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Barritt resigns from the House

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John Barritt yesterday brought his long House of Assembly career to an end by resigning as Opposition Leader and as an MP.

A by-election will now take place in Devonshire South Central, with new One Bermuda Alliance leader Senator Craig Cannonier aiming to take Mr Barritt's old seat in the House.

The Progressive Labour Party confirmed it will contest the by-election in the constituency which was formerly a stronghold of the United Bermuda Party.

Many UBP supporters are now thought to have transferred their loyalties to the OBA, making Sen Cannonier the hot favourite to win a seat before the next Parliamentary session begins on November 4.

Bermuda is currently without an Opposition Leader because, according to the Constitution, the role can only be filled by an MP.

Mr Barritt has been an MP since the general election of October 1993, representing the UBP for almost all that time. He served as Government Whip and Minister while the UBP was in power and Shadow Minister since the PLP took charge in 1998.

However, the 60-year-old became interim leader of the OBA earlier this year on the understanding he would resign to make way for a replacement after a party leadership contest; he had also pledged to give up his House seat if the successful candidate is not an MP.

Sen Cannonier, who has never been an MP, defeated Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards in a leadership battle on Saturday night.

Yesterday, Mr Barritt submitted resignation letters to House Speaker Stanley Lowe and Governor Sir Richard Gozney.

“I'm keeping a commitment I made at the time the OBA was formed,” Mr Barritt told

The Royal Gazette yesterday.

“I don't do so reluctantly. I think this has been a positive development: the development of the OBA and the excitement and support it's generated.

“I was more than impressed by the turnout on Saturday night. We were overwhelmed by numbers. We had anticipated 500 but some counts were up to 1,000. My belief is that the Country is looking for a change. A change in politics, change in dynamic. With that, they are looking for new blood.

“I take some pride and small credit in helping to bring that about by what I have done.”

Sen Cannonier said in a statement: “What John has done is extraordinary. I will do my best to justify his exemplary and gracious act.

“He is a great Bermudian, a man of principle and integrity who is stepping aside to give the country a new opportunity for change.

“An opportunity has been created, but I take nothing for granted. I still must earn the trust and support of the people of Devonshire South Central. That is my mission and I will give it my best effort. There are big shoes to fill.

“They have had a great representative in Mr Barritt. No matter what door you knock on, John is seen in the best light: attentive, courteous, engaged and caring.

“He listened. He stayed in touch. He was always available, and when he spoke he did so in a manner that made people feel he had their backs.”

“My mission in the weeks to come is to meet with all the people of Constituency 12 and assure them that I will be there for them, just as John has been. I am really pleased he will be working work with me in this undertaking.”

According to law, the by-election must take place after 28 days but within two months.

Mr Barritt said he is posting letters to his former residents to explain his decision and met seniors at the constituency's Purvis Park yesterday.

“It doesn't come as a surprise to everyone,” he said.

“They understood it was coming. I wanted to reassure them, as I do all constituents, I will be working with Mr Cannonier in the by-election and beyond that.

“I have developed some very good relationships with people I wish to maintain.”

UBP leader Kim Swan and colleague Charlie Swan yesterday claimed the OBA was parachuting Sen Cannonier into the constituency.

The Swans said in a statement: “On behalf of United Bermuda Party supporters present and past, we take this time to thank Mr John Barritt for the service that he has provided to the United Bermuda Party and Bermuda over the past 18 years.

“As a legislator John could always be relied upon to look at every detail, which is clearly an important role that he provided, in the necessary scrutiny of legislation.

“We recall his emergence as an MP was not a given as he defeated Georgio Zanol of Lindo's Market Group, in a hard fought primary to win the seat.

“This contrasts markedly, and unfortunately, to this departure which attempts to parachute a chosen replacement candidate into a constituency. Notwithstanding our differences of late, over the treatment of United Bermuda Party members, we congratulate John Barritt on his service to Parliament and his community.”

Mr Barritt argued: “Craig just won a most important primary to lead the party. This is going to be earned by Craig. I'm going to tell people they are going to get an extra voice in electing a new MP because Mr Barritt is still going to be attentive.”

And while he has told Sen Cannonier he's not interested in a Senate seat, he added: “I'm not slain. This was a voluntary act; I can rise again.

“I would like to think there will always be a place at the table in the OBA and in politics generally for a wise old head. I'm not ready for pasture yet.”

The PLP has previously run stalwart members in seats it's deemed little chance of winning.

With loyal and outspoken supporters such as Rolfe Commissiong and Senator LaVerne Furbert hoping to be chosen as candidates elsewhere at the next general election, the party could turn again to Health Council chairwoman Linda Merritt, who ran against Mr Barritt at the 2007 election.

The PLP said in a statement last night: “The Progressive Labour Party is looking forward to the Devonshire South Central by-election.

“Our candidate will be announced in due course, and the constituents of Devonshire South Central will become very familiar with the candidate and our entire PLP family.

“We will tell the PLP story and carry the PLP message to all homes in the area. We are eager to compare our sound plans to the Opposition sound bites.”

Mr Swan did not respond when asked if the UBP would be fielding a candidate.

Useful websites: www.oba.bm, www.plp.bm, www.onebda.com.

John Barritt,
John Barritt JP
The history of John Barritt

John Barritt was first elected to Parliament in 1992

The son of former House Speaker John Barritt Sr, John Barritt entered politics by defeating Georgio Zanol in a United Bermuda Party primary to replace William Cox in Devonshire South in 1992.

At the following year's general election he was elected to the House of Assembly, where he served as Government Whip until Premier David Saul appointed him Minister of Technology and Information in 1995.

He served that role for two years, then dropped out of Cabinet for a spell before Premier Pamela Gordon appointed him Minister of Youth, Sport, Parks and Recreation with responsibility for Legislative Affairs as well in May, 1998.

Six months later, the UBP lost a historic election to the Progressive Labour Party and, since then, Mr Barritt has served three terms as an Opposition MP.

He was House Leader for the UBP from 1998 to April 2001, and served as Shadow Legislative Affairs Minister until the 2003 general election.

Between 2003 and the 2007 general election, he served as House Leader and Whip for the party.

After being elected for a fourth time in December 2007, he served as Opposition spokesman for Public Administration and Legislative Reform.

In 2009, the UBP's existence was threatened when three UBP MPs quit to form the Bermuda Democratic Alliance. Earlier this year, Mr Barritt was a key player during merger talks between the UBP and the BDA, culminating in the formation of the One Bermuda Alliance in May this year.

Useful websites: www.oba.bm

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Published September 16, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated September 16, 2011 at 8:59 am)

Barritt resigns from the House

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