‘All politics is local’ agree Bermudian Parliamentarians at CPA Post-Election Seminar
Bermudian Parliamentarians have come together to discuss their responsibilities as representatives and learn from others across the Commonwealth at a three-day virtual Post-Election Seminar organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).
The seminar, held virtually from 1-3 December 2020, was designed to provide Bermudian Parliamentarians with an overview of their role and to explore the different parliamentary processes that they will participate in. Attendees were addressed by a resource team of 18 Parliamentarians, Presiding Officers and Clerks from different Commonwealth jurisdictions including St Lucia, Jersey, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Canada, Cayman Islands, Guyana, Seychelles and Bermuda, brought together by the CPA to share their experiences, ideas and strategies. The seminar examined the role of a Parliamentarian in depth, including sessions on ‘Empowering Female Voices in Parliament’, ‘The Legislative Process’ and ‘Public Outreach, Representation and Education’. In addition to talks by guest speakers, sessions involved discussion exercises, giving attendees the opportunity to consider challenges they could face during their time in Parliament and create plans to respond effectively.
The CPA Secretary-General, Stephen Twigg, opened the seminar by congratulating Members of the Bermuda House of Assembly on their recent election success, particularly in the context of COVID-19, and highlighting the importance of strong and independent Parliaments in the Commonwealth. He also emphasised the Members’ crucial role as the voices of the citizens of Bermuda and drew upon his own experiences as a former UK MP to outline the challenges facing Parliamentarians.
The Speaker of the Bermuda House of Assembly, Hon. Dennis Lister, JP, MP, said that learning from different Commonwealth Parliaments is crucial for newly elected MPs and that the CPA provides a vital network for Parliamentarians across the Commonwealth. The Speaker also reflected on the 400th anniversary of the Bermuda Parliament this year and said that the newly elected MPs would have a unique opportunity to influence the start of the next 400 years in the history of Bermuda’s Parliament.
Across the three days, several key themes emerged as common priorities for Bermudian Parliamentarians. Chief amongst these themes was the importance of remaining attentive to constituents at a local level whilst working in the arena of national politics. In his remarks on the opening day, the CPA Secretary-General, Stephen Twigg, quoted former US Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill, who famously said ‘all politics is local’. The well-known adage proved relevant in discussions on Public Outreach, Communications and Parliamentary Standards, and many MPs, reflecting on the lessons of the seminar in the final session, affirmed their commitment to local constituents first and foremost, including those who may not have voted for them.
The Women’s Caucus session was noted as a highlight of the programme by all participants. Hon. Alincia Williams-Grant, President of the Senate of Antigua and Barbuda, and Hon. Shandana Gulzar Khan MNA, Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) network, joined female MPs and Senators in Bermuda for a discussion on the additional pressures that women in Parliament face. Members agreed that networking with other women in Parliament was a vital way for women entering the legislature to find support and advice. Going forward, attendees committed to foster leadership amongst young Bermudian women through education and mentorship programmes.
At the conclusion of the seminar, both new and returning Members of Parliament were positive that the opportunity to serve the people of Bermuda outweighed the many challenges currently faced by Parliamentarians. All participants, especially newly elected MPs, were pleased to have gained a more confident understanding of their democracy through the seminar. In his closing remarks, Speaker Lister thanked the CPA for its consistent support of the Bermudian Parliament and encouraged Members to further utilise CPA resources to aid their work in Parliament.