‘I’ve heard the message. And I must now act on it’
Terry Lister lists grievances as he leaves PLP
By Ayo JohnsonThe Royal Gazette “There will be a green and white flag over my coffin” to indicate that he would always be a member of the PLP.
Terry Lister, Sandys South representative, has resigned from the Progressive Labour Party to sit in parliament as an independent.
Mr Lister — who had once declared his unflinching loyalty to the Island’s first political party — told the House of Assembly yesterday that the party he had served for almost 20 years had sent a clear message that he was no longer wanted.
Party leader Marc Bean insisted the party was getting stronger, and denied there was a rift between the older and younger members of the party.
Mr Lister told the House that he had consulted with the executive officers of the party’s branch organisation of his district and a number of his constituents.
“I have decided that, for the balance of my political career, I would stand as an independent member of this Honourable House.
“This decision required much thought consultation and, most importantly, prayer.”
He said he had received a “strong response” from those he had consulted that he should “continue to put the country first, and in doing so, should move away from the bounds of party politics and stand free to represent my constituents, and my country, led by my God and my conscience”.
Mr Lister said it was a “fairly easy decision”. He noted that he had served his party in various capacities since 1989 when as campaign manager for Sandys he was instrumental in regaining two seats that had been lost when the party suffered internal division in 1985.
He continued: “The past three years have been extremely difficult and less satisfying for myself. Some of that difficulty stems from my decision to stand in this very House in July 2009 to express my greatest concerns about the rising debt that the country was incurring.”
In 2009, Mr Lister was fired from the Cabinet by then Premier Ewart Brown after he called for the Premier to step down. Months later he told
“Mr Speaker, to my surprise, following the election loss of December 17, I was asked by the Deputy Leader if I would take on the party leadership. I agreed with great reluctance.
“The parliamentary group agreed that I would be put forward as their choice and on Friday that same week an election for the party leader was held. I lost that election to the present leader. These things happen.
“However, what was of grave concern to myself and others was the hostility with which I was greeted.
“As an example, during my speech, I noted I had served in the legislature for nearly 20 years. My comment was met with a response from a delegate who said ‘well, it’s time for you to go’.”
He went on to say that Mr Bean offered him the post of Shadow Finance Minister. But he declined the post in an e-mail which made it clear that he would be willing to serve in any other shadow cabinet post.
But Mr Lister said he was to learn from his wife that the shadow cabinet had been announced and that “I was out of Cabinet long before I had unknowingly sent my e-mail”.
Mr Lister also complained that he was last in the line of MPs out of the House of Assembly to hear the Governor read the Throne Speech at last week’s convocation of parliament.
“Of course, someone has to have that spot. Usually its reserved for a brand new Member of Parliament who is having his or her first date in the House — not a veteran of 19 years.
“So the message is clear. The delegates said its time for you to go. The leader has no place for me in his Shadow Cabinet.
“Remarkably, I’m hearing ‘Lister, you’re just not good enough. Mr Speaker, I’ve heard the message. And I must now act on it. I will no longer stand as a PLP MP. But I will now stand for Bermuda.
“I will vote for Bermuda on all votes taken in this Honourable House. I look forward to serving this term and possibly future terms in this new role.”
Shortly after Mr Lister’s speech, Mr Bean explained that he only received Mr Lister’s response to his offer of a shadow cabinet position — made at the Special Delegates session in December last year when he won the leadership contest — on the same day he was sworn in as Opposition Leader at Government House last month.
He said Mr Lister had indicated he was willing to assist Shadow Finance Minister David Burt and the party in any way. “It was for that reason that I had him situated right behind my seat and beside madam whip, Lovitta Foggo. Because once I’m in parliament I need to have senior parliamentary advisers behind me.”
Mr Bean rejected a suggestion that there was generational rift in the party.
“If there’s a rift it only exists in the minds of a very few members,” he said. “Last week’s thank you party at the Bermuda Industrial Union is indicative of the fact that you had about 70 percent of the persons there over the age of 50. They actually took the party over and we, collectively, had a good time.”
He described as a “falsehood” a claim that he was “pro young and anti-old”.
“Anyone who continues to speak in such a manner is merely an instrument to divide and rule the party and they are not to be trusted.”
He reminded the media that he had won a primary in district 32 against Randolph Horton and “stepped aside humbly”.
“And I ran twice in a UBP seat and that’s for the sake of harmony. So anyone who accuses me of being pro youth — being a middle-aged man — and anti elders, they are spreading falsehoods and living in an illusion.
“If the party is a ship and we are going towards our destiny, then the rudder of the ship is the wisdom of our elders and the energy of the ship is the wind within our sails and that comes from our youth.”
Mr Bean told this newspaper that the party continued its efforts to strengthen its administration and reconnect with its base.
“I’m very pleased with the parliamentary colleagues that I have. I think qualitatively, we are stronger than the One Bermuda Alliance in the House. I’m very pleased with my executive committee, my CC committee and the strengthening of the branches. So all in all we are moving forward and I’m very excited about it.”
He acknowledged that Randolph Horton’s decision to accept the Speaker position was a blow to the party. “But once he made the decision, the choice of MP Lister to sit as an independent is not as impactful as our detractors would want us to believe.
