Recently in Parliament Category

The OBA doesn't need to mirror the FNM in Bahamas, or anything else. They need to drive a new paradigm in Bermuda. Descending into lively, at times amusing, but politically unproductive defenses of personal disputes and predictable attacks on them does nothing to help position them to win the next election and define themselves in the crucial first impression phase.

The PLP's obsession with the UBP is their problem, not the OBA's. The OBA should let the PLP look backwards and talk endlessly about the UBP amongst themselves while the OBA talks to the voters about the future.

Wayne Furbert's only relevance and utility to the PLP is to attack his former UBP colleagues and defend his new PLP ones; the same ones who mocked him viciously during his time as UBP leader.

John Barritt has it right:

"For the longest time, I think all members will agree, we have been calling for a change in politics in this Country," said Mr Barritt.

"You can hear people say it all the time: can you please do better? This is a genuine attempt to try and change the old UBP-PLP dynamic.

"Already we get decried and criticised. It's people's right to do that and there's political mileage in that."

The PLP will never get over the UBP. Never. The PLP and UBP are two sides of the same coin and the voters are seeing that more and more as the PLP wrecks Bermuda's economy and presides over a massive escalation in violent crime and debt.

The majority of voters can see this and have moved on from 1960's fights. That is who the OBA should be talking directly to, not fringe players like Wayne Furbert who is desperately seeking the approval of his new colleagues; colleagues who will never trust him and never give him a real role.

In time, as an election approaches, the usual suspects will be trotted out to recycle their attacks as proxies so that Paula Cox can stay above the fray, just as they did in the closing days of the 2007 election.

That's politics, but it's not productive.

The OBA should talk over the PLP directly to the people. Don't take the bait.

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I was having a conversation today with someone in the UBP where I raised an issue which got some attention on the Let's Talk Bermuda show on ZBM Channel 9 this evening (which again suffers from BBC's awful production values - muted audio levels, terrible picture quality to name the obvious), and is my primary critique of the UBP and BDA separately, and combined, by some of those involved.

Specifically it's the recurring phrase of late justifying a merger 'that Bermuda needs a strong opposition'.

Talk about setting the bar low. This sentiment lacks ambition. It is such a defeatist sentiment that it should never be uttered by anyone in Opposition, let alone those in leadership positions.

Bermuda does not need a strong Opposition, it needs an alternative Government. The goal of a merger, which is inevitable now that both sides - but in particular the BDA - have finally acknowledged that talks have been ongoing for some time now, is not to create a strong Opposition, it is to create a credible and viable group which can attract real support at the next election and articulates an ambitious vision for renewal.

It's ok to acknowledge the challenge of achieving this, but the individuals and organisation must have their eye on the real goal. Voters don't want to vote for an Opposition, they want to check next to a future Government.

This was one of the two fundamental missteps of the BDA launch and first year. Firstly they launched without anyone from the PLP, which gave a first impression of simply a UBP splinter group (which it turned out to be). Secondly, it quickly became apparent that they were fixated on the UBP as their primary opponent, not the governing party. It's difficult to energise people to work for second place.

If this lack of ambition persists into the launch of whatever the merged entity is they might as well not merge.

You saw this sentiment again today with UBP Chairperson Jeanne Atherdon implying that the merger talks should take a back seat to the Budget Reply:

"I think everybody is mindful of the fact that Bermuda needs to have one Opposition party," she said yesterday. "A divided Opposition is not as effective."

Sen Atherden said that while many in the public may be focused on the possible merger, the UBP still had to focus on the Budget, which will be delivered on February 11.

The 'strong Opposition' line is one the PLP use a lot, but it's not a compliment and not genuine in my view. It's condescending, with the underlying message that the UBP/BDA should be content as Opposition because that's their default/natural role, and the PLP has some sort of moral and perpetual claim to govern, and that their 3 decades in Opposition were an anomaly. The flip side is that it suggests the PLP see it as the Opposition's role to check them, not their own members role to check themselves when they overstep - their backbench is too weak.

