Former National Liberal Party chairman Charles Jeffers says it's time for the Opposition United Bermuda Party to pack it in.

He said there was a strong case for the UBP to admit it has lost the battle, go out of business and let a new party emerge in its wake.

It's an opinion that is being espoused by observers who are familiar with the political history of Bermuda's sister island, the Bahamas, most recently by Guilden Gilbert, a Bermudian who lives there in a letter to the editor.

Mr. Jeffers, a former PLP member, said there are parallels between Bermuda and the Bahamas, where power was concentrated in the hands of the Bay Street Boys in much the same way the Forty Thieves dominated the black majority in Bermuda.

When the Bahamas PLP, the Progressive Liberty Party, replaced the United Bahamas Party in an election in the 1960s, the UBP folded and a new party emerged in its wake.

Mr. Jeffers' suggestion did not win any support from UBP MP Maxwell Burgess, who questioned how much weight could be given to the opinions of two people.

Businessman Kit Astwood, the first secretary of the UBP, did not warm to the idea either.

He said the recent troubles the UBP is facing is not unique to political parties. He pointed out the PLP had similar challenges in the 1980s when it was in Opposition.

Mr. Astwood said Bermuda is built on the two-party system and that is the way to go. He wondered whether creating a new party is practical - people don't realize how much work is required to establish a political party from scratch.

He said the UBP will have to work on redefining itself and finding " a way to win the vote that's acceptable to the people."

Mr. Jeffers said NLP members informally broached the issue of starting a new party with UBP members after the PLP win in 1998, but nothing came of it. He said a new party would be an alternative for voters who are disaffected with the PLP and the UBP.

The UBP's current problems do not bode well for Bermuda because the country needs a strong opposition. "Without a strong opposition, we are going to be in for a very rough ride," said Mr. Jeffers, who was a PLP member for 13 years. "Right now, the PLP government can do whatever it wants."

Meanwhile, UBP MP Neville Darrell rejected claims by UBP defectors Jamahl Simmons and chairman Gwyneth Rawlins of racism within the UBP. He said he had not encountered "overt racism" from his parliamentary colleagues. But he added: "It should come as a surprise to no one that even within political parties racism would be a normal feature of that environment."

He supports the "core values" of the UBP with its commitment to diversity and the rights of the individual. He added: "I would resist any characterization that I was a token anything."

Mr. Astwood said any suggestion that a white clique controls the UBP is "fantasy."

UBP MP Louise Jackson reiterated her support for the party, saying: "I have been a member of the UBP since its inception and one of its first members. This has been a party of inclusion and diversity from day one. As a black person within the party, I see white and black people, men and women who are working together to become the next government. It is unfortunate that persons would let their personal failings and lack of accomplishments lead to poisoning the electorate against the UBP. No positive purpose is served by joining our opponents in igniting an issue that would succeed in fanning flames but not address the fundamental issues of concern to the people of Bermuda, like crime and affordable housing"