The importance of a strong opposition

| 23/05/2013

With a decisive win in this election, the Progressive party is now able to form a strong government. Once a speaker is chosen from the House (Ezzard Miller or Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, perhaps), they will have a clear majority on the government benches and be able to move forward with their policies without having to haggle in a coalition government. But, just as importantly, this has also given us a potentially dynamic opposition.

There is a temptation here in Cayman for people to want a Legislative Assembly where everyone “gets along” in place of healthy debate, and there will be plenty of people calling for the PPM to include C4C members in the next Cabinet, or at least to “work with them” over the next four years. But this would rob us of the most important of parliament’s checks and balances – an effective opposition.

A word on how the Westminster-style parliamentary system works: if the C4C members choose to sit in opposition to the government, this does not mean that they must align themselves with McKeeva Bush's UDP party or that they support the man. The opposition benches are not necessarily unified but are made up of any and all parties that are not aligned with the majority party government. So, for the new C4C members the decision is whether they join the government benches, where their job is to support the government, or whether they choose to sit in opposition, where their job is to scrutinise and question government decisions.

So, what we should have – what we desperately need – is a government dictating policy but an opposition that demands explanations and justifications for those policies within the House, the most public of forums, and has the ability to debate the issues knowledgably and intelligently. The three C4C members – two lawyers and an accountant – are eminently qualified to take on this role, which is vital for the democratic process to work as it should.

Hands up all those who would like to see Roy McTaggart on the Public Accounts Committee drilling government officials on government audit reports!

In addition, a good opposition will be a viable competing party in the next election, another way to hold government to account. If they all hold hands and sing "Kumbaya", who are they going to campaign against?

I agree with 101 (Don't stop the party) that the C4C should, now that the election is over, stop pretending that they are not a party because they clearly are – and that’s a good thing. The three members of C4C who have been elected and some of those who weren’t may well be part of a future government, but not this one. Right now, we need them to spend the next four years holding the Progressives to account because if Roy McTaggart, Tara Rivers and Winston Connolly do not, then who will?

Sadly, here in the Cayman Islands the party system, where opposing sides of the Chamber debate issues, has been hijacked by McKeeva Bush, who turned it into personality politics – opposition to him is never because people think he is wrong or that his policies are insane, it is always because they don’t like him, hate him, are conspiring against him, etc. But where politics is in the hands of more mature individuals – and I believe both the C4C and PPM newly elected or re-elected members are just that – they can debate the issues of the day but remain courteous, and even be friends outside their political differences.

McKeeva Bush will undoubtedly continue to argue bombastically within the LA, but the charges of fraud and corruption that he faces, with possibly more to come, have compromised his ability to be an effective leader of the opposition. They will undoubtedly be a huge and growing distraction (which is why politicians in his position usually step aside) and an embarrassment to the country, as well as severely casting doubt on the integrity of his party. I hope that his new party colleague, Bernie Bush, will prove an effective MLA because there doesn’t seem much hope that his old one, Captain Eugene Ebanks, will become one any time soon. However, I suspect that the UDP is irreparably fractured and will not survive the next four years anyway.

Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, former UDP and now the solitary PNA member in the House, has repeatedly stated lately that this is her last term. An MLA for five terms, she has been a minister several times, as well as speaker, deputy premier and, finally, premier. That doesn’t leave much to aspire to in politics and nothing to prove, so I predict that she will not make too many waves during this administration.

The C4C should be the new opposition party with Roy McTaggart the new opposition leader but that cannot happen if they continue to maintain that they are independents supported by an advocacy group.

The point of having political parties is so that politicians and would-be politicians can join forces with others who share the same economic and political philosophies (ergo, the parties must have different philosophies) with the goal of forming a government to collectively move the country in the direction they think it should go.  I believe that these differences between the C4C under McTaggart and the PPM under Alden McLaughlin will become increasingly apparent over the next four years – how to tax and how to spend, a minimum wage, immigration policies, for example.

