It’s pretty late (0045hrs as I type), so I’m only going to give some initial thoughts here. Hopefully I’ll have the time tomorrow to write something fuller.
- Cannonier had to go; his position had become untenable. I noted days ago that the question was no longer one of ‘if’ but ‘when’ and ‘how’ he would go.
- This is only the end of the beginning. The fall-out from this is not going to disappear simply with Mr Cannonier’s resignation.
- In particular, the rest of the Jet Gate crew (AG Pettingill and Minister Crockwell) remain in their Cabinet positions, and were conspicuous in their flanking of the new Premier, Mr Dunkley. They’ve tried to distance themselves from this scandal by throwing Mr Cannonier under the bus, but the stench of wrongdoing still clings to them. There will be continued calls for them to face consequences too.
- There are questions hanging over key pro-Cannonier supporters, namely Mr Sylvan Richards and Minister Scott, both of whom reportedly threatened to sit as Independent MPs if Cannonier was forced out. Whether they have the courage of their convictions remains to be seen.
- While the Cabinet and Senate remain the same, it’s doubtful that is anything more than a temporary situation. After the OBA holds their Leadership election on the coming Sunday (with Dunkley the likely shoo-in) expect some changes. Speculation will be rife about what the changes will be and who the new Senators may be. I suspect Mr Fahy will survive the cull, despite being seen as pro-Cannonier. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr John Baritt returns to front-line politics as a Senator, although that may be an outside possibility. Some clues may be in the various reports of who took which sides in the recent factional struggles over the weekend.
- Expect fall-out from the Club Med RFPs. While it seems clear that Mr Landow’s interest has been thwarted by the incompetence of Mr Cannonier, I imagine this scandal has got many of the other potential investors wondering about the fairness of the process. Expect whoever doesn’t win to cry foul. It may well be the case that the entire process needs to be started from scratch.
- There’s an open-question about how Mr Cannonier will behave as a backbencher. After all, as a disgraced former Premier, thrown under the bus by his colleagues, he hardly has much of an incentive to either attend Parliament or to assist his colleagues. His non-attendance weakens the OBA’s majority, while his resentment may cause troubles for the Government if he votes against them – especially if Mr S Richards and Minister Scott feel equally resentful. Whether there will be some horse-trading here in an interest to appease them (such as retaining Minister Scott in Cabinet and offering Mr S Richards a Ministerial portfolio) remains an open question.
- The Opposition will remain focused on Jet Gate and have every incentive to provoke a no confidence vote. One way or another the OBA Government looks increasingly shaky here. Kicking Mr Cannonier may buy them some time, but it may not save them in the long-run. The Opposition will feel vindicated and will call for more blood, while the OBA has been shaken, it’s hemorrhaging support (principally among swing voters), and the situation is, quite frankly, fluid.
- An early general election (not immediately, but sooner than otherwise expected) is increasingly likely for the above reasons, but also as the new Leadership of the OBA seeks to consolidate itself (weeding out certain candidates representing problematic factions, positioning more amenable candidates in their place) and gaining popular legitimacy from an election victory, partly in an effort to draw a proverbial line in the sand to move on from this scandal.
Ultimately, this is the first time I think we’ve had a truly disgraced Premier be forced to resign. This is unprecedented, and a sad day for Bermuda – it didn’t have to be this way.
I am hopeful that, in a silver-lining kind of way, this leads to some immediate reforms, especially in terms of campaign finance regulation and political reforms, like the right-of-recall and former Premier Alex Scott’s Public Integrity Act.
Hopefully we’ll also see the new Premier revisit the OBA’s promise to hold a referendum on casino gambling in an effort to restore some credibility to their Government and remove some of the stench of scandal that’s associated with the now disgraced Mr Cannonier’s blustery about-face on it.
On a final note, I just wanted to shout out to the media. Without their reporting, particularly that of Ayo Johnson, it’s likely this scandal would have been swept aside. The media did well here, shining light on the scandal and keeping our Government accountable. We owe them our collective gratitude.