The Narrative

A little skirmish is developing over the latest chapter of PLP Heroes Day, with the UBP lamenting the purely political composition of the selection committee and the PLP firing back that the UBP was invited to participate but declined.

There's a couple things to address here, the first I suspect is reporting related.

The headline on the RG article today implied that the UBP were miffed at not having a seat on the committee, "Group to select national heroes has no place for UBP ", and the PLP is pointing out that they were offered them but declined so they shouldn't be complaining, "We were shocked to read the headline in today's paper..."

The PLP are right: but the headline didn't reflect the story if you read closely. The headline declares that they wanted to be included, but nothing they said yesterday supports that. The UBP never said that they were denied participation. What they said was:

"We have said from the very beginning of this exercise that decisions on National Heroes ought to be made by people chosen from the community, not for their politics but for their good judgment and, perhaps, their knowledge of history.

"We believe the Government would have best served the will of the people by turning the job over to the people. Instead, we have a committee of politicians representing one political party.

"Once again, the Government is putting politics before policy, partisanship before Country. It wants to control something that could be such a pure expression of community spirit."

The UBP is saying that the non-political appointees should be there, not that they want seats. Sen. Atherdon's later quote supports this:

"The Government, with these appointments, is saying it knows better than the people. That is a sad reflection on where we find ourselves today. In order to get this Island pulling together, we need to have a Government that has more faith, more trust in the people."

It's the headline which frames the whole article, and the framing is inconsistent with what the UBP actually said.

What they said is in fact consistent with what they said back in June of this year:

"From the outset, we said the promotion of national pride and the achievements of outstanding Bermudians ought not to be part of partisan politics," she said. "We were very clear from the start of this initiative back in 2007 that it be a community-based exercise, not a politically controlled operation.

"The Minister's plan to appoint a committee of politicians to select national heroes going forward runs counter to our position. Indeed, it seems to run counter to former Culture Minister's plan, which was in line with our proposal."


The Senator claimed Government's appointment of only politicians to the committee suggested a "deep-seated desire to control everything and a general lack of trust in people outside of its immediate circle of control".

In an effort to depoliticise the selection committee, the UBP has recommended the addition of two more individuals to its ranks. The party believes the Governor should appoint the additional two people and they should reflect Bermuda's diversity and historical legacy.

So the UBP have turned down two seats because they wanted additional representation from non-political appointees, which is different than complaining that they weren't included when they were offered seats. The Gazette article I think misses this point which created an opportunity for the PLP to cry hypocrisy, which seems credible in the absence of the context that the Gazette article missed.

Now, on to the thrust of the UBP's complaint, namely that the PLP have a "deep-seated desire to control everything and a general lack of trust in people outside of its immediate circle of control."

I'd concur. And what this all comes back to is what I sort of talked around a bit in yesterday's post. This is all about not losing control of The Narrative.

When the UBP says the PLP are control freaks they're correct. The PLP have spent decades carefully constructing a narrative that the credit for Bermuda's success lies with the PLP, even as Opposition, and that all that is bad lies with the UBP, even as Opposition.

This is the centre-piece of their political strategy and they can't risk losing control of it.

Hence they are in this naming mode where buildings are named after PLP supporters and politicians. We even have an airport named after an Opposition leader who never actually sat at the reins of Government. Now I never knew Freddie Wade, but he is pretty much universally regarded as a gentleman and principled politician. Even those who disagreed with his politics spoke highly of him. Harry Viera used to love to tell me stories about Freddie Wade.

But I did find it a bit odd to be naming Bermuda's sole airport after someone who never ran any Government Ministry or held the Office of Premier.

Unless you consider The Narrative. The Narrative requires Bermuda to be branded PLP, and UBP accomplishments be co-opted, erased or at least ignored. The economy that that the PLP crow about being so successful is the very same one that they complained about as Opposition for example - "Bermuda Inc.".

The Narrative says that Bermuda was built by the PLP, that the only legitimate governing party is the PLP, that identity politics is paramount, that the UBP will always be responsible for the PLP's failures no matter how long they're in power, and that the PLP will always be fighting the establishment even when they are the establishment.

They've cleverly co-opted the UBP's many successes as Government, ably assisted by a UBP who have refused to defend and own their own legacy and have allowed it to be written and rewritten by the PLP.

This is the power of The Narrative.

PLP Heroes Day supports the narrative by elevating PLP politicians and luminaries to "National Heroes", which is why they can't lose control of it either by having non-political appointments on the selection committee and/or by putting the decision outside of Cabinet control.

That's why the Minister made this pretty bizarre and condescending statement about the UBP's suggestion for non-political appointees:

Ms Butterfield argued the make-up of the committee would make it simpler to select future heroes.

She added that including lay people on the committee was also not suitable, saying: "We have looked at where they tried that in other jurisdictions, such as in the Caribbean, and it did not work."

So politicians are the only people capable of identifying National Heroes? Well, if this is a political exercise they certainly are. And that's what this is. It is much 'simpler' to select the appropriate future heroes if you have a group of ideologically driven like minded politicians.

By refusing to allow meaningful non-political involvement they're ensuring that the 'wrong kind' of National Heroes don't get nominated and pushed through, putting Cabinet in a tough position. The worst outcome for PLP Heroes Day would be honouring a UBP hero.

I'm not surprised, because the PLP are, as I've said many times, hyper-political. I don't think that the public is fooled on this one, I think most people know what the agenda is, but as with most things they're sort of resigned to the outcome.

It's just unfortunate that I think the headline of today's article has created a temporary diversion. Yes the UBP refused participation. But no they weren't complaining about not being invited if you read their actual comments.

The UBP are not participating because they don't support the make-up of the selection committee which is a principled position to take.

It does beg the question of whether anyone in the BDA was offered a spot? I'm pretty sure they'd have accepted, and then they could have had (notionally) independent Darius Tucker and a BDA and still had two 'Opposition' members.

I suspect however that the PLP don't want to elevate the BDA, so they opted to add another PLP member and someone they're pretty confident won't rock the boat.

That's speculation on my part, and I could of course be wrong. But I doubt it.

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