Swan elected new UBP leader

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Kim Swan emerged as the new leader of the Opposition party yesterday, ending weeks of speculation.

Though many in the United Bermuda Party said they fully support him after a crunch meeting at Elbow Beach Hotel Saturday, younger MPs told The Royal Gazette they have not ruled out the need to rebrand or restructure the party in the future.

Mr. Swan ran unopposed in his bid to become party leader. Previously John Barritt, Bob Richards and Patricia Gordon Pamplin had been mentioned as possibilities.

  • <B>New leader: </B>Kim Swan enjoys himself outside the polling station in St. George's West on election day. Just five weeks after finally winning a seat in the House of Assembly, Mr. Swan is the leader of the Opposition United Bermuda Party.

    New leader: Kim Swan enjoys himself outside the polling station in St. George's West on election day. Just five weeks after finally winning a seat in the House of Assembly, Mr. Swan is the leader of the Opposition United Bermuda Party.


Kim Swan emerged as the new leader of the Opposition party yesterday, ending weeks of speculation.

Though many in the United Bermuda Party said they fully support him after a crunch meeting at Elbow Beach Hotel Saturday, younger MPs told The Royal Gazette they have not ruled out the need to rebrand or restructure the party in the future.

Mr. Swan ran unopposed in his bid to become party leader. Previously John Barritt, Bob Richards and Patricia Gordon Pamplin had been mentioned as possibilities.

But Mr. Richards bowed out, Mrs. Gordon Pamplin said she was not interested in the position and Mr. Barritt never confirmed he was putting his name forward.

In a statement issued yesterday, Mr. Swan said his first priority was to form a strong Opposition: "We have a strong, dynamic team that brings to the people's business an excellent mix of experience and spirited new blood.

"As a group, I look forward to bringing our collective voice to bear on protecting and advancing the interests of the people, particularly those least able to protect themselves."

He was not available for comment but plans to hold a news conference today.

Since the December election, which saw former leader Michael Dunkley lose his seat and the party lose to the PLPfor the third time, there has been much speculation about the future of the UBP.Several MPs expressed concerns about the UBP's electability and its ability to shake off the perception that it only represented white elites.

But Deputy Opposition Leader Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said the party was more focused on resolving the issues at the moment than dissolving the UBP.Adding that she was pleased Mr. Swan had shown interest in and had won the leadership, she said: "I think we had significant discussions at the meeting and people expressed their opinions, obviously there are more issues that need to be discussed but we do not need to be rash and decide everything at once.

"The (general)election means that we have five more years as opposition so we do not need to make all the decisions at once. What we need to be is methodical."

Chairman Shawn Crockwell was one of the MPs who was vocal about the need for change but yesterday said he supported Mr. Swan and believed that the notion the UBPcould have disbanded over the weekend and been overhyped. However, he added that nothing had been ruled out after Saturday's meeting.

"There have been individuals who have been discussing the various options for the party, and Bermuda." he said. "A lot of us are supportive and loyal to the party, but we are more loyal to Bermuda and concerned about how to eradicate the poisonous focus on race.

"There had never been a group saying we are going to form a new party right now, it did come up as something to be explored and discussed but we support Kim Swan, and the Bermuda community support him.

"The only option that we have right now is to provide the country with a good opposition. No one has been talking about doing anything right now. We have not ruled out rebranding or restructuring, it may happen in a few years."

Before Saturday, Mr. Crockwell had publicly stated that he believed younger black members such as Mr. Swan, Donte Hunt and himself should take the party forward, while the ""the old white guard" should take a step back.

Another MP, Mark Pettingill, confirmed that he was one of the younger MPs who had explored the options available to the party and was concerned about the UBP's legacy but added that Mr. Swan had his support."I think that right now we are going to address issues and take it one day at a time," he said. "Ithink these issues (rebranding or restructuring) can never be completely taken off the table. But at this time Kim has the support of the party."

Another outspoken MP,Wayne Furbert, declined to comment on Mr. Swan's leadership or Saturday's meeting.On Friday Mr. Furbert, who led the UBPfrom 2006 to 2007, said the party was in trouble because thousands of voters were looking for something new but would never support the UBP because of its legacy and perceptions that it was a white elite party.

Yesterday former leader Mr. Dunkley, who lost the election after deciding to run in the PLPstronghold Smith's North said: "We've been through a difficult election and Kim is well-placed to move us forward to be an effective opposition and a viable government in the next election.

"His record in politics has always been about improving the lives of Bermudians and now he is in a position to demonstrate it to a wider audience."

Devonshire East MP E.T. (Bob) Richards, who withdrew from leadership consideration, said: "I think he has a closer understanding of the struggles and challenges facing everyday Bermudians than any other political leader. This will be important as we move forward."

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