The old guard must go

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  • Erosion of trust: Jeanne Atherden, the outgoing OBA leader (File photograph)

    Erosion of trust: Jeanne Atherden, the outgoing OBA leader (File photograph)


Given recent changes to the One Bermuda Alliance leadership, this feels like an opportune time to break my silence since resigning as party chairman a year ago.

In the aftermath of last summer’s General Election, conversations with Jeanne Atherden highlighted to me that we had incompatible understandings of the political realities of our time.

After the OBA internal elections in October 2017, decisions were made that immediately fractured any trust between us as the elected leaders of the political and executive branches of the party.

The trust deficit with the leader only worsened my more serious concerns of a general mindset anchored in the failed culture of a party past.

I believe now, as I did then, that the only way for the One Bermuda Alliance to survive is for it to thank and exit the senior politicians inherited when the Bermuda Democratic Alliance and the United Bermuda Party merged some eight years ago.

It became immediately evident to me that remaining as chairman in an environment driven by the worst of the UBP mindset would result in inertia and block real reform.

Career politicians are hard to move along; they feel confident that the status quo will reign supreme and that any resistance will succumb to process and protocol.

Faced with this reality, I resigned days after being elected party chairman. My hope was that my public departure would create a catalyst for change.

Unfortunately, and as feared, the past year of the OBA has been marked by minimal renewal, an attrition of talent and a muted voice of Opposition.

It is my belief that, like a forest, old growth must be cleared in order for light to filter down to the saplings trying to spread their roots.

The former leader’s forest management programme consisted of pulling out any saplings that risked pushing up and competing for the light.

The past year was also characterised by an ever smaller room, where existing officers were simply given more hats to wear to fill positions left vacant by the rush for the door.

I see real hope now that a majority of the OBA’s parliamentarians have taken action.

Craig Cannonier’s greatest talents are his ability to articulate a vision for a better Bermuda and his ability to attract new candidates as future leaders.

The OBA lost a seat in a recent Warwick by-election in part because the OBA base is disillusioned and did not turn out.

It did not help the overall party image that the by-election was not in a renewal seat, but in one vacated by the youth exodus.

Cannonier has his work cut out for him. For the party to survive, it must renew. The longest-serving members must step aside gracefully or be pushed out resolutely to allow the entry of new candidates.

If the OBA is unable to make space for the future, it will perish.

The OBA’s most seasoned politicians have the opportunity to be that catalyst for change. Resigning their seats now as opposed to at the next election would show selfless leadership.

It is paramount that the OBA promote new voices that may be heard in Parliament now to change the narrative.

Simply showcasing new faces on the ballot at the next election is not enough.

Nick Kempe is a former senator and chairman of the One Bermuda Alliance

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Published Sep 24, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 24, 2018 at 7:54 am)

The old guard must go

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