Sen. Atherden's comment also highlights another criticism I've had of the UBP; they place too much emphasis on the day to day legislative tasks and too little on the bigger picture of positioning themselves to win. This isn't just incessant shallow campaigning, but keeping to your broad themes and reinforcing them in your actions and statements.

The UBP downplay the basic activities of an Opposition - which is to reconnect with voters, craft your agenda and sell your vision - and overplay tweaking legislation and making formal replies.

Legislation is not unimportant, particularly with a PLP who cares little for drafting quality legislation, but changing the Government is the best way to have an effect on public policy - particularly in an environment where the PLP essentially dismiss anything they say anyway and have much stronger internal discipline than the UBP.

The UBP, as recently and repeatedly demonstrated by Bob Richards in Finance, value being right over being persuasive. Bob, and his predecessor Shadows in Finance, have been dead on in predicting the consequences of the PLP's financial mismanagement, but he has not been particularly persuasive.

Another final point. While the BDA as a splinter group needed a PLP MP or two to cross over - at launch - to really make the kind of first impression they needed as a 'better way', the reality at this point is that PLP loyalty remains high, and that loyalty is boosted by being the Government.

As the UBP has seen years now of internal discord, so did the PLP as Opposition. It seems unlikely that the PLP will have the kind of public splits that the UBP in the late 90s did if they lacked the principle and convictions to make a strong stand against the misrule of their Premier Brown.

A new party, a merged entity, does not have to have high profile PLP cross-overs to be viable or credible. It would help, but it's not going to happen now with a new personally popular Premier. It's the PLP that has thrown Bermuda into this financial and social mess over the past 12 years, they clearly lack the answers, so why try to recruit over there? The PLP benches don't have any real talent that stands out. Paula Cox's decision that she didn't have anyone capable of handling the Finance portfolio when she took over as Premier should confirm that.

What I would argue is more important now is for a new entity to be able to activate the sideliners, those educated, skilled and successful Bermudians who have thus far opted out of politics. That is where the Opposition(s) should be looking to bolster their candidate lineup, and it's also up to these side-liners to step up and put themselves forward for public service as the problems facing Bermuda are too significant to be treated as a spectator sport.

That luxury is gone. Bermuda needs pragmatic policies and a new vision. The PLP have not demonstrated any propensity for either and continue to maintain anti-Bermudian policies out of pride and face-saving.

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I've been trying to post a bit on the polls, which I still intend to do, but wanted to quickly focus on my hobby horse of the past few months that I've been quiet on lately, namely the increasing chatter (and denials and pseudo denials) of a UBP-BDA merger, re-unification or whatever you want to call it.

One of the most compelling aspects of the recent poll results is that they demonstrate that the split in the UBP and emergence of the BDA has been a net loss for both. The parts are worth less than their whole, and you can see that in the numbers. What the by-election in December also proved I think is that when the push comes to the shove the Opposition is almost split right down the middle, although with a better UBP candidate I think they would have performed better and will in a general election where voters won't roll the dice on an untested new party.

The by-election didn't show any gains by the PLP, or huge losses by the total of the Opposition vote. It pretty much showed the status quo, and I think the status quo is a result of uncertainty about an alternative to the PLP.

The poll party performance is also a bit fuzzy, in the sense that it is hard to quantify the explicit 'new leader bump', to separate some of the impact of a leadership change in the PLP from a toxic leader to one who holds extremely high positives (a component of that due in no small part to the rather low standard of not being her predecessor - virtually anyone was a material upgrade in most people's eyes, but Paula Cox does have her own individual cross-over appeal which seems to transcend - for now - her poor performance in Finance.)

So for me, the conclusion of the poll is that practically, dispassionately, pragmatically, an amalgamation has to occur for a) the UBP not to be reduced to only the safest of safe seats and b) the BDA to be obliterated.

