It cannot have been easy for the George Town representative to question – in front of hundreds of supporters – the basic relevance of his own organisation and admit that it is not automatically the people’s first choice for leadership at the moment.
Moreover, attempts to move the PPM toward what could be described as Cayman’s political “centre”, advocating more tolerance for foreign-born residents and even inviting long-time expatriate residents to join the PPM, could be seen as risky given that the general public perception of the party indicates many of its core voters do not support such a move.
Mr. McLaughlin said Saturday that the perception of the PPM as ‘anti-expat’ is false, maliciously created by its political opponents.
Whether that is true or not, we believe foreign-born workers are vital to Cayman’s long-term success and we are happy to hear Mr. McLaughlin intends to advocate the acceptance of expatriates as party policy.
The new opposition leader also spent a large part of his speech on Saturday addressing Cayman’s youth. The PPM, he said, has not always taken as much account of youth voters’ views as it should have. Greater involvement for youth in Cayman’s political process is a must in many ways and we’re glad the opposition party has arrived at this conclusion.
In short, we were impressed by Mr. McLaughlin’s first public appearance as his party’s leader. We hope the new direction for the PPM will signal the beginning of the end for the politics of division, of ‘us-versus-them’, born Caymanians against ‘paper-Caymanians’ and work permit holders versus everyone else in the country. Politicians will still have their arguments, to be sure, and we can think of few people who are less alike in their views about government than Mr. McLaughlin and Premier McKeeva Bush.
However, if the parties can manage to keep the debate about policy and not personalities in 2013 those differences might actually serve to strengthen the democratic process in Cayman.