Isn't the issue of 'respect', and 'being disrespected', a huge part of gang culture, and at least a component of the current gang disputes going on in Bermuda and outside?

I think we would do well to not emulate that kind of behaviour in other issues if we want to contain and break the gang culture on the island.

Labour disputes will happen, but industrial action should really be reserved for more substantive issues (and follow the law around notice etc.), and not framed around things like 'respect'.

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The PLP has apparently given notice that they will table a motion to change the name of the Bermuda Hog Penny to the .Hogwart's Penny for the duration of the OBA's time in Government.

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I spent 3 hours tonight at the term limits public forum and came away with the clear conclusion that the room (and presumably the island) are divided into two camps on this issue: Feelings vs Facts.

The OBA, via Michael Fahy, were presenting facts, an analytical fact based approach to public policy to an audience that was largely interested in their feelings. The majority of the questions/statements were feelings of being excluded in their own country but were reluctant to acknowledge that term limits has nothing to do with jobs but residency.

Both sides were talking at cross purposes.

Michael Fahy and the OBA took a lot of flak that was really the PLP's to own if we're honest. There was a lot of anger about Bermudians not getting jobs they were qualified for over non-Bermudians.

That's a work permit issue and an enforcement issues, and that is wholly owned by the PLP for the past 14 years. Michael really didn't do a good job of pointing out that he inherited these policies and 3,000 unemployed Bermudians. He said he was working to fix it, which he is, but he didn't seize the opportunity to put it squarely in the lap of the PLP which is where it belongs.

Easy to say sitting in the audience and not on the hot seat, but that was my biggest takeaway. Walter Roban was adept at presenting an impression that this mess was created by the OBA. The moderator - who did a pretty good job with a lively crowd - called him out on it directly, but generally he and his party got a free pass while stoking the fire they lit.

Interestingly, if you had judged by the questions, tone and audience reactions you'd have felt that the room was overwhelmingly pro-term limits. But at the end when a show of hands was asked for in favour of term limits it was at best 50-50, more like 40% in favor. Not the most scientific, but was perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening for me.

I do think that the OBA are going to have to figure out how to connect better at a personal level over work permits and immigration, because the PLP have done a great job at dumping their legacy of work permit granting and unemployment into the OBA's lap. The PLP are very good at this kind of thing, pushing buttons and tugging on heart strings, and the emotions are raw with so many unemployed.

But that is not an issue for term limiits.

And it's clear that if you look at the data that Bermudian employment has steadily declined during the term limit era. Chris Furbert presented employment data to refute the idea that term limits had cost jobs, but what he presented was total employment. Not Bermudian employment.

That tells a very different story, and one that makes it clear that term limits presided over an era of a massive reduction in Bermudian jobs. Total employment peaked right at the point that term limits kicked in (around 2007/08). Coincidence?

The truth is that Bermudian employment and non-Bermudian employment are much more mutually beneficial than they are mutually exclusive. Work permit abuses can be dealt with, but the problem today is not allocating out how much of an increasing pie, but dividing up a shrinking pie.

The former is a much better problem to be trying to solve.

That's the real story.

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From Former Labour and Home Affairs Minister David Burch in his October 2008 letter to employers regarding term limits:

"Most employers," Col. Burch said, "mistakenly believe that the policy was introduced to make more jobs available for Bermudians."

Mr. Burch should have said "employers and the PLP". I guess Walter Roban didn't get the memo.

New Minister Michael Fahy charitably said that the "Opposition are incredibly confused" about term limits, when what he really should have said is that the "Opposition are working hard to confuse people about term limits."

This is one of the reasons that I don't think Bermuda could afford a full 2 years of term limits suspension. Once the OBA saw the review documents and legal opinions that term limits was legally redundant and a huge drag on job creation for Bermudians they were obligated to act and act quickly. Turning the economy around is more important than pandering to the PLPs campaign of misinformation and fear mongering.

This would have given the PLP two more years, on top of the past twelve or so, to continue to misrepresent the policy and feed on people's legitimate fears in a depressed economy - which they created. I don't expect the PLP to be responsible. I do expect the OBA to.

The OBA are more interested in governing. The PLP in politicking. What Bermuda needs now is good governance. Yes they spent some political capital on this, more than they had intended I suspect, but it was well spent.

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And in other news: PLP outraged that OBA is following through on election platform campaign promises.

