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Burt named new leader of the PLP

New leader of the Progressive Labour Party David Burt and his deputy Walter Roban (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

Deputy leader of the Progressive Labour Party David Burt was voted in as Leader of the Opposition in a tightly fought contest last night.

The former Shadow Minister of Finance and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee replaces Marc Bean who retired from politics on Friday, bringing to an end a tenure fraught with unrest and division within the party.

During the delegates conference held at Devonshire Recreational Club last night, Dennis Lister made a bid for the leadership but was beaten to the post by 39 votes to 35. After his victory, a cool and collected Mr Burt, pictured above immediately after the ballot, addressed the media to say he was “gratified and humbled” by the trust put in him and vowed to unify the party.

Walter Roban was named the new deputy leader, beating out competition from Kim Wilson. Mr Roban did not reach the necessary 38 votes, but Ms Wilson, who gained 27 votes, conceded.

Asked whether the party could be better unified under his leadership, especially alongside Mr Roban, who had expressed disappointment at Mr Bean’s retirement, Mr Burt said: “The PLP is going to be moving forward and this man [Mr Roban] works hard and we will work very well together.

“During the period of time that the former leader was on medical leave, I was the acting leader and he was the acting deputy and we worked excellently together, so I am looking forward to working together.

“I am looking forward to continuing the work to unify the party and I am looking forward to presenting an alternative vision for the future of this country so that people can feel confident in voting for the PLP and end the poor governance of the OBA.”

Speaking on whether there was time for the PLP to win the upcoming election, Mr Burt replied: “Absolutely.” He went on: “The priority is getting ready for an election and then it is presenting alternate visions for the people of this country. The people of this country need jobs, they need opportunity and they need hope. Right now there is very little out there.”

Mr Roban said: “My track record speaks for itself — I support leadership. I have never acted against leadership. David has been chosen; I stand by David Burt as the leader of the party and we will build a team that will win the next election.”

Meanwhile, Makai Dickerson stepped down as branch chairman for constituency 34 and member at large for the central committee in protest at the election of Mr Burt as leader.

“I want what is best for the people of Bermuda and I believe that was Dennis Lister.”

He said Mr Burt was part of the crew that led to Marc Bean retiring: “I’m done,” he said. “I won’t be for the OBA but I will continue to represent the people of Bermuda.”

Born and bred in Pembroke, Mr Burt was seen by many as the most likely replacement for Mr Bean and his recent resignation as Shadow Finance Minister hinted at his motives.

Mr Burt was appointed as a Member of the Senate as well as Junior Minster for Finance and Environment Planning and Infrastructure Strategy in November 2010. Under Paula Cox, Mr Burt served as chief of staff and was party chairman between 2006 and 2009.

He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration with a double major in Finance and Information Systems in 2001. In 2003, he was awarded The George Washington University Presidential Administrative Fellowship and received his Master of Science in Information Systems Development.

Mr Burt has served on the Tourism Board, National Training Board, a director of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce and as director of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation. Back in July, Mr Burt outlined his intention to bid for the leadership of the PLP if and when the opportunity arose. He said at the time that the PLP “owned” its mistakes from its last term in office and had spent the past three years researching policy, formulating specific plans of action and focusing on how to transform the island’s economy.

Burt isn’t known for pulling punches. This summer he accused the OBA of being “either tone deaf or stupid” in its approach to introducing its controversial Pathways to Status Bill — a move he saw as adding more whites to the electoral roll.

He has recently been an outspoken critic of the One Bermuda Alliance’s airport development plan, describing the process taken by the government as a “wholesale rejection of the principles of good governance”.

Mr Burt is said to have distanced himself from Mr Bean by party insiders amid a storm of anger over his leadership style, which resulted in seven members of the Shadow Cabinet quitting late last year.