FRIDAY, APR. 29: The new political party born out of the merger of the UBP and BDA will need more than a name change to convince the electorate, political pollster Walton Brown predicted yesterday.

The UBP and the BDA — formed out of a three-strong splinter group from the UBP — have reunited and are expected to change their names to the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) very soon.

But pollster and social commentator Walton Brown said: “What we’ve seen is a number of members who left the UBP and formed a new party going back.

“They’ve gone back to the same group — the net effect is the UBP has simply changed its name.

“From what we’ve seen so far, the public will know there’s no substantial change in the overall thrust of the party — there is the possibility of something more dramatic, but we haven’t seen that yet.”

The two parties are set to merge before the new parliamentary session begins on May 13 and, according to radio and print reports this week, will come under the interim leadership of UBP Leader of the House John Barritt. He who was first tipped as leader in the Bermuda Sun back in February.

Mr Brown said: “I understand it was a necessary step to take because as separate entities, their electoral chances were going to be weakened.

“I have always maintained that the United Bermuda Party — which got 46 or 47 per cent of the vote at the last election in 2007 — represented a strong, viable alternative.

“The UBP’s challenge was more ideological than historic. At one time, the UBP was able to appeal to different segments and they had credibility — that explains their success.

“But they haven’t been able to mount a credible ideological challenge since the departure of Sir John Swan.”

Mr Brown added: “I don’t think the change will make much of a difference to the electorate based on what I’ve seen and read.”

But he said the fact that those who formed the BDA had rejected both the UBP and the PLP and had now reunited with the UBP meant they were more likely to suffer than either of the other parties.

He added: “Their core group is either not involved in this group or their credibility has been damaged by the new group.”

The UBP was founded in 1964 by 24 sitting MPs in response to the creation of the PLP.

It formed the government in 1968 under a new constitution and universal adult voting rights and ruled Bermuda until the PLP’s landmark election victory in 1998.

Neither Mr Barritt or the BDA’s Mark Pettingill could be reached for comment last night.

A spokesman for the PLP said: “A reunion with the same name, or a reunion with a different name, is still a reunion.  This is not surprising as some believe this was the plan all along.

“In 2003, the UBP branded itself as the ‘New UBP’.  Now they are branding themselves the OBA.  The voters of Bermuda were not fooled then, and will not be fooled now.

“It is unfortunate that those eager and enthusiastic members of the BDA have been caught up in this game.

“Many gave their blood, sweat, tears and hearts to the BDA over the past year or so.  Now, the BDA MPs have chosen to disregard these members, and return to that from which they fled. 

 A reunion 

“This is not a merger of two parties but rather a reunion.  The three BDA MPs have simply gone back home and changed the name of the house. 

“The Progressive Labour Party will continue to support our government in enacting policies and introducing initiatives to combat the challenges facing our community.”

The spokesman added that Premier Paula Cox had underlined crime and the economy as the main challenges facing the gove­rnment and had promised to make “every effort” to protect public sector jobs.

He said: “We are well aware of the challenges facing us and the reunion of the Opposition parties is not our predominant concern at this time.

“We have a platform to execute.  We will not be distracted from tackling these challenges.”