Those hoping for a marriage between the United Bermuda Party and the Bermuda Democratic Alliance needn’t buy a hat just yet.
Any speculation about a union is just that — speculation, according to BDA leader Craig Cannonier.
The BDA will go it alone at the next election, fielding a candidate in every constituency.
As for claims by some that the BDA is the “new UBP”, Mr. Cannonier says it has more in common with the Progressive Labour Party (PLP).
“The talk of the town is, ‘What about the UBP and the BDA?’” he said.
“There’s a lot of talk about an amalgamation, but no, we’re not talking.
“As far as the UBP is concerned, there have been no formal talks.”
He admitted there have been informal discussions.
“Individuals have sat down and said, ‘What do you think about these options going forward?’”
As for UBP deputy chairman Nicholas Swan’s call for a “unification” of the two parties to contest PLP seats at the next election, Mr. Cannonier said: “I want to believe that statement was a call for the country — not necessarily the BDA — that we should come together.
“I’m willing to work with individuals who want to do what’s best for the country.”
He said the BDA is intent on following its own path rather than uniting with a rival party.
“The BDA is here to make real changes. We can’t do the status quo anymore.”
But Mr. Cannonier, a former PLP supporter, added: “I think that there are synergies between the PLP and BDA, that we would work well together.”
Asked whether the BDA leaned politically more towards the PLP than UBP, the BDA leader said: “Yes.”
“I don’t think the public assume it or see it, but there seems to be more of a leaning [towards the PLP].”
Despite recent defections from the UBP to PLP (Wayne Furbert, Maxwell Burgess, Gwyneth Rawlins), he said there are currently no overtures from rival party members wanting to switch to the BDA.
Mr. Cannonier, 47, is confident the BDA can hold its own in the political arena.
He is emboldened by the party’s growing support among the younger generation, who he says want to see change away from Bermuda’s traditional two parties.
“We have a very strong appeal among the younger generation.
“So that tells me there is longevity in what we’re doing, because we are resonating with them.
“People in Bermuda are tired of divisiveness. People want to see a path where everyone will be able to prosper, regardless of their backgrounds.”
The BDA says it wants to remove race from politics, but on an island with such a segregated history could this ever become a reality?
Mr. Cannonier said the success of the BDA within its first year pointed to a momentum among the populace towards a more inclusive style of politics, away from the traditional ‘white’ UBP and black ‘PLP’.
“Within a year we’ve come a long way, and with very little money,” he said.
The new party has more than 60 members directly involved in day-to-day activities, with a 40-strong caucus.
“We also have strong support in the community,” he said.
“People say we will split the vote (with the UBP) or die off as a party, but within a year look at what we’ve accomplished.”
As for Bermuda’s two main parties, he said: “There are (racial) legacies that have been built up with each party, but just like we thought the Berlin Wall would never come down, this too is one of those things that will crumble.
“When I see our young people, they are not concerned about who is black or who is white. They’re more concerned about other issues.”
Mr. Cannonier addressed claims the BDA was too ‘inexperienced’ to be serious political contenders.
Among the critics, UBP leader Kim Swan branded the party “political upstarts”.
Mr. Cannonier was also accused of being “cocky” by deputy UBP leader Trevor Moniz.
“I can understand why someone might say that, but I’m very clear in what I believe in,” he said.
“People might say, ‘These are a bunch of newbies’ but I will put them [BDA representatives] out anywhere and we will show we can stand in the political arena.”
He is confident of significant gains in the next general election. The candidate we ran in the (Warwick South Central) by-election (Sylvan Richards Jr.), that is the calibre of people we have now which we are ready to contend.
“We will contest every constituency with someone who is strong and who we believe in, including the PLP strongholds.”
As for criticism former UBP MPs Shawn Crockwell, Mark Pettingill and Donte Hunt should each hold a by-election to see if they still have the mandate of the people, Mr. Cannonier said: “Our MPs did not cross the floor. They are still the opposition.
“When Wayne Furbert crossed the floor (to the PLP), why didn’t we have a by-election there?
“People in both parties (the UBP and PLP) need to think about their agendas.”