Main Story: Politics: Party system vs. independents
Antony Duckworth has served as the chairman of the Progressives since 2002. He was educated at Cambridge University (Maths and Law) and the College of Law and admitted as an English Solicitor in 1971 and as a Cayman Islands attorney in 1974. He is married to Geraldine and they have one son, Nathaniel.
CHAMBER: What do you consider to be the benefits of the party system to Cayman’s political process?
ANTON: The party system brings a degree of certainty, predictability and stability to Cayman’s political process. By voting for a party, voters know what they are voting for in terms of policies, programmes, priorities and personalities. They know if the party is elected, who the leader will be and who the ministers are likely to be. Cayman has almost always elected governments based on teams or parties, which run on a national manifesto.
The one notable election when this did not happen because no political grouping fielded a national slate was the elections of 2000 when independents were elected and required to form a government. That government lasted only one year and its break-up gave birth to the present parties. Without teams/parties, voters are disenfranchised. They cannot use their votes to say who they would like as Premier and government. And they cannot rely on the promises of candidates.
CHAMBER: Political parties usually have distinct ideological differences. What would you identify as the main differences with the UDP and/or other political groups?
ANTON: We cannot speak for the UDP, PNA or C4C but we suggest their actions speak louder than their words. The Progressives are and always have been dedicated to the vision of a just and healthy society, upheld by good, honest, efficient government – without the abuses that we have seen in recent years. The Progressives stand for a strong and more stable economy, government finances under control, more opportunities for Caymanians, more effective education and training – this will all be detailed in our manifesto.
CHAMBER: What is the current membership of the Progressives and its governance structure?
ANTON: The membership of the Progressives is drawn from people in all walks of life who share a common vision of open, honest, efficient government that benefits all of our people. The registered membership stands at 1,220. Our structure is governed by democracy at every step. The Political Leader and the Executive officers are nominated by the Constituency Branches and elected at the National Conference by the general membership. Candidates are nominated by the Constituency Branches and approved by the Executive. Constituency Branches have their own Executives, elected by the members of the branch.
CHAMBER: There are many independent candidates running in this year’s election who have stated publicly that they are dissatisfied with the party system. Does your party believe that a group of independents can come together to develop a national vision and agenda to lead the Islands? Why or why not?
ANTON: The idea of a government of independents is based on a misunderstanding of our history, the role of parties, and our Constitution. Until 2000, our elections were won by teams who came together before the election. We had the Unity Team, the Dignity Team, Team Cayman and the National Team. 2000 was different. No one team won enough seats to form the government.
The new MLAs had to negotiate with each other on who should be in Cabinet and who should be the leader. That led to a disunited government, with no shared vision, which quickly fell apart because the MLAs went on struggling for power. The lessons are clear. If voters do not choose a cohesive team, and they leave it to the MLAs to form a government the result may well be surprising and unpopular; the government will be unstable, disunited and ineffective, with no clear mandate, and no promises for which they can be held to account.