I still am convinced that this will ultimately happen, hopefully sooner rather than later, but like corporate mergers it's not the business logic that gets messy, it's the social issues, and those social issues can sometimes inhibit execution after mergers and acquisitions as well.

Truthfully, I think the social issues between the UBP and BDA are minor and completely manageable because most of the individuals have all worked together previously, and philosophically the parties are aligned. I don't underestimate personality, ambition and ego, the influence of which has been the real eye-opener for me in participating and watching politics closely for some time now.

These kinds of negotiations and arrangements can be tough to navigate and delicate. I do think that time is running out, that Paula Cox would be nuts not to go to an election around the summer, with or without a unified Opposition. So if they're going to do this now is the time.

I'm going to return to the polls in a subsequent post, but I think that it is extremely likely that turnout will be depressed at the next election, and that hurts the PLP and helps the Opposition.

The PLP's strategy in 2007 was based on simply trying to keep turnout high and making the UBP toxic, so that if you can drag people - however reluctantly to the polls - they're not going to spoil their ballots in any large numbers and the stigma campaign against the UBP would cause undecideds to break heavily PLP (which I think is what occurred).

I'm not so sure at the next election the PLP can count on a similarly high turnout, other than appeals on the back of a popular Premier in a honeymoon period. The economic and social issues have exploded in the last few years and this has to suppress turnout somewhat.

So if turnout drops, and a unified Opposition party can hold and perhaps slightly build on that 47% from 2007, with new boundaries and more competitive constituencies, you could see some interesting results. Not necessarily the PLP losing, but a reduced majority I think is possible with a well executed campaign and credible candidates.

I find it hard to believe that the 47% who were not impressed with the PLP in 2007 are now suddenly impressed with them today, after such terrible mismanagement of the economy and escalating social dysfunction.

So on that basis there is an opportunity for some gains for the Opposition, but not if they go into an election separately. That's just a blood bath.

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There's an interesting Letter to the Editor today (4th letter) on the present and future of the UBP:

A few comments:

Frankly, I have been sincerely amazed that the politicians (I did not say members) of the UBP seem to have this idea that they are going to, some day, form the Government. Amazement aside, I consider myself fairly well informed; reasonably well educated; well read; and even able to look at both sides of the coin ... and I cannot understand how these people actually think they will win again.

Actually, very few think that.

The UBP has the same people, saying the same things and doing things the same way as they always did or, at least, that's what they look like to the public. There are no younger people to speak of; no new ideas; and as far as I can see nothing new on the horizon.

Correct. The next generation left for the BDA, but there is no fundamental philosophical disagreement between the UBP and BDA., and the BDA haven't raised any substantive new ideas or differentiated themselves. They have not demonstrated momentum in the polls, appearing to have capped out, but do have an opportunity to try and score a small win in the Warwick by-election from what I suspect they see as a gift by the UBP. (They'd better knock it out of the park to seize the initiative.)

For the moment, the UBP is the Official Opposition and, because of that, their MPs and Senators have a pulpit from which to speak. There's no doubt in my mind that politicians almost always have two common traits: they all think they have an answer and they all love to talk !!

This is unfair for the following reasons.

Firstly, the UBP is the Official Opposition because they remain the second largest party in Parliament and won 14 seats in the last election and 47% of the vote...and continue to take the grunt work of being the Official Opposition seriously. The BDA have not demonstrated viability at a general election yet. This idea that the UBP should just hand all their seats and the role of Official Opposition over to the BDA is naive and predicated on the path of least resistance.

Craig Cannonier recently created a stir when he called for the UBP to 'turn out the lights' and that 'the BDA should step up as the Official Opposition'.

If the BDA is ready to step up they need to act like it, and failing to produce a formal Reply to Paula Cox's Throne Speech is not acting like it. That was a huge - huge - missed opportunity to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk.

It gets worse. Mark Pettingill actually used the UBP's Reply as the source of his speech on behalf of the BDA, picking through it point by point and complimenting the UBP on their Reply. That was pretty poor for a party claiming to want to step up to that role.

