Time for leadership that delivers more than scandal and spin

The Royal Gazette
Opinion (07 Nov. 2007)

The next six weeks will certainly be interesting ones in Bermuda, with the announcement that we’ll be going to the polls on December the 18th. If the tone set by the PLP in the first few days is any indication, the season to be jolly will be anything but.

Judging by the misinformation which is being furiously peddled in the wake of the damning leaked corruption investigation of our highest elected officials – which reached a fever pitch with Dr. Brown’s rant on Saturday night to the PLP Banquet – there is going to be the need for a serious fact checking element to this election.

The temptation to respond to each of the individual untruths, slurs and character attacks will be huge; the sheer volume will render that impossible.

Dr. Brown has kindly, and repeatedly, warned us to expect lies, personal attacks and hysteria. He neglected however to identify himself as the primary source. After the latest seething tirade against…well, the world, he should consider seeking professional help, and I don’t mean with speech writing.

The local media seem stunned by attack after attack, an orchestrated campaign to discredit them for doing their jobs as the Fourth Estate. Trying to prove their objectivity (as defined by those who seek anything but) by dedicating massive amounts of type copy to these very attacks, which they meekly point out are patently dishonest, unfair and overtly political will achieve nothing. Nothing, other than complete and total submission, will ever be enough.

Despite – or because of – the obviously rattled and weakened PLP leader, the opening days of the 2007 campaign have been very instructive. The PLP are demanding to be re-elected on the basis of a cult of personality; an apparently unquestionable, unaccountable, infallible leader with a weak Parliamentary group being dragged along for the ride.

What is striking isn’t the partisanship or the distortion; to that we’ve become accustomed. It’s the increasingly strident rhetoric, the extremism, the militancy, the fanaticism. Dr. Brown has become so deluded and isolated that he seems to think that his powers of persuasion are so great that he can change the facts; that he can continue to mislead the electorate over things as clear cut as the source of the leak, disillusioned PLP member Harold Darrell. He insists that this was, is, and always will be, a global UBP media conspiracy (hell, if they could pull that off they deserve to be Government). The mountains and mountains of evidence to the contrary serve only as a platform to shout even louder from. The extent of the dishonesty or the delusion is shocking.

It is evident that his electoral strategy is to pick fights; attack the UBP, attack the media, attack whistleblowers, attack anyone who dare have an independent thought or deviate from the mandated racial allegiance.

Dr. Brown is banking on the “a best defense is a strong offense” strategy and hopes to draw select individuals from the United Bermuda Party into personal grudge matches; with the electorate and their issues reduced to mere spectators.

So the tactics are clear. Sure they’ll sprinkle in some policy ideas here and there to provide a breather, but ultimately it’s a smear campaign – disguised as a response to a smear campaign. Brash, but not surprising.

The question then becomes what should the UBP do?

That’s simple. Dr. Brown and his party don’t set the agenda unless they’re allowed to. Not that they won’t continue to try.

The UBP shouldn’t be distracted from executing its own campaign. They should simply bypass the desperately shrill and increasingly irrelevant Ewart Brown and speak directly to the issues and how they will address them. Of course the lies, distortions and personal attacks can’t go without a swift and strong rebuttal, but if a personal fight is what he wants then he can shadow box his way out of a seat and his party right out of Government.

The lessons of the past decade are clear: it’s time for leadership that delivers more than scandals and spin. The serious social and economic issues which have exploded since the late 90s impact the lives of everyone living within our tiny 21 square miles.

There’s only one party that, if we’re honest, knows that it has no option but to produce results, be collaborative, and move Bermuda out of a half century long racial/political argument that is going precisely nowhere.

The United Bermuda Party cannot possibly be successful by polarizing the community around race or trying to build a cult of personality. They cannot demand a free pass for lack of performance and outright negligence with a cynical appeal to racial solidarity. They must be responsive.

The United Bermuda Party should run their own campaign built around the themes that they’ve been articulating consistently during their time in Opposition. They needed to spend some time out of Government reconnecting with the people, reassessing their core values, and finding that hunger to serve. This is time well spent for a party that governed for an unprecedented thirty plus years and laid the foundation and infrastructure that is the Bermuda of today; accomplishments that are dismissed as non-existent by Dr. Brown and his inner circle yet deserving of being renamed in the PLP’s image.

It is time for change, positive change, around issues of honesty, transparency and accountability in public life; not a self-aggrandising, self-indulgent, self-destructive cult of personality. Personality politics are not serving Bermuda well.

United Bermuda Party candidates don’t need to be drawn into a one on one fight with a flailing, embattled, discredited politician. Bermuda needs a cohesive team, a collection of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, both economic and social, who don’t want to connect with political punches, but one on one with their constituents. The way a party campaigns is how they will govern.

Political parties, MPs and Premiers come and go; but an entrenched, legislated culture of openness, transparency and accountability, complemented by a results driven Government, will go a long way to putting Bermuda on a steady footing as we look towards many more years of success.

An ever broadening cross section of Bermudians should be able to participate in this prosperous future; not just a narrow and rapidly out of touch political elite.

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