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There's a few interesting role reversals going on in this campaign versus 2007.

Amid all the PLP's chest thumping about televised debates and a party leader debate, it's worth noting that in 2007 the PLP rejected a televised debate:

Dr. Brown told us: "It doesn't fit our strategy. We think that it could have some entertainment value, but very little political value. No I wouldn't do it." Mr. Dunkley said: "I have no problem with it if that's what the people want. Whatever people want, I'm game for it."

Parties have strategies. Generally the party that thinks it is ahead doesn't want to raise their opponent's profile and take the risk of a debate shifting the momentum because it's a less controlled environment, and the party that's behind usually wants one to try to change the dynamic. They want to protect their lead.

So, in 2012, it's the PLP professing to want debates, which indicates that they think they're losing.

I'd also point out that Paula Cox has been keeping an extremely low profile during this campaign, as Ewart Brown did in 2007. That suggests that like her predecessor the PLP know that Ms. Cox is unpopular and a political liability at this point, so they're relying on surrogates to get their message out instead.

That's poltiics 101.

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We're into election season, and just so you're clear, the economy is fine, crime is down and tourism has turned around.

Oh, and a new hotel is about to start construction.

It all feels so 2007 election campaign.

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Tis the season to be polling.

The PLP are conducting a robo-poll which is highly efficient and automated asking of four questions, all of which are testing whether the Premier should go to the polls right after Christmas when people are feeling a bit merrier than the normal doom and gloom of late:

  • Are you likely to vote in next election?
  • Do you think the country is going in the right or wrong direction?
  • If a general election is called, will you vote for PLP or OBA?
  • Do you approve of Paula Cox?
  • Do you think the PLP deserves to be re-elected?

The last question is the crux of the poll. Should the PLP be re-elected? The answer to that question is all that matter. A slightly forgiving country around the holidays might be the mini-bump Paula Cox has been waiting around for.

This was not testing any candidates. just the mood of the country. To go, or not to go.

Note they don't even include the UBP in question 3, as they are a non-issue (other than in St. Geo where I suspect the OBA will sensibly not contest the seat and allow Kim Swan to run one on one for re-election).

Also there is another poll being conducted, I believe by Mindmaps, which asks quite possibly the dumbest question ever:

Which politician would you like to kiss under the mistletoe? (Seriously).

An attempt at some seasonal humour I suppose.

A better question would have been which politician will you let kiss your ass under the mistletoe? That would sum up the mood of the country better.

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Sigh.

If the results of the 2007 PLP election campaign weren't bad enough ($1B in debt, record levels of crime, all time tourism lows etc.) they double down on their most dishonest election tactic of 2007 and re-ignite the 8,000 new Bermudians lie, that even their own Derrick Burgess exposed as a lie in the waning days of the election campaign.

This is sheer desperation, incredibly shameless, and more than a bit worrying.

As the PLP gears up into election mode, their commitment to the truth plummets and their willingness to say anything goes off the charts.

Now that they are trying to walk back most of their 2007 election promises, including offering permanent residency to some expats and dropping land licenses, they've decided to try and put the focus on the Opposition who predicted exactly what the PLP have created.

Let's recap what the PLP claimed in 2007: the economy was bullet-proof. Crime was down. Tourism was in a turnaround. Education was doing great. Transport would be free. Healthcare would be free. Daycare would be free. Just for starters.

The reality? The economy has tanked and is still contracting. Crime has skyrocketed both in frequency and severity. Tourism is languishing at all time lows. Education is still flailing. Transport is not free - the pink ferry route has doubled in cost. Healthcare is in a PLP made crisis. Daycare isn't free.

You'd think that after running Bermuda into the ground the PLP would display just an ounce of seriousness heading into an election for a change.

Nope. It's going to be circus side show PLP all over again. Wake me up when it's over.

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The short article today entitled "OECD plans could be death penalty for Bermuda" raises an issue that I'm surprised hasn't been raised locally in any meaningful way.

