John Barritt was recently quoted in The Royal Gazette condemning the suggestion that the UBP should rename itself.
"A rose is a rose by any other name. Something more profound than that is required."
Mr. Barritt is absolutely correct. However, peering through rose colored glasses could detract oneself from distinguishing between a rose in bloom and one which has wilted. As Mr. Barritt suggests, the UBP needs profound change and a new name won't do it. Members need to either walk away from the party and go independent or the UBP needs to start being the change it says it would bring.
When it comes to the "do as I say and not as I do" mentality it is hard to differentiate the UBP from the PLP. The PLP have been known to skirt laws, policies and procedures while expecting the people to have respect for them. The UBP subsequently condemns such actions and suggests that government should embody 'good governance' and transparency when it itself doesn't follow such principles. While the UBP may claim 'we'll earn your trust', we shouldn't have to wait until after their elected to start trusting them for maintaining a shroud of secrecy only works against its development.
If the UBP play the way they practice then the way they run their party is a good benchmark for how they'd run government. Thus despite many promises to the contrary, people still believe things likely wouldn't change if they were elected. If the UBP hopes to gain any form of traction a real step forward would be to first change in themselves what they would like to see changed in government. This means reversing the culture of secrecy within the party and making as much of it as transparent as possible.
Why? Let us use the changes we would like to see in parliament as an example. At present there is no advance schedule, little room for public consultation, no hansard minutes and no publishing of voting results. All of these are things the UBP would likely claim they would change if elected and yet none of these things are reflected in the way the party is run.
Take caucus meetings as an example. It is a rather secretive event. Now certainly there are portions that are necessarily secretive but then there is likely also a great deal which is not. Thus, why not bring transparency to everything that does not specifically need to be kept secret? The UBP could publish an advance schedule including descriptions of topics to be discussed. They could open themselves to public feedback on those topics ahead of time. They could record and publish hansard minutes and finally publish voting records. Beyond this they could do the same with other meetings including trying to document what they are able to of parliamentary sessions.
You might ask if the process of reaching consensus is made public, would this tarnish their ability to maintain a unified front? In order to combat this assertion let us take a look at when parliament works best, which is when people vote on conscience. When votes reach a consensus everyone falls behind that consensus and government resolves to pursue the result. People debate, discuss and finally agree on a way forward. Should this parliamentary process be made public? If so, why is transparency in parliament any different from transparency in a party caucus? Why is it not possible to disagree, debate, come to a consensus and finally unify behind the decision, all in the public eye?
Bringing transparency to the party would reap rewards greater than just improved trust. The party can demonstrate what government would be like if it was in charge. It could bring greater visibility to the less outspoken and less publicized members allowing for greater promotion of their individual candidates. It could enable them to garner more support by welcoming feedback and public input. It would encourage people to feel like they could have a greater impact on decisions and give the party a more participatory feel. Subsequently the party could look to other initiatives it hopes to bring forth should it be elected and move for implementing them today.
Let us take a moment to call a spade a spade and realise that sometimes roses need to be replanted in order to flourish. Upturning the roots of the party would reflect a profound change that could set the UBP on a new course. It would finally be able to demonstrate a real commitment to the democratic change that so many know we need. It would give the party new found life and potentially entice greater support, thus enabling the party to rejuvenate itself more empowered to better serve the public, whether as opposition or incumbent.