Say what you will about the UBP, and slap them about for not getting it, but the people the BDA like to say need to pack it up and hand them the keys are the people who do the unglamorous behind the scenes work that is required of an Official Opposition.

If anything, you could argue that the UBP take their role too seriously, to the detriment of the politics.

I haven't been involved in the UBP since the 2007 election, and am not involved in the BDA. But both parties are full of good people with good intentions who are my friends and who I stay in touch with.

This standoff is not productive and is at a stalemate. Everyone can see that. But hardline stances like calling for the UBP to just give up and hand the keys to the BDA makes accommodation and compromise very difficult, and the BDA are in no position to try and dictate terms.

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Open Parliamentary Committees seems to be getting a bit contagious, which is great news.

John Barritt and the UBP have been banging this drum for years, it took awhile to get the Government on board, but evidently they're coming around.

It's not just opening up these committees that is positive, but it's also more of getting MPs down to work in a more meaningful way than just speechifying on a Friday afternoon.

I've been a bit remiss in following up on John's four part series in the Gazette recently (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4), but hope to spend some time this weekend on the topic.

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When exactly did the Throne Speech turn into a fashion show?

And the Premier's lid on Sunday reminded me of Darth Vader in Spaceballs.



More serious thoughts on the Throne Speech and Reply later Tuesday.

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It's pretty sad I know that I actually look forward to Fridays because I can listen to Parliament on the radio; masochism at its best. The upside is that more often than not I come away bemused with one of those "I can't believe they said that" moments.

The throne speech debate on Friday had a few of those moments, but none better than Zane Desilva, who floated the novel defence of Government debt as follows (paraphrasing):

The reason the PLP has so much debt now is because the UBP ran balanced budgets all those years.


Here's one mangled quote from the Gazette article:

"Think about what we have done and if the previous government, the UBP, had taken up a few of these initiatives they wouldn't have had a deficit like they did."

This is what I would call The Extreme Narrative, the extension of the "it's all the UBP's fault and will always be" to its illogical extreme.

Of course, what Mr. Desilva didn't acknowledge is that like any responsible household, the UBP lived within Bermuda's means which means making choices. Like families have to choose between essentials and luxury items - groceries versus a luxury car - Governments have to make choices. In fact, I think that's the basic role of politicians - choices and compromises. The PLP seem unable to do either.

It's fair game to argue over prioritisation - that the UBP should have done this but not that - but to defend the PLP debt on the basis that the UBP should have racked it up is novel at best. The reality is that the UBP's balanced budgets actually facilitated the PLP inheriting a strong financial position and being able to accumulate debt on the back of that.

He really should be thanking the UBP for balancing the budget, so the PLP had the freedom to unbalance it, not criticising them for it.

I suppose the point is that the PLP are providing more services than the UBP did during their tenure which costs more, but that argument is premised on the basis that deficit spending is without consequences.

You can't even argue that the debt has been stimulative, because it's servicing day to day expenses, and ignores the fact that tens to hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent above and beyond the value of the asset (Berkeley, TCD, Dockyard Cruise Ship Terminal), driving debt.

Premier Cox herself has suggested that deficit spending is unsustainable by promising $150M in savings but no layoffs, which implies massive cuts in services: Approx. $1B budget, 150M off is 15%, but half of the $1B is salaries which she won't touch so she's got to cut 30% from services. Good luck with that.

This speaks to the core difference between the PLP and the UBP/BDA, namely the PLP perpetuate the 'free' services political model where the UBP/BDA are advocating living within the Government's means.

There is no such thing as free FutureCare, or free public transport, or free anything. Government has no money, taxpayers have money and taxpayers also have the debt. Bermuda is unique in that we do not have a diversified economy with any natural resources to support debt payback. And just like when you fall behind on your credit card or habitually overspend as an individual, eventually the math catches up with you.

