Burchall: Change And More Change

May 12, 2011

[Written by Larry Burchall]

“Death is rarely a pretty or happy event. Sometimes, though, death is theatrical. I recall watching old-time cowboys die on the silver screen. They’d get hit. Stagger three steps to the left. A half step to the right. Knees would buckle and their upper body would subside in a slow dramatic fall. Then, with a dying breath they’d hoarsely gasp something like: “So long…pard’ner.” It’s like that with this slow and public death of a political party.

I first wrote that three years ago in February 2008. Tuesday’s UBP injunction was the last dying twitch of a dying cowboy.

When the dissident group of seven fresh ex-UBP’ers and three BDA’ers join and form the new Opposition, they will also form a new party and the UBP will have finally expired. If, as well they may, Kim.Swan and Charlie Swan sit on in the House of Assembly, they will perch like two old unburied fossilized reminders of a past that is now well passed.

With that, let’s look forward.

When the ten people go to the Governor to seek his Constitutional blessing, they will be taking Bermuda and Bermudians one step further forward in Bermuda’s national political maturing. The action at Government House will see Kim.Swan unceremoniously dumped as Leader of the Opposition, and a new Opposition Leader appointed. That action displays the raw and naked power lying within the often unread sections of Bermuda’s Constitutional Order, 1968.

The group of ten Parliamentarians will be taking an action never before taken. They will demonstrate that under Bermuda’s Constitutional Order, real power can be lawfully passed on despite what the electorate may think and feel. The last time that this kind of raw power was exercised (almost) was in July 2003.

In 2003, the just elected PLP Parliamentary group sought to change Premiers by replacing then PLP Premier Dame Jennifer Smith with Dr Ewart Brown as the new Premier. In July 2003, the display of raw power that Bermuda will see when Kim,Swan is tossed aside was dealt with by the PLP, who created a five day delay by reverting to their PLP constitutional process.

This delay meant that the political coup that did finally occur, took place over five days, not just in one day. Instead of Premier Smith being replaced within 24 hours, as Bermuda’s Constitution allowed, the PLP Parliamentary group had to use the PLP Special Delegates Conference route in order to change Premiers. And, as it turned out, Dr Brown lost his bid and Alex Scott won the Premiership.

When the Governor accepts – and accept he must – that this Parliamentary group has elected a new leader – Leader of the Opposition – the Governor will simply be following the strictures of Bermuda’s Constitution. With that, Bermuda’s political life will go on.

The House that assembles on Friday 13th (not an auspicious day) will likely be made up of 23 PLP, 10 OBA, 2 UBP, and 1 Independent. Parliamentary life won’t miss a beat. If there are to be changes in the Senate, the new Opposition Leader will advise the Governor of his (or her) choices and the Governor will accordingly revoke and freshly appoint or re-appoint and follow the procedures laid down in the Constitution.

From that first change in 1998, to the attempted change in 2003, through to the death of a major party, and on to this in-House change in 2011, Bermuda has been slowly maturing.

In the grand historical scheme, the next step in the process of Bermuda’s political maturing is to again change governing parties. Chuck out the PLP and replace them with a new party. This fifth action is unlikely to occur in the next election. However, the action is part of the normal process of political maturing and, without exception, has occurred in every democratic country.

Though pundits will pronounce and reporters will feverishly report; the big picture is that the death of the UBP and this Government House action are simply two more baby steps forward in the process of Bermuda’s national political growth.

I hope Bermuda keeps moving on and continues maturing.

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