Elections have consequences. The OBA won. The PLP haven't been particularly graceful losers in the first couple of weeks. Being in Opposition is no fun, particularly when you thought victory was 'assured, baked in' as one now PLP MP told me days before the election.

The PLP certainly have the numbers to be difficult, but on these core issues that the OBA ran on for the better part of 18 months they have a clear mandate for implementation.

And kicking and screaming at the mention of a review, or the appointment of a Chairperson, not even at the implementation stages, pretty much signals an early scorched earth "Party of No" approach.

On December 17th there was an election. The OBA won. Narrowly, but they won.

The outcome of that is that the new Government has the support of 52% of the *voting population, plus I'd argue pretty much all the independent votes (about 2% more), to govern on the issues they campaigned on.

[* This was updated to 'voting population' from 'population' to correct the intent.]

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The Royal Gazette
21 December 2012

As Bermudians finally relax into the holidays after a difficult 2012, capped by a famous and nail biting general election win for the young One Bermuda Alliance, we turn not just a new page but write a new chapter in our social, political and economic evolution.

The 2012 election result is as significant a step forward for Bermuda as the PLP's 1998 win. A definitive signal was sent that the public are done with the most defining dynamic of the past four decades: UBP versus PLP. The defeats of many of the PLP's class of 1998 put an emphatic explanation point on that.

For the first time in our history Bermuda feels like a proper, grown up democracy. Anyone can win and anyone can lose. No party can expect to govern in perpetuity. Racial identity politics is a losing game.

The campaign was a study in contrasts. It became apparent that the PLP had one trick, an obsessive fixation on the UBP which wasn't gaining traction. Whether the OBA would be successful in driving home their message of change over the din of the PLP noise machine was answered narrowly but definitively as they were competitive island-wide, including several traditional PLP strongholds.

The PLP's campaign felt desperate, and desperately out of touch. It lacked seriousness, at a serious point in our history which demanded just the opposite. Puppet shows, circus like rallies, road sign stealing, banner defacing and most notably 'the secret plan' - that was neither a secret nor a plan - amplified the PLP's lack of focus on the issues and singular focus on a defunct political enemy.

It was no longer good enough to ask the voter to simply vote against something, not for something. In fourteen years as Government the PLP never shed an Opposition mindset - they were a resistance movement - and brought that culture to Government. This was most catastrophic in their combative approach to Bermuda's economic engine of international business. The PLP's hostile anti-growth and by extension anti-Bermudian job creation policies abruptly closed the pipeline of Government tax revenue that funds social services by chasing away investment. It exacerbated a boom and bust cycle rather than smoothed out the troughs.

The OBA's campaign on the other hand was relevant and serious. There was a clear strategy: focus on the economy and connect on the doorstep. It was delivered with professionalism and struck the right tone for the times.

Craig Cannonier emerged as a confident leader; part family man, part street preacher and at one point part ultimate fighter with his abrupt ending of a press conference. We can debate whether that was the appropriate response, but it demonstrated that he was in charge and had no time for a stale, irrelevant, decades old political battle that he intended to transcend.

Boundary changes around the island certainly evened the playing field but that wasn't it. The OBA worked quietly for the better part of 18 months on the doorstep, connecting directly with voters at a personal level that clearly resonated.

Time will tell whether the PLP take the right lessons from an election defeat in a system that still heavily favours them at the constituency level. With only 46% of the vote they came within a few votes of a tie or their own 19-17 majority.

Blaming lower turnout misses the forest for the trees. The lowest turnout was in PLP safe seats that they still won with their biggest margins, not the seats that the OBA flipped. The 3 'white guys' that they targeted in their print ads all won with increased and large margins, one taking out the Premier.

The PLP's reliance on racial identity politics is a losing strategy for the 21st century. That is the lesson. The country has progressed. So must the PLP.

Their get out the base strategy abandoned the middle class, alienated professionals and attacked the business community. The act of disenfranchising students could haunt them for some time.

The OBA has a big task ahead. Government finances are clearly in a shambles, probably worse than has been revealed, and the economy is in a tailspin. By facilitating job creation, investing in Bermudians, returning confidence and governing with tolerance and humility they have a clear opportunity to redraw the political landscape.

The PLP on the other hand are at a fork in the road. They can embrace change and kick start the process of modernization and becoming relevant again to Bermudians, or they can double down on a dead end strategy of shadow boxing a non-existent political opponent, further marginalizing themselves.

