Atherden pledges diverse OBA
New One Bermuda Alliance leader Jeanne Atherden has pledged to increase diversity within her party and to connect with the public.
Ms Atherden defeated Craig Cannonier and Patricia Gordon-Pamplin — two former OBA leaders — in a vote by party members at Vasco Da Gama on Saturday evening.
Speaking after the result was announced, the shadow finance minister vowed to address some of the concerns many believe led to the party's downfall at the General Election in July.
She told The Royal Gazette: “We have got to get started right away, there is no time to waste. We have to work on making sure we listen to what Bermuda tells us.
“Part of the process is to get more people in the room and ensuring we have diversity — diversity in gender, race and age.
“Now we can get on with rebuilding the team and being the Opposition that Bermuda needs and to make sure that Government does its job.”
Insiders said Ms Atherden had told members of the need for the OBA to change.
She told The Royal Gazette: “During my speech, I tried to tell them about the vision and what we need to do to go forward. We are working for all Bermudians. It means we have to go from Somerset to St George's speaking to small groups — that's the only way to reconnect.”
Asked if there could be any changes to the Shadow Cabinet, Ms Atherden said: “We are in the process of reviewing the team because it's important that we make sure that all qualities of the team are used to the best of our ability.”
Ms Atherden took 90 votes on Saturday night, against 82 for Ms Gordon-Pamplin, who has led the OBA since July, and 69 for former premier Mr Cannonier. The turnout of 241 compared with 674 who voted at the first OBA leadership contest, between Mr Cannonier and Bob Richards in 2011.
Leah Scott ran unopposed for deputy leader while Senator Nick Kempe saw off Simone Barton to become the new chairman, by 177 votes to 65. Justin Mathias and Nandi Outerbridge are the new deputy chairmen.
Regarding his future with the OBA, Mr Cannonier said: “We'll talk.”
He said: “The party has spoken about how it wants to move forward. I have to look at how I can help the party to move forward. We are a party of different people. We are not all going to agree but there are many unifying factors we do have.”
Ms Gordon-Pamplin said: “I think it's wonderful. I'm appreciative I had that level of support. I wish Jeanne the best of luck, I'll be here to work along with her.
“There's no disappointment. I stepped in on an interim basis. We have to focus on our constituencies, our branches and our regions. We must have our best foot forward in the House of Assembly to hold the Government accountable.”
Asked if she envisioned running again for party leader, Ms Gordon- Pamplin said: “No. But I will continue to give 100 per cent to the party.”
Ms Scott said she would help the party become closer to the people.
She said: “I'm excited because it is an opportunity to get us to where we need to go. I think we have understood what the voters said on the 18th of July and we need to move in a new direction. I think that while the election was a big loss it was also a big opportunity for us.”
Asked what qualities she believed she brought to the table, Ms Scott added: “I'm a good leader and I think that I am a good communicator — I listen to what people have to say. I heard a lot of what the people were saying on the election so now we have to put that into action. I have been in the situations that the people have been — I have been unable to pay my rent, I have been unable to pay my kids' nursery fees, I've had my lights turned off.
“I can appreciate the struggle that people are going through because I have been in the struggle too. I will represent that sector — the party needs to be closer to the people — come on! The people put us here we've got to do the right thing.”
Mr Kempe said he was encouraged by the enthusiasm of the Future Bermuda Alliance as the party searches for fresh new talent. He said as chairman he would be focusing on monitoring and managing the party.
He said: “We may be bruised but we are not broken.”
One Bermuda Alliance members gave their views as they prepared to vote at the leadership contest
Glenda Carlington: “Craig deserves it. He is a humble leader. I have known him all my life and he has never struck me as shady. He has got a heart of gold. I believe he always has had Bermuda and its people at heart.”
Trae Cannonier, the son of Craig, who co-runs the political commentary site It's That Type of Party: “He doesn't get a free pass because he's pops. He raised me to always have a mind of my own. I do believe that he has a big heart and that can be good and bad — it is good because he has the people's best wishes at heart. It can be bad because people can use that to their advantage. I think he has learnt many lessons from the past and can move the party forward.”
Stephen West: “I think there is a good choice — you need the experience in there. They need to rebuild and regroup. It is also important that there is no infighting.”
Jane West: “They need to go back to their roots as the party of cohesion and transparency and to engage the people. They need to do what the people hired them to do and bury their egos.”
Max Abend: “It is hard to choose. We need a nice, strong Opposition to keep the Government on its toes.”
Jeanne Atherden, a 69-year-old mother of two, is the vice-president and account executive for Paragon Brokers (Bermuda) Ltd and a fellow of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Bermuda.
She is the daughter of 1960s United Bermuda Party candidate Pearl Adderley and brother of former UBP MP Erwin Adderley and entered the political fray as a UBP senator in 2008.
She served in the Senate for three years before the party merged with the Bermuda Democratic Alliance to form the One Bermuda Alliance.
Ms Atherden successfully ran for Parliament in Pembroke West for the OBA in 2012, defeating Erwin, who ran as an independent candidate, as well as Vince Ingham of the Progressive Labour Party and independent Meredith Stapff.
After almost 18 months as a backbencher, she became Minister of Health, Seniors and the Environment in May 2014.
At the General Election in July 2017, Ms Atherden was one of only 12 OBA MPs to win a seat in Parliament, and took on the finance portfolio in the new Shadow Cabinet.
She becomes the OBA's fourth leader, after Craig Cannonier, Michael Dunkley and Patricia Gordon-Pamplin.