If media reports through the first half of 2016 were to be believed, the Pro- gressive Labour Party was a rudderless boat with mutinous crew. Opposition leader Marc Bean had disappeared from the public eye due to illness, and the race to replace him had split the party. On one side: Team Lister. On the other:
The struggle for leadership of the PLP was decided the night before the presidential election in the US, with Shadow Finance Minister David Burt beating out
Dennis Lister by just four votes. In an effort to unite the party, Burt named Walter
Roban—a member of Team Lister—his deputy leader.
“The priority is getting ready for an election, and then it is presenting alternate
visions for the people of this country,” Burt said at the time. “The people of this
country need jobs, they need opportunity and they need hope. Right now there is
very little out there.”
Under Burt’s leadership, the PLP built an election platform focussing on educa-
tion, specifically phasing out middle schools, implementing a living wage and
the promise of tax reform. “The next PLP government will grow our economy
by bringing jobs back to Bermuda by creating a payroll tax exemption for any
Bermudian company that decide to repatriate previously outsourced jobs back to
Bermuda,” he said.
That message resonated louder than anyone could have imagined, and on July
18th the PLP stormed to an historic victory with Burt leading the charge. For
many, their victory was unexpected. But not for Burt and his family.
“Whatever David does, he does it well and along the way he always lifts up
others,” said his sister, Winsome Burt-Smith, the night of the election. “He has
nurtured so many kids, he’s got friends in every country, of every colour. We knew
for a long time he would be successful.”
“With our election victory, we have won the tools to make change,” said Burt.
“And that is the power to change laws and to control the public purse. But that
alone will not make the change to ensure that children and grandchildren of to-
day’s workers will become the producers tomorrow.
“The labour movement and the [Progressive] Labour Party have a chance to
write a new script for Bermuda. We can show this country that the lesson of solidarity is unity—unity of vision and unity of purpose.”
—by W.C. Stevenson