Look to the south: A ‘new’ party in the Bahamas helped restore confidence in the business sector there. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Look to the south: A ‘new’ party in the Bahamas helped restore confidence in the business sector there. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

FRIDAY, MAY 27: With the right strategy, the new One Bermuda Alliance could win a general election, Sir David Gibbons said yesterday.

The fledgling party needs to find out what most Bermudians want and deliver on its promises. 

The former UBP Premier drew strong parallels with the Bahamas, where a party emerged from the ashed of another to win power. Sir David said the formation of the Free National Movement (FNM) in the 1970s, after the dissolution of the United -Bahamian Party, offered valuable pointers for the OBA.

He predicted that careful polling and advice from political consultants is the key to victory for the new player on our -political scene. He said: “If they go about it in the proper way, engage a first-class political consultant and really get into polling to identify specifically what the majority of Bermudians want, the OBA can win.”

Dissidents

In the Bahamas, the FNM was formed from dissidents from the then-ruling Progressive Liberal Party, former members of the United Bahamian Party and some members from the small National -Democratic Party.

Sir David, 83, said the Bahamian UBP — a 1950s model later copied by the founders of the United Bermuda Party — had been very successful but ultimately failed after -realizing that they were out of date and unlikely to win power again.

He added that the FNM  — the current government of the Bahamas — had attracted major new tourism investment and revitalised the ailing banking and international business sectors.

Sir David, who was Premier and Finance Minister between 1977 and 1982 and still holds the reins of the Gibbons business empire, said: “The UBP in Bermuda had significant representation from the black community, which was not the case with the Bahamas UBP.

New philosophy

“The end of the UBP in Bermuda was probably necessary in the same way it happened in the Bahamas that a new party with a new philosophy took over.

“The FNM has been in power for extended periods now and they’re doing very well — we have extensive business interests in the Bahamas and government ministers there like to get the views of outsiders, so I speak regularly with members of the government.

“They like to hear what other people think of what they’re doing. They are rebuilding international business — under the Progressive Liberal Party, they’d started cutting back on work permits.

“Around 600 companies left the Bahamas and went to Bermuda and the Caymans.

“But the FNM has attracted some incredible investment — a $2 billion Chinese commitment to build a hotel, for example.

“They have also worked very closely with local business people with a view to finding out how they could assist in supporting them and attracting investment for hotels and so on. Tourism is doing extremely well and banking is doing very well.

“… The party [OBA] needs to really get into polling to identify specifically what the majority of Bermudians want and expect and what their worries are about education, employment, the economy and so on.

“The whole St George’s golf course and the area down there, nothing is happening. On South Shore, nothing is happening and major stores like Trimingham’s and Smith’s have gone under – Front Street is just a disaster area.”

 Sir David said that the island’s UBP governments had brought in ten balanced budgets, paid off the national debt and introduced general medical insurance, as well as passing the legislation which allowed the boom in international business on the island.

He added: “The UBP did some very good things – the present government, in my view, has exhibited various forms of incompetence and Bermuda is suffering as a result.”