Photo by Leah Furbert.
The PLP’s deputy leader Paula Cox, gives a voter a hint about where to draw the ‘X’ during polling for yesterday’s election.
Photo by Leah Furbert. The PLP’s deputy leader Paula Cox, gives a voter a hint about where to draw the ‘X’ during polling for yesterday’s election.
THE PLP enters its third term of government with debilitating injuries. It will have to cure them, urgently, if Bermuda is to improve instead of deteriorate in this next phase of the party's leadership.

The most serious concerns, over the last year or two, have involved dishonesty, arrogance, secrecy and intolerance.

The PLP should have used its election campaign to confront these problems: To make a persuasive case that these concerns were unjustified or, at the very least, that things would be better in the future.

The PLP campaign, unfortunately, did just the opposite.

The party dished up a stream of nasty and often false advertising and ugly speeches. It promised an endless succession of election "freebies", without deigning to calculate how much they cost, or where the money (the people's money) would come from to pay for them.

It responded to Opposition proposals by completely distorting them before trashing them, or by simply accusing them of being racists who wanted to enslave black people.

To make matters worse, the Bermuda Housing Corporation scandal deepened during the campaign, with more detailed allegations against the PLP that were answered, yet again, with legal action against the media.

The PLP won, but with no promise of reform.

The key now is for the PLP to avoid any temptation to think its win was any kind of endorsement of dishonesty, arrogance, secrecy and intolerance.

The party won the election, miraculously, in spite of these things. These things are wrong, plain and simple; they will destroy the PLP and they will destroy the country unless they are dealt with quickly.

We cannot wait for the next election for change. So it is up to the Government to change itself.

First of all, it must replace Ewart Brown.

He is too divisive a character to hold the party together, let alone the country. He is too autocratic to usher in an era of greater involvement by citizens, or improved teamwork and open deliberation among cabinet members.

Racially divisive

He is too guilty of racially divisive rhetoric to repudiate racial division.

He is too personally tainted by the BHC scandal to repair the Government's damaged reputation.

The next PLP leader must act quickly to convince citizens - and others who depend on honest government, like international business - that it is on the "up and up".

There is no better way to do that to swallow its pride, and adopt most of the "good governance" legislation proposed by the UBP.

Just as significantly, the PLP Government must be willing to acknowledge and condemn the lapses of government or its representatives - the mistakes, the racial insults, the ethical missteps.

When it fails to do so, as it has routinely failed in recent years, it creates the impression that it hasn't noticed them, doesn't care about them, or maybe even approves of them.

This is especially urgent in the wake of an election campaign in which so much PLP advertising, public statements and speeches were divisive, untruthful and deliberately intended to pit white and black Bermudians against each other.

It has caused too much damage to be laughed off as "the heat of the battle" or the excesses of a hard-fought election.

Secondly, the PLP must repudiate the notion that its critics are the old white elite and its toadies, and that the UBP is inherently flawed, unchangeably racist, and therefore illegitimate.

It is convenient to maintain the fiction that public life in Bermuda is a battle between black and white, good and evil, especially when that division guarantees you a substantial electoral majority.

But it perpetuates racial stereotypes, exacerbates racial divisions, and allows the PLP Government to dismiss any and all criticism on the pretext that it is racially based.

It is, furthermore, fundamentally dangerous to democracy to have a Government that believes itself inherently superior and inherently right, and its critics inherently wrong.

That is the surest way of justifying any number of lies and abuses, or failure to respond to questions of any kind - and in this election campaign, this is exactly what the PLP was doing.

These, in stark and simple terms, are the changes the PLP must make.

It has survived an election. But it has strengthened the opposition - not just from the UBP but opposition within its own ranks, and opposition from others like the international business upon whom we depend so heavily.

Unless the PLP acts quickly to repair its self-inflicted injuries, it risks an exodus of support to the UBP or the creation of a new opposition party peopled by its own dissidents.