Is it game over for the OBA? With the size of its majority, the PLP is going to have to fail spectacularly for it not to be able to serve for at least the next two Parliamentary terms.
But will the OBA be in a position to govern in eight to ten years’ time? Can it rebuild into an effective political party? If it does, it’s going to have to overcome a series of very big challenges.
The first will be to elect a new Party leader which is, in itself, going to be interesting.
They cannot elect someone with a UBP past, some of the OBA heavy hitters lost their seats at the last election, others have stepped down from the front bench or have left the Party altogether and they simply cannot consider turning the clock back, meaning there are meagre pickings.
Could they again elect a leader who is not an MP, as happened with Craig Cannonier? Yes, but the optics would be bad and would mean someone doing a John Barritt and sacrificing their safe seat.
It would also mean that the OBA would be led by a political novice and in the state they are in at the moment, when there is a dire need to rebuild and refocus, that, at least in my opinion, would be an unwise move.
Could you elect someone to hold the fort while someone else is trained up? An Ewart Brown Sven and Johnny idea? Yes, but that would not provide the stability the party needs.
Get the leadership wrong, and the ramifications are huge: there will be a lack of confidence in the party; there will be leadership challenges which will reflect poorly on the party; there will be no focus or vision and a sense of confusion. In short, it will be disastrous.
But OK, let’s assume they get over the leadership hurdle and elect a political genius, who oozes charism and drive and who can dazzle at the House of Assembly, what next? There are lots of issues, but here are some I see as crucial.
The Party must be rebuilt from the bottom up. I hear that membership is falling and if that is true and not reversed, the OBA will slowly fizzle and die as a meaningful political operation.
It must come up with innovative policies that will help persuade more people, more bright young things, to join the Party; it needs to promote new faces to get away from the OBA/UBP perception; it has to engage with the community.
They need to show a consistent united front (and study how effective the PLP is when there is internal strife) and they need to agree to and buy into an effective communications campaign.
Will they do any of this? Are they equipped to do any of this? What are the consequences if they don’t?
As to the first, we will have to wait to see what the new leader has to say.
It is interesting however that, at least publicly, no one is making any of the “I want to be the new leader’ noises that we would expect to see. No op-eds in the RG setting out ideas and a vision, no photo ops, no grandstanding in the House, so the ‘will they do it’ question is not being answered.
That the PLP will go unchallenged as the party of Government, that there will be dysfunctional Opposition and that the OBA could die. All those are extremely bad for democracy.
Or, of course, a new political party could emerge. I know of several people who have tried to bring together like-minded people into one group, with a view to it emerging as a new party. As far as I know, all those attempts have fizzled out. It is just not that easy to start a new political movement.
For the time being, at least, we need the OBA.