As it has been just over a year since the entrance of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance to the Bermuda political scene I think it fair to look over their work of the last year and see what they have accomplished.
One of the things they promised when they first arrived was to not be combative for the sake of being combative. I would say they have done this well. They’ve agreed with and applauded the PLP government when they felt they had done well and criticised them when they felt they had not done enough. When it comes to language and tone I believe the BDA have recognised that the Bermudian public have had enough of childish and petty political squabbling in the attempt to score points. Good on them because truth be told I don’t have much patience for such behaviour either.
In the year since the BDA presented itself to the Bermuda public my main issue with them then, is still my main critique of them now: They have no platform! To be fair, they have pieces of a platform but nowhere near enough. I find their piecemeal approach telling of a lack of ideas, an inability to bring new thought into the political realm and ultimately unworthy of leadership of this country because they have not produced a plan for the future of Bermuda under their leadership. What they have presented thus far, hits on topics most salient at present but ultimately it shows a lack of breadth and depth. It’s been a year I think it is fair to ask for more. I understand they want people to join them and bring their ideas with them to build their platform that it may be reflective of the needs of the people. This is noble and good in one sense however but the fact is it is far easier to criticise and tear down than to create new ideas and provide information to build something new. They would do better to present ideas and give people the opportunity to choose if they want the public to be involved. If the BDA want to lead Bermuda then they need to step up and be leaders. They could wait another year for people to bring them ideas or they could make an assessment of the island and put together a plan. While they wait the UBP continues to exist through their wider membership base and the PLP government continues to lead the country into the future. Another problem with not having a platform is that there is nothing to entice people to join the party. The BDA is not the UBP and they are not the PLP, okay fair enough. But who are you? What do you stand for? What is the better way?
The BDA has sought to separate itself from their UBP heritage but ultimately their attempts have not gone far enough in my opinion. They have done little to establish who they are as a political party outside of simple branding. Part of me is not that surprised though, the PLP is the only party with a clear identity. They are a labour party, their focus is to be those in the workforce. The UBP formed in response to the existence of the PLP and could be said to represent business interests as at the time the initial MP’s represented local Bermuda interests mainly but I it was never something expressly said or directly spelled out, more implicit in their actions and who and how their MP’s voted.
Ms. White’s report on empowering women notwithstanding, the focus of the BDA seems to be on the economic side of things with more reports and commentary on economic matters as well as criticisms of government spending. I’m not saying that government spending should not be addressed, however the almost constant focus on this topic and area does not do anything to make me believe they are much different from the UBP. The BDA has not gone far enough to state who they are as a party, instead they have identified their selves more in situation to the other existing parties. That is, “we use less divisive language than the PLP” and “we are more diverse and down to earth than the UBP”.
The BDA started with such passion and momentum, people were signing up rapidly and were generally very excited about this new party; however as time went on, to quote one of my friends here in London, “they lost the plot”. It’s not that hard to get persons who were not overly attached to either party to join but the BDA has not attempted to court persons who vote for the PLP. I say the PLP over the UBP because courting UBP voters would confirm that the BDA really was the new UBP and the PLP is the government, they need the numbers the PLP has.
While I am not a fan of the Westminster system, it is the system we have and we must make the best of it. Bermuda deserves a strong opposition party to keep the government on its toes and speak to the needs of members of the Bermudian public who appear to be overlooked. A good opposition can provide a critique and provoke the government to act without being antagonistic or using tragedy to score political points. At present the BDA gives the air of a weak opposition. I can’t even really say they’re an opposition; they weren’t actually voted in as MP’s for the BDA. They’re just there.
The presence of the BDA does pose an interesting political situation however for a future election. From the looks of it they split the UBP vote, pick up many swing voters and take many youth votes from the PLP. While the numbers may shift a bit, ultimately I think their presence solidifies the PLP position. Then again, I could be wrong. Only time will tell.