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A bold step in the right direction

The result was close, but just as one run in a cricket match can be the difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, so in politics, one vote can make all the difference. That's democracy.

The selection of Senator Craig Cannonier as leader of the newly formed One Bermuda Alliance is a bold step in the right direction for the new Opposition party.

The close vote shows that his opponent Bob Richards, a veteran UBP politician, enjoyed considerable support, perhaps mainly from staunch supporters from the collapsed United Bermuda Party who now carry the flag of the OBA.

But in chess terms, the election of Sen Cannonier helps the OBA leader from being checkmated even before the board is set up.

So does Senator Michael Dunkley's decision to step aside as a contender, rather than create scepticism over whether the OBA was just a reworked version of the demised UBP.

Beyond that the open system used by the OBA to select their new leader could provide a signal on how open the next general election might turn out to be.

Talk of experience played heavily in the Richards camp seeking of the top spot, but those members willing to throw their support behind Cannonier, a fresh face and unquestionably committed to change, knew if the people of the United States had balked at giving a new face a chance, President Obama would have never made it to the White House. With the current mood of our populace, this may have played into former UBP leader Sen Dunkley's thinking as well.

It could have been argued that Cannonier lacked political experience and was unsuited for such an important task. The bottom line is that in a true democracy those willing to take the heat should be given the opportunity to serve, especially if they are able to convince members of their party, and the electorate, that fairness and justice for the people will always come first.

That is always a tall order, because in almost any political leadership position, the grinding stone for sharpening political knives never stops churning. While Senator Cannonier will take on the OBA leadership role he should never shift from the aspirations that motivated him to this position.

It carries a great responsibility because his first task will be to get the full membership to work as a team and this could take some time if members who supported Richards are disgruntled.

The Progressive Labour Party is certainly no stranger over the years to inner conflict over various party issues. Even they had prominent members who opted or were forced to seek other avenues to achieve various objectives.

Its leadership settled, the OBA will now turn more attention to the Government's record and no doubt will highlight the PLP's style of management, especially in Government spending. Another sensitive area is the lack of transparency in dealing with sensitive subjects, leaving the door wide open for negative speculation.

Unrelenting attacks on the press from time to time also send signals wrong or right that Government officials resent being challenged, which is the job of journalists worldwide in keeping truth out front. An unthankful task.

Hopefully both political parties will recognise the importance of cooperating with the press, even at difficult times and likewise journalists must carry out their responsibilities with the highest standards of accuracy. Mistakes will occur, but that is no reason to condemn the press.

The OBA is off and running, aware that they will be confronted with many hurdles in their quest to form the next Government.

The most important factor of all, and hopefully both political groups will keep this in mind, is that Bermuda is in need of change and every citizen should be involved.

The road ahead could get bumpy for us all as we strive to deal with major problems including the economy, crime, illegal drugs, health care and antisocial behaviour. There is little room for nasty political exchanges in the lead up to the next general election. The people want the best we have to offer to rebuild Bermuda. The political parties should never lose sight of that.

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Published September 12, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated September 12, 2011 at 10:33 am)

A bold step in the right direction

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