Because of these fundamental differences, coalition governments are invariably weak, whereas a strong unified government with a mandate from the people can accomplish more. But the opposition benches have an important and powerful part to play in this democratic process: to scrutinise government on our behalf and if it fails to deliver its objectives, to offer themselves to the people as an alternative government.

Isn’t that what happened in May 2013?

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Comments (29)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am stunningly agreeing with Nicky.

    I thing CNS generally have incredibly biased articles, suggestive headlines and hediously suggestive pictures, however in this rare instance I must agree with her view on parties and the political lanscape as it stands especially toward the C4C.

    My only addition would be that multi party system are actually worst than (majority) two party systems since it generally means that the real majority are rarely represented, where the elected party in power always ends up having to compromise ideologies with fringe elements to secure a majority which usually undermines the very policies of the new supposed "ruling" party were elected to implement.

    The C4C as Nicky suggests, should formalize and compete on an ideological basis.  unfortunately what we are seeing now so far out of the C4C are merely powerplays, none of which are policy driven.

  2. Annie Multon says:

    Nicky's article is well written and well thought out.  For Cayman to be seen as taking the most appropriate actions it is best to ensure that McKeeva is not allowed to be called Leader of the Opposition.  The new representatives on the opposition side of the Government Bench must be seen to act collectively and ensure that the post of Leader of the Opposition does not go to a UDP member.  It must be understood that they [the UDP] were NOT the party of second choice in the recent election.

    • Anonymous says:

      There were only 3 parties running, PPM, UDP and PNA.  So UDP was the 2nd choice.  Remember C4C is not a party, just an advocacy group that endorses independents.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ms. Annie, the trouble is that there is no other political party in opposition and so, under the Constitution, it automatically falls to McKeeva to be Leader of the Opposition.  

      • Anonymous says:

        To:Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/27/2013 – 15:57.                    You are mistaken.Section 68.7 of the Constitution statesthat "In this section “opposition political party” includes a group of members of the Legislative Assembly in opposition to the Government who are prepared to support one of their number as their leader.

  3. Peanuts says:

    Every one wants to make Ezzard Miller Speaker, so that they can "SHUT" him up. Please Mr.Miller do not fall for it, the Country needs you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The C4C is an advocacy group.  The endorsed Independents are not "members" of a C4C Political Party.  CNS seems to like to confuse the distinction and infer that they are under some common command, but each of them are actually free to make up their own minds.  There is no wizard behind the curtain pulling the strings.

    • Anonymous says:

      A circle of wizards perhaps? We might believe you if we knew exactly who paid for the C4C campaign and why.

       

      On an unrelated topic, does anyone know who bought the Compass?

      • Anonymous says:

        Hmmm… control of news organizations is another thing… shhhh… if the people only knew  🙂

  5. jack sloper says:

    Political parties ,with their loyalties and ideologies, in large developed countries have evolved as a natural consequence of class and economic differences within sizeable populations over centuries. This natural evolution  is appropriate and written in history.

    Many commentators on Cayman imagine her to be a very large fully developed nation state .There are many forces at work in Cayman which make such a viewpoint understandable .Many of these commentators have come from such countries and are conditioned by their past.Many in the media and positions of authority necessarily  have to think " big " 

    Cayman is not big. 

    It is not appropriate to try to impose an inappropriate political party system from the "top down."  The island is too small and has no history of many groups  of  of "have-nots" represented by  say, trade unions and other labour movements rallying against  the "haves."

    The political system  that is going to be appropriate for a small island must be allowed to evolve from the "bottom up" rather than be imposed from the "top down. "

    Think small.

    Small is beautiful.