The PLP proudly boast about the number of Tax Information Exhange Agreements that Paula Cox has signed as if the total signed are equal to points on a scoreboard, and how we're doing everything and anything asked for under the European Solvency II regime, as evidence of the PLP's fiscal prowess.

While these are complex issues that help certain aspects of our international business (large global (re)insurers in particular), they are also hugely damaging to other areas of international business (non-class 4 (re)insurers, capitives for example).

The Premier and Finance Minister continually claims her total capitulation on these fronts as huge accomplishments.

But they are really house-keeping and issues that should be negotiated down to do as little damage as possible while achieving the minimal level of compliance.

The main intent of the OECD and European regulators is to try and help their uncompetitive failing financial centres by rendering Bermuda and others less competitive, not some altruistic campaign for global financial transparency.

Simply being led around by European bureaucrats, doing their bidding, as the Premier and Bermuda Monetary Authority look from the outside to be, is a gift these bloated uncompetitive high tax jurisdiction surely can't believe keeps on giving.

The TIEA's signed are overwhelmingly one sided and aren't doing Bermuda any favours. Simply racking up as many as you can as quickly as you can is an abdication of your duty to protect and further Bermuda's competitiveness.

Signing these TIEAs, and doing what the EU says we should do, does not constitute an economic vision for Bermuda. It is, as Mr. Mitchell from the Cato Institute says:

"Basically ...the death penalty for Bermuda and other jurisdictions," he said.

"Whether they get to their final goal in five, 10 or 15 years depends on how much each jurisdiction fights it."

So far there has been no fight in the Cox Government or Finance Ministry, just capitulation.

I'm surprised the Opposition haven't seized more on this, although it is a bit of a wonky topic. But if broached correctly it is an important topic to a community pretty plugged into international business issues who get the need to continue to innovate and increase our competitive edge, not just become some watered down has-been international finance centre; a shadow of our former self.

If this were sports, and Paula Cox were the coach of a basketball team for example, the other coach would be screaming that her players were all too fit, tall and accurate shooters.

Her response?

She'd be canceling practice, feeding them donuts before every game and benching her stars for the 4th quarter and claiming victory.

When I read press releases such as the last two from the PLP entitled "PLP Government Implementing Global Financial Standards" and today's gushing "Bermuda: Our Star is Shining on the International Stage" that are so devoid of substance and understanding of what created Bermuda's economic miracle, it's shocking. And scary.

Bermuda succeeded because we were different; a good place to do business.

All this foreign driven regulation and anti-competitive political pressure is designed to turn that on its head.

Stop boasting about the TIEAs and Bermuda's compliance with old world financial jurisdictions and start articulating the vision to grow Bermuda's economy and sharpen our focus.

So far it's clear that Paula Cox and her colleagues don't have a clue how to stop Bermuda's economic contraction and are completely banking on a global economic recovery to bail them out.

But the real challenge for Bermuda is not just stopping the bleeding, but getting back the competitive edge that the PLP blew.

Today's Bermuda Sun article presents a huge opportunity for the OBA to go right at the PLP's cluelessness:

The economy is another potential problem area for the PLP but party activists believe people will accept that Bermuda's problem is part of a wider global picture and will trust the PLP to protect Bermudian jobs.

If Bermuda's problems are part of a wider global picture, why then, are Bermuda's companies moving to Ireland - which has far greater economic problems than Bermuda (for now)? That claim doesn't hold up to the least amount of scrutiny. The PLP haven't protected jobs but chased them away.

Why would you trust the party that presided over unprecedented job losses, and continues to now in education and at public golf courses, with protecting jobs? It's a ridiculous assertion.

But the PLP have to say it, because the alternative is to acknowledge that their dogma is diametrically opposed to Bermuda's economic and social well being. The PLP's policies are incompatible with economic prosperity and the social progress and safety net that funds.

