It could be that Paula Cox is a shoo-in to the premiership this October.

But the sight of three good and honest people campaigning openly for the premiership — it is far too laid-back to be called a spectacle — is a remarkable and encouraging thing.

We in Bermuda are far more used to Premier’s being selected in mysterious, behind-the-scenes political coups, and installed, and justified, as a fait accompli the morning after.

Of course, having a small group of delegates of one political party choose the leader — as happens in parliamentary democracies around the world — is far from democratic by most definitions.

One day, perhaps, the people of Bermuda will be trusted to vote for their own leader.

In the meantime, leadership candidates are at least making the effort to persuade PLP conference delegates that they have popular support.

The people of Bermuda aren’t getting a vote, but they are at least being consulted.

It is almost impossible for any of the would-be leaders to promise specific programmes with any certainty. The most they can hope for is to be “first among equals” in a Cabinet filled with other ideas and agendas.

But maybe it doesn’t matter. All three candidates seem acutely aware that the change the Bermuda voters want most of all is a change in tone.


More urgent than the intricacies of government policies on tourism, education, crime or the economy is the rebirth of inclusion, openness, humility and good will.

Each candidate has worded it differently.

Terry Lister called for an end to needless battles with foreigners, taxi drivers, the media, and international business.

Under his leadership, Mr. Lister declared, we will be “dusting off the welcome mat and starting over”.

Ms. Cox declared: “What the country needs is someone who is going to help heal some of the divisions … We need to talk about hot issues without a lot of the drama.”

Mr. Butler, meanwhile, vowed to build a Bermuda “where everyone is included”.

“Team Bermuda,” as he calls his would-be government, “will work with all ideas and with all Bermudians and guest workers who wish to assist and make Bermuda an even greater success for all.”

He even suggested putting leading Opposition figures like John Barritt and Grant Gibbons in his cabinet.

Mr. Lister stressed teamwork too. He wanted all of Bermuda “in the same boat rowing in the same direction, together”.

Ms Cox, of course, has long stressed her belief that she functions as part of a team — with unfortunate repercussions when she referred to herself as a “cog in a wheel”.

But the important point is this: All three candidates clearly and unequivocally identified the key failing of the last administration was one of tone: It failed to consult, to respect, or even appear to like, a huge proportion of the people it was meant to serve.

It confused firm and decisive government for government that was often stubborn and rude. Critics often became enemies or racists, rather than fellow-Bermudians who deserved to be reasoned with.

Nobody anywhere believes their government will always agree with them. A significant minority, almost everywhere, always wants somebody else to be in charge.

But if citizens are to be happy, it is important that they believe their views are listened to, and understood, and taken seriously.

One of the key talents of a great leader is the ability to turn opponents into allies, not into enemies.

That skill will be more urgently needed in the days ahead.

Government faces record debt and a painfully long economic downturn, not to mention an unprecedented wave of gun violence, the high cost of an aging population, a skittish international business community, intransigent problems with public education, a decimated tourism industry and stubborn, intractable racial inequality.

Government faces greater resistance from taxpayers – who have less money to give. At the same time, Government has less money to give away in feel-good projects, public benefits or lucrative contracts.

A government in this kind of situation needs as many friends as it can get.

This is not the time for arrogance or pointless confrontation, but for reaching out.

So Mr. Butler is promising to monitor call-in-shows for good ideas, Ms. Cox is vowing to create a team “who will never forget that we are the people’s servant” and Mr. Lister is calling on all Bermudians to “recognize each other as brothers and sisters”.

May the best candidate win.

And may each of them, along their path to victory or defeat, inspire each other.

With friends and allies instead of enemies, good policies will come more easily, people will follow more readily, and the good things we are looking for will come more quickly.