Michael Dunkley is set to take over as leader of the United Bermuda Party following Wayne Furbert's resignation yesterday.

In a statement last night, the UBP said Mr. Dunkley has secured the support of most party MPs, with Patricia Gordon-Pamplin set to become deputy leader. Both appointments are expected to be ratified in a formal party vote.

Mr. Furbert announced he would be stepping down as leader - as predicted in Wednesday's Bermuda Sun - in an emotional speech at UBP headquarters on the eve of his 51st birthday.

Mr. Furbert had a rocky 13-month tenure in the post, but his fate was sealed when he faced a no-confidence vote after losing support from seven out of 13 UBP MPs.

Mr. Furbert, a veteran politician who was first elected to Parliament in 1993 and served in a United Bermuda Party Cabinet, had been resisting pressure to resign, but having lost the support of a majority of Opposition MPs, his position became untenable.

It was a bitter blow for the man who believed he had a strong chance of leading the UBP to victory at the next general election and helped engineer the ousting of his predecessor Dr. Grant Gibbons.

But the seven MPs - Mr. Dunkley, Mrs. Gordon-Pamplin, David Dodwell, Dr. Grant Gibbons, Louise Jackson, Suzann Roberts-Holhouser and Jon Brunson- believed otherwise.

Mr. Furbert had to endure criticism of his poor speaking skills. But he gave a powerful resignation speech yesterday, laced with biblical references. He then sat down to compose himself for a few minutes before taking a few questions from the press before leaving the room. Mr. Furbert spoke of being more hurt than angry about the whole episode but also of his desire to put the needs of the country first.

He said he would be running again in Hamilton West and urged supporters "not to let your anger cause you to seek revenge."

"I know that many of my family, friends and supporters are hurting," he said. "Many of them have called me and said that they are angry, and that they want to get even by not supporting the United Bermuda Party."

He added: "If you wish to get even, then get even by showing those individuals that you are bigger than they are, and that you do not play by the rules."

A party statement issued last night read: "The United Bermuda Party Parliamentary group met this evening following Wayne Furbert's announcement of his resignation as Party Leader.

"As a group, we salute Mr. Furbert's magnanimous and gracious gesture and thank him for his hard work as our leader and his continuing commitment to the party and the country.

"In the meantime, we want the public to know that we have made good progress toward the selection of a new team at the top.

"At this point, Michael Dunkley and Patricia Gordon-Pamplin have secured the support of a significant majority of the elected group, as leader and deputy leader respectively.

"Nevertheless, this team will still need to be formally ratified under the party's Constitution."