The moves made by the PLP of the past few weeks makes it undeniably clear that the PLP are trying to make themselves look a lot more like the OBA - and to a lesser extent whatever is left of the UBP - heading into an election.
A series of moves are confirmation of an implicit acknowledgment that public sentiment has shifted away from the PLP and towards the OBA:
- The appointment of former UBP leader Wayne Furbert to Cabinet, who immediately raised the Opposition(s) longstanding concept of a tourism authority
- The co-opting of Opposition policy positions in the Throne Speech, as well as the direct lifting (without attribution) of exact Opposition phrases like "less red tape, more red carpet" in the Throne Speech.
- The selection of pro-business candidates Vince Ingham and Stephen Todd, with Vince also in the Senate. It is important to note that both of these individuals had some older and some pretty recent ties to the Opposition.
- The adoption of Bermuda First recommendations in the Throne Speech
There's a few other more subtle moves, but the message is obvious: you don't have to vote us out to get some better managers and better economic policy.
I was a bit surprised at Vince's appointment. I know Vince reasonably well and worked with him a number of times years ago after the UBP's defeat on a couple of initiatives. None really went very far. I respect him, and it's a coup for the PLP.
But it seems to me to be another of those Jonathan Smith, Stephen Todd kind of moves; decisions that appear to be about not joining the PLP out of commonality of views and philosophies but as a direct way to try and change the PLP from inside.
That's not really an endorsement of the PLP as such. I understand the sentiment although I'm often susprised that people with records of integrity are willing to get tangled up in a party still actively self-dealing.
To an extent that's a luxury that the party in power has in being able to attract candidates because you can throw more at them (Government boards, more Senate seats to play with etc.).
As I understand it there's also a feeling among some who have gone to the PLP that the public are still not ready to make the next step in Bermuda's political evolution of voting out the PLP.
I'm not sure that's an accurate read, but it's a legitimate open question and is surely behind the thinking of some historically Opposition leaning figures who have lined up with the PLP in recent times.
Again, that's sort of the change from within sentiment.
It's also something that the OBA will have to get to grips with and address in voters' minds. The first step is rolling out some more candidates. Not enough have been announced, and that's a mistake as they need to get people in place and working their areas.
Regardless, there's some good news for the Opposition in here, which is an acknowledgement from the PLP that they need to look more like the OBA to get re-elected, both people and policy wise.
That isn't really moving from a position of strength, but it would be wrong to not recognize that this is shrewd politics by the PLP and the Todd / Ingham candidacies are positive for them and their prospects. This is what electoral politics is all about.
My advice to the OBA would be to draw the voters attention to this, both the adoption of their ideas and words, shift to a more OBA look policy and people-wise; take credit for their ideas that the PLP have tried to present as their own, and tell the public that by voting OBA you can get the genuine article rather than window dressing; a watered down knock off trying to cling to power.
The ongoing collapse of the cruise sector is a clear case of mis-management, a lack of vision, infrastructure planning and execution.
What Bermuda needs now is vision and a team of managers in place. That isn't the PLP. They are still reacting rather than leading, and the mismanagement is cascading throughout all sectors of the economy.
The one attribute that was a liability for the Opposition historically could be their biggest asset in 2012 - they are managers. It's not sexy, but it's what Bermuda needs right now to get the Cox debt and unemployment off Bermuda's back so that we can grow the economy and start fixing the past 13 years of poor policy and shallow politics.