Atherden fails confidence vote
Jeanne Atherden is expected to be replaced as Opposition leader by former premier Craig Cannonier in the wake of a vote of no confidence.
Party sources told The Royal Gazette that a majority of One Bermuda Alliance MPs backed the move to oust Ms Atherden this week.
It is believed eight of the party’s 11 elected MPs voted against the leader.
Ms Atherden, Michael Dunkley and Trevor Moniz were said to be those who did not support the move, but it is understood they were not at Wednesday night’s meeting.
Government House confirmed John Rankin, the Governor, had been contacted and it is thought talks took place yesterday to discuss the party’s future leadership.
Leah Scott is understood to be in line to stay on as deputy leader. The OBA has stayed tight-lipped on the crisis.
Mr Cannonier and Ms Atherden, leader for little more than 300 days, could not be contacted for comment.
Justin Mathias, the OBA chairman, declined to comment as he left the party’s Reid Street headquarters yesterday morning.
The Opposition leader, like the premier, is appointed by the Governor under the Bermuda Constitution.
However, that role is separate to the position of party leader, which would still have to be confirmed after a nomination process.
The OBA constitution rules that an election for the top job must take place if two thirds of the party’s MPs pass a vote of no confidence in the leader — as long as the no-confidence vote is endorsed by the OBA caucus.
The party’s caucus is made up of the executive, OBA MPs, senators, regional chairmen, adopted candidates and approved candidates. A 55-year-old businessman, Mr Cannonier entered politics in 2009 as a candidate for the Bermuda Democratic Alliance and became party leader in 2010.
The BDA later joined forces with most of the United Bermuda Party to form the OBA and Mr Cannonier was elected party leader.
Mr Cannonier became premier in the wake of the OBA’s election defeat of the Progressive Labour Party in December 2012.
However, Mr Cannonier stepped down less than two years later after the “Jetgate” row over a trip he took in a private jet to the United States.
Ms Atherden was voted into the position of leader by party members last November. She took 90 votes against 82 for Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, who served as acting leader of the party after its election loss last summer and 69 for Mr Cannonier.
The party has fought two by-elections since then and lost one of its 12 seats in the House of Assembly to the PLP.
Mr Cannonier voiced concerns about Ms Atherden’s leadership ability in December after Nick Kempe, the OBA chairman, quit after he was axed from the Senate.
His elevation would be the fifth leadership change of the OBA in its seven-year history.
John Barritt, Mr Cannonier, Mr Dunkley and Ms Atherden have all led and Ms Gordon-Pamplin held the post as acting leader.
The PLP has had three leaders over the same timescale: Paula Cox, Marc Bean and David Burt, now the Premier.
Government House said last night: “The Governor has received correspondence on this issue and will act in accordance with his responsibilities under the Constitution.”
The Royal Gazette tried to contact the entire OBA parliamentary party yesterday.
Ben Smith, the Shadow Minister of Sport and Youth Development, and Scott Pearman, who won a by-election in June to retain Paget East for the party, both declined to comment.
A source close to the party predicted if Mr Cannonier is appointed it would be “pretty easy” for the PLP in the House of Assembly.
The source said: “He’s a great political type: he’s tall, he’s big, he’s lively, he speaks well, but popularity within the party and voter base, I don’t think so much.”
The insider added: “His legacy issues are going to be tough to overcome. If I was the PLP PR person, I would be licking my lips every time he stands up — ‘Jetgate, Jetgate’.
“They’re going to have a tough go of it.”
The source said the attempted coup “doesn’t surprise me at all”.
The insider added there was “no obvious person” suitable for the leadership position at present.
The source said Mr Kempe and Andrew Simons, also axed as a senator by Ms Atherden, were “great” individuals that “people could get behind”.
The insider added: “We need a strong opposition, someone that’s out there banging every day, holding the Government to account.”