“There Must Be No Safe Seats In A Democracy”

November 17, 2012

[Opinion column written by Jonathan Starling]

Since announcing my candidacy as an Independent for Constituency 20 in the upcoming general election I have been asked by a number of constituents about why I decided to run there. They have noted that they feel it is a stronghold for the Opposition OBA.

Well, there are a number of reasons why I am running in Constituency 20. Apart from having a connection to the constituency, which I think is important for any candidate, and that I believe my skill set, including economics and urban planning, is particularly well-suited for this constituency, I also have a very strong belief that there should be no ‘safe seats’ in our democracy. Safe seats breed complacency.

They lead to parties taking the constituency and its constituents for granted. No candidate should ever take their constituency for granted, and no constituent should ever feel that they are being taken for granted. That isn’t good for the constituency, and it isn’t good for Bermuda.

It also leads to the other main party only fielding a candidate because they ‘have to’, with the candidate often just ‘going through the motions’ rather than being passionate and dedicated to the constituency.

No constituent should ever feel that their candidate is just filling space and not serious about representing them and their interests. That isn’t good for the constituency, and it isn’t good for Bermuda.

So, I want to send a message to Constituency 20 that I’m not running because I see the constituency as a safe-seat and easy ride into parliament, or simply because no other constituency was available and someone had to go through the motions of challenging for the seat.

I am running there because I genuinely believe I can serve this constituency and its constituents well and because I have the passion to represent them in parliament. I wouldn’t have put my name in the ring if I felt otherwise.

I want them to know that I do not take them for granted, and because I cannot take them for granted this means I will have to work harder in representing them and engaging with my constituents than a candidate who takes a safe seat for granted or is just going through the motions of challenging for it.

It deserves to be contested. It deserves to have an election rather than a coronation. In a democracy there must be no safe seats, no inherited seats from one election to another. Constituency 20 deserves better. Bermuda deserves better.

I have the experience, the skills and the passion to stand up for Constituency 20 and to be an independent voice for Bermuda. And I look forward to doing just that.

- Jonathan Starling will run as an Independent candidate in C#20 Pembroke South West in the upcoming General Election.

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Comments (36)

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  1. Terry says:

    You can serve this constitueny?
    Whats wrong with other constituency’s.
    Go away you Communist Starlinist Marxist.
    Your splitting votes.
    Why not run against Paula Cox.
    Your just anothe UE.
    All about yourself and feelings.

  2. Ships Ahoy says:

    I wish we had a country where people actually voted for the best candidate. Instead we have a country where most of us have become so fixated with “our” party that many of us would knowingly vote in someone that we do not have faith in , simply because we have been programmed to support our party even if it means it will have a negative effect on our us personally, our constituantcy and our Country as a whole. Lets start putting an X in the box next to the name of the individual that we believe has the best resume, experience, smarts, and a good work ethic.

    And guess what, voting is done behind a curtain so Nobody will know who you voted for. Shhhh , I won’t tell.

    • Vote For Me says:

      @Ships Ahoy I could not have said it better myself. That is why we are in this pitiful state. Some voters don’t even keep track of what their candidate has done or isn’t doing as long as they are running for THEIR party they will put the X next to their name. They will vote for a mass murderer if he is running for THEIR PARTY. Purely ignorant…

    • Who Done it says:

      I have to say in 1998 we did have something closer to that. we had 2 votes for each area. In a way one vote could go to your party and the other to a candiate you felt was worthy and many split their votes. this gave us a tigher race so the politicians had to be on their toes. PLP changed that knowing they could win with only one vote and run on emotion. It was far from perfect but better than what we have now

    • G H says:

      One has to be fixated on a party in our small parliamentary system. Geographically the country and our constituencies are so small and narrowly defined that a constituent’s key electoral issues are homogeneous macro issues that concern the governing of an island as a whole. Besides, any significant legislative vote before parliament typically carries a three line whip for both parties. Thus, members of parliament are reduced to warm blooded pawns. All meaningful policy is dictated solely by party leadership and cabinet members, forcing any logical voter to vote for a party as a whole. An individual candidate’s position, ideals or values become irrelevant.