If I were the UBP, after that exchange with Mr. Desilva, I would publicly - I mean very publicly, print and broadcast ads - pose the question to the PLP of:

"Can the PLP tell us, so all Bermudians can mark their calendars, when it will no longer be the UBP's fault? Is it 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, 400 years? Always?"

Because if the UBP managing the public purse is the cause of the PLP mismanaging the public purse, there really is no end to The Narrative, and no beginning of the PLP Government owning their actions and decisions.

Perhaps The Narrative should be renamed "The NeverEnding Story".

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The 2010 Throne Speech is available here.

A quick first impression:

The crutch of blaming Bermuda's financial mess on the global recession was not a good start. This is not the driver of our current economic woes. Mismanagement, over-spending, potential corruption and the resulting debt escalation are. It is intellectually dishonest - but politically expected - to continue to frame the fragility of public sector finances in that manner.

Debt escalation, a squandering of revenue surpluses through the early to mid 2000s, and a disregard for balanced budgets since Paula Cox took over Finance preceded the global recession.

However....I thought the tone was much better than the past and the speech was thankfully devoid of the new Premier's trademark verbosity, reliance on cliches and redundancy.

There's still a lot to be fleshed out, but the extension of the 2016 tax exemption to 2035 is a big positive, as is the commitment to 'overhaul immigration laws'. That can mean anything, but I agree that "the uncertainty, subjectivity and ambiguity created by the law in this area must be addressed."

Now we know why a lawyer was put in charge of Immigration. Bermuda's immigration laws are intricately tied to our economic and social progress, and can either limit or drive our growth. It needs to be modernized to reflect the globalized nature of Bermuda, our Bermuda-based multi-national corporations and the world economy.

We'll see what that holds. It is politically contentious, particularly because of the PLP's use of immigration as a political weapon. This could of course go horribly off track, but I thought the overall tone and direction of the Speech was positive.

The strengthening of the Auditor and Ombudsman is welcome, civil service reforms are needed and a public tendering and contracting process with integrity must be re-instituted.

It's all about execution now, and the PLP have not followed through well on their promises of the past 12 years.

The test will be whether they live up to statements about fiscal responsibility and cost cutting for example, and whether the new Premier will be able to lead from the front versus her 'cog in the wheel' self-characterisation.

How much of that was due to the toxic approach and circus side shows of the prior Premier is, I suppose, one of the things we'll learn over the coming months. But there is no room for mistakes here.

As my previous post said:

...replacing bad policies with good ones leads to dramatic and rapid improvement, with the shift to financial soundness restoring confidence and actually boosting long-term growth...

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Well, there you have it, Brown is gone, and the overwhelming majority of Bermudians who disapproved of his tenure will now collectively exhale.

Paula Cox as expected cruised to the Premiership.

I wish her well, and time will tell if now that she has been selected as party leader will she begin to walk back on items that are damaging to Bermuda but she had to show allegiance to publicly pre-selection, such as her billion in debt and public commitment to term limits for example. Can she bring her party back from its radicalism in both politics and policy under Brown.

The first step surely must be changing the tone and tenor from anger and antagonism to inclusion and collaboration.

Cabinet and Senate selections will of course be interesting. As will the fate of the political taxpayer funded entourage and 'advisors'.

Update: The choice of Derrick Burgess as Deputy Premier, while largely a meaningless designation, does affirm that the PLP membership has not grown with today's changing Bermuda. That choice has indicated through this combination that it sees no need for modernisation or introspection and has reaffirmed the mistakes of the past few years that are making Bermuda less attractive and competitive.

For Terry Lister, and to a lesser extent Dale Butler (due to his almost non-existent campaign and seeming indifference), to be rejected outright when they were the sole voices of moderation and centrism is a bad sign.

Time for the Opposition(s) to get their s#!t together. The PLP are sitting still while Bermuda has changed.

The UBP and BDA have the better ideas and are firmly grounded in pragmatic realism, but lack viability. Bermuda can't afford to be governed by dogma and antiquated ideas.

The Swiss and other jurisdictions chomping at the bit to take our industry are surely loving this.

