The Royal Gazette
Opinion (11 Jan. 2006)
If the first few weeks of the year are any indication, the United Bermuda Party and the Progressive Labour Party are going to have to start paying attention to their ABCs and 1, 2, 3s: the All Bermuda Congress (ABC), a new political party.
Perhaps surprisingly Khalid Wasi (Raymond Davis), one of the primary organisers of the ABC, is adamant that he isn’t in fact looking to start a third party; his intention is to replace the United Bermuda Party.
He contends that the current parties are no longer relevant, that their existence retards Bermuda’s political evolution, and that the demise of the UBP will have a cascading effect, eliminating the PLP and triggering the emergence of a new, healthier and more productive political paradigm.
He’s probably right. What he proposes should happen, but it probably won’t.
Politics is, at the best of times, an exercise in frustration. But we’ve taken it to a new level in Bermuda. Here, any issue – and I mean any issue – is without fail conveniently reframed by the PLP to fit the parameters of a forty year old racial argument which they feel they control.
Therefore, ABC proposes that the UBP’s mere existence, regardless of their best intentions, plays into the PLP’s hand and perpetuates this cycle, allowing the PLP to act as an agent of division and an impediment to progress.
In a recent television interview Mr. Wasi put it well when he characterized the parties as “two sides of a racial argument” (whether they know it or not). It’s precisely this outdated racial argument that is preventing the advancement of a modern social and economic vision and meaningful Parliamentary reform.
Ironically as some have pointed out, the ABC is targeting the UBP – the party which talks of moving past this racial argument – for elimination. On the surface this approach might appear backwards, a strategy that would entrench the PLP and their racial politics. Unless you consider the old adage that every action has an equal and opposite reaction that is.
If you regard the UBP and the PLP as two sides of the same coin, one minted in the 1960s but still in circulation today, the picture starts to take shape. While the PLP was created first, the two parties essentially formed as reactions to each other, two halves of a whole, opposite sides of an equation.
So while the ABC is proposing to take out the UBP, they are in fact aiming to drive both parties into irrelevancy; to unbalance the equation as such. Their draft manifesto states as much:
"The only moral authority legitimising the PLP, seemingly, is that the UBP exist. Every argument of the PLP is predicated by what the UBP did for 35 years if not 350 years. With the UBP gone the PLP will ideologically fold because it has no natural ideology asides from its reaction to the UBP.”
Two examples may help illustrate this point, one fictional, science fiction to be precise, and the other true and in play today.
Fans of The Matrix trilogies might relate to this (bear with me here) if they parallel the UBP and the PLP with the fictional foes of Agent Smith and Neo. These two adversaries remain engaged in a seemingly endless fight, capable of winning individual skirmishes but not total victory. Only when Neo realizes this and sacrifices himself – unbalancing the equation (and becoming one with Agent Smith) – does the war end. Idealistic? Maybe. But it’s worth considering.
Conversely a real world example of what ABC is proposing is currently being attempted in Israel, although recently complicated by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s recent stroke.
Mr. Sharon embarked on an ambitious and unprecedented bold course of action, one designed to obliterate the traditional political battle-lines in Israeli politics and clear the way for the emergence of a new paradigm: Mr. Sharon, a sitting Prime Minister and his party’s leader, resigned from his own party to found a new entity. Idealistic? Maybe. But it’s worth considering.
The latter is almost certainly what it will take in Bermuda for the ABC’s goal to be met. While admirable, it may not be achievable. The last election result is probably the problem.
The UBP came very close to a win in the popular vote, or at least a draw, after being written off in 1998. Conventional wisdom almost certainly maintains that the PLP Government has proven so ineffective, so scandal-plagued and so arrogant that a win at the next election is highly achievable.
It is that political reality which renders ABC’s efforts to woo away a few UBP MPs difficult, if not insurmountable; Opposition MPs can taste victory. Without significant defections from sitting UBP – and to a lesser extent PLP – Members of Parliament, ABCs goal will be unachievable.
It might just be worth a shot though.