    Jack Sloper 

     

    • very concerned Caymanian. says:

      A very important matter that the new Govt. must look into, is the fact that from July 1st, 2013, the Elections office will literally be closed down.  the Supervisor of Elections, his Deputies, the Office Manager, the Accounts Officer and the Receptioniist will all be layed off.  The new Supervisor and his Deputies have not even been in training for their new positions.  So who will be in charge of publishing the quarterly  List of Elections that the Election Law demands.  The portfolio that controls the Elections office is so mismanaged that some Observers and other workers and bills for the 2012 Referendum has not been paid yet, almost a year later. This is a total disgrace.  I am made to understand that there is a Financial Officer who is controlling the said portfolio and not the Deputy Governor.  The Caymanian Deputy Governor must have the 'GUTS' TO TAKE CHARGE OF HIS OFFICE, and see to it that his Caymanian workers get paid. No one has been trained to take over the Office Manager's job as well. So I don't know what the portfolio in charge of the Elections Office is thinking about, if they can't do their job, then step down. What will happen if we have to have a bi-election or another Referendum?  It will be a total catastrophy and disgrace to the country. So I hope that our new Premier will look into this matter as a case of priority.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Two major findings and recommendations after exhaustive political analysis of the votes cast yesterday:

    1. More than 800 people over the age of 18 in Cayman are batshit crazy. There is a strong cluster of them on the north and east coast. Should the new government decide to build a mental institution; a 300-bed facility will be needed on the northeast coast. However, there seems to have been good progress treating the mentally ill in the George Town and Bodden Town areas by allowing them the freedom to mix with the rest of the population.
    2. Approximately 36.43 percent of the voters are not averse to graft. This figure is somewhat skewed by the fact that a large pocket of 47.27 percent of them live in West Bay, with another large pocket in Cayman Brac. The recommendation is for the new Minister of Education to introduce a course on ethics in all pre-schools and reception classes at primary schools since it is not being taught at home.

    Now for the good news:

    1. The Progressives have enough votes to form a government but not enough to be arrogant about it.
    2. JuJu Banton will not form part of the next government, and Paul will be put out to pasture.
    3. The UDP have been downgraded from a national party to a local party, and will henceforth be known as the MDP or Mac Doctor Party.
    4. Some good C4C candidates were elected, and the really good news is that Jude wasn’t one of them.
    5. West Bayers have discovered that they can elect someone not on the list approved by McKeeva Bush.
    6. Hell will have to freeze over before Mary Lawrence is appointed as Speaker of the House.
    • Centrist says:

      Interesting comments, but what do you have against Jude?  Personally with all due respect to the many who voted for Roy in GT, I would prefer Jude any day over Roy.

    • very concerned Caymanian says:

      Refering to Mr. Jude Scott, he is a very able Caymanian to run the country. However, he should have ran the race in his home town of Cayman Brac. Where his father and mother are well recognized Caymanians.  So I hope that he will run for Cayman Brac in 2017, I bet you that he will win.

  7. Libertarian says:

    Nicky, indeed, we are better off having a multi-party system where we have more than two active parties in the Cayman Islands. Just having two parties is not good for Cayman's representation. There needs to be at least a third option. 

    As for Independents on their own, they should learn that "no man is an island to himself." They should join the C4C and group themselves into a new party, if needs be a new name. "There is strength in numbers." 

  8. Anonymous22 says:

    How I see it Nicky is that having some UDP members in the mix is good too. If the C4C don't become an effective and positive opposition, they will have UDP to contend with. So it is a bonus to have more than two groupings in the LA.

    • Anonymous says:

      I dont think that the George Town people voted a wealthy man like Roy McTaggart into the LA to sit on the Opposition backbenches where he can acheive very little and collect $10,000 per month.  I would assume if you ran on a platform of forming aCoaltion Government, the least people can expect is for you to do just that.  The C4C in their very first act have put their own personal and Party (sorry group) interest above their election slogan Country First.

      They only meant that they would form a Coaltion Government IF they could be Premier. 

      Its that simple.

  9. Josh says:

    I am extremely happy that you pointed out that the key with a party system is a ideological difference in views between the parties.  With the PPM and UDP, you often saw conflicting personalities, not differences in the fundemental way of managing the governments affairs.

