It doesn't matter whether Jamahl Simmons is right or wrong: Either way, he strikes at the heart of the biggest problem the United Bermuda Party faces.

The party is being bled white (to use an entirely inappropriate metaphor, just for the fun of it) by the persistent perception that it is fundamentally a white party, no matter how black it is.

The UBP is going to have to get this issue licked... or else fold up and let somebody else start a new political party from scratch.

The issues of Bermuda are too important to have either of our parties defined by race - either deliberately or accidentally. Yet so far, neither the UBP nor the Progressive Labour Party has shown the ability to turn itself into a party based on political philosophies and policies.

This causes an endless list of problems for Bermuda and the way it is governed.

It's emotionally draining for everyone involved, including ordinary citizens who think they aren't involved but are frustrated just the same.

The motives of almost every significant action by any Government, and any political party in Bermuda, and any politician, and anybody working with a political party, are suspect.

It's a climate in which Jamahl Simmons fears the motives of branch workers and party leaders, where party supporters (apparently) risk being accused of racism if they vigorously support one candidate over another (even when both are black) and where party leaders risk being accused of racism if they do nothing, or if they do something.

It's a climate where the UBP is accused of racism if it selects a black leader and accused of racism if it selects a white leader; a climate in which it is accused of racism if it does nothing to improve economic equality, but accused of racism when it does something to improve racial equality.

The PLP is the victim of similar racial suspicions: It is accused of racial offences if it does something to help black people, and accused of racial offences if it doesn't do something to help black people.

And people (both black and white) look for racial motives in almost anything the party or its leaders do, from holding a fundraiser, making any appointment, or expelling an Australian chef.

It also means that people end up making some kind of racial statement by affiliating themselves with a party, or distancing themselves from one.


As a result, both parties contain such a wide and conflicting array of political philosophies - even in their own Cabinets and upper echelons -- that it's a wonder they can accomplish anything at all.

The bizarre amalgam of liberal and conservative views that are found in both parties makes it stupendously difficult for anyone of conscience to be a faithful supporter.

Cabinet ministers and other high-ranking party members, bound by antiquated traditions of mindless solidarity, must suffer endless tortures as they agree to go along with policies that appall them, or misdeeds they believe should be soundly condemned.

In the wake of Mr. Simmons' accusations of racism, much has been made of the fact that Mr. Simmons and his main UBP rival in Pembroke West, Erwin Adderley, are both black.

It has been tempting to ask which man is being backed by white people, or who is a puppet in the hands of which colour. But that's futile in the end, because the answer is simply that both men have white friends and black friends, and white supporters and black supporters.

The rather obvious difference between the two men is that Mr. Adderley is considerably older, and considerably more conservative than Mr. Simmons.

They talk differently, dress differently, drive around in different kinds of vehicles and appeal to different kinds of people. They have had different experiences, they look at the world in different kinds of ways, and have different ways of looking at the political needs of Bermuda.

If Mr. Simmons's Pembroke West branch was at all unhappy with him, it is hardly surprising that they would try to replace him with the older and more conservative Mr. Adderley: Hard working branch members in both the UBP and the PLP (and probably in most democracies around the world) reside much farther in the distance past than their elected representatives.

It's remarkable, really, that Mr. Simmons and Mr. Adderley are (or were, at least) in the same political party.

And the fact is, that if it wasn't for race - if it wasn't for the straining and stressful racial divisions our political system has helped perpetuate - they probably would never have been in the same camp in the first place.

But so strong is the racial identification of each party, and so strong are the racial messages that each (openly and subtly) is trying to spread about the other, that it's impossible for a conservative or a liberal or anybody else to choose a party that matches their political philosophy.

So maybe it's not surprising that Jamahl Simmons has now done the complete circuit of political parties during his brief political career, and now appears to be entering a second lap.

Until our race-based party system is replaced by something newer and better, Mr. Simmons will still be doing laps a decade from now and still not have found a comfortable political home.

Whether his denunciation of the UBP is fair and accurate, or whether it's the deluded raving of a frustrated man, it will, I hope, remind us how screwed up our political system is right now, and how desperately we need to change it.