“I think the greatest impact was between both MPs and the constituents in constituency 32 and 33 — who voted for them based on one premise. And now they have made decisions and choices which they have the right to do so and which they will have to live with their conscience as MP Lister indicated.”
He would not be drawn on whether Mr Horton would face disciplinary measures, saying that would be an internal party matter not to be discussed publicly. But he indicated that the branch organisations would likely meet soon to discuss the developments.
“The door’s never been closed, the door’s never been locked,” he said when asked if there an effort would be made to get Mr Lister back into the fold.
But he indicated that there was nothing he could do to persuade him to stay.
“When you are a gentleman who has so much considered experience in politics and the business world, I don’t think one’s mind needs to be convinced as to whether they should make a decision or choice.
“He’s a matured man and he understands the decision and choice he has made, and we accept it and we wish him well.”
Mr Bean added: “For a tree in the future to bear fruit abundantly, sometimes we have to prune the tree in the present. I know that might sound harsh but I just see it as the party going through a period of renewal and rejuvenation.
“We are stronger than ever. And make no mistake, that 30 percent of the voting public who refused to come out and vote for the PLP, are rejuvenated also.
“The One Bermuda Alliance will never be able to tap into those persons. And so I’m confident that the majority of the people of this country are very supportive of the Progressive Labour Party going forward.”
The Progressive Labour Party acknowledges and accepts the resignation from the Party of the Member of Parliament for Constituency 33, Sandys South, Mr Terry Lister JP, MP. We thank him for his years of service to the PLP and wish him well in the future.”
Premier Craig Cannonier said he was initially surprised by the resignation, but commended Mr Lister for acting on his conscience.
Mr Lister’s resignation speech made it “very evident that there are some internal challenges with personnel” within the Opposition.
“He [Mr Lister] made it very clear to the people of Bermuda that he was not happy and believes that the best way forward for him is to be an Independent,” the Premier said.
“I was of course surprised but have come to learn that, in politics, you can expect great shifts from one day to the next and this is certainly one of them.”
Although Mr Lister was full of praise for Government in his contribution to the Throne Speech debate in the House of Assembly yesterday afternoon, Mr Cannonier dismissed speculation that was an indication that Mr Lister was considering crossing the floor to join the Government’s ranks.
But he did acknowledge that Mr Lister’s praise for planned Government programmes was “a feather in the cap” for the One Bermuda Alliance.
“I have known Mr Lister to be a very amicable, decent and reasonable man and I have always enjoyed his discourse in the House of Assembly,” Mr Cannonier said.
“But I don’t think by any stretch that his speech today was an overture to cross the floor — it doesn’t mean that at all. I just believe that Mr Lister is a very keen and astute politician who recognises when things are right.
“But it is certainly is a feather in our cap to have someone like Mr Lister acknowledge that what the Government is trying to do is valid and real and right.”
Finance Minister Bob Richards said he was unaware of Mr Lister’s plan to resign, but respected the decision.
“I’ve known Mr Lister for many years and he has always made valuable contributions in the House of Assembly,” Mr Richards said.
“He was also a very valuable member of the last Public Accounts Committee that I chaired, so I was very surprised by his decision.”
Mr Richards said he did not think Mr Lister’s resignation would strengthen Government’s position in House votes — the resignation now leaves the Opposition with 16 MPs.
“I don’t think it matters,” Mr Richards said.
And asked if he believed Mr Lister would now join the OBA, Mr Richards replied: “I have no idea what he intends to do — you know as much as me.”
1989 appointed general election Campaign Chairman of the PLP’s Sandys Branch
1993 National Campaign Co-Chairman
Appointed Senator and Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Tourism and Marine Services, Technology and Information, Works and Engineering, Parks and Housing.
1998 won the Sandys South seat in the party’s first victory at the polls. He was to retain the seat for the PLP over the next three elections.
Appointed the PLP’s first Minister of Development, Opportunity and Government Services
2001 — 2003 Home Affairs and Public Safety Minister
July 2003 One of a group of 11 male PLP MPs who refused to support Premier Jennifer Smith shortly after she had led the party to its second electoral victory. Ms Smith resigned shortly after to be replaced by Alex Scott.
2003 — 2004 Works and Engineering Minister
2004 — 2006 Education and Development Minister
2007 — 2009 Energy Telecommunications and E-Commerce Minister
July 2009 Calls for the resignation of Premier Ewart Brown in a House of Assembly motion to adjourn; cites the controversy over the arrival from the US prison at Guantánamo Bay of four ethnic Uighurs from China without consultation, the size of the national debt, and public discontent over the Premier’s actions. Is fired from Cabinet
October 2010 Contests for the party leadership with Dale Butler and Paula Cox, comes second with 39 votes against Ms Cox’s 124.
2010 — 2011 Transport Minister under Premier Paula Cox
November 2011 Joins the backbench after Paula Cox reshuffles her cabinet
December 21, 2012 Contests against Marc Bean for the Leadership position following the PLP’s first electoral defeat since 1998 and the resignation of former Paula Cox. Gains 35 votes against Marc Bean’s 111.
February 15, 2013 Announces his resignation from the party to sit as an independent MP
A Chartered Accountant, Mr Lister was a partner at Deloitte and Touche from 1982 until 1998 when he retired to become a full time politician.