Famous: PLP must reach out to white voters
The Progressive Labour Party may have enjoyed a landslide victory only seven months ago, but according to Christopher Famous, it should still aim to broaden its base.
Mr Famous called on his party to reach out to white people who have traditionally not voted for the PLP, telling The Royal Gazette: “The onus is on us to knock on every door.”
The Devonshire East MP, who cited tireless canvassing as the reason for his shock victory over Bob Richards at last July's General Election, noted the importance of making all Bermudians feel welcome in the PLP.
Mr Famous said: “We need to broaden our reach — our base is black Bermudians but this election proved that there are white Bermudians who will support the PLP.
“You are bringing forth proposals and legislation that are better for all. If our messaging is to all Bermudians, then all Bermudians start to feel included.
“The average white person will say the PLP doesn't come knocking on their door. Berkeley was the top academic school and white people didn't send their children there. St Paul's is a black church that white people don't attend.
“The fact that whites aren't in the party in numbers is a reflection of what's going on in the community. We as a party have to knock on every door.
“We have a racial issue in this country — we are going to do our part to reach out to all Bermudians, but it is up to them to come through the door. The initial onus is on us to knock on every door.”
Mr Famous was talking ahead of the PLP's 54th Founders' Day Banquet, at which he will be the keynote speaker on Sunday.
That event will honour the formation of the party by Albert Peter Smith, Wilfred “Mose” Allen, Austin Wilson, Edward DeJean, Dilton Cann, Walter Robinson and Hugh Roy Richardson, out of Mr Richardson's garage.
Mr Famous said the PLP would stay relevant by diversifying, while staying true to its founding principles.
He said the PLP must also communicate and engage with the electorate.
“As a party and as a government, we need to have proactive communications with the people,” he said.
“Part of that is having a healthy relationship with the media. The media is the fourth estate — part and parcel of their responsibility is for them to hold the government to account. Don't view the media as the enemy.
“A lot of times we put forward legislation on a Friday without explaining to the people prior why we are doing it to ask, how does this benefit you? We live in the information age.”
He said the party must also consider how the message gets out to the next generation.
He said: “Be imaginative — go to a PechaKucha Night and inform people on policy. You are dealing with a new generation of people who are not going to sit down and read the newspaper — they want it in seconds. We have to reform how we communicate and increase our communication.”
Mr Famous said he was “stunned” when he was invited to be this year's keynote speaker. He said he wished to honour the party's foundations focusing on “where we have been, where we are and where we need to go”.
He said: “The foundation of the PLP was not built on it being a black party or being an elitist party — the foundation was about moving forward persons who were deemed the underclass hence the word progressive. We need to be not simply a party looking to get re-elected but to actually progress Bermuda.
“Another part of it would be to emphasise that we are a labour party and that doesn't mean just blue-collar labour — it means all workers.
“We have to remember that we didn't win this election simply because we all showed up to Parliament every Friday — we won it because we knocked on the door and we met with people who expressed their concerns to us. No matter if we are in Opposition or in Government, we have to remember we have to keep knocking.”
The 54th Founders' Day Banquet takes place on Sunday at the Willowbank Conference Centre, in Sandys, from 2pm to 5pm.