Political analysts note OBA’s new direction
Former Progressive Labour Party Senator Phil Perinchief warned his party not to fall into the trap of underestimating the One Bermuda Alliance with its newcomer leader.
Mr Perinchief was one of a number of political analysts to note the new direction of the fledgling party under Senator Craig Cannonier, 48, who was outside politics before becoming Bermuda Democratic Alliance leader last year.
He said many PLP supporters have already indicated they won’t be voting at the next general election, and that a youthful Opposition could offer them a viable alternative.
Some observers, including many within the OBA, feared the Opposition could struggle with such an inexperienced leader, with rival Bob Richards likening Sen Cannonier to a Cup Match colt who’s not ready to captain the team.
But political commentators Tom Vesey and Christian Dunleavy both said Sen Cannonier was the wiser choice for the OBA despite Mr Richards’ superior experience.
Mr Vesey said it was important the OBA went for somebody fresh, while Mr Dunleavy said Sen Cannonier has valuable real world experience.
Mr Perinchief told
The Royal Gazette: “I don’t necessarily believe that choosing Craig over Bob is a bad thing if carefully, appropriately and with balance managed.
“The message generally is clear, at least in the UBP-BDA alliance or OBA, that people are prepared to choose youth over experience as long as the youthful leader knows how to blend, and not throw away, experience with youth for a solid team effort and move away from legacy status quo perceptions.
“After all, this is precisely what Obama did and is doing presently. PLP is today’s status quo.
“This of course is a lesson the PLP should not lose sight of and certainly should not be complacent about.
“In particular the PLP should be mindful of this ‘blend and trend’ or penchant for change or something new at work among the electorate, mostly young, and their supporters.
“This trend could have devastating effects particularly in marginal constituencies made even more problematic where a growing number of PLP supporters have clearly stated on the doorsteps and on the streets that they will not be voting at the next general election.
“The PLP must immediately address this deleterious trend and OBA’s potential, as a result of its latest bump or boost to exploit it, and thus gain traction ahead of any call for such an election.”
Mr Perinchief said the imminent by-election, at which Sen Cannonier hopes to replace former leader John Barritt in the House of Assembly, will be a test for the OBA, especially if the United Bermuda Party fields a candidate to potentially split the Opposition votes.
“The PLP should also run a strong candidate there to test the waters and strength of this new trend and of course the strategy for a subsequent general election should they be unsuccessful in the by-election,” he said.
Former Bermuda Sun editor Mr Vesey said: “I think Craig Cannonier offered the OBA its only hope of survival. The party absolutely depends on being new and different, and being seen as such.
“There’s no way Bob Richards could accomplish that, through no fault of his own, unless you want to blame him for being the son of a UBP premier and a long-standing and leading member of the UBP.
“Bermudians are pretty jaded with both our original parties right now. They clearly want and need a new direction and a new way of doing politics in Bermuda. I don’t see how that can be provided by the veterans of either the PLP or the UBP.
“OBA and Bermuda will depend on people like Bob Richards. They have energy and expertise and experience which are too valuable to throw away. They can help make things work.
“But the direction itself has to come from new leaders like Craig Cannonier. They will have to deliver on their promise of course. They’re going to have to stay new, and not become just another generation of the same old Bermuda politics.”
Political blogger and PLP critic Mr Dunleavy said: “Craig Cannonier’s selection, with a massive turnout, serves as tangible evidence that the merger of the BDA and UBP has resulted in a group which is greater than the sum of its parts.
“He deserves credit for recognising that the UBP-BDA dynamic was unsustainable and unproductive and taking a leap of faith, launching a new party and competing for the leadership.
“I think he might have been surprised at the run for his money he got from Bob Richards whose political growth has been immense over the past year.”
Mr Dunleavy said Sen Cannonier’s greatest strength is his ability to communicate passionately and skilfully, and connect with people on an emotional level.
“He can speak with authenticity to the struggling middle and working class under the PLP in a way that the Opposition has struggled with over the years,” said Mr Dunleavy.
“The Opposition since 1998 has been too much head and not enough heart. Craig should be able to strike a better balance.
“The large and energised turnout to select a new leadership team of Craig and Michael Dunkley combined with Bob in Finance will have got the PLP’s attention, whether they’ll admit it or not.
“Most significantly the result demonstrates that the OBA membership and leadership is leading from the front to deliver Bermuda from a 1960s political cold war into the modern era where we belong.
“Craig’s lack of political background is an asset. He doesn’t lack experience, he possesses real world experience. Real world experience, combined with credible political experience, is where Bermuda politics needs to go.
“The PLP’s Parliamentary group has decades of political experience individually in some cases, and judging by where Bermuda finds itself today, career politicians hasn’t served us well.”