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Two-man race

The One Bermuda Alliance avoided stumbling before it got out of the blocks when Senate Opposition Leader Michael Dunkley chose not to run for the leadership of the party.

Had Sen Dunkley, the former United Bermuda Party Leader, run and won, the OBA would have left itself wide open to the accusation that it was simply the UBP under a different name.

Now that Sen Dunkley has opted to run for the deputy leadership, reportedly in tandem with Sen Craig Cannonier, that problem has been avoided, at least to a point. The race now is a straight-up fight between Sen Cannonier and ET (Bob) Richards, the Shadow Finance Minister.

Sen Cannonier, the former Bermuda Democratic Alliance leader, is a fresh face and has no past baggage, which is an asset in the current political environment. He is also a strong and charismatic speaker and a well established businessman. The other side of the coin, of course, is that he lacks experience and has held political office for just a few months, which is not much of a resume for someone who must make a case for being the next Premier of Bermuda. At this point, he remains something of a blank slate.

No one can question Mr Richards' political experience. The son of Bermuda's first black Premier, Mr Richards was involved in UBP politics for most of his life, sat in Cabinet and the Senate, ran for the House of Assembly in Warwick and became an MP in 2007 in Devonshire East where he succeeded Mr Dunkley. However, he also saw Mr Dunkley's majority shrink, and then unsuccessfully challenged Opposition Leader Kim Swan for the leadership of the UBP.

Respected for his financial and economic knowledge, the knock against Mr Richards is that he is a poor campaigner, as evidenced by the 2007 General Election and the failed leadership challenge. So OBA supporters face a difficult call. Do they elect the fresh but inexperienced face, albeit one backed by the experienced Sen Dunkley, who rarely backs down from a fight, or do they opt for the experienced Mr Richards, and take the chance that he is not the man to lead the party through a General Election campaign against a PLP, which, regardless of its record, knows how to fight elections and will use all means possible to retain power?

To be sure, there's more to a party and a campaign than the leader, but the leader sets the tone, both in terms of policy and personality. But that's not enough. The period between the formation of the OBA and next week's leadership campaign seems to have been spent on structure and organisation. Now the OBA needs to differentiate itself from the PLP and, perhaps more importantly, from the UBP.

Most importantly, the OBA needs to set out a position on race relations and how it aims to bridge the wealth gap between blacks and whites, which, as the recent employment survey shows remains wide, at least for those who have jobs.

So ensuring that an economic recovery benefits all is critical; indeed Bermuda has the chance to remake the economy, to widen opportunity and encourage enterprising individuals of all backgrounds. If this recession has a silver lining, that may be it. It can be argued that this is putting the cart before the horse as any kind of economic recovery and jobs growth would be welcome

now. But putting the Bermuda economy on a sustainable footing and that includes widening opportunity and ensuring that growth benefits all is an opportunity not be missed.

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Published September 06, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated September 06, 2011 at 10:38 am)

Two-man race

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