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Cannonier’s big victory

One Bermuda Alliance Leader Craig Cannonier’s sweeping victory in last night’s Devonshire South Central by-election gives his party a boost while sending the former United Bermuda Party rump back to the drawing board.

And it also means that the Progressive Labour Party has some work to do before going to the polls for a general election.

It was always likely that Mr Cannonier would win the seat for the OBA, given that this constituency was a UBP stronghold.

And with incumbent John Barritt canvassing with Mr Cannonier, there was never much doubt.

In fact, the greatest challenge may have been high expectations. Anything less than a thumping victory against the PLP would be viewed as a disappointment.

The entry of former UBP official David Sullivan ensured that this race would be more than a formality, and his performance would also be seen as a bellwether for other independent candidates running under the loose banner of the former UBP.

The rout of Mr Sullivan makes the prospect of other Independents less likely now. It may be that Kim Swan, the leader of the former UBP, will do well in his St George’s West constituency where he has a loyal personal following.

But other candidates are less likely to do well if Devonshire South Central is anything to go by.

As for the PLP, there is a risk in reading too much into Anthony Richardson’s performance and his failure to hold on to the party’s 2007 share of the vote.

That’s because there was a third candidate involved and because the few traditional PLP voters in the area had little incentive to take part in a by-election where very little was at stake. In a general election, when every vote counts, even in strongholds, turnout is inevitably higher.

Nonetheless, if Premier Paula Cox was looking for any kind of hopeful sign which might encourage her to call a general election sooner rather than later, she will not have gotten it here.

Instead, she will now have the opportunity to go head to head with Mr Cannonier across the floor of the House of Assembly.

That should make for an interesting time in the House of Assembly.

Ms Cox is a capable debater who has 13 years of Ministerial experience to fall back on in debate.

Mr Cannonier is a strong speaker, but apart from his short time in the rather more genteel Senate, has little experience of the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate in the House, where speakers have to be on their toes and able to put up with a fair amount of barracking. So this will be a major test for him.

The time has also come for Mr Cannonier to show his leadership, both of his parliamentary group and on the issues and to show a “different kind of politics”. Assuming that this will take a less confrontational tone than the traditional Westminster System approach, this demands that the right balance be struck between being open-minded and co-operative and being a pushover.

All of this presupposes that Premier Cox does not call a general election this week, which is about the latest she can leave it for a Christmas election.

Certainly, her tone at the PLP Banquet did not suggest she was about to call an election, and the reports that she has reshuffled her Cabinet suggests there is noting imminent.

But that does not mean it will not happen. The Premier has the right to call an election at any time and could still decide it is to go ow than to wait.

Leader of the One Bermuda Alliance Craig Cannonier raises his hand triumphantly following the results for the by election for Devonshire South Central flanked by independent candidate David Sullivan and PLP candidate Anthony Richardson at the Botanical gardens last night. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published November 02, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated November 02, 2011 at 9:45 am)

Cannonier’s big victory

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