As expected, the OBA have withdrawn the immigration bill. They’ve broken it into 3 parts to be reviewed via “comprehensive bi-partisan immigration reform” and then retabled within the year. One could be forgiven for wondering what really is all that different and who really backed down to the compromise, the government or the unions. Had the strike continued much longer it would have become very unpredictable who the mob would turn against and blame once shelves started going empty.
Ultimately the government has bought itself time. If it wants any hope of avoiding a repeat of this last week’s events it’ll need strong focus on steering the narrative to their advantage and rebuilding trust. If they don’t the PLP surely will control the narrative to their advantage because they’re masters at manipulating public opinion.
The government has established clear goals of each point of the bill to be put to a working group to determine how to meet those goals. It has also established clear timelines. That’s a good start. Next, it’ll need to focus on being as transparent as possible.
Everything related to the working groups and the immigration bill should be published through every means necessary. Outcomes of any meetings. Summaries in video, tweet, photo, blog and press release forms. Make it clear every step of the way who has been involved, what was was discussed, what proposals were made and that people were listened to and every suggestion was considered with the benefits and drawbacks considered and stated.
It is of little doubt that the PLP will rise up to challenge the controversial parts of the immigration bill. They needed to delay its implementation as the strike could well have turned against them had shelves started going empty. Their focus will likely be on raising the same arguments they made in the last week, especially ones that help rally their support base. They will likely be aiming to continue demonstrating that the OBA is high handed and doesn’t listen and hammer home that they haven’t delivered on their many promises.
The OBA will also likely need to deal with the many incensed at the prospect of new holders of status swaying the next election. Thus it is likely that if the OBA doesn’t offer or deal for an implementation date for status grants after the next election that they’ll draw a lot of fire about this being a partisan initiative designed to win votes.
If the OBA hopes to steer the narrative, the discussions would certainly need to be very clear that they’re bi-partisan and that all views are not only heard, but also broadcast. What many Bermudians feel right now is that we have a government who doesn’t listen to the people and that isn’t a sentiment isolated just to those striking against the immigration bill.
If the PLP hopes to win support beyond their core they’ll likely need to give some real thought to positive solutions combined with realistic plans that can deliver tangible measurable results. They don’t have any problem swaying the opinion of the mob but many hard working individuals feel slighted by their willingness to hold the island hostage at the drop of a hat, repeatedly. Their approach tends to be reactionary, sensationalist and manipulative. It works to their advantage in rallying support, but can readily be defused if the OBA starts learning from their mistakes.
If the PLP hopes to have a really good shot at swaying more than just their core support base, they’ll need to focus less on manipulation and more on soundly thinking through the long term implications of their policy ideas. Their approach is far too often filled with lofty ideas that aren’t backed by solid well thought out plans. Too often, they lack clear targets, have fuzzy unverifiable goals and too often involve the solution of throwing money at the problem. People are gradually waking up to the reality that we’ve starved the cow to the point where not only is it likely to stop producing milk, it might die. If they hope to rise up to a a party capable of truly leading this island rather than just being good at manipulating public opinion, they’ll need to start focusing on putting as much effort into constructing sound policy as they do into rallying the people.