Premier's autonomy bid just not cricket

Bermuda referendum: Colony likely to reject independence in poll due to take place as Hurricane Felix reaches islands

Jim Woolridge is not your average Cabinet minister. How many ministers are best known to their countrymen as "the Voice of Cricket''? And how many will tell you on the record that their boss, the chief of government, has "flipped''.

As Hurricane Felix rumbled towards Bermuda, delaying the British colony's long-awaited referendum on independence, the Minister of Tourism demonstrated the same priorities as most of his 60,000 countrymen. He followed the cricket.

In that unique Bermudian mix of American and Oxbridge English, from a scaffolding by the boundary marker, Mr Woolridge kept the island informed, "live" on AM radio, on the progress of Southampton Rangers versus Willow Cuts in the Western Counties' cricket league. Like most of those listening to him on AM radio, he also kept half an ear on the England-West Indies Test match beamed live on the BBC. The approaching hurricane was distinctly secondary.

After pushing aside his microphone Mr Woolridge said he was sure his countrymen would reject independence in the referendum scheduled for tomorrow but under threat of postponement until Hurricane Felix has passed.

"I think the guy has flipped," he said of his boss, Premier Sir John Swann, who pushed the referendum idea, wants independence and has pledged to resign if the 38,000 eligible voters opt to remain a colony.

"It's going to be a `no' vote," Mr Woolridge said between overs as ``The Yellowheads'' (Willow Cuts) tried to bowl out the Rangers at the Somerset Bridge cricket club on the main island's western tip. "You have to ask yourself `independence from what?' I'm already Bermudian. I couldn't be any more Bermudian than I am now. I'm not interested in a new flag or anthem.''

Opinion polls suggested most Bermudians agree with the Tourism Minister. Sir John, black like Mr Woolridge and 60 per cent of Bermudians, had assumed the black vote would swing the referendum his way. But the latest polls indicate even a majority of blacks will reject breaking away from Britain.

The 40 per cent white population is firmly in favour of the status quo that has given Bermudians a standard of living among the highest in the world with a per capita income of around $28,000 (pounds 18,000) a year. Blacks and whites alike are at pains to tell the visitor that Bermuda is not in the Caribbean, which they usually refer to as "the islands farther south'', but in the Western Atlantic. Not in the Third World but the First is the message.

Opinion polls, of course, can be way off beam. A walk up Hamilton's Court Street, where homeless blacks sleep in doorways only yards from the glitzy shops of Front Street, reveals a certain degree of anti-white sentiment in comments from young black men. Court Street is their territory and they make sure white visitors know it.

In bars such as the Elbow Beach Surf Club Bar, the music is Bob Marley, the fashion is dreadlocks and white tourists are warned that any show of aggression would be very unwise.

The sense of black identity appears to be growing and may be why Sir John, after a Thatcheresque 13 and a half years in power, risked his career and reputation on a vote he is likely to lose. Since even most opponents of independence admit that it is a logical and inevitable step, the Premier (that's his official title - only independence would make him "Prime Minister'') may wish to go down in the history books as the man who led the independence movement.

Inevitable it may be but "not quite yet, we're doing quite nicely, thank- you" appears to be the majority sentiment in a country where black taxi drivers routinely send their children to the United States or Britain for higher education, poverty is minimal and most people own their own homes.

To most Bermudians, the independence vote is less one of principle or nationalism and more one of simple accounting: the cost of independence to the taxpayer. How would the country afford embassies abroad, a UN mission and so forth?

There are more companies here - 70,000 - than people and the country's traditional white elite (locals call the leading families "the 40 thieves'') believes independence, even though it would be a largely symbolic move, could frighten such companies off.

The authorities in the Cayman Islands are already using Bermuda's independence "threat" in brochures aimed at diverting business from here to there.

Meanwhile, while still tuned to the Test Match, the locals began boarding up their shops and homes yesterday as Felix, potentially the worst hurricane ever to hit here, approached with winds of 125mph.

The last serious hurricane to hit Bermuda was Emily in September 1987, which injured scores of people and caused $55m (pounds 35m) in damage. Felix is already bearing stronger winds than Emily.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links