I've been suffering from computer problems (or perhaps more precisely Vista problems) lately, which is causing incredibly frustrating random work losing blue screen of death reboots, so you're going to have to bear with me. This is attempt four at a post.
I've been resisting the temptation to correct for the record every untruth and point out each contrived PR move on the recently rebooted PLP website, like today's posting. It's hard, because the UBP (more on that later) aren't particularly lively lately, so I have to go to the tried and true shrill doctors over at PLP-land for my fix.
I'm not sure though if I'm hyper-sensitive to political PR tactics, but whoever is doing the PR over there is so far providing a poor imitation of Karl Rove politics, although I must say that I do like today's posting of photos over the weekend:
During Emancipation week, Premier Ewart Brown and the rest of the PLP leadership were out and about in the community meeting with Bermudians and talking about the issues that matter to people's lives. Here are a few scenes from Emancipation Week:
Or, translated: "See party delegates! We have photographic proof that the Premier and our MPs aren't elitist. We staged some photo-ops over Cup Match."
The calculation behind it all is so terribly obvious that it doesn't strike me as particularly effective, although it did seem to succeed during the election.
I don't quite know what to make of it all to be honest. Good PR has an element of sophistication to it, this just seems incredibly amateurish.
But on to what I really wanted to talk about, a PR trainwreck of the UBP sort. The story that isn't progressing; Wayne Furbert's long goodbye from the UBP.
I think this is installment 3.0 of "I'm gonna do it, I really am", to which I'll say what I said to Wayne months ago when I saw him on the street: "Do it. Stop threatening and do it."
I don't mean that in the good riddance sense at all. I mean it in the sense that he clearly is unhappy with what is going on - or perhaps is not going on - in the UBP and is looking for an exit strategy. It would be a shame to see Wayne and the UBP part ways.
Saying that, at the minimum, you can't publicly moot crossing the floor to the PLP as he does - a move I don't get the impression he really wants to do but would allow him to feel like he was back in the game - and expect your colleagues to not keep you at a distance and treat you with suspicion. You can't have someone in caucus who is flirting with the other side.
To be honest, I think that semi-threat alone is hard to walk back from and retain any credibility and standing in his party.
I have never understood unconditional support of a political party, so I completely understand that Wayne feels out of step with the direction of his party and thinks that he has to move on. I get that. I support that. People change, parties change (or perhaps don't depending on your perspective) and as such these things happen.
The headline today of "Furbert to give UBP 'last chance'" however rings hollow because he's threatened this several times now. I understand the difficultly in parting ways when he has been a long-serving MP, Cabinet Minister and Opposition Leader, but I think he knows what he wants to do but is looking for some event to give him that opportunity to make a clean break.
This 'don't make me do it' kind of threat, this public dance, seems terribly indecisive and is one of the things that made him a not particularly effective party leader.
I wouldn't rule out him crossing the floor, but it wouldn't seem particularly credible based on our many years of talking politics and his view on Bermuda and the methods and policies of the PLP.
These comments today highlight that:
Pressed on what policy change was needed Mr. Furbert said the UBP platform was pretty strong.
"If anyone wanted to vote about issues, we won.
But then again, Jamahl Simmons used to lambaste the PLP viciously both publicly and privately, including all 3 PLP Premiers and most MPs since 1998 to me, yet he managed to switch over without a second thought.
I think that Wayne could sit as a very credible, reasonably influential Independent. As a PLP MP he would be too beholden to them , having to prove his loyalty and never being truly trusted (although Dr. Brown likes to have people around him who need to stay in his favour rather than people of principle).
Wayne could then use this Independent status to try and launch a viable third party over the next few years. The odds are against him, but that looks to me like the only way he can retain his sense of self and credibility in the community.
On a related note, being the UBP's report that Wayne was so disappointed in, I haven't seen it, nor do I have much interest in seeing.
I think the debate in the UBP is actually quite simple at it's core.
The split seems to be between those who take a short term approach and those who are looking at this as a long term revitalisation. Both strike me as having their appeal.
The short term view says that Bermuda can't afford more years under the PLP and that the UBP would need to either disband or radically restructure to launch a realistic shot at taking the majority. Bermuda is suffering and it could be irreversible if it isn't stopped quickly.
The long term view (which is more the personality of the UBP - incrementalists) is that the UBP has to rebuild their support but that it will take time. I would say at least 2 elections (barring a massive PLP collapse) to claw back enough ground to be competitive due to a number of factors from a tarnished brand and powerful racial politics to seats that are a gerrymandered under the single-seat setup just as much as they were under the dual-seat setup.
I'm a little torn.
Personally, I wouldn't lose any sleep if the UBP were to go away and something new were to emerge. It would at least force a new dynamic to the tiring and crippling PLP (aka black) vs UBP (aka white) battle which is just so dull and predictable but mostly destroying the soul of this community.
However, I don't for a second think that the PLP attack machine won't just recalibrate and start to rebrand any new party as 'still the UBP'.
On the other hand, the kind of gains needed on the electoral map take time to occur, you don't get 20% moves between elections unless there is some major crisis and scandal. And I'm not sure we're at that point yet, as the PLP brand seems to be quite resilient, particularly in the face of Dr. Brown's right wing policies which aren't for one bit pro-labour (or pro-Bermudians for that matter).
If the UBP decide to stay the course and make incremental change, which I think is the most likely scenario, their best short-term hope is that Ewart Brown does to his party what Tony Blair did to Labour in the UK, Jean Cretien did to Canada's Liberals, and George Bush has done to the US Republicans.
Otherwise their time will come again, but it could be a few elections at least unless there is an unforseen game changing internal event (ie. a new highly credible, highly charismatic figure emerges).
Those three party leaders have destroyed their parties brands and left their successors with political fundamentals that are so bad that it is almost impossible to turn around in a short time. The sentiment is simply one of 'time for a change'.
The big difference there is that those countries lack the deep well of racial campaigning and identity politics to fall back on as the PLP did in the 2007 campaign (although the McCain campaign seems to be doing a dry run at the moment).