Reassuring HUG:  UBP chairman Shawn Crockwell, who won the Pembroke West seat, supports party leader Michael Dunkley, who lost out in Smith’s North. Photo by Lance Furbert.
Reassuring HUG: UBP chairman Shawn Crockwell, who won the Pembroke West seat, supports party leader Michael Dunkley, who lost out in Smith’s North. Photo by Lance Furbert.
The UBP was a party in meltdown last night as news came in of its heavy defeat at the hands of the PLP.

Several influential party figures spoke openly of the need to restructure, re-brand or even disband the UBP, which has become unelectable in the eyes of the public. In the run up to the election, the party believed it had made real strides. However, when the results were counted, it had made no net gain in seats. Many UBP candidates - even those who had been successful in their own constituencies - admitted to a feeling of "back to square one."

In stark contrast to a party atmosphere at PLP headquarters, supporters at the UBP base were subdued long before the final count was in. The occasional cheer for a victorious candidate was lost amid groans, and more frequently, simply silence --as a growing disbelief set in that the party was losing just as heavily as in 2003.

Wayne Furbert, who defeated Charles Clarke in Hamilton West, said that a stigma is attached to the name UBP and that a completely different structure is now needed. He said: "I believe that we will have to look at the party overall. Unfortunately, there are certain ideas attached to the name United Bermuda Party, and those ideas are sticking, even among the young people.

Making no progress

"Probably, the time has come for something different. After losing three elections in a row, and making no progress, there's something about the name or structure of the UBP that doesn't sit comfortably in people's hearts."

He continued: "As you can see, we are all very disappointed here. We thought we were in with a real shot this time, and that's why we've got to ask ourselves some very serious questions."

Louise Jackson, who got the biggest win of the night by defeating LaVerne Furbert 711 votes to 145, agreed that the party needs to be re-branded at the very least. She said: "We are completely different people to the old UBP. There are only four or five of those members left. But we are being held back by history."

She continued: "All we can be sure of is that we didn't win. Now we have to go back and look at ourselves, and, yes, it's probably time for something different."

Austin Warner, who lost to Wayne Perinchief in Pembroke Central, said that the country was not being well served by having no credible opposition to challenge the PLP. He said that the UBP this election had presented good candidates, with good policy proposals, and had fought fair - only for the PLP to win just as easily as last time.

He said: "What is so disappointing is to see that the country still thinks in terms of black and white. We have to start thinking about what's best for Bermuda, not what's best for black people or for white people."

Opportunity for change

He continued: "We need to give the Bermudian people the opportunity for change. What has happened today is not change - it is insanity. All that the PLP have done, all that they have said, and they still get back in. The people of Bermuda have voted for insanity."

Of all the shell-shocked UBP candidates, none looked more worn, nor was so visibly keeping up a brave face, than Opposition leader Michael Dunkley. Mr. Dunkley had to endure not only leading the UBP to defeat, but also losing his own constituency battle with Patrice Minors in Smith's North.

Mr. Dunkley - a man who is said to have lived and breathed politics in the past 18 months - may now be looking at the end of his political career. He said: "This isn't about me, it's about the party. I am very, very disappointed for the party. We believed we had made real progress - we believed we had connected with more people - but that's not how it turned out."

He said it was too early to speculate about the future of the party or his own political plans. "Tonight, I just want to spend some time with my colleagues and friends, and then I want to go home and spend some time with my family. My family and my faith - they are what give me the strength to go through these things. This is politics and you expect ups and downs. This is a low moment for me, but there's always another day."

Mr. Dunkley said he had no regrets about his risky gamble of giving up his stronghold Devonshire East seat to run up against sitting PLP MP Patrice Minors.

He said: "I would do it again. If the party was going to win the election, it needed more seats and I wasn't afraid to take that chance. I would do it again because that's the way I lead my life."