Kempe: OBA must sever all links with UBP
The One Bermuda Alliance has to dump MPs inherited from the old United Bermuda Party or die, its former chairman warned yesterday.
Nick Kempe quit as head of the OBA executive after Jeanne Atherden, who resigned as leader in the wake of a vote of no confidence by her MPs last week, axed him from the Senate in November 2017.
Now he has broken his silence since then with a no-punches-pulled op-ed in today’s The Royal Gazette on the make-up of the OBA, formed seven years ago through a merger of the UBP and the Bermuda Democratic Alliance.
Mr Kempe said: “It’s less about personalities — I’m not trying to criticise anyone’s service or length of time in government, but I do think the party will die if there is no turnover.”
The 11-strong OBA parliamentary party includes five major figures carried over from the ranks of the old UBP. Michael Dunkley, former OBA premier, was also a leader of the UBP.
Trevor Moniz, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin and Cole Simons were all MPs under the UBP, which lost power in 1998 and failed to win general elections in 2003 and 2007.
Ms Atherden is a former chairwoman of the UBP.
Mr Kempe said his view that the old guard had to go may be considered controversial.
He added: “It might be, but I don’t see why it should be.
“I wasn’t around at the time when the UBP and the BDA merged, but my understanding is the tacit agreement was that there would be some planned, strategic turnover of seats.”
Mr Kempe, seen as a high-flyer and an integral part of the OBA’s future before Ms Atherden fired him as a senator, did not rule out a return to the party fold if his proposals were implemented.
He added: “But, at the end of the day, the OBA is down to 11 seats. By the nature of politics, the safest ones were UBP seats from before the merger.”
Mr Kempe spoke out as Craig Cannonier, who led the OBA to victory in the 2012 General Election, is set to be sworn in as Opposition leader today.
Mr Cannonier, who resigned as premier in 2014 amid controversy over a flight on a private jet owned by an American business tycoon, came to the new party from the BDA.
Mr Kempe said in his article: “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.”
He added: “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.”
Mr Cannonier said last night: “I can’t speak on behalf of the OBA because I am not the leader.”
But he added: “What I can say is that change is needed, a change of course is needed.
“We were defeated heavily in the last election, which I think was a surprise for all of us. That, in and of itself, means there are changes we have to make.”
But Mr Cannonier declined to say what changes he might make and said he would have to discuss the future course of the party with the OBA team after he is the official leader.
Mr Cannonier said: “Nick Kempe is entitled to his opinion. He has been a respected member of the OBA and well respected as a senator, and it was a loss for us for him not to remain as a senator. Like us all, he has a right to be heard.”
Mr Dunkley, the shadow national security minister and one of the most high-profile and vocal Opposition MPs, said he had been “very supportive” of Mr Kempe when he represented the OBA and was “disappointed by the decision of Ms Atherden to dismiss him from the Senate, which prompted him to resign from the party”.
But he added that Mr Kempe was “generalising” and that any political party needed a blend of new blood and experience.
He said: “At this point in time, I have no intention of going anywhere. I won Smith’s North in a tough race and I continue to work hard for the constituents of Smith’s North and for the people of Bermuda.”
Mr Dunkley said: “It would be a disservice to the Opposition if senior members were to resign because that would leave very little experience and we have to question how effective some of the new members have been.”
• Update: This article was amended to say that Trevor Moniz, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin and Cole Simons were MPs under the former United Bermuda Party government. It initially stated they were all ministers under the UBP. We apologise for the error.