If the PLP take the right lessons from this election they and Bermuda will be better for it. They were in denial. Their cloak of invincibility is gone. The OBA always knew that the electorate have them on a short leash; they have to be solution and results driven. So too will the PLP going forward if they want to be relevant.

Either way the ultimate winner on December 17th was Bermudians. A fifty year political battle is over.

On a final note, I'd like to wish the Editor of The Royal Gazette all the best in his future endeavours. Bill was kind enough to invite me to contribute as a columnist in 2004. The experience is interesting, challenging, sometimes contentious but always fun. I've made many new friends and hopefully contributed in my own little way to Bermuda's political evolution. For that I thank him and wish him well.

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It's funny how it's the little things that stand-out for me.

While all the talk has been about a potential PLP MP in Cabinet, I was pleased to see Craig Cannonier at his swearing in not wearing a red tie, the colours of the OBA. Not that he can never wear red, but I found the PLP's insertion of their party green colour into official photos, the opening of Parliament, Budget Day etc. very unbecoming.

The OBA has somewhat adopted this trend in response, but it's something I hope they do away with for Government and Parliamentary events.

Bermuda could use a little less partisanship for awhile after the hyper partisanship of the past 14 years.

The OBA did make a conscious choice to signal this by not wearing OBA lapel pins but Bermuda flag pins, while the PLP's pins became comically big over the decade.

Not to mention that it was a pleasure to walk through the arrivals hall on Tuesday morning with no Premier and Deputy Premier photos hanging there after the election.

That's another thing I'd hope we can do away with. There's no need to have photos in every Government office, the airport arrivals hall etc.. It just felt very third world dictator, not something you routinely see in modern democracies.

Symbolism is important, particularly for a new administration making a first impression.

I think Craig is off to a good start, striking a conciliatory tone that couldn't be more at odds with Ewart Brown's 'whites need to be made uncomfortable' comment to BBC Caribbean after the 2007 election.

These kinds of things are easy wins and can make a big difference in bridging the gap and returning humility to our political leadership.

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A few comments as reported in The Royal Gazette today when they posed the question of political experience to me:

Political commentator Christian Dunleavy said that a scant background in politics wasn't a bad thing.

"On the question of his political experience, I think the idea that you have to be a politician to be in Government is misguided," he said.

"One of the things that's taken Bermuda off the rails in the last few years is people looking at politics itself as a career.

"Craig's got retail and management experience, which is good, and there's a lot from that which can be applied to government.

"People get hung up on political experience, but Bermuda's at the point where it needs a fresh take, and I'm not sure you can get that from someone who's embedded in the system."

Mr Dunleavy, himself a former political candidate, added: "I think the OBA ran a pretty good campaign.

"It wasn't perfect, but they had a plan and they stuck with it, which I think tells you that he's a pretty good manager.

"He is also team-oriented. He's confident, knows he can't do it all, and doesn't always have to be the frontman."

Despite that, he agreed that Mr Cannonier faced "a steep learning curve".

"One of the most interesting aspects of this last election was we saw some of the big names from the 1998 PLP losing out, people like Paula Cox and Dame Jennifer Smith. I think that shows voters want a new approach."

Mr Dunleavy said Government, by definition, moves more slowly than the private sector.

However, he added: "I do think Craig is right -- things need to move faster.

"One thing Craig does have a ton of energy and skills as a speaker and motivator, so I hope he can move things forward. But government is by design slower.

"(Former Premier) Ewart Brown liked to have a reputation as someone who got things done, but he saw himself as a presidential-style leader.

"He just did things. He had a decree-and-it-happens-tomorrow style."

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There's a few interesting role reversals going on in this campaign versus 2007.

Amid all the PLP's chest thumping about televised debates and a party leader debate, it's worth noting that in 2007 the PLP rejected a televised debate:

Dr. Brown told us: "It doesn't fit our strategy. We think that it could have some entertainment value, but very little political value. No I wouldn't do it." Mr. Dunkley said: "I have no problem with it if that's what the people want. Whatever people want, I'm game for it."

Parties have strategies. Generally the party that thinks it is ahead doesn't want to raise their opponent's profile and take the risk of a debate shifting the momentum because it's a less controlled environment, and the party that's behind usually wants one to try to change the dynamic. They want to protect their lead.

So, in 2012, it's the PLP professing to want debates, which indicates that they think they're losing.

I'd also point out that Paula Cox has been keeping an extremely low profile during this campaign, as Ewart Brown did in 2007. That suggests that like her predecessor the PLP know that Ms. Cox is unpopular and a political liability at this point, so they're relying on surrogates to get their message out instead.

