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Membership doubles at OBA ahead of leadership vote

The One Bermuda Alliance’s membership has more than doubled with a surge of new members keen to vote at tonight’s leadership contest.

It’s thought teams supporting the two challengers, Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards and Senator Craig Cannonier, have been frantically signing up new members to boost their respective efforts.

Tonight is the first time an Opposition leader will be elected by a vote from the entire party membership, with numbers climbing from 350 to 750 in the past few days as a result.

The figure is expected to approach 1,000 by this evening’s vote at Fairmont Southampton.

Earlier this week, former Bermuda Democratic Alliance leader Sen Cannonier was thought to be in pole position, with heavy support among those demanding the party doesn’t take on the appearance of a reborn United Bermuda Party.

Sen Cannonier is also said to carry backing previously enjoyed by prominent member Senator Michael Dunkley; Sen Dunkley is said to have privately declared his support for Sen Cannonier after surprisingly pulling out of the leadership race himself.

However party insiders say the race is now looking much tighter, with Mr Richards benefiting from increasing numbers of former UBP members among the OBA ranks.

Sen Cannonier, whose political career only began when he became BDA leader last year, describes himself as a new broom capable of pulling fresh talent into politics.

Mr Richards argues his long history in the Senate and House of Assembly gives him the experience necessary to lead the OBA into a general election.

Sen Cannonier has claimed it’s time to stop the back-and-forth fighting with the Progressive Labour Party; Mr Richards argues the OBA needs to fight hard for what it believes.

MPs and Senators are said to be divided over the pair, with former BDA members leaning towards Sen Cannonier and those from the UBP towards Mr Richards. Interim chairman Michael Fahy has said he supports Sen Cannonier.

Mr Fahy said of tonight’s contest: “It’s hugely significant because this is the first time members of a party have had the direct opportunity to vote for the leader of the Opposition and that person may well become the next Premier.”

Former UBP leader Grant Gibbons, the Paget East MP, said: “The OBA was founded on the principles of integrity, fairness, service, opportunity, responsibility, and transparency.

“ The new leader must reflect those principles and be able to put them into practice while advancing the OBA’s mission to put Bermuda first.

“I believe that both candidates have strong leadership qualities and are men of integrity. This is the first time that a major Bermudian political party has put the choice of leader into the hands of all its members, so I will be pleased to work with them in whatever capacity the membership decides on the night.”

Paget West MP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said: “A leader must have the ability to put Country before party and self, must be able to earn trust, must be sincere and must focus on the people’s business.

“He must also be able to stay on the high road and shrug off the racial epithets that will inevitably be thrown at him. He needs to project optimism and confidence because the country will respond to it, while withstanding the negative commentary that will come his way. The leader, in other words, must be strong.”

Shadow Attorney General Trevor Moniz, who is contesting the deputy leadership against Sen Dunkley, pointed to his experience in that role, as well as House Leader, in the UBP.

He noted Sen Dunkley pulled out of the leadership race citing his commitment to serving Smith’s North residents, and said it would be a huge challenge for the Senator to combine the deputy job with an uphill battle in the PLP constituency.

Mr Moniz said: “I’m in there for the long run as I’ve proved over the last 20 years. I’m there to help in any way I can. Dunkley is an excellent candidate, as are both Bob and Craig.”

Sen Dunkley declined to comment on his deputy bid, but said of Sen Cannonier and Mr Richards: “They are both good candidates and men who put Bermuda first. I am excited to be a part of the OBA and will play my part in our team effort to turn the pessimism of today into promise for tomorrow.”

The membership roll opens at 6pm and the conference begins at 7.30pm. Anyone can participate as long as they are a signed up member of the party, on the Parliamentary Register and present a photo ID.

Useful websites: www.oba.bm

A lady prepares her ballot a the OBA's advance poll for people that are going to be off island, at the OBA headquarters on Reid Street in Hamilton. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published September 10, 2011 at 8:00 am (Updated September 10, 2011 at 8:33 am)

Membership doubles at OBA ahead of leadership vote

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