Cannonier axes UBP old guard
Two Opposition politicians vowed to keep fighting for their constituents after they were dumped from shadow ministries in a One Bermuda Alliance shake-up yesterday.
Jeanne Atherden and Michael Dunkley said they remained committed to the party despite speculation that new OBA leader Craig Cannonier is planning a future without them.
The pair, along with Trevor Moniz, were sidelined without advance warning of the announcement of a new Shadow Cabinet line-up.
They were the only three OBA MPs not at a meeting last month when their eight House of Assembly colleagues backed a motion to oust Ms Atherden and reinstate Mr Cannonier, a former premier, as Opposition leader and leader of the party.
A party insider claimed the move sent a clear message that there was a push to ditch key players from the former United Bermuda Party, which merged with the Bermuda Democratic Alliance to form the OBA.
But Mr Cannonier insisted he was not “trying to get rid of people”.
Ms Atherden, a former UBP chairwoman, lost her shadow finance brief to Nick Kempe, the new Opposition Senate Leader.
Mr Dunkley, who has been an MP for the UBP and OBA for 21 years, was Shadow Minister of National Security until the role was handed to Ben Smith, in addition to his social development and sport remit.
Mr Moniz has served for 25 years between the two parties and was Shadow Attorney-General until he was replaced by Scott Pearman, who won a by-election in June, with the title of Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs.
A party insider said: “Mr Cannonier has made a very bold and decisive move to remove portfolios from those that did not support him.
“While all three have made relevant contributions, this must be an indication that their time is up.
“Mr Cannonier's move is not subtle and hopefully it will be heard.”
The source added: “Presumably the aim is to get the old UBP guard out to make way for others to come in and fill the gaps.”
But Mr Cannonier, who led the OBA to victory in the 2012 General Election, said: “This is about us changing course. Certainly we have the expertise to carry ourselves well within the House of Assembly.”
He added: “This is about giving some of our newer MPs a chance to really get their teeth into the politics and sometimes you need to nudge people or you need to give them just a little push so that they get immersed into the process of getting Bermuda to a better place.
“This was never a move of trying to get rid of people. This really is about allowing some of the talent that we do have to flourish.”
Mr Cannonier, who resigned as premier in 2014 amid controversy over a flight on a private jet owned by an American business tycoon, said the party had “some senior members” and the changes were “utilising that expertise and putting it into our new members”.
Mr Cannonier confirmed he had not told the three axed shadow ministers about the shake-up and said that was not “something that is customarily done”.
Cole Simons and Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, both former UBP MPs, survived the cull and both have extra responsibilities.
Mr Simons added economic development to his education portfolio and Ms Gordon-Pamplin becomes the shadow health minister.
She will also lead on financial matters in the House of Assembly because Mr Kempe sits in the Senate.
Mr Cannonier, who now also has responsibility for public works, said he planned to have a team that listened to people and would be “vocal” in holding the Government to account.
Ms Atherden said she looked forward to seeing the group “go out and do the job they said they want to do”.
She added: “The only message that I read is the message the people of Bermuda are telling me — stay in there, we like what you're doing, we respect your efforts.”
She added: “I will be there as long as I'm an MP. I've made a commitment to my constituents and I will be working on their behalf.”
Mr Dunkley offered his best wishes to the Shadow Cabinet members and said: “Leadership decisions are always questioned but not today by me, publicly.
“I know how tough it can be as a leader. After all, against the grain of public opinion, I gave Craig Cannonier a second chance after Jetgate and asked him to serve in the Cabinet.”
He added: “I have no intention of stepping back at this point in time, I think the country faces too many challenges.”
Mr Moniz could not be contacted for comment.
Owen Darrell, the Progressive Labour Party chairman, said last night: “The OBA have once again reached into their old bag of UBP tricks by selecting a front bench that attempts to hide their true origin.”
He added: “The deck of the OBA may have been shuffled and a few cards hidden up their sleeve but the OBA's ideology remains intact.”
THE NEW SHADOW CABINET
Leader and public works: Craig Cannonier
Finance: Nick Kempe
Legal affairs: Scott Pearman
Deputy leader, tourism, transport and regulatory affairs: Leah Scott
Social development, sports and national security: Ben Smith
Home affairs and environment: Sylvan Richards
Health, and spokeswoman for finance in the House: Patricia Gordon-Pamplin
Education and economic development: Cole Simons
Whip and government reform: Susan Jackson