Ex-premier Cannonier set to run for party leadership again

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HAMILTON, Bermuda, Nov 9, CMC – Former Bermuda premier Craig Cannonier, who dropped to the back benches in 2014 after stepping down during the One Bermuda Alliance’s (OBA) term in office following the so-called Jetgate controversy, is to make a fresh attempt to lead the party, which is now the opposition, according to sources quoted by the Royal Gazette newspaper.
Cannonier, 54, is to stand against interim Opposition Leader Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, who has led the OBA since its crushing 24-12 defeat to the Progressive Labour Party (PLP)  in July’s general election.
The PLP’s first term in office, from 1998 until 2012, came after it defeated the now defunct United Bermuda Party (UBP), which had run the country for 30 years following the introduction of party politics here in 1968.
Jeanne Atherden, the Shadow Minister of Finance, is also said to have thrown her hat in the ring, while Leah Scott is believed to have been unopposed in her candidacy as deputy leader, the Gazette said.
Cannonier, who has so far made no comment, entered politics in 2009 as a candidate for the short-lived Bermuda Democratic Alliance (BDA) and became party leader in 2010.
The BDA later joined forces with most of the remaining UBP MPs to form the OBA and Cannonier was elected party leader after John Barritt retired from politics and handed him his safe seat in Devonshire South Central, Cannonier romping home in the subsequent by-election.
Cannonier became premier in the wake of the OBA’s election defeat of the PLP in December 2012.
But Cannonier stepped down less than two years later after a row over a trip in a private jet to the United States, although Cannonier maintained his innocence. Michael Dunkley replaced him as premier.
Cannonier’s links to Jetgate sent his approval rating tumbling, but he was said to have sought support for a fresh leadership bid in December 2016.
Although Cannonier dropped to the back benches after Jetgate, Dunkley later restored him to cabinet in 2015, handing him the Public Works portfolio.
Bob Richards, the former deputy premier, said after the OBA was defeated by the PLP in July that  Cannonier had been unfairly pushed out of office.
Richards, who has been Finance Minister in the OBA administration, told the Gazette a month after the PLP landslide that Cannonier had been “the right man for the job” and backed his return as leader.
Dunkley stepped down as party leader after the election defeat — in which he narrowly held on to Smith’s North while Richards tumbled to a heavy defeat against PLP newcomer Christopher Famous in Devonshire East —  and signalled his intention to take a political back seat.
Richards, the son of former premier Sir Edward Richards, resigned from politics after his defeat.
Jetgate surrounded the use of US tycoon Nathan Landow’s private jet to take Cannonier and two of his cabinet ministers for talks with Landow in America.
The crisis deepened after Landow confirmed he and a group of other US businessmen had donated US$350,000 to assist the 2012 OBA election campaign, although Landow said cash was wired to a group called the Bermuda Political Action Club and not directly to the OBA.
Landow insisted that no deal was struck during the meeting and said he received nothing from the OBA government in return for his financial contribution to the party.
Thad Hollis later resigned as OBA chairman after conducting an investigation into Jetgate. He said he had been unaware of the American group’s donation until 18 months later.

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