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Richardson considering calling for Simons to quit as OBA leader

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Cole Simons, the Opposition Leader (file photograph)

The One Bermuda Alliance appeared last night to be on the verge of a leadership crisis as sources close to its deputy leader revealed he is near to publicly calling for Cole Simons to quit as head of the party.

The move comes after Mr Simons was forced into a U-turn on plans to reintroduce Travel Authorisation fees following a party backlash.

A source close to Jarion Richardson told The Royal Gazette: “Jarion is very close to calling for the resignation of Cole Simons as OBA leader. Jarion is considering all his options.”

Complaints about the leadership-style of Mr Simons could trigger high profile resignations from the party, The Royal Gazette understands.

Criticism over the way Mr Simons pledged the OBA to tax increases without consultation with members of his party, in his reply to the Budget last Friday, was heaped on Mr Simons at an emergency caucus meeting held on Sunday which was described as “hot” in tone by sources present.

Caucus members had to “throw the kitchen sink” at the OBA leader to get him to change course on plans to bring back the contentious $40 TA fee as well as the promise to look at adding value added tax on healthcare, according to persons present.

Jarion Richardson, One Bermuda Alliance deputy leader (Photograph supplied).

The situation comes in the wake of Mr Simons having to give a public apology to his colleagues for the “error of judgment” in his official reply to Budget.

Requests from MPs to be shown the Budget reply speech before it was delivered fell on deaf ears, according to senior party figures who were “blindsided” by the tax hike proposals, including the TA hike which the OBA had campaigned to abolish.

It is understood that MPs were also not consulted on the details of the statement Mr Simons issued yesterday apologising for his lack of conferring with them on the Budget reply although they were told the U-turn would be announced, according to sources.

Yesterday, a number of the five other OBA MPs refused to comment on whether they thought Mr Simons should quit or remain as party leader.

Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, would not say whether he thought the climbdown had broken Mr Simons’ authority in the party, or not.

Asked if that authority was now gone, Mr Pearman did not deny the claim, telling The Royal Gazette: “I am not going to comment on that.”

Pressed if Mr Simons should now resign as leader, he said: “I am not going to comment on that one either.”

Craig Cannonier, OBA shadow Tourism Minister (File Photograph)

Craig Cannonier, the Shadow Tourism Minister, and former premier, also declined to be drawn on whether Mr Simon’s credibility was now damaged.

He told The Royal Gazette: “I am not answering anything to that.”

Pressed on whether Mr Simons should resign, he said: “I’m not answering that.“

The unexpected pledge to bring back the highly controversial TA fee in the guise of embedded extra payments on travel tickets and to examine VAT on healthcare clearly caught senior colleagues by surprise.

Referring to the controversial tax hike pledges, Mr Simons said in his apology: “I did not adequately consult with, or vet these suggestions, with our caucus – our parliamentary representatives and candidates.

“It was an error in judgment for me to do this without consultation and I would like to extend a public apology to them and the people of Bermuda.

“Let me stress, the OBA does not want to see the residents of Bermuda burdened with any additional taxes and they do not wish to see the reintroduction of the Travel Authorisation or any affiliated fees.

“The OBA will not reintroduce the TA in any form. Over the weekend, I apologised to my colleagues; there was never any ill intent and our commitment, as a team, is to continue to work together for the betterment of Bermuda.”

Mr Simons told the House of Assembly last week that if the OBA regained government it would “reintroduce the travel authorisation fees which can be embedded in ticket costs or collected on arrival in Bermuda – supported by international business”.

Mr Pearman said he was “glad” about the sudden reversal in policy.

He said: “I think he is calling it as he sees it and he is clarifying the record and he is being consistent with the will of his caucus and his party and I am glad he has set the record straight.”

Mr Cannonier said Mr Simons had done the honourable thing regarding the policy U-turn.

He said: “The Opposition leader is an honourable, good man and he saw fit to do what he has done and I commend him for that.

“How many politicians do you know stand up when they feel that they need to do something like this and do it?”

In a clear sign of a major party split Michael Dunkley, the Shadow Tourism Minister, dismissed the TA fees proposal and insisted it would not happen.

Mr Dunkley told The Royal Gazette before the statement from Mr Simons was released: “It is not coming back. I can assure you it is absolutely not coming back.”

The OBA refused a request from The Royal Gazette for an interview with Mr Simons.

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Published February 28, 2023 at 8:04 am (Updated February 28, 2023 at 8:04 am)

Richardson considering calling for Simons to quit as OBA leader

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