Dale Butler, left, and Mark Pettingill on election day. *File photo by Alex O'Reilly
Dale Butler, left, and Mark Pettingill on election day. *File photo by Alex O'Reilly

FRIDAY, DEC. 28: Ousted MP Dale Butler might have been heading back to Parliament — had it not been for a seat switch by his party.

Mr Butler has revealed he had been asked by the PLP to stand in Warwick South East — which was a safer seat to the one he ended up losing to OBA’s Mark Pettingill (Warwick North East). But the party did a U-turn and asked him to stay in the seat he won in 2007.

Warwick South East was held for the PLP by newcomer Lawrence Scott, son of the seat’s former MP Alex Scott, a former Premier.

Veteran Mr Butler, widely seen as one of the most popular PLP Parliamentarians, said: “They asked me to stay and defend — that’s what I did. I did as a loyal party member should and I did what they expected me to do. It was a possibility I could have been going back to Parliament — I was aware of that.”

Mr Butler – first elected in the PLP landslide of 1998 – served as Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture then as Minister for Social Rehabilitation and Culture.But he quit Cabinet as a matter of principle over the handling of the Uyghur issue by then-Premier Dr Ewart Brown.

Mr Butler said: “I wanted to continue under Dr Brown – but a lot of people in the constituency said ‘no’ – I thought about it, so I resigned. It wasn’t like I was an absent MP – I resigned as a matter of principle.”

Mr Butler said that he was still mulling over his future: “It’s early days. I don’t know what I’ll do. I haven’t thought of anything. I don’t know what will happen in the future. I was really hoping for one more term.”

Mr Butler said he would continue with his work with the Little Venice group of restaurants, where he is responsible for training, communications and community relations.

He added: “I worked very hard for everybody in the constituency and I thought that might make a difference. It was a question of ‘your party is not doing well, nothing against you. Bye’. People said the PLP took people for granted – I don’t think anyone could say I took them for granted. I respect the electorate, for whatever reason they decided. There is no bitterness... my legacy is there as a Minister with an outstanding track record.”

And he cited the successful Mirrors programme, aimed at helping young people with problems and the Cultural Legacy Fund, designed to support the arts and culture with grants as examples of programmes he had pushed through Parliament.

Mr Butler added that – as a teaching professional for 21 years and a school principal for 16 of those years – his major regret was that he had never been given the Education portfolio. He pointed out that he had written a book on the best way to educate young men – and that his own children had had outstanding academic careers, with son Jay, now a law professor at George Washington University in Washington DC, winning a prestigious Rhodes scholarship and studying at both Harvard and Oxford.

He said that he had expected to be made Minister of Education after he was asked to run for the PLP by then-party leader Frederick Wade in the late 1990s: “I never begged for it – that’s the way I was brought up. I did as I was expected to do and served in whatever capacity I was asked to.”

Mr Butler also revealed for the first time that he had suffered racial abuse during the 2012 election campaign – but had declined to make an issue of it: “I was called some insulting names this time around. The gentleman later apologized. He said something racially insulting, but I didn’t rush to the press with that. On election day, he gave me a big hug. His wife was embarrassed by what he had said and so was his daughter and he is a prominent member of the community. I could have made something of that – but that wasn’t the way I was brought up. I was taught to try and be a decent person and a Christian as well.”

Mr Butler added: “I did the best I could to provide the best leadership I could for the constituents and history will judge whether that was enough. I think I did more than enough and I believe I was the best MP they could have had.”