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Like Trump, Burt wants to make Bermuda great again

“To the people of Bermuda, the people we were elected to represent, we ask: Has the OBA Government's approach of taking from the workers, the youth and our seniors, while giving concessions to the elite and privileged, worked for you? Do you feel more included and more a part of our island's success? Do you truly believe that Bermuda is working for those whom it should? Do you believe your children will have more opportunities and greater success than you? Are you better off under the OBA?”

— PLP leader David Burt

Most voters and political observers are probably wondering what impact will the change in the Progressive Labour Party's leadership have on Bermuda's political environment. Will it be more or less acrimonious? Will it be more or less mature? Will it be more of the same? Or will we see a paradigm shift of any kind?

These questions were partly answered this week when David Burt used his inaugural Reply to the Throne Speech to make very clear that we should expect no reduction in populist rhetoric and cringeworthy doublespeak. Practically taking a page right out of Donald Trump's playbook, he sought to describe Bermuda as being a place where the elite and privileged trampled on the necks of the downtrodden.

Perhaps like Trump, Burt wants to make Bermuda great again? You know, turn the clock back to the days of milk, honey, respect and integrity. Bermuda was just so much better when the PLP was in power, wasn't it?

Of course, I jest. For those of us who remember, inequality didn't begin in December 2012. The PLP was elected in 1998 on the hope of dismantling the disadvantages that Burt just laid on the One Bermuda Alliance's doorstep. But as history has shown, after 14 years in power, the PLP rewarded us with multiple leadership fights, political scandals, court cases, investigations, belligerent and divisive politicking, and an economy teetering on the edge of destruction.

Burt wants to present his PLP as the solution to his “Tale of Two Bermudas” without acknowledging that the PLP was a significant contributor to our present problems. He also wants us to ignore the reality that building a fairer society requires the Government to first undo the economic and reputational damage done by the PLP.

The PLP Reply closes with a classic straw-man argument that we all should take note of:

“Let us refrain from boasting of prosperity that only touches the few while so many are going without.”

The problem with Burt's premise is that it is false. The OBA has not been boasting of prosperity while ignoring those who are still struggling. The 2016 Throne Speech, delivered just one week before, speaks explicitly to the desire to “make recovery work for the island as a whole”. It specifically laments the reality that the recovery to date has been “slow in coming” for the man on the street.

But this is not the first time that such an admonition has been made, either. Finance minister Bob Richards focused the entire introduction of the 2016 Budget Statement on the understandable frustrations of those who do not yet feel the benefits of Bermuda's economic recovery. He actually went to great lengths to explain that the OBA's overriding mission is to extend the recovery into every household across the island.

As if Burt's false arguments were not enough, he is clearly flip-flopping all over the place by saying whatever he hopes will stick to the wall. One moment, he is against granting concessions; the next, he is supporting the reduction of payroll tax to create jobs.

In July, he unequivocally supported the rejection of equal rights for gays. This week he is claiming that the PLP will embrace all Bermudians, regardless of their sexual orientation.

For the past year and a half, Burt, like the majority of his colleagues, said nothing about the gross disrespect repeatedly shown towards multiple women in the OBA. Now we are supposed to believe that he will fight for a fairer, more inclusive Bermuda?

Nevertheless, Burt's questions above deserve answers. My personal responses are that the OBA is obviously not taking from the poor to give to the rich. It is strategically digging us out of an economic abyss so that Bermuda works for those whom it should.

The OBA is delivering results, so I believe that my children will potentially have more opportunities and success than I did.

Although Bermuda remains far from where it needs to be as a society, the OBA has not governed with contempt for voters who speak out against it. Therefore, I am absolutely certain that Bermuda is far better off under the OBA than the PLP.

To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail: bryanttrew@mac.com

Leader of the Progressive Labour Party David Burt with the reply to the 2016 Throne Speech. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published November 18, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated November 18, 2016 at 11:28 am)

Like Trump, Burt wants to make Bermuda great again

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