  3. Vote For Me says:

    Democracy what democracy? Mr Starling your living in a fantasy world. In this island there are and will always be safe seats until some of the ignorant voters open theirs eyes and change the way they see things. IE: In the U.S. voting on skin color or because they like the person their like a celebrity.

  4. Ringmaster says:

    I agree there should be no safe seats. However nothing will change until the voting system itself is changed, and that it unlikely to happen.
    Why Jonathan is running in # 20 is a mystery. His platform is an alien one to most in # 20. At best he should remain as a PLP member and run as a PLP candidate. That he, and the likes of Phil Perinchief, don’t is a very clear indication that the PLP has deserted its original roots and has become what?. Who knows what it has become, except the words of Julian Hall sound apropos “the PLP have out UBPd the UBP”. It is worse than that in my opinion. The main palyers of the PLP have become a clique, a select elite looking after the same select few. Jobs and contracts for a few at overinflated pay rates, but throwing a few crumbs to their voter base while blaming everyone else but themselves.
    The party will come to an end, and when it does it won’t be pretty.

    • Terry says:

      The sooner the better.
      We had to deceive comes to mind.
      A day late and 1.5 billion dollars shy.
      The post mortem will be worse than what has happened so far.

  5. Boom bye bye says:

    The PLP need to go the way of the UBP

    • argosy says:

      “Austerity means deep and damaging cuts to programmes and benefits like FutureCare, DayCare, and EEZ Grants, In England Austerity has meant rising tuition for colleges, and reduced pensions and benefits for seniors. If as Craig Cannonier said, Austerity isn’t such a bad idea, the he needs to tell the people what he’s going to cut! If the opposition is serious about debt reduction they are going to have to tell the people what they are going to cut. If the opposition is serious about their budget busting and debt exploding $500 million dollar spending plans, then they need to tell the Bermudian people how they are going to pay for it”.

      A bit rich coming from the PLP. How can D. Burt keep a straight face saying things like this? And….he an’t even be bothered to proof-read it before release to check for typos. This is how they fly, which is why they crash repeatedly….losers, vote them out!

  6. Terry says:

    Mr. Starling needs to respond here instead of the racist Bermuda Is Another World- aka BIAW.
    Also his own site.
    I can’t help it if he is of mixed.
    Thats the rub.
    Hate Communists.
    And he is self proclaimed.

  7. pebblebeach says:

    Independent candidates are a waste of time. Even if he were to be elected by some major miracle (never happen) what in the world can he do to influence policy or represent the interest of his constituents…

    People who vote for an independent candidate are simply wasting their vote. Well it is their vote and their choice to waste I guess…

    • Real Deal says:

      I beg to differ. Go and check the Parliamentary records and see all the work that Kim Swan and Charlie Swan did on their own, just the 2 of them. Free from towing party lines is what Bermuda needs right now.

  8. Formidable Deviant says:

    Good for you for having a go, although I think your policies are a mixture of sensible and the downright bizarre. I just wish you were having a go in another constituency. You won’t win, so why not make a true statement rather than diluting slightly a winning OBA vote.

    • J Starling says:

      I would be happy to expand on any issues in my platform, especially the ones that you consider bizarre. Please feel free to email me at votestarling@gmail.com or note down the ones you have particular concerns about here and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.

      • formidable deviant says:

        Thank you. I will email you about some of the things I consider bizarre.

        Good for you for coming back like this though. I’m impressed. Can you imagine most incumbent MPs doing this? No, too lazy, too spoilt.

        • J Starling says:

          I am more than happy to engage in discussion – I’m not infallible, and while I honestly believe my ideas are good, I am open to being convinced otherwise (and to convincing others too!).

          I’m expanding on the positions as I go, as I realise that the short ‘bullet points’ can lead to confusion, but at the same time I didn’t want to overwhelm people with text.

          I hope to expand on the ones that people find the most bizarre or controversial first though, so as people question them, I’ll respond to these as quickly as I can!