The PLP insider said:

"Everything the Opposition wants to do is connected with money and business. However many times they want to change their name it is still the Barritts, the Dunkleys and the Gibbons's.

"How can you fight price rises in the supermarkets when you profit from those price rises? How can you complain about insurance costs for seniors when you own an insurance company?

"When push comes to shove, who do people think will look out for them? The PLP or the Oppostion?"

Not a bad way to redirect from Paula Cox's horrendous economy, one characterised by previously unknown issues to Bermuda like unemployment and foreclosures.

The Opposition, who are conspicuously silent since they launched and missing a huge opportunity to make a strong first impression, should quickly reframe it for what it is.

Everything the Opposition wants to do is about jobs and prosperity for all Bermudians. It's been done before and it can be done again. Just not by the PLP.

That's the connection more and more Bermudians are making. Ask those 30 paraprofessionals just laid off due to Paula Cox and her colleagues' economic mismanagement.

The OBA should be labeling this as "Paula Cox's recession", or "The PLP recession". And "Paula Cox's lay offs" for example. The language is quite simple.

Make the connection for people in a way they can relate to.

And, most importantly, prior to the election. The OBA should be reminding people of what the PLP's last election campaign claimed and did.

They claimed with an admirable poker face that: crime was declining, tourism was up and the economy was bullet-proof.

What are Bermudians experiencing daily? The PLP unwinding their own policies quietly (the latest being the 90 day yacht stay policy), crime continuing to spiral out of control, and the PLP's policy rollbacks a tacit admission that they cannot afford their own election promises.

If they lied to the electorate last time, why should the electorate believe any of their claims, promises and demagoguery this time?

The OBA have to plant that seed now. Today. Not in 2 months in the height of an election campaign when people's buttons are being pushed relentlessly and fear-mongering is in full effect.

We've just witnessed independence raised. There's no way the PLP want to run on Independence as an election issue. No way. It's a colossal loser.

So why raise it then?

Independence is a convenient stalking horse to introduce race during the soft launch of the election period of course. Independence will be quickly dropped, but the racial button pushing will persist.

We've done this dance before. The OBA have to remind the public of what went down in 2007, and what happened in its wake, so that they recognize it for what it is as it unfolds again according to the script.

Then of course it looks contrived and insincere, which of course it is.

As that connection is made they should then ask the voters if they want 5 more years like the last 5; a half decade which ushered in economic and social pain previously unheard of in Bermuda, and overseen by a party too proud and/or blind to stop and reverse it?

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With the latest installment of free was never free, and the PLP unwinding yet another of the PLP's election promises which never made sense in the first place, the One Bermuda Alliance Opposition should start broadening the response, and not keep them narrowly focused on each f-up.

The real kind of connections they should be helping the voter make is:

If the PLP can't deliver their 2007 election promises why should you believe the next set?

If the PLP can't fix a minor bus and ferry problem, surely no-one can believe that they can fix the economy they broke, the violent crime outbreak they denied, the tourism freefall they branded a turnaround and education that is not really an education?

If the PLP said tourism was turning around why is it at an all time low?

If the PLP said crime was declining why are we averaging one shooting murder a month in 2011?

These aren't isolated issues, they're all interconnected to a fundamentally flawed public policy, an inability to effectively run the most basic apparatus of Government, a glib willingness to campaign on knowingly empty and undeliverable promises, and a public sector infrastructure that is crumbling due to projects being built to achieve the goal of redistributing public sector wealth to a handful of insiders, not the greater public interest.

All that is happening now, transport cuts as tourism season kicks in (our 4% second economic 'pillar'), police cuts as violent crime spirals out of control and debt escalation are all because of those supposed victimless scandals of the BHC, the Berkeley overspend, the cruise ship terminal overspend and the TCD overspend to name a couple.

As the former BPSU head said, the PLP's screw ups were paid for by the UBP's sensible economic policies that carried them for ten years.

The corruption and waste of the past decade weren't victimless and without consequence. They just seemed that way because the UBP's economy was so robust.

