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Cox factor gets voters talking

  • Devonshire North West (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Discontent with partisan squabbling unites voters in Devonshire North West, where the wild card candidacy of Paula Cox appears welcome to some, but was condemned by others.

Less than a week before the General Election, some told The Royal Gazette that their decision would wait until July 18, as challengers to the One Bermuda Alliance’s incumbent MP Glen Smith press on with last-minute canvassing.

Wayne Caines of the Progressive Labour Party faces an uphill battle, with Ms Cox’s independent campaign “guaranteed” to split the vote, a Deepdale resident said.

“It’s very unpopular with PLP people,” the business owner said, noting Ms Cox’s posters along the lane. “This is going to hamper the party for sure.”

But neither party seemed sure of itself, he noted, calling that uncertainty “a good thing”.

“They’re scrambling. That gives us an opportunity to see what candidates are going out, regardless of how they feel their chances are. That’s where Glen is winning.

“I’ll vote. I’m still undecided, and I say that with a smile, I’ll wait until I get there and see the candidates. At the end of the day, I vote business. The OBA has a chance here. People are not resonating with colour; it’s about who has been attentive to the neighbourhood.”

In 18 years, he said, “I haven’t been impressed by any party”. Mr Smith, he said, had played “good cop to the Government’s bad cop”, with the OBA administration flagging in popularity.

Crime was an area issue, but he bemoaned the decline in school day-release programmes that imbued students with work experience and a sense of hope after graduation.

Near by, a man refurbishing his home voiced disgust with both parties, saying that “the people always suffer”, and none earned his vote.

“Get me a job,” he said. “People are living paycheque to paycheque. If you have children, it’s worse. The island’s too small for two parties. They should take the good people and make one party. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

A senior woman in Cedar Park declared herself “PLP all the way”, adding: “That’s my colour; that’s who I’m for.”

But the party system got another fail: “They need to stop bickering. It’s just so terrible, all this finger pointing at one another.”

The three-way race was “too complicated”, she said, preferring two. While Mr Smith had enhanced the lighting in the neighbourhood, the woman said he couldn’t take credit for installing them: Glenn Blakeney, formerly of the PLP, had taken care of that.

The neighbourhood’s rusty water supply stood as a local problem — enough for her to avoid washing her white clothing.

Over on Hesitation Lane, an OBA voter said the economy had slumped to “total shambles” under the PLP.

Crime was an area worry, while nationally the economy dominated, but race relations also concerned him.

Asked about Bermuda’s political terrain, he responded: “Way too much bickering. This island could do without party politics. There are good people in both parties.”

On Happy Valley Road, another undecided voter called himself “a little jaded”, but said Mr Smith had “done a very competent job communicating — he’s very personable; he reaches out”.

“This is my third election. In my youth, I went with family party affiliation. The past two, I went by conscience.”

Constituency 14 represents “an almost perfect dichotomy of Bermuda’s population, and this area is right on the borderline — the proverbial railroad tracks”.

“It’s great to have a third option. When there’s little faith in either party or the party system, Ms Cox is refreshing. That makes me more inclined to actually vote.”

Nationally and locally, the prevailing issue was “morale”, he said, with much required to “improve and sustain the Bermuda spirit”.

Asked for her political leaning, a voter on Berry Hill Road replied: “Liberal. Which, on this island, means you don’t have a party. There’s a super-conservative party that’s white, and a black party that claims to be socially liberal, but isn’t.”

She had voted PLP in the party’s sweeping 1998 victory, but had grown disenchanted with both parties’ performance on healthcare.

“Public health — what’s happened? It’s falling apart quietly, behind the scenes. That started with the PLP and just continued. Take the Health Department’s dental service. Once it was the biggest provider of dental care for children. Now it provides the bare minimum of emergency service.”

Mr Smith, she said, had visited, and had gone to the ministry to bring back answers on healthcare — but while she definitely intended to vote, “I still don’t definitely know who”.

“I’ve had it up to here with party politics,” she added. “I wish we could have candidates doing what they wanted, rather than being told by their parties.”

But spoiling ballots, considering the long struggle behind securing the vote, was “a waste — though it might demonstrate something to the Government”.

Saying she was “tempted” by Ms Cox’s independent candidacy, she said: “Independent is the way we should be going. I think I’ll get in touch with the other two before I vote.”

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