  9. Liars says:


  10. Cornell Fubler says:

    Hi Johnathan,

    I just want to applaud your efforts. The fact that you are contesting a ‘safe seat’ is inspiring to say the least. If there is one message I take from your position, it is that more of us should stand on the stuff your principles are made of.

    Hopefully your constituents will see the reason why we are at this stage in our country’s history. We have simply voted our fears.

    I understand the fear of splitting the vote and how it is felt that it will lead to another PLP term. However, I hope your constituents see that a vote for you as an independent will start to bring an end to the results of fear voting – putting too many seats in the column of any one party. It only results in a divided country. Look at the last 40+ years!

    All the best to you on election day.

    • Out of flight says:

      All the best to him? What? Where is your party? We are waiting? Easy to throw rocks. Very very easy but to set things up and win????Ha hahahah. Hard work…..Well you will end up in the same position as the rest…..dead and bored . Can’t have your own way? And even if you were to ever win we would see the same thing we see from both parties.The grim realities of life…….there will always be some disciples who feel they can do it better until the Lord calls them to act and they chicken out.

      Chicken. Please field a candidate…Can’t wait to see the barbecue…..Hahahah. Barbecue chicken and you will lose your deposit.

  11. Out of flight says:

    When they can’t have their own way they leave. They don’t hang in and try and work with others.What a waste of time and talent.

  12. sandgrownan says:

    I’ve asked this of PLP candidates to the sound of crickets, so might as well ask you.

    Give me one thing that needs to change in the local economy and a tangible step that can be taken to achieve that goal.

    And, would you let me have my land license money back?

    • J Starling says:

      It depends on what, exactly, you mean when you say ‘change in the local economy’.

      I think we need to deal with issues of gender and racial equality, in as much as the inequalities that we do have breed discontent and a hostile atmosphere for IB, and that we also need to expand a number of areas to improve the general standard of living here too.

      To that effect I support a Workforce Equity Legislation focused on gender and racial equality, and a number of additional policies such as converting Pembroke Dump into a community park with community amenities and community centers in every parish, as well as related positions in education, environment, planning and crime.

      We cannot compete with some other jurisdictions on costs, but I think we can improve our general social and economic infrastructure (as well as bureaucracy) to make our island a more attractive one for IB workers (and by extension IB overall) while also continuing to invest in Bermudians to reduce the need for expatriates (we cannot ever be fully independent of that need, at least under the existing economic structure), such as the initiative launched this year to increase the number of Bermudian accountants.

      I do also support tweaking the term limits to nine years instead of six, and the opportunity to extend these further to be tied to the individual’s technical importance, community service and apprenticeship of Bermudians.

      There is no magic bullet, and I don’t claim to have a miracle solution to the problem, but I do think the above would have benefits in terms of social stability, quality of life and developing an atmosphere beneficial to IB, which is the key aspect of our current economy.

      As to land licenses, if the policy was reversed due to realising it was either badly done or counterproductive, then I believe that those affected by it should be compensated fairly, yes. I would have to research the exact situation concerning this however.

      So, maybe you will disagree with the above, but at least I haven’t left you serenaded by crickets… :-)

      What do you think would be a tangible step (or steps)?

      • Terry says:

        We are 1.5 billion in debt.
        And now you want to clean up Pembroke dump?
        I need a spliff.

      • Sandgrownan says:

        Sorry J, i think a lot of that is fluff, although i do appreciate the offer of getting my land license money back, and legal fees….and loss of equity….

        The fundamental problem with the local economy is lack of liquidity, in other words there is no demand for goods and services. There are several reasons for that …there are fewer people, open hostiltiy to IB, Bermuda is not business friendly, draconian work permit legislation, banks are not lending, faux socialist government interference in the real esate market, capital not flowing in….and it will get worse as the money dries up to service the debt, pay government salaries and we haven’t even started to pay for the PFI/PPP folly of the new hospital.

        So that’s the problem. Fix it and then there might be some cash left over to clean up the dump.

        • Ringmaster says:

          Work Force Equality was one of the PLP ideas that caused IB to put into effect Plan B. If you want more unemployment, and no new IB companies, then press for such Legislation.

