‘New year, new vision.’ We’ll see

  • In the beginning: BIU president Chris Furbert, right, and the Reverend Nicholas Tweed at a gathering during the early days of the People’s Campaign in 2014 (File photograph)

So the prodigal son has made it back from the abyss. The People’s Campaign for Equality, Jobs and Justice announced its return to relevance last week after an extended spell in hibernation during which the future of one its three kingpins was placed in grave doubt and the country experienced a change in government.

That the Reverend Nicholas Tweed came out “on the right side” of his work-permit dispute with former home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, and the Progressive Labour Party swept to victory in the General Election were causes for celebration amid a pressure group that otherwise endured a fallow 2017.

But now it has returned; not so much reinvented but reinvigorated by the empowerment of legislators that may offer the group more than an “in one ear, out the other” collaboration.

And it returns with two leaders instead of three, Jason Hayward retiring to the margins upon his appointment as a government senator.

It remains to be seen if Hayward can hold true to his word; we have seen what moving from the front line has meant for Michael Dunkley, who is arguably as active as an opposition backbencher now that the politically correct shackles associated with being Premier of Bermuda have been removed as he was when all eyes were on him.

This leaves, as the face of the People’s Campaign, Tweed and Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert, the former imbued with an elegance and delivery borne of a life on the pulpit, the latter abrasive in tongue and still struggling to shake the perception of being a union strongman.

As a partnership, they may still prove formidable but first need to show that indeed they will hold the Government to account.

Established in April 2014, 16 months after the One Bermuda Alliance government took office, there is no sample size for degrees of “moral courage and the will” that the new government might be challenged on.

What there is, though, is a contrasting view that the People’s Campaign was but an extension of the PLP as part of a combined Opposition. Tweed and Furbert will have us abused of that notion, and they present a 12-page policy document as evidence of the group’s independent mission of tackling social inequity on the island.

As far as documents go, its proposals are well-intentioned if more than likely to fly over the heads of the core support. But for a paper at least five months in the making, the shoddiness of the editing and presentation conjure thoughts of Amateur Night at the Apollo.

In this ultra-competitive modern world, such sloppy work would be marked “Return to Sender” and job applicants given a “we’ll get back to you” shrug; in a newsroom, they would go directly on to the spike, never to see the light of day.

Even allowing for the sheepish Bermudian “you know what I mean”, an annoying element of our lexicon that betrays generational failings in education, so much of the document presented in another fashion forms a swath of the manifesto that got the PLP re-elected.

So they speak pretty much the same language, and the People’s Campaign’s version of the way forward could very well end up in a corner office, playing second fiddle to what the Government presents on the front benches of Parliament.

This would reduce Tweed and Furbert, while presumably serving the same people that the PLP spent three months celebrating with after the election, consigned to the periphery until such time that the advocacy role has to be re-created in a manner that reprises the worst days of the OBA.

Far-fetched indeed.

There’s as much chance of the Senate being stormed and access to Parliament being blocked over the next 4½ years as there is of David Burt and Christopher Famous lining up an attitude of seniors for trial by pepper spray.