The pending change of leadership within the PLP marks the start of the political season leading up to the next General Election.

There are three contenders — Paula Cox, Dale Butler and Terry Lister.

But it is really a two-horse race between Minister Cox and former  Cabinet Minister  Lister, with Ms Cox the clear front runner, as confirmed by recent polls.

The same polls have indicated that Dale Butler is ahead of Mr. Lister but I believe Mr. Butler is positioning himself to become deputy leader to Ms Cox.

Where does this leave Mr. Lister? Even though his town hall meetings were in keeping with a democratic process, they are out of sync with our political reality. 

This is not a contest for a president. Bermuda is not a republic — it is an internal election for a leader of a political party within  a parliamentary system.

It just so happens that at this time, the political party in question is the government of the day.

The Terry Lister campaign has failed because even though he has made a political appeal to the country at large, it has not focused on the support base of the PLP, the delegates from the branches who will make the final decision.

Ms Cox has not made that mistake and has been quietly meeting with the PLP branches.

She has always held popular support both within the party and in the country as a whole.

Political detractors have tried to portray her as a potentially weak leader but such opinions flow from the distain held by some for the premiership of Dr. Brown.

This has blinded them to the true strength of Ms Cox’s decision-making abilities.

As she stated in a recent Bermudian Business publication:  “I don’t shy away from the tough  decisions”. One was made in the first term of the PLP government concerning the controversial long-term residency question.

As the then Home Affairs and Immigration Minister, she chaired many angry public meetings where Bermudians voiced  their loud disapproval of granting status to long-term residents.

Despite bitter opposition from within her own political support base, she did just that — granted Bermuda status to some who deserve it and resolved the long-term residency issue at a stroke. This is the mark of a leader.

Ms Cox has been accused of  presiding over Government  budget deficits. But no one could have predicted the economic downturn and crisis.

Capital and social programmes were to be underwritten by  a buoyant world economy from which Bermuda was expected to benefit in terms of tourism and international business — but this  did not happen and resulted in falling Government revenues.

Still, political detractors wonder, where did that Government spending go? It went into the building of infrastructure, the new Berkeley senior school, free Bermuda College tuition, relief  for nursery school fees, more Government scholarships, a new cruise ship dock at Dockyard, a rebuilt golf course at Port Royal and Future Care, to strengthen  the health of our people, plus a commitment to build a hospital .

Millions have been spent on new housing, with both rent-to-buy programmes and outright purchases for Bermudians who do not have a hope of buying in the private market.

There is one big elephant in the room as regards to Government  spending, which was explored by the Bermuda Sun in its October 8 edition, and that is the question of Government employment.

Government jobs represent one of the most stable areas of employment for Bermudians,  more stable than international business or tourism.

How would the would-be leaders handle the economy? Mr. Lister, in a quest to balance the budget and reduce deficits, would cut social programmes and slow the improvement of infrastructure.

Or would we take the path of Ms Cox, whose ministry recently came to an agreement with blue collar workers, offering a pay deal which will forestall the need to cut jobs.

These are is the bottom line issues PLP delegates must debate when they choose their next leader at the end of the month.