          What Bermuda needs now is to survive, and there is no room for Independent candidates with a platform like Jonathans. That basically means a Government run by a Party who has business accumen. There is no money left for all these social experiments. Stop the exodus of jobs, jobs which are not being replaced by Bermudians, and begin to restore revenue, and the magic wand will not come from the Middle East. A large part of the real infrastruture is in disarray, not the infrastructure the PLP make out has benefitted from the $1.4bn in debt. This means buses, ferries, the causeway, roads, the airport, Government buildings. Many need replacing because of lack of maintenance and lack of planned replacement. The PLP used this as a complaint against the UBP – well it is now worse than 1998.

          Daid Burt shouts that the plans by the OBA will cost $500 million over 5 years, or $100 million a year. Well, that’s a whole lot better than continuing with the PLP, who will be borrowing at least $250 million a year with no plans or ideas.

        • J Starling says:

          My apologies for the delay in replying – technical issues…

          As I said earlier, I don’t claim to have all the answers, especially on this question. I do claim to be willing and happy to listen to different sides and viewpoints on this issue, and support ideas which I am subsequently convinced about.

          My answer to you was more looking at a medium and long-term approach to the issues facing us. I don’t doubt there are short-term policies we should also investigate though, but unless we deal with a number of the structural issues then we’re just going to be continually adding more and more bandages, and continue to have problems, no doubt getting worse and worse.

          By improving the situation regarding Pembroke Dump we benefit the neighbourhoods and businesses in that area, which, in conjunction with additional infrastructure/planning initiatives, would go a long way to reducing the current climate of fear resulting from the gangs and related issues. This can only benefit Bermuda in the long-term, as well as creating a more hospitable atmosphere for IB (at least in terms of issue of security and living experience for IB professionals). One of the first steps towards this would be to switch to in-vessel composting at the site, rather than the row and furrow composting which is unsightly, prone to odour and combustion.

          One problem that I think IB faces here, is the atmosphere of xenophobia, and that largely stems from the festering wounds of racial division that is a left-over from the segregation era. We need to deal with this. There are different ways, and education is certainly key here. Tying extensions of work permits to apprenticing Bermudians and community service is one small way towards this.

          Similarly, we need to address the wage inequalities concerning sex (women remain underpaid compared to men), as well as ensuring a more gender-balanced representation of upper management.

          How exactly we sort out the gender and racial inequalities in Bermuda is, of course, an open question, but working with private business to identify (often unintentional) obstacles in their businesses and Bermuda as a whole is one step. And that conversation can also include developing solutions. It doesn’t have to be confrontational, but it does have to be constructive.

          And expanding initiatives like the one started this year to facilitate more Bermudians to be trained as accountants, i think that is good and necessary. As long as IB is here, we cannot produce all the workers and skills required, but we can at least try and produce as many of them as we can. We’ve been failing on that score for a long-time, and that has contributed to some of the current problems.

          We may have to borrow more money. I have issues with how we got into this debt in the first place, but we may also have to borrow more to get out of it. I’m not saying we will, but it is something we’ll need to consider. The question here is the ROI (rate of return of investment).

          For example, if Government were to borrow money to refit it’s buildings for energy efficiency and powered by renewable energy, there’s an upfront cost, but in the long-term it is possible it could ‘pay for itself’ with the money previously going to paying electricity bills instead being freed up and available for other areas. I stress though, that’s just an example. Any money borrowed should be done in a way to ensure an adequate ROI, with which to help – in the long-term – reduce our debt, otherwise we’re just adding more wood to the debt fire.

  13. sickened says:

    Why don’t you all wake up? it’s time for a change. You all complain about the PLP but it sounds as if you are willing to put them in again, just to add to all the damage they have done in the past.You must like living the way that you are. No jobs no money, no tourist. No matter
    what you may think the tourist is what kept Bda on it’s feet. Stop being
    black and white come together as one Bermudians and fight for your Island.

  14. street wise says:

    The plp. No talent. No plans. No ideas. No solutions. No future.