Politics

Scott says OBA is redefining itself

  • Leah Scott

The One Bermuda Alliance is redefining itself in Opposition, deputy leader Leah Scott said yesterday.

The Southampton East Central MP dismissed the idea of a third party reshaping Bermuda’s political landscape and said that would “only fragment both the OBA and the PLP”.

She also brushed off suggestions that the party might not survive its battering at the polls in July.

Ms Scott pointed out that the PLP’s parliamentary ranks had been chopped to just seven seats in 1985, but reached 24 this year.

She said: “They had dissension, and all the things you have when people come together with diverse personalities and ideologies.

Ms Scott asked: “Why can’t we do the same?”

Ms Scott, one of 12 OBA MPs to retain her seat in the General Election, said the OBA would be “branded by design, not by what someone else says we are”.

She added: “It’s important for people to understand that we want to attract people from all walks of life. It isn’t limited to any one race, gender or nationality, because that’s not what Bermuda is.”

Ms Scott said she was not aware of any members of the old guard prepared to step down in favour of new blood in the party, which was formed from the former United Bermuda Party and the One Bermuda Alliance.

She said: “I can’t name anyone interested in leaving. As with all things, there are some former UBP people looking to transition out. But new people will come in.”

Ms Scott warned that “change will not happen overnight”.

She said that MPs had to build a network of connections “external to Parliament” and include members of the business community.

Ms Scott added: “We also want people to be socially sensitive, recognise the challenges we face, and be willing to participate in whatever changes are needed to make the social agenda in Bermuda fairer.”

The OBA promoted itself as a party of diversity when it was created in 2011.

Ms Scott said a renewal of that promise “has to be something that we not only say, but that we actually demonstrate”.

She added: “The unfortunate thing is that back in 2012, when we won, we were who we said we were in terms of diversity, and we had black people in the room taking part.

“Through an unfortunate series of events, when Craig Cannonier was no longer premier, there was a paradigm shift in the ideology of the party, with Michael Dunkley coming in, and it reverted back to UBP thinking.

“We know that change is going to be a slow process. We want to move forward but also recognise we need stability.”

Ms Scott said: “Change will be progressive. We will change the faces in our group of MPs but that will take time. As we attract new people, we learn from the knowledge base in terms of parliamentary procedure and political history.”

She added: “There are some people who will have to leave, but there are also people who carry a lot of political knowledge. We have to be strategic.”

Political observers called on the Opposition to make tough choices in the wake of its defeat.

Former OBA candidate Rodney Smith warned that the PLP would aim to take even more seats away from the party.

But Ms Scott said: “That’s a projection I can’t make at this time. Both parties need to settle and do the best they can.

“The PLP has a lot on its hands to balance the Budget for 2018/19, and I’ll be interested to see how they do that.

“We are also in an environment where Bermuda is getting a lot of press in terms of its regulatory environment and we have to be very careful as we don’t need political instability right now.”

The deputy leader, also the Shadow Minister of Tourism, said she tended to get on well with government MPs.

Ms Scott added: “I think I have a very cordial relationship with most people, but I could be fooling myself.

“I have a good relationship with Jamahl Simmons, the tourism minister, and we have agreed to be open.”

She said the PLP “have their own challenges” with a large group of MPs.

Ms Scott explained: “Twenty-four people is a lot to manage. I’m sure there were people who thought they would get ministerial positions and didn’t, and I’m sure there is some unhappiness with that.”

Ms Scott said that “change is possible” when it came to the adversarial style of politics.

She added: “Changing the Westminster system has been discussed, but that’s something the younger generation will have to do.”

Ms Scott said the OBA aimed to be “a constructive but effective Opposition”.

She added: “The seats being 24-12 don’t change that. It’s up to us to voice our concerns and get our challenges on record. Where we can support, we do, and we are just as vocal about that. We plan in the new year to get out and connect with people, to hear what their needs are and what they expect from us.”