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Apologies for the lack of posts lately.

However I'll take the easy route for today and suggest that if you haven't read the first two installments of John Barritt's ongoing 4 part series on how we can move forward politically you should.

John proposes solid and progressive ideas which can have a real impact on how we conduct our politics and how to drive performance and results from our elected representatives.

Part 1 - Time for fundamental change

Part 2 - Cornerstone to a new culture

I presume parts 3 and 4 will be published Friday and Wednesday and I'm looking forward to them.

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Well the protest achieved exactly what it was always most likely to achieve: the complete opposite outcome the organisers and protesters hoped for. The downside risk to these is always greater than the upside potential.

May I suggest a moratorium on Parliamentary marches against the PLP; they are counter-productive.

If the intent is to publicly vent or feel like you're doing something, then keep marching. If you actually want to be strategic and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome, then accept that the PLP thrive on rancor and extreme partisanship and don't help them out.

The ill-advised antics of one or perhaps two protesters was as predictable as the PLP's disingenuous exaggeration and misrepresentation of what occurred - identical to the Uighur protest.

Zane DeSilva's claim of racism after he was jeered is amusingly bizarre - a smallish group of predominantly elderly white demonstrators demonstrating against a white MP is a new brand of white on white racism one can only conclude. (The PLP's race strategists may want to look up Jump the Shark - or in this case the Jumping the Great White Shark).

Apart from that, the moment the Corporation scheduled a protest is the moment they lost control of the message. All it takes is one person to act stupidly, as the guy who blocked Zane DeSilva's car did (although no-one surrounded it and 'banged on it' - check the video, there was a light tap as one does to signal a driver to pull away - ask garbage collectors), all it takes is one dumb placard and the PLP spin-doctors will get to work mis-characterising things as widespread uncontrolled "anger, rage and racism".

People do dumb things when in crowds. It's a widely researched phenomenon known as collective effervescence.

This stuff is so predictable you can script it. In fact, I pretty much did script it:

...successfully able to pivot and portray the protest as some angry white mob (which it was not). He even dragged his wife out as a prop in front of the crowd, hoping to create a scene.

Note that Zane DeSilva also dragged his wife and son out and immediately condemned the protest as racist. The goal is to create a self-perpetuating theme that all anti-PLP protests are racist.

Marches like this are a key component that the PLP need to get their backbenchers etc. back in line. People should stop helping them.

There is no greater sin for the PLP than one of their MPs publicly siding with a group of predominantly white Bermudians. As soon as they can boil an issue down to "privilege", or today's catchphrase of "unearned privilege", then the PLP MPs fall back in line.

One MP describes this dynamic, particularly during elections, as the 'racial afterburners' - the last two weeks of an election campaign where buttons are pushed, tensions are raised, loyalties are tested and undecideds break disproportionately against the UBP.

Yes, a double standard exists when it comes to protesting in Bermuda. Yes, the PLP can march, rally and attack their opponents with racially loaded offensive language ("House Negroes", "Confused Negroes", "Uncle Toms", intimidate employees and employers etc.) without much condemnation. A different set of rules apply to others, and I for one would rather conduct myself by those rules.

People need to just accept it. For now. This dynamic is an outcome of history. I understand it. I don't see it as a problem. It's just the way it is. So, no more marches and Cabinet lawn protests please.

The irony of course is that the PLP continue to describe Bermuda's social, economic and political environment as one where whites continue to hold the power.

If that were the case these protests wouldn't be happening. These protests only occur because the only power these same - mostly elderly and mostly white - Bermudians hold is that of speaking out. And it has the completely opposite effect than intended, so it isn't even powerful.

The thought process seems to be that we have to do something, so let's protest. Because that's just what you do (and what the PLP did so well historically).

But it's not transferable. This has to be a battle of ideas, not emotions and not partisan loyalties. The path to a more issue driven, rational political environment is to lower the volume, lower the rancor, eliminate the environment where all sides get taken over by their reptilian brains and fall back into historical tribal camps.