That's poltiics 101.

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If the PLP expressed 5% of the outrage over the Secret Plan to the appalling education stats released today we might start getting somewhere.

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Dear PLP,

You are the only people left in Bermuda who care about the UBP. As hard as you try, a defunct political party that presided over surplus employment, low debt and budget surpluses just isn't that scary anymore.

What can they do to people? Introduce massive unemployment and unsustainable debt?

Bermuda's problems aren't in the past. They are our present and future. When you want to talk seriously about that let us know.


Swing voters.

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Ten days down and while everyone expects the race card to be played, so far the PLP have been playing nothing but jokers.

The OBA seem very energised and cohesive, which is a refreshing change to see in an campaign from the Opposition, and the PLP seem, well, desperate.

What's interesting is that they have gone so shrill so early, with particularly amateurish secret plans, puppet shows and vacuous, repetitive empty sloganeering.

More interestingly they are having to do the stupid dirty work themselves, and have their fingerprints all over it, which presents substantial downside when it all goes wrong. Like the first 10 days have. It's never good when your campaign starts out as a subject of island-wide ridicule.

If they thought the Secret Plan had any legs, they'd have put someone with some credibility out there. Instead they sent 3 no-hopers in Opposition safe seats. Any PLP candidate with any sense of personal credibility to guard didn't want to go anywhere near that circus side show.

In the past they'd have surrogates do this kind of stuff. This time around they don't appear to have any surrogates. There's some obviously party accounts on the local comments sections of news websites, but Facebook in particular is pretty one sided, where the commenters use their names. (Not that Facebook commenters are representative of the electorate).

There don't appear to be a lot of defenders out there, let alone supporters. It's the same voices, the same letter writers.

It's sort of telling. I still think the election is the PLP's to lose, but they're acting like they like think they're going to lose it.

If I had to sum up their strategy, it is that the PLP aren't trying to win the campaign, they're trying to stop the OBA winning it.

The Ewart Brown era is so over. He'd never let a campaign as stupid as this out of the gates. The content wouldn't be so different, but the execution sure as hell would.

The challenge the OBA have is to strike a balance between swatting away the stupidity while managing to stay above the fray and focused on the issues.The PLP noise is relentless.

The lack of constituency level polls makes forecasts somewhat difficult, as does the large number of boundary changes that are described to me as meaningful in putting more seats into play.

This is a very important election for Bermuda. At some point the issues are going to have to rise to the surface. And to be honest, there really is only one issue this time.

It's the economy, stupid. So far it's been overwhelmingly stupid.

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It's always dangerous to wade into the PLP's Fox News like echo chamber, but their highly predictable Obama re-election bandwagon jumping is full of differences not similarities.

Firstly, unlike the PLP who inherited a thriving economy and budget surpluses, Obama inherited a massive financial crisis, huge budget deficits and two unfunded wars. How did he respond? Did he rack up huge increases in Government spending like the PLP did - in their case before an economic crisis?

Nope? Barack Obama has presided over the slowest increases in Government spending since Eisenhower:


Who were the big spenders? Well, like the PLP, Republican Presidents Reagan, Bush Senior and Bush Jr. outspent Democrats Clinton and Obama.

And let's remember that it was Cheney who said 'Reagan proved that deficits don't matter'.

Now, on to the PLP 'investing in our people and rejecting deep and radical austerity cuts'.

It is a documented fact that in March 2010 the PLP issued a memo announcing 'austere cost savings', not the OBA.

The only party in Bermuda who has actually put in place austerity measures is the PLP.

Of course, non of this will prevent them from continuing to claim that they are anti-austerity and that their overspending and borrowing pre-recession was recession driven investment.

Shameless can take you a long way.

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Only the PLP are reality denying enough to issue a statement stating that "government property is no place for partisan politics" on the day that they're holding their 3 day party conference at a public school.

This afternoon the PLP issued this statement: "Allowing advertising on government property sets a dangerous precedent. When the PLP was offered, we turned it down as we believe it's highly inappropriate to have political advertising on government property. We believe that this is a common sense position and have no intention of splashing political advertising on government property. We challenge the OBA to abide by the important precedent that government property is no place for partisan politics.

"The OBA crossing this line is very dangerous. Today, politics in government bus shelters. Tomorrow, who knows what! This is a very slippery and dangerous path that the OBA would have for our country. Bermuda needs to steer clear of allowing political messages to appear on government property.

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