If it ends up being a race between old party and new party, youthfulness must prevail. *Creative commons image by Adam Baker
If it ends up being a race between old party and new party, youthfulness must prevail. *Creative commons image by Adam Baker

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2: Next weekend’s leadership contest for the One Bermuda Alliance runs a real risk of casting the island’s newest party as yesterday’s tired old man.

The party cannot afford to let this happen.

No matter who it selects as its leader, the OBA must move forward with a clear and convincing message that it is a genuinely new party, with genuinely new ideas and with genuinely new people holding positions of real power.

It cannot emerge from its leadership contest as a slightly-modified version of the old UBP, walking and talking the way the UBP once did.

To be sure, it needs to attract and promote experienced people. It needs to challenge the ruling Progressive Labour Party’s every misstep. It needs to be vigorous in its opposition.

And yet every moment along the way it has to be promoting and presenting itself as something new — a new party, a new idea, a new way of conducting politics in Bermuda.

Much has been made of the UBPs failure to rejuvenate itself. That was the thing that spurred the departure of so many UBP members in recent years, and was the immediate catalyst for that party’s collapse.

We must never forget the PLP suffers from the same ageing issues which, because it forms the Government, have a huge impact on the country.

The PLP often appears hidebound, fighting ancient battles while failing to wage new ones, refusing to grasp the significance of the changing world around it and failing to change its own course and attitudes to match.

Politically, the PLP is bound to try very hard to portray the UBP, the OBA, or whoever their opponents happen to be, as even more backwards than themselves.

The OBA, like it’s BDA predecessor, is right in perceiving a big hunk of Bermuda’s political quagmire as being the result of structural problems.

Our political system as it now stands does not attract the best people, retain the best people, or make the best use of the talent that it does have.

It is deliberately adversarial in a small community that is already overburdened with divisions. It exacerbates racial divisions, rather than work to overcome them. This, of course, is just a brief summary of the kinds of political problems that Bermudians want their political parties to address — and need their political parties to address if the island if our future governments are going to be better at solving our island’s problems.

A new way going forward is also essential if any future government going to have the authority and credibility needed to honestly assess the island’s problems, and make the difficult decisions needed to tackle them.

Since the dawn of party politics in Bermuda, each government has been the direct descendant of the previous one.

Each was elected defending the infallible righteousness of the previous one. Each was elected by defending the infallible righteousness of whatever decisions its predecessors made, and by attacking the incredible wrong-headedness of the actions and suggestions of its opponents.

We have had election campaigning by cheap shots, marked by attacks on opponents that cannot possibly be substantiated, and promises for the future that cannot possibly be kept.

This has squeezed out debate over things that reallyk matter, like policies and programmes, let alone anything approaching a vision for the future.

Or maybe, sometimes, the deliberate acrimony has covered up the fact that there was, in fact, not very much else to offer.

Radical change

What people need and what they want are often two entirely separate and conflicting things.

But in this case they are one and the same. What voters have been asking for is exactly what they need, which is a radical change in our Bermuda’s political culture.

It doesn’t absolutely have to come from a new party, let alone from entirely new faces in an entirely new party.

But if the new party cannot honestly find its way forward with anybody else but a former UBPer as its leader, it will have to go to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate that it really is, in fact, offering something better and new.

It will have to surround its leader with genuine, prominent, hard-working and dynamic non-UBPers holding positions of real power and influence.

It will have to convince voters that these newcomers are on the way up, and not just window-dressing.

The OBA cannot sustain itself without the input of the old UBP numbers and experience and manpower. The demise of the embryonic Bermuda Democratic Alliance is evidence of that.

Yet the OBA cannot be sustained as something new and better if former UBP hands are perceived to be the driving force.

As the OBA positions itself for the rough election road ahead, it needs to make sure it is more than just a critic and more than just an “alternative government”

It must at all costs offer something genuinely new — an alternative WAY of government.