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Is imperialism a new passion for the left?

By Russell Grenning - posted Friday, 16 February 2018

It was the Labour Party which led the domestic vanguard of the post World War 11 campaign in the UK to dismantle the British Empire as they, and their allies, argued that the then colonial subjects around the world had the right to govern themselves. The old Empire crumbled and, as it did, the British Labour Party rejoiced in the liberation of its former subjects. No longer, they said, should a British Government tell people outside of the UK what they could and could not do.

Even the Conservatives joined in the applause for this noble principle which became a guiding principle for everybody in the new enlightened era. To argue against it was to commit an unforgivable political, racist and moral sin.

There is precious little left of the old Empire nowadays and the widely scattered remnants are called British Overseas Territories. The largest of these is Bermuda in the Caribbean and which has a population of about 65,000.


In early February, the democratically elected government of Bermuda became the first jurisdiction in the world to reverse its law permitting same sex marriage and the UK Labour Party went wild demanding that the government instruct the Governor John Rankin to refuse to countenance much less approve the decision by Bermuda's Parliament.

Suddenly, the British Labour Party and The UK Greens starting sounding like a bunch of crusty old cavalry colonels huddled together in far-right 1950s outfits like the League of Empire Loyalists and tut-tutting into their gin and tonics about the breakdown of civilisation.

Under Bermuda's 1968 Constitution, the governor, appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of the British Government retains control over external affairs, defence and internal security but can only act on the advice of the ruling Premier and Cabinet.

In May 2017, Bermuda's Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage and by February 2018 the Territory's Parliament passed a government Bill overturning that decision. In 2016, a non-binding referendum proposing same-sex marriage or same-sex civil unions in Bermuda was rejected by voters.

One irony is that Bermuda is governed by the Progressive Labour Party which won 24 of the 36 House of Assembly seats and 58.89% of the popular vote in the July, 2017 election after the Supreme Court's decision. It is described as being of the centre-left and, in other circumstances, would be considered an international ally of the British Labour Party. And their election manifesto promised to introduce the legislation that it did so nobody could accuse them of being sneaky.

Bermuda's Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown said the legislation signed by the governor sought to balance opposition to same-sex marriage in the socially conservative country while complying with European court rulings that ensured recognition of and protection for same-sex couples.


The Minister was quoted as saying, "The Act is intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognising and protecting the rights of same sex couples."

The reported eight same-sex couples who were married during the window of opportunity when it was legal will continue to be recognised under the new law. The rights of gay couples remain the same as straight married couples and only the verbiage applied to each type of relationship is different.

The British Prime Minister Theresa May was quoted in British media as saying that she was "disappointed" by the decision. She conceded, "That Bill has been democratically passed by the Parliament of Bermuda, and our relationship with the overseas territories is based on partnership and respect for their right to democratic self-government."

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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