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Tributes paid as history-making former MP dies at 83

The late Dr Paul De La Chevotiere was the first Bermuda MP to cross the floor in the House of Assembly, switching from PLP to UBP in 1979. He has died aged 83.

Paul De La Chevotiere, the first MP to cross the floor of the House of Assembly, has died aged 83.A Court Street doctor elected as an Opposition Progressive Labour Party MP in 1976, Dr De La Chevotiere made history by joining the ruling United Bermuda Party three years later.The move was considered a major coup for the UBP but, within 14 months, his Hamilton West seat was reclaimed by the PLP’s Arthur Hodgson and Calvin Smith at the 1980 general election.As news of Dr De La Chevotiere’s death broke yesterday, the PLP and UBP both paid tribute and offered condolences to the family in brief statements.Dr De La Chevotiere, a former teacher, launched his House of Assembly career with a notable election victory over former UBP MP John Stubbs in May 1976.He was already considering his future by August 1978, polling the patients of his clinic to ask whether they wanted him to quit politics and concentrate on his practice; two-thirds of those balloted requested he stay in both roles.In October 1979, however, the MP quit the Opposition party, claiming it had failed to develop as a positive force with useful and realistic programmes.“Instead of progress, the emphasis has been on negative protest,” he said at that time.“This to me invariably indicates an immaturity and smallness of soul and spirit. It is not so much a question of leaving the Progressive Labour Party as the fact that the Progressive Labour Party has left me.”A letter to the Royal Gazette editor he wrote a few days later hints at some of the impact of his unprecedented move, saying he would not be made into a bigot or stooge.“To all those who see issues as black/white, them/us and we/they, may I suggest that if we (all of us, black, white, etc, etc) abandon the Christian doctrine of loving our neighbour and the personal responsibility of each individual for his actions, we shall certainly revert to a state of jungle war,” he wrote.“If we are not willing to have mutual faith and respect, understanding, forgiveness, conciliation and love, yes, love, we will fast find ourselves reverting to the state of jungle war.”He revealed PLP leader Lois Browne-Evans had accepted he had been guided by his conscience, while prominent UBP Minister Harry Viera praised Dr De La Chevotiere’s brains, courage and judgment.Nevertheless, Dr De La Chevotiere’s political career finished in December 1980, when Mr Hodgson and Mr Smith scored 487 and 473 votes respectively, compared to 410 for Michael King of the UBP and 406 for Dr De La Chevotiere.Since then three more MPs have crossed the floor: Grace Bell in 1998, Wayne Furbert in 2010 and Darius Tucker in 2011 have all left the UBP for the PLP.Messages on The Royal Gazette’s online guest book yesterday include this from Wendell and Karen Christopher: “We would like to offer of sincerest condolences to the family of Dr Chevotiere.“He was a great doctor and friend. He was always kind, compassionate, trustworthy, and honest. He was dedicated to the exceptional care of his patients and I will never forget him for his professional care and friendship. He will be truly missed. Cherish the memories and know that God will comfort you at this time.”Former PLP Premier Ewart Brown, a fellow physician, wrote together with his wife Wanda: “To the family: please accept our warmest condolences. Paul served his patients and Bermuda with sincerity and compassion.”Kim Swan, who was elected as a UBP MP in 2007, stated to this newspaper: “The United Bermuda Party extend our condolences to the family of former Parliamentarian the late Dr Paul de la Chevotiere upon learning of his passing.“Whilst Dr De la Chevotiere was a scholar who choose to make a contribution to improve Bermuda through politics, he is best remembered for being the only Parliamentarian to cross the floor from the Progressive Labour Party to the United Bermuda Party following the 1976 general election.“His move was controversial and became the talk of Bermuda, as Hamilton Parish became known as a marginal constituency with close elections and voters switching parties according to party or individual performances and the popularity of their representatives.“Ironically, Dr De la Chevrotiere was unsuccessful during the 1980 general election; he also served in the Legislative Council.“May he rest in peace.”A PLP spokesman said: “The Progressive Labour Party is saddened by the death of Dr Paul De La Chevotiere, a former PLP MP. We extend our condolences to his family.”Former UBP Minister Quinton Edness said: “Dr Chevotiere was a keen and dedicate person to his family and to the people of Bermuda. He was an independent thinker who, when he spoke, always had something important to say usually about improving the lives of those people who were less fortunate than others in the community. He was concerned about children and their education. He also kept up a busy medical practice while in Parliament.“I found Dr Chevotiere to be very polite and affable. He had a great sense of humour and an easy approachable personality. He was a good man.“I am so sorry to hear that he has passed, he did a lot of good for Bermuda. I should like extend our family’s condolences and prayers to his family and wish them God’s blessings during this difficult time.”