Rockstar reception

The huge turnouts to see the Queen and the outpouring of goodwill along the streets feels like a valve has opened to release the pressure that has been building up.

I wandered down to the ferry terminal today when someone told me the Queen was on her way and the crowd was large, diverse...and giddy. People were thrilled to see the Queen, but I think more than that were really proud to show off their island to a large audience.

There's been plenty of comment about the lack of enthusiasm from the Premier and the Government for this 400th anniversary, which really has felt like a colossal missed opportunity. Overlay that with the constant niggling towards the Governor, the UK in general and the antagonistic approach to the British component of our heritage, and you had a population that was tense. Unnecessarily so.

We've heard relentlessly that because we're not independent that it is somehow 'unnatural' or that Bermuda is not mature. But I think the polls, and the atmosphere on the island this week, have shown that on this issue the Premier and his party are seriously out of step with the public by continuing to try to push an issue that people simply do not want.

I don't think that we Bermudians are royalists in any sense, or somehow enamored with the UK, or afraid of change. I'm certainly not. It seems to me that the constitutional arrangement that Bermudians ratified in 1995 and polls show support in larger numbers today, is rooted in our pragmatism.

The disconnect between the PLP and the Bermudian people is that while the vast majority of Bermudians are deeply pragmatic, the PLP leadership and membership are dogmatic on this issue. What we've seen is a shift from an overt pro-independent campaign to this campaign of contrived confrontation, culiminating with the Uighur issue and the fight over the Police, to somehow convince us that we're being oppressed or treated like children.

It would seem that the enthusiasm for the visit of the Queen has blown open this idea that we don't have shared interests and history, both which should be celebrated and exploited not suppressed.

So we've ended up with our 400 year celebrations feeling like they really started with the Queen's visit because the Government seems so ashamed of who we are as a country. The Bermuda 400 organisers have been working so hard, but it felt like they really didn't have the support of the political leadership. This culimated with the Premier being on vacation for the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Bermuda.

The political campaign to suppress and erase all things British has had the side effect of squandering one of our greatest tourism marketing assets. It's also wasted thousands of hours of energy on an issue that doesn't help advance solutions but creates new problems by embedding real problems in an outdated dogmatic political argument, rendering them that much harder to resolve.

It's been refreshing to see the Bermudian spirit unleashed over the past few days, and people from all backgrounds so excited to be showing off what makes Bermuda such an international success story and a unique blend of cultures.

May it continue.

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