People can complain that this is unjust (race - or more accurately history - has a factor in how your protest is perceived or portrayed), or you can accept the reality and take a different approach.

As I wrote prior to the protest, groups of mostly white protesters will box in fence-sitting PLP MPs, however right they are or think they are on the point.

Black Bermudians are still not comfortable coming out in large numbers to march against the PLP, however much they may agree with an issue, and certainly not when led by organisations historically linked/identified as white (Corp. of Ham, UBP). The same dynamic can be seen with black Bermudian driven protests and light white turnout. This cuts both ways. Much of it is about history, and class defining different priorities, but it's there for us all to see.

We've seen a few examples with the Bermuda Union of Teachers, and Friday with the BPSU who notably came out publicly for more dialogue - I suspect because they've had first hand experience with the PLP Government's sincerity around issues such as this.

The Corporation touts the 80% disapproval of the takeover in their poll. However getting a racial cross section of 80% of the population in a poll to agree with you in relative anonymity, and who comes out to visibly demonstrate are not at all connected.

White Bermudians don't lose anything by protesting against the PLP because they are continually vilified and demagogued. The PLP reminds white Bermudians regularly that they don't need their support, although they keep trying to guilt trip people into offering it rather than genuinely asking for it.

What the PLP fail to acknowledge in their complaints about their lack of white support is that by demonizing whites continually they are pushing away white voters.

You can't ask for someone's vote by saying in effect 'You white devils owe us your vote'.

It's insincere. And offensive. The ensuing complaints about lack of white support ring hollow. The tactic is designed to drive whites and blacks into separate camps, not broaden the PLP's white support. Courting demographics in politics are a long established fact of life. Race, age, gender, class, income. I doubt they'll go away.

So please, no more protests. Lower the emotion. Be strategic. Be tactical. Stay focused on the ideas. Debate the merits. Don't take the bait. Play the long game.

Change takes time. Today's status quo is as entrenched now as it was in the 70s and 80s.

I remain convinced that Bermuda's future is worth fighting for. The right way.

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Yesterday's non-sitting of the Senate per the PLP's David Burch due to a lack of important business demonstrates the fundamental stupidity of the PLP's attack anything blog.

You see, last Friday the PLP took some characteristic cheap shots and attacked the UBP and BDA for requesting the customary two weeks to consider the ultimately flawed gun crime legislation:

Instead of moving forward now with tough new laws to crack down on gun crime, Bermuda's two opposition parties want to delay and dither. We disagree. The people are demanding immediate and swift action to build a safer Bermuda, and, we're responding.

Soooo, with the PLP saying that the Senate didn't need to sit yesterday they must therefore, by their own criteria be "out of touch', 'delaying and dithering' and practicing 'business as usual' while the 'people are demanding immediate and swift action to build a safer Bermuda', and, they're not responding.

When you only live for cheap headlines in the here and now, and trying to win every moment of a news cycle that doesn't really exist in Bermuda, you end up looking like jackasses.

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If you're a masochist you've been listening to or following the budget debate.

I'm one of those. The outgoing Premier kicked it off in style:

Premier Ewart Brown yesterday launched a vociferous defence of his Government's financial record -- saying it had no choice other than to spend money for the good of the people.

Dr. Brown said the United Bermuda Party Government had left the Island in such a state 12 years ago, cash had to be directed toward fixing social problems such as absentee parents, crumbling infrastructure, ailing Government buildings, antiquated transport system and an out-of-date tourism model.

You see, fixing the low debt budget surplus expanding economy that the PLP inherited involved aggressively funding social programs, for example building a $70M school for $120M and a $35M cruise ship pier for $60M.

That's $75 million that could have been spent on actual social programs, or counter-cyclical spending, not stimulating the pockets of a couple of cronies and calling it social policy.

It takes some real effort and creativity to be this disingenuous with a straight face.

This is George Bushism, create your own reality Republicanism at it's best.