The Bermuda Government should be sitting on several hundred million dollars of surpluses which they can use to hire more police officers, put on more buses, spend on the current account and stimulate with capital spending as revenues decline. Instead we're incurring expensive debt which could take more than 10 years to retire - and only if the hard sacrifices are made now to return Bermuda to sensible fiscal policy, which is not happening.

The UBP have tried to connect the dots in their budget replies over the years. But it was intangible because the effects of that mismanagement took years to metastasize. Now things are different. The critique has real examples and should be hammered home.

It's not enough to be right. The Opposition have to be persuasive. You can't drive change unless you win elections.

As the One BA emerges over the coming days (hopefully not weeks), one of the positives is that the Opposition can reboot the critique and start planting the seed in voters' heads of what I think their campaign should be.

Which would be something like:

Bermuda: They broke it. We'll fix it.

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So the by-election result is in, with no surprise as to the winner for the PLP.

PLP - 310
UBP - 78
BDA - 70

The UBP, with a very flawed candidate, held on to second with the BDA pulling in third. (Devrae getting appendicitis and not being at the poll station could have been a blessing in disguise for the UBP as his choice was difficult for many people - it was simply too soon from a drug conviction, and a mohawk, to be put up as a serious candidate.)

Together both the UBP and BDA didn't mount much of a challenge to the PLP, in a climate which should be conducive to some protest votes at least. Turnout was extremely low, less than 50%. So really, there's no winners here, PLP included.

But...the BDA went all in on the pre-election "Lights out UBP" talk, and couldn't beat them even in the face of a gift of a candidate from the UBP. Which is going to boomerang back at them. Lights out BDA will surely be the UBP's refrain.

The realists in the BDA were undoubtably looking to try and get the UBP behind them, and failed. The idealists genuinely thought they had a shot, which was never going to happen. So it's back to the drawing board, and I would argue, over to the negotiating table with the UBP.

I remain firmly convinced that the only way forward - and even this way is tough - is for the BDA and UBP to come together under a new banner, pull in some better quality candidates and fight a strategic, targeted joint effort. The alternative is a PLP which has wrecked the local economy and overseen a huge escalation in social deterioration taking 30 seats.

My thoughts on how the BDA/UBP amalgamation should play out are here, here and here.

This was the first empirical test of the BDA experiment and the result is not what they needed. This affirms what I said a few days ago about the likely outcome in a general election:

Two parties fighting for second will ensure that the BDA end up with most likely no seats (which is lights out for them), the UBP probably 5 or 6 and the PLP 30, which would be a result completely out of sync with the electorate's intentions.

On a personal level I won't get involved with either the BDA or UBP because it is mutual assured destruction. I will however, work for something new, an amalgamation of the two under a new banner with a new approach.

That is not just a better way, it's the only way right now.

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The projected turn-out for the by-election of 400 - 500 people is abysmally low.

If anything it does say that people don't like any of the choices. The UBP have the most to lose, the BDA the most to gain. And such a low turnout makes it a bit hard to know quite how it will play out. The results could be quirky, but the meta-message would be that the level of voter disenchantment is exceedingly high.

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Below are the complete comments I (or some guy called Christian Dunleavey) provided to the Bermuda Sun for last Friday's article on the coming bye-election:

The bye-election is interesting on a couple levels. As one of the PLP's safer seats they will need to produce a strong result. Turnout will presumably be low as most bye-elections are, however if it is unusually low that would presumably signal a message being sent of overall disenchantment with the PLP Government, particularly in a bye-election in a new Premier's honeymoon period which should provide some uplift.

There is little chance of the PLP not holding this seat, particularly with
the BDA and UBP potentially splitting the non-PLP vote.

On another, and perhaps more interesting level, as the first election
since the UBP split, what happens between the BDA and UBP is largely an
unknown. For the BDA they will surely see it as critical to beat the UBP
for second and use that as a launching pad for credibility, recruitment
and momentum.

