Back in February I speculated that an election would be called for mid to late July. This was primarily based upon the momentum the OBA was building and the likely euphoria that would build up over the America’s Cup.
Since then, we’ve seen the opposition push for a vote of no confidence in the middle of the America’s Cup and the opposition leader suggest he thinks the election will be late July. The timing of the vote of no confidence, the push for an election and the animosity that comes from it is less than ideal for the island. The opposition has seemingly pushed fully into election mode, rolling out candidates and putting out daily press releases. They’ve seemingly ramped up fully for a late July election. Now today Shawn Crockwell has signaled that he’d vote against the government.
Even if the no confidence motion is successful, by my estimates the Premier would still have a 3 month window to call it. As a result, I suspect the Premier may either opt to call an election before the vote of no confidence takes place or take his chances and call one if he loses it. Given the strength in the recent polls and the OBA’s momentum, I suspect he’d be leaning towards calling an election anyway.
I suspect the Premier will now aim for an election in late August, just before students return to school. As far as I’m aware, the OBA has yet to deliver on their promised changes to absentee voting, thus the reason for late August vs. early September. This would allow the OBA could both publicly decry the PLP for disrupting the America’s Cup with an election as well as push their own electioneering until after the America’s Cup is over. Since the PLP has already entered heavy campaign mode, there is also the potential that the public would readily tire after nearly 4 months of heavy campaigning. It is also likely that the after effects of the America’s Cup would still be present in the form of euphoria of having money in ones pocket and the event potentially having been bigger than originally forecast. Beyond that, it’s allow for statistics and reports covering the outcome of the event to be published as well as many positive stories of who benefited.
On the PLP front I’m still a bit baffled as to why they opted to push for a vote of no confidence for June. Pitting an election right after America’s Cup seems like a bad time when the alternative could be waiting out upwards of a year for more negative fallout or controversy to capitalize on. The unions are always good for some sort of fallout and disruption every few months. Also if the vote of no confidence is successful, it will invalidate their pushed legislation which could come back to haunt them if people realize pre-election that marijuana wasn’t actually decriminalized and that the statutory interest rates weren’t changed. Ultimately the upside of forcing it now seems limited and either implies they suspect the next few months won’t be in their favor or I’m missing something.
So… a late August election? We’ll see.
The recent poll results suggest an uptick in OBA support, though it comes in the fashion of undecideds becoming more certain rather than any sort of conversion from the PLP support base.
This poll was conducted between February 7th and 9th, before former Premier Brown’s businesses were raided and the government launched a lawsuit against the Lahey Clinic. It was also before excerpts of emails were published in the paper that allege there was a conspiracy to drive up health care costs. That won’t bode well politically for the PLP because a former PLP Premier is implicated. Worst of all, rising health care costs have impacted every Bermudian and this weighs on that important voter question “how does this impact me?”.
Before this poll, we surmised the PLP had lost the momentum they’d built up thanks to the Genevieve-Tweed crusade. Now it looks like they may not just lose their momentum, but re-energize OBA supporters while disillusioning their own. If a poll were held today, would we see a decline in PLP support and a rise in undecideds or is it possible that we’d also see a decline in PLP support, a decline in undecideds and a corresponding rise in OBA support?
This is quite a hole to dig out of, though the same would have been said of the OBA back in November when police pulled out the pepper spray. It certainly could still be recovered from, however the timing is pretty bad.
The sad truth is that the PLP has spent far too much time trying to be “not the OBA” and not enough time being a credible alternative. They were elected to govern for many years to provide opportunity to those who were disadvantaged and yet increasingly it doesn’t look like that really happened. Only a select few seem to have prospered. When people look deep down and ask themselves “how does this impact me?” associating rising health insurance costs with the PLP is a pretty horrible combination. What have they really done to demonstrate they’ve learned from being voted out?
Thus the PLP’s prospects aren’t looking very good. Things are already starting to ramp up for the America’s Cup. Jobs, the big headline item, are being created. Money is starting to flow. It will mostly all be temporary and will dry up come July but the hype, euphoria and joy of having money in one’s pocket won’t be so quick to fade.
It looks like this time around the OBA won’t need to make pie in the sky promises of being a new party that promotes good governance that they have no intention of fulfilling. It seems quite likely that we’ll see an election called for mid to late July if things stay the course. That would be the most likely time for the OBA to capitalize on their momentum, broken promises or not.
As suspected, the opposition to the airport deal dried up The PLP overplayed the Airport Card and the OBA has run a relentless campaign of public outreach, feedback and awareness building. Public support has now shifted from opposing the airport deal to supporting it. Likely the PLP will have to regroup and re-strategize and the OBA will reflect on what worked.
Many, like this writer, likely have just gotten tired of the airport deal. Ultimately its an airport, we get it back in 30 years and if it truly proves to be a bad deal, that’s 30 years the OBA won’t be able to dodge the blame for it. It is really too bad that we’ll be spending a fortune to create a non-Bermudian looking monstrosity, but it certainly isn’t worth tarnishing our reputation of stability or disrupting America’s Cup over it.
The question is, what next? I put together longer term stats from the Royal Gazette’s polls going back over the last few years to get a better idea of the context of the momentum of each party. I’m not really sure why the Jul 2015 number was so different but it did foretell the shift in momentum. Ultimately, the PLP were on a successful run up until the Genevieve-Tweed crusade with the OBA sliding. They were neck and neck, possibly with a shift in momentum approaching.
The PLP will need to shift focus and start thinking about the upcoming election. They’ve done a good job at opposing the government but haven’t really laid out a plan for what they’d do as government. This will be the time they start capitalizing on the OBA’s forgotten election pledges and setting the tone. Given the loss of momentum and the approaching hype of the America’s Cup we may see them shift to a more mature stance. Perhaps trying to highlight the lessons learned from being removed after their first stint in power and how they have learned from their mistakes and starting to signs of reinventing themselves under their new and capable leader.
The OBA may get complacent and take forgranted this recent win of support or they may take the time to take a step back and really evaluate what they’ve acheived. They very clearly invested a tremendous amount of effort in public outreach, educating the public, consulting (sort of), leveraging social media and generally attempting to involve the people like never before. Is the OBA finally shifting away from most used play in their playbook? It’s hard to say.
The odd one out who perhaps has suffered the most in this is “The President of the BIU” Chris Furbert. After people didn’t heed his call to turn out to protest the airport he attacked the people for lack of support rather than inflecting on what he might have done to kill support. It is likely that investing heavily in Reverend Genevieve-Tweed when he wasn’t by any definition a “Son of the Soil” and threatening America’s Cup likely evaporated support for his cause. Fundamentally people tend to go back to asking themselves “How will this benefit and impact me?” and “President” Furbert didn’t deliver compelling answers to those questions. One can wonder if Chris Furbert will survive this and still be President of the BIU not long from now. Certainly attacking the people for his missteps in leadership doesn’t seem like a very good strategy.
So what’s next? What strategy will the PLP pivot to and will the OBA learn the value of involving the people in the process? Likely we’ll have to wait and see.