Smearing and sneering all the way to December 18th

The Royal Gazette
Opinion (6 Dec. 2007)

Two weeks to go in the election campaign and for the first time I’m close to speechless. That’s not because a lot hasn’t been going on – it has – but so much of it has been so hysterically shrill and mean-spirited.

Five weeks into the seven week campaign and only one party has been consistently speaking to the issues. You may agree or disagree with some of the UBP’s proposals, but you can’t accuse them of not focusing on the issues.

On the other side it’s, well, it’s just full on attack the UBP mode. That’s the totality of the PLP’s campaign.

They’re operating in a parallel universe, as if we’re watching a production where the audience is expected to suspend their disbelief, cast aside everything they’ve come to learn over the PLP’s decade in office and vote them back in because the UBP are “out to get you”.

That’s it. There’s been nothing else. I suppose there can’t be; the election was called as an act of individual political self-defense; four and a half years later Bermuda is being asked to do the deception dance all over again, and we know how well that works out.

I know, I know; the “Solid as a Rock” theme song and slogan has been repeated ad nauseum – the message of which is “ignore your gut, stay loyal”. If things were “solid” we wouldn’t have to be reminded so often would we? Alex Scott didn’t have to point it out, but it certainly brought things into focus.

We can thank the former Premier for acknowledging that so many people are turned off by his party’s dominant leader; but the appeal for Bermudians to vote PLP and trigger another post-election leadership battle is a stunningly familiar admission to say the least.

Someone needs to remind Dr. Brown and his colleagues that elections are about the people, not the politicians. Bermuda doesn’t vote every five years to serve the political elite’s interest, but to select who can serve ours. They’ve got it backwards.

Dr. Brown’s substance-less campaign confirms he’s only interested in holding on to power now.

But why should the people of Bermuda endorse the leadership of a party that many of its own senior MPs and members don’t – whether they’ll publicly admit it or not? Why should the electorate endorse the leadership of a party which, for example, ignored vocal protest at Southlands only to have a death bed conversion on the eve of an election (and probably a post-election about face)?

The closer December 18th comes, the louder the noise becomes – as the volume on the Solid as the Rock amplifier is cranked to the max – the more obvious it becomes that the intent is to drown out the constant hum of internal and external dissent.

Don’t believe what Alex Scott, Renee Webb and other unnamed MPs and voters are saying; it’s all good, we’re Solid as a Rock. That’s why Dr. Brown has all but disappeared since his 60 minute rant against the world to launch this election campaign.

Has he ever been this low-profile? Ever?

Are we really supposed to be misled into believing that the man who has dominated every aspect of Bermuda politics for a year but has gone into hiding during the campaign won’t re-emerge emboldened if his party were to sneak out an election win? Are we going to be misled into thinking that it’s really about team, not a cult of personality?

The PLP’s campaign is clearly built on two themes: stay loyal, and “Us versus Them” (cue foreboding music).

Every statement, every ad, every ridiculously hyperbolic statement on their website is written with a sneering “they’re out to get you” tone. They’ve even resorted to running shameful radio ads that say exactly that. Are they really that devoid of content and afraid to stand on their record?
Do reasonable people really think that the UBP are out to get them? Are Albertha Waite, Charlie Swan, Donte Hunt, Darius Tucker, Don Hassell, Austin Warner, Gina Spence-Farmer, Wayne Scott, Mark Pettingill, Doug DeCouto etc. out to get anyone? Really? It’s sad that in this day and age a party has to resort to these backwards looking tactics.

The hyperbole has reached such a crescendo that the news is almost unreadable and definitely unwatchable. The misinformation has become so thick, the smearing and sneering so constant, that they’re now resorting to actually attacking the UBP for things the PLP are engaging in: smearing and deception.

The attempt to transfer their liabilities over to the UBP, and turn Michael Dunkley into some dangerously dominant strongman figure, when this is precisely the PLP’s plight, is impressive in its boldness.

Election 2007 has become a bizarre parallel universe. You don’t have to be a psychologist to diagnose the outright schizophrenia of the PLP’s campaign.

Dr. Brown’s PLP have said that they're for the people but against tax relief.

They were against a referendum on independence, before being in favour of one, but are back against it (but don’t ask the Press Secretary, what does he know?).

The Police Station which they’ve steadfastly refused to re-open in St. George's for years? Well, now they're all over it. They can’t move fast enough.

The UBP promised to build 500 homes. Well, 3 days later the PLP promised 550.

The PLP attacked the UBP for being right wing and wanting to cut 'essential Government services'. The next day they said that the UBP wanted to create a welfare state.

Someone pass the meds.

All of this confirms that they really don’t have any issues to run on, other than attacking and vilifying good, decent, hard-wording, community-oriented Bermudians who see the UBP as a vehicle to bring Bermudians together.

The PLP’s closing strategy of transferring their leader’s liabilities onto the UBP, and running on that divisive phrase of “Us versus Them” is desperate.

The meanness, the nastiness, the obsession to portray anyone who isn’t part of the PLP elite as ‘vile’, ‘vicious’ and a ‘force of darkness’, as the Premier described them in his opening speech, is absolutely not what Bermuda needs. Affirming it on December 18th will do just that.
The climate of distrust, fear and division that the PLP is trying to cultivate during this campaign needs to be firmly rejected at the polls.

Election Day may be a day of political survival for some, but it’s really an opportunity for the voters to decide on who can serve Bermuda in a positive way. Don’t be misled.

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