FRIDAY, MAY 20: One of Bermuda’s most legendary political figures, Mr. Hubie Pea, was struggling for his life this week, at the end of a long career full of accomplishment and controversy.

Hubie Pea had been ailing for several years, with every apparent rally followed by a setback. Doctors and all sorts of consultants had been called into diagnose his problems and recommend treatments, but rarely agreed.

At any rate, Hubie never responded to any of the medicines they tried.

Last week his family and doctors agreed to withdraw life support, and expected Hubie Pea to pass away promptly and peacefully within days.

However, other family members unexpectedly turned to the courts insisting that there was life left in the old corpse yet, and obtained a temporary injunction that would have kept Mr Pea alive. But even that last gasp effort was to no avail.

Hubie Pea emerged on the political scene in the mid-1960s with the backing much of the white Bermuda.

Hubie himself was an heir of the old establishment but realized its days were numbered.

He tried to build a coalition of black and white Bermudians.

But the seeds of his demise were planted even then.

The people Hubie attracted were disproportionately white. His black supporters often felt they didn’t quite fit in, no matter how much they supported the work and programmes Hubie Pea’s government were carrying out.

And of course they were slammed by their political opponents for selling out to the white powers of yesteryear.

So Hubie and his supporters got caught in a hopeless spiral.

He couldn’t relate to “the people”, so therefore couldn’t attract “the people” he needed. So he still couldn’t relate to “the people”.

It was a self-fulfilling prophesy, if you will. It was deadly circle — or one that was almost deadly.

How could Hubie Pea break it?

He tried to put black people front and centre, increase the percentage of black candidates, and focus increasingly on “black issues”.

This helped some. But then he got caught in another circular kind of trap, which his opponents mercilessly exploited: This was mere tokenism, they declared. This is the core of what’s wrong with Hubie Pea. His black supporters were puppets dangling on his string.

That’s the kind of thing that killed him.

Of course, Mr Pea tried to break free from this hopeless trap.  He depended on the failings of his opponents themselves. If enough black voters didn’t trust the PLP, it could counterbalance the number of black voters who didn’t trust Hubie Pea to understand and represent their interest.

For a long time – through the 1960s, 70s and 80s – this was an effective technique for Hubie Pea. PLP incompetence, in-fighting and lack of experience helped compensate for the PLP stigma cast upon Hubie Pea.

Plus there was a portion of black Bermuda – a residual, shrinking and aging piece of the population, to be sure – who were comfortable deferring decisions to the “powers that be” who Mr Hubie Pea more-or-less represented.

Compared to the PLP in its beleaguered opposition, Hubie Pea often looked pragmatic and competent.

He and his associates were men and women of business, with a lot of professional people like doctors and lawyers thrown into the mix.

They were well-educated, well-spoken and well-organized for the most part – the kind of people who actually get things done without too much chaos and financial disaster.

The economy grew and people became richer and better-educated. Despite the problems and outrages, there always seemed to be that one golden nugget that lures voters: The hope that things will get better.

Hubie Pea didn’t have his head buried in the sand. He knew that his opponents were getting better organized, better educated, and moving towards a more attractive central position. He was aware that fewer and fewer black voters would automatically support the “powers that be”.

He tried harder and harder to promote black candidates, to make his organization more representative and responsive.

The effort was sincere.

But it did not run deep enough. It was not backed up behind the scenes: The rank and file who supported him, the party workers, the branches, remained heavily white and so did the people who voted for the party.

A connection with Hubie Pea for all the efforts the party made, represented a connection with the white establishment.

After the PLP victory in 1998, a solution to Bermuda’s political stalemate could have come easier if Hubie Pea had been destroyed at the polls.

He could have just quite politics and, sooner or later, somebody completely new would have risen to take his place.

But how do you walk away from 48 per cent of the vote? How do you abandon all your elected MPs and thousands of supporters?

The new Bermuda Democratic Alliance proved you couldn’t just break away and start a new movement and win a by-election. It split the vote in too many directions.

Now comes OBA – the One Bermuda Alliance –- trying to combine the BDA with what is left of Hubie Pea’s supporters.

They are trying to start a new party, while keeping what support existed for the old.

It’s an imperfect solution, for the simple reason that it is not a brand new start.

But it is a far newer start than we’ve seen before – a chance to pull the plug on old Hubie Pea, while preserving the good things he stood for and strove for, while trying to politely forget his failings.

Hubie Pea has walked a long journey, and accomplished much. Bermuda benefited hugely from his life. 

But rebirth is needed in Bermuda politics – not just the individual MPs and candidates, but the whole support structure and institutions themselves.

There are too many stereotypes, too many resentments, too many memories and too much baggage for one old man like Hubie Pea to carry. Pull the plug and let him go in peace.