Judging by the PLP's back to form delusional statement on it's website as Vexed points out, the noise machine is back to form.

There's a few criticisms that you can level at Bob Richards as a politician, but being 'long on rhetoric short on substance' when it comes to budget replies isn't one of them. The core criticism of course is that he's too academic, too substantive and not communicating at a layman's level.

Again, classic Republicanism, the kind the Democrats always struggle to respond to in the same way the UBP always struggles to respond to complete and utter fiction.

You take the case being made against you, in this case that the Finance Minister's Budget is long on rhetoric and short on substance, and pin it on your opponent with the volume set at max.

The same way that the Republicans complained about media bias while getting very favourable almost cheerleading coverage heading into a war based on false pretenses, the PLP whines about media bias while their Cabinet Minister's radio station appointed Senator DJ plies their propaganda during the daily morning drive.

So the outgoing Premier can toss his Combined Opposition sloganeering around ad nauseum as has been the case the past few weeks, while his combined government media outlet can wax poetic about 'tilting at windmills' and the politics of fear (gasp - this from the architects of the PLP's election campaign of fear in 2007), but any rational observer who peruses the PLP's website wonders if the PLP actually believes their hype or thinks that the public is absolutely, completely incapable of separating pure unadulterated BS from fact.

Those are your two choices.

Bermuda is facing a serious economic contraction exacerbated by a decade of overspending which outpaced even a rapidly expanding economy and the Government's response is to deny any semblance of reality.

This is really, really worrying. We haven't even seen the slightest acknowledgment that things could have been done differently.

Things are most likely going to get worse before they get better. The party that has missed every revenue and spending projection wants you to believe that the guy who called the overheated economy and imminent recession doesn't know what he's talking about.

If you want to see which way the winds are blowing, have a read of Dale Butler, a PLP MP who sits in the marginal of all marginals and knows that he can't mindlessly spout party line BS, a guy who gets elected based on an image of bucking the party line and acknowledging reality.

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With a very important budget looming I've been thinking about what the individual parties can get out of it.

For the PLP, I don't expect much because they continue to deny reality and pretend that the economic woes and tourism are in a mess because of the global recession, rather than their squandering of opportunity and huge tax windfalls of the past decade. Politically they can't concede that just about everything the UBP forewarned has come to pass.

I hear that Paula Cox has been preparing people for a 'tough but fair' budget, but this is really a tale of what could have been.

On a personal level Paula Cox has been getting hammered, and rightly so, over the past few months in particular. if she aspires to the leadership of the country she'll be looking to regain some of the credibility that she has lost (although she remains somewhat of a Teflon politician).

In the UBP's case I think the challenge is summed up quite simply, but is harder to execute. The UBP need to not just be right, but be persuasive. All 3 of the UBP's Shadow Finance Ministers from Grant to Pat to Bob have been on the money year after year. But they're not persuading. Bob Richards has been devastatingly accurate in his predictions, but he's a tad academic.

Bob needs to tell a story, not teach. I've loved his replies, but they're overly academic. And he doesn't have to convince me or those like me. We get it.

The story to tell is what could have been, but also what can be.

The BDA need to accomplish a couple of things.

Firstly they need to articulate their economic vision and continue to build momentum on the heels of their well attended conference. In Parliament they don't have the kind of economic expertise the UBP do in Grant, Bob and Pat.

Which leads to my second point. I was surprised that the BDA did not prepare a more formal and distributable Throne Speech reply as the the official Opposition does. That was a missed opportunity to deliver a prepared speech and show some professionalism with a printed document, although Shawn Crockwell did deliver a good presentation.

If I were in the BDA I'd make sure they prepared their own Budget Reply document and deliver a formal reply. There's a lot of low hanging fruit in the way the PLP have mismanaged the economy and denied their role in putting Bermuda on the back foot, rather than responding from a position of economic strength.

It's critical that they step up now in Parliament and maximize every opportunity, particularly these big Parliamentary events. I thought they missed a great opportunity with the Throne Speech.

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