think it’s clear this isn’t going to end soon, or amicably.

Interestingly, the unions are now calling on their members from outside the public sector to join them in this general meeting tomorrow, which, while technically not a general strike, is, pretty much, a general strike.



Call for a boycott?

On the Bernews live-feed about the developments around the mass strike, there was a comment that a pamphlet was being passed around advocating a boycott of products brought in by Dunkley’s Dairy, as an attempt of showing solidarity with the workers and to send a message to Premier Dunkley.

The image of the pamphlet in question is here – I’m not sure how clear all of the products are in the picture though.

Credit to Bernews for the image.

Credit to Bernews for the image.

Now, the argument for the boycott is as I wrote above – send a message to the Premier and hit his bank account.

Arguments against such a boycott is that any hit to the Premier’s bank account (in as much as Dunkley’s Dairy is family owned by him) will be pushed onto workers there – so in showing solidarity with one group of workers one would be hurting another group.

Pros and cons.

In a way I guess one could look at it by taking an extreme example – the boycott of goods under Apartheid South Africa.

The pro for that boycott was that it would help pressure for change within South Africa Рwhich, arguably, it did.  Importantly, such a boycott was called for and supported also by the liberat

ion movement there, the ANC (just as the call to boycott Apartheid Israel is supported by the liberation movement there).

The con was that it would hurt the very people it was intended to help, by doing Blacks out of a job and a wage.

Now, that is, of course, an extreme example, and I’m in no way comparing Dunkley’s Dairy to Apartheid South Africa. ¬†It’s just one of the most famous examples of a consumer boycott movement.

So, to boycott or not to boycott? ¬†Is this an additional ‘weapon’ in the class war we’re seeing unfolding dramatically before us?