How strong is a strong majority? We’ve been seeing a lot of opinion polls lately about Bermuda politics. To sum them up: the PLP’s on top of the world, its leader outstrips her rivals, and the UBP and BDA are dividing their strength as they fight over the scraps.

The key thing that your average political polls don’t really measure, though, is the depth of loyalty.

Do Bermudians really love the PLP and its Premier so gushingly? Or are they simply saying that, right now, they don’t see a better choice?

For a few years now, I think, the loyalty has been shallow.

Indeed, in the last two elections, I’m sure the level of dissatisfaction expressed by PLP supporters tricked the UBP into thinking they would do better than the really did.

But the UBP found out, when the polls closed, that people who didn’t love the PLP loved the UBP even less.

That, more than anything else, is the genesis of the splits, defections and divisions that hit the UBP.

Demands for “change” within the UBP weren’t really a matter of principle or philosophy but a simple pragmatic problem: The old formula wasn’t working. Even when the PLP was messing up and losing friends, the UBP remained off limits.

But change was almost impossible to implement, because it was hard to identify what needed changing. The policies and programmes were not the problem – certainly no more so than the PLP’s own policies and programmes.

It was simply who they were.

The stigma of being an old, defeated party with disproportionate white backing made it impossible to become a new, winning party with majority black support.

It’s quite remarkable to me the number of times I hear black Bermudians admit they kind of agree with much or most of what the UBP stands for. It’s their kind of party… if only it weren’t the UBP.

It was a Catch 22 kind of thing. They tried, quite hard, and the PLP Government gave them as many opportunities as any opposition party could hope for.

But it didn’t produce what they needed.

The creation of the new Bermuda Democratic Alliance was an attempt to outflank this impenetrable roadblock. They tried to overcome the UBP stigma by starting something different, with different initials.

But because there was no fundamental difference with the UBP — other than the fact that it was the BDA — they really couldn’t go off on some substantially different policies or philosophies.

So the BDA ended up sounding kind of like the UBP.

And whatever modest support they have attracted, either in opinion polls or the single by-election that has been held since their creation, has been at the expense of the UBP.

And where does that take them, the UBP, the PLP, or Bermuda as a whole?

Nowhere new.

The BDA and the UBP are finally talking seriously about merging in some form or another.

The huge risk, of course, is that whatever comes from these talks is seen as yet another version of the same old UBP.

If there is even the remotest chance of success, the new organization will have to completely abandon the UBP name, and abandon as many of the old UBP faces as it can possibly afford to let go.

It must be prepared to end its dependence on its old white infrastructure — the branch workers and donors — upon which the old UBP depended even as its elected members came to reflect our mostly-black electorate.

And it will have to be prepared to do something that too many people in all of Bermuda’s political parties in recent years have not been doing well — which is to work extraordinarily hard.

They will have to campaign hard, knock on doors, listen to people, raise money, study and develop new ideas, develop detailed policies, speak with potential voters, organize constituencies and build a new infrastructure.

This is the hard slog which is at the foundation of successful politics.

The opposition parties are small, fractured and uncertain of their way forward. The latest polls confirm that the PLP and its leaders are far ahead of their rivals.

But how strong is their strong majority?

A difficult budget is just a few days away. Our new Premier’s “honeymoon period” is likely to end abruptly.

Voters aren’t happy with the choices they have had so far.

They are looking for something different than the choices they have been offered so far.

If a combined BDA and UBP are to have the remotest chance of taking advantage of this, they cannot be sentimental about past achievements and cling to old names and old leaders, or nervous about trying to be dramatically new.

It is their only possible chance of success.