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Kempe to return as OBA Senate leader

The new Senate leader for the One Bermuda Alliance hopes a number of the party's MPs will vacate their seats “in the very near future”, he said yesterday.

Nick Kempe is to make a return to frontline politics in a “priority” move that is part of a plan to deliver a “revitalised and renewed” Opposition.

He was axed from the Senate by former OBA leader Jeanne Atherden ten months ago, instigating his resignation as party chairman.

His return comes days after Craig Cannonier was sworn in as Opposition leader, following a motion of no-confidence in Ms Atherden from eight of the party's 11 MPs.

After the appointment was announced, Mr Kempe repeated calls, first made in The Royal Gazette this week, for former United Bermuda Party key figures to leave the OBA and make way for new voices. The UBP ruled for more than 30 years until it was finally defeated by the Progressive Labour Party in 1998.

When asked if all five MPs with a UBP history, which are Michael Dunkley, Trevor Moniz, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Cole Simons and Ms Atherden, should vacate their seats, Mr Kempe replied: “Certainly the party needs to be able to stand its own ground.

“I'd say yes, at some point in the very near future we need to see some turnover.”

Mr Kempe believed the OBA should have a “Parliament of its own candidates”.

The Gazette asked how individual MPs could be removed.

Mr Kempe replied: “Logistically, there's many tools, the first of which is persuasion, hopefully that's the avenue that finds success.

“I think the start is with the argument that the party needs to create its own identity, with candidates that come into the room under the OBA and we need to get some new voices into Parliament.

“Twenty-plus years of Parliament seems like more than enough time to say one's piece and if people wish, they can continue to serve their community, there's many avenues for that, but we need to get some fresh voices into Parliament.

“There have been a lot of people that have approached me from when I resigned a year ago looking for an avenue to get involved, but unfortunately they don't feel like they want to join whatever perception or reality [there is] of a party that's overwhelmingly occupied by the UBP old guard.”

On what happens if they will not be persuaded to uproot, Mr Kempe said: “Cross that bridge when we get there.”

He told The Royal Gazette: “I've always felt aligned with the OBA's values, sense of inclusion and advancing human rights and all these kinds of things, and I think Craig's going to be the one to drive the change and renewal that the party needs.”

In a statement released by the party, Mr Kempe said: “After a year of apathy and silence from the Opposition, I was pleased to see Craig Cannonier lead the Parliamentary group into action. This gave me hope all was not lost.

“I am rejoining the OBA now after a year away because Craig agrees we must change course.”

He continued: “Let us be abundantly clear, the One Bermuda Alliance was a party founded in Opposition based on the need for change, as both the options in government and opposition had been failing Bermuda.

“If the OBA is unable to own its own identity and have a House of Assembly dominated by its own candidates and not those representing inherited political philosophies, what was the point of project started by the Alliance?”

Mr Cannonier said the appointment was the first of many to be announced and added: “Nick's absence has been keenly felt within the party. He has the steady hand and the kind of political experience that would be an asset to any party.

“Bringing Nick back into the fold was a priority. His appointment is the first piece of the jigsaw.

“When that jigsaw is finished, people will see a different OBA, one that is renewed and revitalised, which will stand up to the Progressive Labour Party and which will prepare to be the next government.”

Mr Moniz has been an MP for 25 years, Mr Dunkley 21, Mr Simons almost 20 and Ms Gordon-Pamplin 19, while Ms Atherden, a former UBP chairwoman and senator, has been an MP for nearly six.

Mr Kempe quit as OBA chairman in November after only five days in the post.

At the time, party sources said he had been blindsided by his removal from the Senate by Ms Atherden two days earlier, in a move that has since been said to have been the derailing of her tenure as leader.

Until yesterday, Nandi Outerbridge was the Opposition Senate leader. It is not yet clear who will now join Mr Kempe in the Upper House.

However, Andrew Simons, who was also axed from the OBA Senate by Ms Atherden, is among those touted to make a possible return to a prominent party role.

One insider said: “If Andrew Simons sees real and meaningful change, he could be persuaded to come back.”

Another source described Mr Kempe's appointment as “an excellent strategic move” and added: “It will absolutely demonstrate the direction Mr Cannonier wishes to take the OBA.”

The insider said the move “endorsed” Mr Kempe's sentiments on “showing the stalwarts the door”.

Mr Dunkley, who declined to comment on whether he will challenge Mr Cannonier for the position of OBA leader, which is separate to that of the Opposition leader, said he had “always been a big supporter of Mr Kempe”.

He said the incoming OBA Senate leader is “entitled to his opinion” but believed the party needs “a blend of experience and fresh new blood”.

Nick Kempe (left) with Craig Cannonier (Photograph supplied)

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Published September 29, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated September 29, 2018 at 9:02 am)

Kempe to return as OBA Senate leader

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