CMC — Premier David Burt conceded Bermuda “has very challenging issues to deal with” after he was re-elected as leader of the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) following a comfortable victory over challenger Curtis Dickinson.
Burt, who admitted it had been a “difficult” campaign, defeated Dickinson, a former cabinet minister, by 97 votes to 56 in Thursday’s showdown in which 120-plus delegates and the PLP’s 30 MPs were able to cast ballots.
Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban also retained his post as deputy leader, defeating another former cabinet minister, Renée Ming, by 96 votes to 55.
“Under our longstanding constitution, our party held a fair and democratic election process and we thank everyone for their efforts,” Burt, who has led the island for five years, said afterwards.
Burt, who said previously that if he won Thursday’s election he would only serve four more years and stand down in 2026, would not be drawn when asked by media on whether he would invite Dickinson, a former banker who dramatically quit as Minister of Finance in February, back into the cabinet.
After the vote, Dickinson said “we had a contest – the delegates have spoken. It is time for us to get together and go back to work.
“And I am as committed to the PLP as I was before I started this journey.”
The triumph came after Dickinson branded Burt a liar in an extraordinary attack before delegates voted on which man should lead the PLP.
In a scathing social media post before the vote, Mr Dickinson laid into Mr Burt’s track record and predicted the PLP would lose the next election if he was still leader.
The campaign was beset by claims from both sides about dirty tricks and attempted smears.
“Clearly, this has been a spirited election campaign,” Burt said, adding “there are ideas and talents that we can all use and we are going to take the time to focus on restoring our relationships.”
Asked if he would behave differently in his new term as party leader, Burt, who led the PLP to successive general election victories in 2017 and 2020, said “I am not entirely certain if it’s a question of ‘differently’.
“What is evident is that one of the things we are going to do as a party is to get out and talk to persons more. We have been in a pandemic. It’s been a difficult period. And during this election campaign it’s all of us meeting with members across the country.
“It was good to educate persons, meet with persons, to speak with persons, to interact with persons. We must work in the spirit of unity. So, from that perspective we must … have a restorative process so that we can use all of our talents to advance.”
“We have very challenging issues to deal with. We are going to make sure we do whatever we can to unify, to restore relationships, to bring us back together after a difficult internal election,” Burt added.
Dickinson, who complained the PLP leadership had gone against tradition and denied him the platform to address delegates, warned Bermuda was “on the brink” economically and that Burt was not telling voters the truth about the actual scale of the problems. Bermuda is currently $3.35 billion in debt.
In a hard-hitting campaign video, Dickinson said Burt was taking a “dangerous gamble” with US$125 million of taxpayers’ money on the Fairmont Southampton refurbishment and either did not know what he was doing, or did not care because he was desperate for a PR win.
A bust-up with Burt over the hotel deal led to Dickinson’s resignation eight months ago just days before he was due to deliver the annual Budget. Burt took back the finance portfolio he had held before Dickinson won a 2018 by-election to enter the House of Assembly for the first time.
Burt used his keynote address to the PLP conference on Wednesday to claim his wife, Kristin, had had to endure “vicious and false stories” that had been targeted at attacking him as premier.