    With the C4C i think we will see some changes in the way the opposition functions in government, having a opposition is not meant to say no to everything tha the government says, it as you said is to scrutinize decisions made by government and ensure that the decisions made are in the best interest of the people, and even if they cant sway the decisions, to have their views on the record.

    the other thing i want to see is that party members are given the power to vote on their conscience and not on the party line, and that they should not be punished for following thier conscience, which seems to  be the case at the moment (though icould be completely wrong)

     

    • Anonymous says:

      the PPm should talk separately with both C4C and IND and see which alliance would be most benefiticial for the country.  Evereybody was talking about COUNTRY First so lets not start out doing the opposite!!!

      Clearly an Alliance with the C4C would be the better and stronger option, if c4c can swallow their pride.

      After that offer Ezzard Speaker. If he doesnt want it offer it to Julie.

       

      lets get rolling folks.

       

       

      • Anonymous says:

        The COALITION for Cayman (C4C) are in their first act in government, doing the opposite of what their mantra "Country First" calls for.  They have apparently refused to form a COALITION Government with the PPM who are the CLEAR winners in the elections with 9 members, the closest grouping being both the UDP and the C4C with only 3 members each.

        Even CNS has had to admit they are a party!

        Now they turn down the opportunity to form a Coalition, a term that they even use in their title.

        Tara and Winston, if Roy doesnt want to help form the Government, you both are supposed to be independent thinkers, Put country first.

        The people have spoken, the PPM is the Party with by far the most votes. Form the Coalition Government that you PROMISED the PEOPLE.

        WE are watching.

    • Anonymous says:

      The speaker must not be an MLA.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I like this scenario

    • Anonymous says:

      What this country need for the next 4 years is a strong and organised opposition so that NO Government feels they have unfettered control of the countries expenditure.

      My "dream team" for the opposition would be Tara Rivers, Ezzard Miller, Arden McLean, Roy McTaggart and Winston Connolley. Leave McKeeva, Bernie and Capt Eugene out of it to stew on the back bench.

      I really don't worry about who PPM picks for the individual ministers, they have enough competent people to form a Government and enough members, if they offer Julie speaker, to form the Government and to do a good job, however they need a strong opposition in order to rein in their spending in all areas and to force them to keep the books straight.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well written and balanced article Nicky, well done.

    As opposition, the PPM and others did nothing to curtail, highlight or otherwise probe Mac's activities. That is highly dangerous, and as it almost did, led to an unconstitutional "dictator" doing practically what he liked as no-one stood up to him. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

     

    The first thing I would like the Independents and PPM to do-is bar Mac from taking his seat until his court case is over. He has no place in Cayman any more, he is the only one (apart from certain WB voters) not to hear the music..another sure sign the power he pulled went to his head. And they should pass legislation immediately to bar people under criminal investigation from standing in elections.

    The Independents really need to be vocal on the budget too, history has shown that this is not their strongest area..

    I wish them all luck (apart from Mac) and a good future for Cayman with a hopefully responsible government.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is absolutely false to say that the PPM as opposition did nothing to highlight, probe or otherwise curtail McKeeva's activities. You must have been asleep when the opposition broke th enews about the Stan Thomas investigation, or questions about nation bldg fund arose, or the public demonstrations against the reckless ideas, or the calls for resignation, or the 3 no confidence motions. You people just make it up as you go along because you don't like Alden.

      An another thing. You can't just pass a law to deprive someone from holding office while under investigation. That is a constitutional issue and the constitution would need to be amended.    

      • SSM345 says:

        15:25, if we used Mac's previous tactics with regards to implementing legislation and passing law we can do what the f**k we want. Capiche?

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes, but the electorate decisively rejected McKeeva's tactics on Wednesday.

      • Peanuts says:

        I beg to correct the statement that the "Oppostion" broke the news of the Stan Thomas letter. It was the North Side repersentive Mr. Miller who broke that story. So lets give credit where it is due. The only oppostion was Mr. Ezzard Miller.

    • Anonymous says:

      I'm not sure about barring someone under investigation to run for or become or continue as an MLA?

      Maybe legislation and/or constitutional amendment to cause any MLA to step aside from positions such as premier, deputy premier, leader or deputy leader of the opposition, or any ministerial position once arrest and/or charges have been made.