Craig Cannonier, Senator and deputy leader of  the OBA, pictured at the new party's launch on Tuesday. He may be a favourite to lead the new party in the future. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Craig Cannonier, Senator and deputy leader of the OBA, pictured at the new party's launch on Tuesday. He may be a favourite to lead the new party in the future. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

Craig Cannonier has emerged as odds-on favourite to lead the new One Bermuda Alliance into the next general election.

Mr Cannonier was yesterday appointed as a Senator and deputy leader of the new party under its interim leader, UBP veteran John Barritt.

Mr Barritt said at the launch of the new party: “The leadership contest is open to anybody and since the Bermuda Constitution says a party leader must have a seat in the House of Assembly, I’ve indicated that I am prepared to step down to make way for that new leader should he or she not already be a member of parliament.”

And insiders said that — if Mr Cannonier decides to run at the first party conference in four months’ time — it is likely he would take Mr Barritt’s Devonshire South Central seat in a by-election.

One said: “It’s a new party and a new beginning. Craig has emerged as the man best placed to get that message over to the people of Bermuda.”

Mr Barritt declined to speculate on the future leadership of the party after the official launch, which will see the seven UBP members who quit the party on Monday join up with the three existing BDA MPs to form the new party.

He said: “There is a very real possibility that the next leader may come from outside this group. It’s about having a broader church and in order to create an opportunity, you have to make an opportunity.”

Mr Cannonier also refused to be drawn on his plans.

He said: “My amibition is to get to understand the Senate and what my role in the Senate will be.

“We wouldn’t want to get ahead of ourselves — this appointment has been offered to me and I’ve accepted. I need to concentrate on that.”

But he added: “John’s offer is an indication of the future of politics in this country and the OBA. It’s truly an opportunity for people to get involved.”

Mr Barritt said at the launch that the new party was needed to tackle major problems including gun crime, the economy, national debt and education.

He added: “These issues and others are in our face every day. They’re tearing away at the very core of who we are as Bermudians, undermining our way of life and threatening our future.

“Thousands of lives have become more difficult, more stressful and there is no end in sight. Despite the alarming situation, the current government gives no confidence it knows how to get the island back on track. We hear talks, lots of talks, but no real plans to restore jobs, no sustained, over-arching plan to solve gang violence and no urgency, no real commitment to end the education crisis.

“We consider Bermuda’s situation to be extremely serious and urgent, requiring a unified response. We intend to provide the country with the opportunity and hope to get it back on track.

“We are a committed group of people, parliamentarians and non-parliamentarians, formerly of the UBP and the BDA, who’ve elected to join together and to put Bermuda first.”

The launch of the new party was delayed by legal action by former UBP Opposition leader Kim Swan and others, who won a temporary injunction to halt the merger of the two parties.

They argued UBP branches had not been consulted properly.

Mr Barritt said: “There are people who wanted us to postpone this launch day, but waiting is not an option. The time to act is now. The levels of stress, anxiety and frustration in the community are not going away under the current conditions.”

Mr Cannonier added: “These challenges demand a unified, dedicated response — one that has been lacking in recent years. They demand a choice that is not just about party, but about purpose.

“We cannot accept business as usual. We must start to build on common ground and stop dwelling in the spaces that separate us.

“We’ve set aside party loyalties for the sake of the country. Our mission is to put Bermuda first because that’s what has been missing.”

The new team: From left, OBA Senator Michael Dunkley, Mark Pettingill MP, Bob Richards MP, Senator Kathy Michelmore, OBA deputy leader and Senator Craig Cannonier, OBA leader John Barritt MP, ex-BDA member Toni Daniels, ex-BDA chairman Michael Fahy, Trevor Moniz MP, Cole Simons MP, ex-BDA member Michael Branco. *Photo by Kageaki Smith