Suzann Roberts Holshouser has made some waves with her decision to vote with the Opposition Progressive Labour Party in the debate on a commission of inquiry into the compulsory purchases of land in Bermuda in the 20th Century.
On the whole, her vote should be seen as a sign that the One Bermuda Alliance actually does do politics differently – a politics where people are able to vote their consciences. Michael Dunkley’s first reaction was fairly relaxed, and that’s a good sign.
It is disturbing that Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell allegedly berated her. But not everyone moves at the same pace to a better place.
And it has been noted in comments on the same story that the PLP’s rush to praise Ms Holshouser should be contrasted with their abusive attitudes towards their former colleague Terry Lister, whose conscience did not allow him to stay in the PLP and who was recently subjected to an extraordinarily nasty personal attack by Opposition Leader Marc Bean.
The Westminster system is designed to have much stricter discipline than the US system. The result is that Westminster system governments tend to be much more efficient at passing legislation and governing. And that’s not a bad thing as the recent gridlock in the US demonstrates.
However, it also means that some very bad decisions get approved, and party leaderships are often able to run roughshod over their backbenchers and their often legitimate objections.
So votes like Ms Holshouser’s are helpful as reminders to leaders that they need to listen to their MPs and heed their views.
You can have too much of a good thing, of course. The United Bermuda Party’s internal strife in the 1990s over Independence and then McDonald’s threw into doubt that party’s ability to govern effectively, as did the UK Conservative Party’s divisions over Europe under John Major and the British Labour Party’s over Iraq along with the interminable skirmishing between Blairites and Brownites.
All those parties lost power. They may have done anyway, but their internal divisions contributed to the sense they were no long fit for purpose (and a party’s primary purpose is to get elected and to stay elected).
So, well done, Ms Holshouser. But be careful not to enjoy breaking the whip too often. It could be painful.
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