The BDA's main weakness has been a lack of noteworthy PLP cross-over
support. It remains a party which has not distinguished itself from the
UBP particularly well or at all.

The UBP-BDA disagreement remains over viability not philosophy, and if the
BDA candidate is able to gain a larger vote than his UBP counterparty they
will be able to claim a small victory.

If however the BDA does not garner much voter support, then they will
surely have to re-assess and ask themselves where they go next.

Similarly, if the UBP does not manage to be the runner-up, it will be yet
another confirmation of their slow demise and their support will continue
to erode.

Not at my most eloquent, but hey, I was in a rush.

The more I think about it the more interesting and consequential this election is to the UBP-BDA dynamic. Primarily because with Brown gone it's tough to call for a protest vote against Brown, so the PLP should have little problem in winning, albeit it with much lower support.

It is clear to me that both Oppositions are well aware that they are on a path to mutual assured destruction if they go into a general election against each other. Single seat constituencies are a two party system, and with the Oppositions ideologically indistinguishable the result is surely the PLP taking a larger majority by slipping up the middle as the UBP and BDA cannibalise non-PLP votes.

The political reality of the split is that the BDA took the next generation of candidates and workers with them, leaving the UBP with a lack of a bench to go to. However, the BDA were unable to take with them any credible experienced senior Parliamentarians who give them immediate credibility as a Government in waiting.

Right now they're both screwed, particularly as the BDA have not had any high profile PLP crossover support.

Regardless the effect of the split has been positive in my view and I supported it (although I have nothing to do with either party); it has accelerated the realisation within the remnants of the UBP that it is not a viable electoral force.

So...as the first empirical test of voter reaction to a new party the results will have some impact into what I believe is the knowledge by both Oppositions that they need to come together in some form other than the UBP prior to the next general election.

The disagreement is at its core about viability and the vehicle, not policy or philosophy. Both are fiscal realists and social liberals. So competing against each other is counterproductive and perpetuates the PLP's dominance.

If the BDA manage to beat the UBP for second (especially if they draw away PLP support) they will gain vital leverage in any negotiations that may be going on between the two to gain concessions as the party of the future.

If the UBP are able to hold on for second they will be able to make the case that the public are not receptive to a 3rd party, and will be able to push for the leadership role in any new entity (which is inevitable in my view).

I have some further thoughts about how to resolve this which I am chewing on and will write in a subsequent post in the coming days.

But for now, I wanted to elaborate a bit on why the coming election is so consequential regardless of what happens. And both sides are well aware of this, with the UBP with the most to lose.

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I'm on vacation, really I am, but Kevin Mayall of AG Research has created some geographic maps to display election related data that are interesting.

That's all from me. Back to my book.

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Close the book on this one. No-one could read it apparently, and it's essentially un-changed.

I think it's safe to say people on all sides are a little surprised that there was very little movement away from the PLP. Nothing at all really.

Accountability and government reform in Bermuda politics is officially dead.

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Faith based everything man and Dr. Brown's campaign manager Andre Curtis proves that he really is a man of faith:

I've done my homework and I predict 28 seats.

28? That's about 27 more seats than tourists he produced.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Dr. Brown has trimmed his 30 seat prediction down to 'a respectable margin'.

Tonight's counts will be interesting.

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Spinning to the very end.

Astute readers will notice that Derrick Burgess came out today in the Gazette and at the last minute now puts Permanent Resident Certificate holders at 1,700, down from the ridiculous 8,000 number and then the 4,000 number, and any other inflated number they could come up with.

But that hasn't stopped them from running their full page newspaper ad again today with 8,000.

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Turnout was pretty high in Constituency 9 this morning at 8AM, slow moving through the polling station though with only two tables set up (A-M) and (N-Z).

For some reason the second half of the alphabet seemed to be sleeping in so there were about 30 (A-M)'s people in line.

Stay tuned this evening for results.

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