Cannonier to purge OBA of UBP remnants
A split in the One Bermuda Alliance has widened after Craig Cannonier replaced Jeanne Atherden as Opposition leader, party insiders said yesterday.
One source predicted that Mr Cannonier, who led the party to victory at the polls in 2012, would launch “a night of the long knives” to remove one-time MPs from the former United Bermuda Party from the OBA ranks in Parliament.
The source, who asked not be named, said there had “always been a split” in the OBA, which was formed from a merger of the bulk of the UBP with the Bermuda Democratic Alliance in 2011.
The insider added: “I think some of the other non-UBP members thought that if they wanted to get ahead, the UBP people needed to step aside and eventually go away.
“I would think that Craig Cannonier would come in with an agenda and would be looking to get rid of some of the UBP members — by force if necessary.”
The news came after a major shake-up in the party as Justin Mathias quit as party chairman with effect from yesterday in the wake of Mr Cannonier’s takeover as Opposition leader.
Nick Kempe, who was axed from a Senate seat by Ms Atherden last November and resigned as party chairman days later, warned on Monday that the OBA had to sever its links to the UBP old guard or die.
His op-ed article in The Royal Gazette spurred other party figures to back his call for a clean sweep of the UBP from the ranks of the OBA.
Ms Atherden, a former UBP chairwoman, stepped down as party leader after a vote of no confidence by eight of the 11 MPs ousted her as Opposition leader — a position that Mr Cannonier has now taken over.
He will, however, need to win an election to become party leader, which is a separate role.
Another insider said: “After 20-plus years in Parliament, it is time for the self-styled ‘experienced’ members to move along as surely their legacy, which they are obviously trying to protect, has already been established.
“They were all given an unfortunate breath of life when the Bermuda Democratic Alliance merged with them. This sentiment is not new and has existed since the inception of the OBA.
“All of the long-serving ex-UBPers will most certainly be able to continue to serve the community should they so wish without the platform of Parliament.”
The insider added: “Voluntarily stepping aside to allow the party to renew would be a selfless gesture and demonstrate to the community that they understand their time is up.”
But Leah Scott, the party’s deputy leader and now acting party leader in the vacuum created by Ms Atherden’s resignation, insisted the party was unified.
Ms Scott said: “I think the change is a good thing. We are united as a group and we are excited about Craig taking the leadership.”
She added: “I think we are in a good space, despite what people think on the outside.”
Mr Mathias became party chairman in July.
He was earlier appointed as a senator and ran as the OBA candidate in a by-election in Warwick North East in June, but lost to the Progressive Labour Party’s Curtis Dickinson.
Ms Scott said the 25-year-old tendered his resignation on Monday but “didn’t give any reason”.
Mr Mathias will remain as chairman of the Future Bermuda Alliance, the party’s youth wing.
Nandi Outerbridge, the Opposition Senate leader, will act as chairman until an election for the role is held.
An election for a new chairman and party leader will take place on October 12
Vic Ball, a former OBA senator, and Glen Smith, a former OBA MP, joined Mr Cannonier’s family and fellow politicians for his swearing-in ceremony at Government House on Monday.
Sources suggested that their attendance was a signal that the pair could be in line for senior roles in the party.
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