The BDA and UBP must unite says Nicholas Swan, the UBP's deputy chairman. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
The BDA and UBP must unite says Nicholas Swan, the UBP's deputy chairman. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

Bermuda’s two opposition parties are facing a long spell in the political wilderness unless they unite, says the United Bermuda Party’s deputy chairman Nicholas Swan.

He believes the current three-party dynamic could hand the PLP as many as 30 seats at the next general election.

He said the Bermuda

Democratic Alliance is facing disaster at the polls, with the UBP likely to be seriously marginalized if the voting patterns of Wednesday’s by-election are reflected across the country.

 “We would be looking at a scenario where the BDA would be annihilated and the UBP would be left with a rump of five or six MPs,” he said.

He urged both parties to stop rolling out candidates and talk about reconciliation.

 “My personal view is that it is incumbent on both parties to sit around the table and to get over our differences.

“For centre-right politics in Bermuda right now, that is the only real issue.

“There is very little that separates us ideologically. We differ on tactics not policy.”

Mr. Swan, son of former Premier Sir John Swan, said there had been some conversations between the two parties but so far it had been “frustrated dialogue”.

He said the by-election result, with the opposition vote split down the middle, should serve as a wake-up call to ignite talks.

“They (the BDA) have split the vote. They have got no real traction with PLP voters and they have diluted the traditional UBP support.

“Given that result I would encourage us both to stop the roll out of new candidates until there has been a broad discussion by the two groups coming towards some type of accommodation.”

He accepted the UBP would have to make concessions to the breakaway party for a reunion to be possible: “It couldn’t be business as usual they are too far down the line for that. I don’t think it could be a case of them coming back but more of a unification of the two groups.”

He acknowledged that BDA candidate Sylvan Richards had picked up almost as many votes as the UBP’s Devrae Noel-Simmons — giving them some credibility in any unification talks.

Like most by-elections the turn out was low. The PLP’s Marc Bean won with 310 votes (67.68 percent) with Mr Noel-Simmons taking 78 votes (17.03%) and Mr. Richards 70 votes.

At the 2007 General Election, Dr. Ewart Brown took this Warwick South Central seat with 562 votes (69 per cent).

Mr. Swan added: “I think people view the BDA as the young UBP. If you look at the result of this by-election we’ve collectively picked up one percentage point.”

Mr. Swan said neither party could afford for the pattern to be repeated in key marginal seats.

Even ‘safe’ seats that UBP candidates won by up to 100 votes would be under threat — if the opposition vote splits 50-50 as it did on Wednesday.

“There has to be some kind of reconciliation, otherwise we consign ourselves to the wilderness for the next two or three election cycles.

“We have to clean up our internal divisions.”

Mr. Swan took on the role of the party’s deputy chairman last week.

He accepted that the party needed to modernize but he said it had to be united to take advantage of dissatisfaction with the PLP.

The City of Hamilton councillor insisted the UBP did not need to run from its history. He said it was the black middle class that kept the party in power until 1998 and ‘bringing them home’ was the key to getting re-elected.

He said the middle classes had most to lose amid Bermuda’s economic struggles and would be attracted to a solid and united UBP because of its track record on the economy.

“The UBP set up the prosperity that the PLP inherited. At the next election you will see a backlash against Government’s imprudence but unfortunately with the current state of affairs in the opposition parties that is going to be diluted if not nullified completely.”