Wednesday 29 October 2014

Jersey's Dean----- An Unhappy Anniversary.

A year has passed since my infamous meeting with Dame Heather Steel and the publishing of my blog “The truth, the whole truth or nothing but a whitewash?

That blog reported on my meeting with Dame Heather which led me to believe that her proposed report would be a whitewash. The Blog can be read HERE and gives a useful background to the sorry saga which 18 months ago was described as a mess but unfortunately has now become an even bigger, financial and embarrassing mess.

A year ago I was promised a transcript of the meeting but despite several requests to Dame Heather and Bishop Dakin it has not, and because of Dame Heather’s incriminating comments is unlikely to be given to me.

A year ago Dame Heather told me that her report was almost complete. However we know that her final version was not submitted to Bishop Dakin until last May. One is therefore entitled to ask where is it and why has no public explanation been given for the delay in publication.  

It is no secret that if the report had been compiled by a truly independent and competent person it would contain details of incompetence by a number of senior clergy members and of collusion to dispose of the victim. Therefore it’s not surprising that the report has not been circulated. 

We are also nearing the 6th anniversary of the spurious suspension of Jersey’s former Police Chief Graham Power.

If the panel of the Committee of Inquiry into Jersey’s historical child abuse adheres to its Terms of Reference it will soon be calling witnesses and hopefully the truth into the suspension will be revealed and the real reason and those responsible for it will be disclosed.

There are similarities relating to the suspension of Jersey’s Dean and the former Police Chief, however unlike the Dean who had friends in high places; the police chief was in effect dismissed by stealth.

Like Winchester a review into the circumstances of the suspension was commissioned and parts of the report were leaked but the final outcome was never revealed. It was a costly affair and like Winchester those involved in instigating the review did not emerge with any credit which soon after led me to make the following comment;

“The Minister and Minister for Home Affairs have emerged from this saga with no disciplinary case, no chief officer, a pending report from a QC likely to be critical of the Island’s Government, and a bill for over a million pounds. They are not well placed to criticise the actions of others.”

The same could be said of the Archbishop and Bishop, what have they achieved and at what cost? However I suppose one thing that could be said of their appointment of Dame Heather was that it turned out to be a precursor to the equally unwise appointments of Baroness Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf to head other reviews.

If these people can’t remember who their relations and friends are or who they socialise with. then how can they possibly be expected to remember the faceless victims and what they have to say. 

The Gladwin and Steel Reviews have been expensive and divisive affairs and are yet unpublished. It might be helpful not let the birthday candles burn out until they have set fire to both Reports so their ashes may join those of the hundreds of thousands of pounds already gone up in smoke in paying for what has become a futile and embarrassing farce.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Jersey's Elections (4)--- The Party's Over

The party’s over and it’s now time to call it a day for 7 States Members in what was called Jersey’s first General Election but in name only, because until there is only one category of States Member elected in equal sized constituencies there will never be a General Election in Jersey.

The Referendum result was as expected although possibly the size of the victory wasn't. As most of the elected members have expressed their support for reform it will be difficult to see how any reform can be implemented unless there is only one category of States Member elected in equal sized constituencies.

The closeness in the result of the only Connetable’s election (6 votes) is the very reason why Connetable’s are overwhelmingly in support for their right to retain their automatic right to a seat in the States. By chance I spoke to two St Mary voters yesterday and asked why they were wearing “Vote Yes” badges and Deputy Le Bailly rosettes. They said they were opposing their Connetable because she was spending too much time on States work. Their response was surely a contradiction because one of the reasons given for paying States Members was because it was recognized that States work was a full time job. 

One of the reasons given for Connetable Jackson’s demise at the previous election was because of his time spent on States work. It would seem that “Yes” voters want their cake and eat it.

Whilst there were many personal victories and congratulation to all the victors, I hope they will press for a review of yesterday’s election because the real victor was apathy and endorsed the “Apathy Ahoy” title I gave to my first Jersey Election’s blog.

The actual % turn out is not available at present but I doubt if the overall turnout was over 45 % with some turn outs being under 30%.

Why did so many people decide not to vote? Was it because they are so disenchanted with the quality of the candidates, the obstacles placed in front of them such as voter registration, queueing to vote in the open as experienced by voters in Trinity yesterday, or the confusion caused by an electoral system which has three categories of States Members, 12 of whom are being paid to be part time members of the States and 17 elected unopposed.

Yesterday was another bad day for the ladies with two new faces but one out, and for candidates with an independent or questioning approach. In my first blog I drew attention to 3 candidates who were deserving support for their ability and seeking an Island mandate to enhance their chances of ministerial positions. I am pleased that 2 of the 3 namely Andrew Green and Zoe Cameron were successful but am really disappointed that the third candidate, John Young did not receive the support he deserved.

Three years ago former Planning Chief Officer John Young was elected for the first time. He chaired a Scrutiny Panel, regularly lodged questions and lodged twice as many propositions than the 12 Connetables put together. He also made some valuable contributions during States debates.  Possibly one of the reasons for his demise was his honesty by openly supporting the No Vote. He may have lost the election but his integrity remains intact. 

The same can be said of Sarah Ferguson who has been a formidable Scrutiny Chairman whose panels did keep a close eye on public spending and raised issues such as the grant to the bogus film company and the budget shambles. She could be likened to the Chief Minister of Scrutiny and her defeat will be another loss to the Island.

During last Friday’s "Election Call" on Radio Jersey I was asked whether there could be any upsets. I thought that Ministers Anne Pryke at Health and Rob Duhamel at Planning could be vulnerable. Ann just scrapped in by beating Hugh Raymond by 16 votes but Rob just lost out by 26 votes to Peter McLinton, one of the 4 successful media candidates.

We must also say goodbye to "Crusty" Gerard Baudans who used to sit next to me in the States and also to Nick Le Cornu who because of his “tweet” about a colleague was going to find re-election difficult.

One of the disappointing results was not that someone lost but was actually elected, that person is the former Home Affairs Minister Andrew Lewis. He was the man behind the controversial and unlawful suspension of the former police Chief Graham Power. Andrew Lewis is back but his role in the States will need to be closely scrutinised. He must surely be called as a witness before the Committee of Inquiry so that it can be established which of the two statements he gave to the States and to the Wiltshire Police is truthful.

Given that Senator Gorst topped the poll it will be seen as an endorsement of his position as Chief Minister. Therefore whilst it would be good if his position for Chief Minister was challenged, it will be difficult for any one to defeat him. He has lost the Ministers of Home Affairs, Planning, Education and Social Security, therefore he should be looking to a reshuffle of existing Ministers like Bailhache, Ozouf and Maclean who have an Island mandate, and give Ministerial posts to Farnham, Routier, Cameron and Green. 

It would be an insult to the likes of John Young and Sean Power who have lost their seats, if Deputies, some of whom were elected unopposed, are appointed to Ministerial positions.

In conclusion thanks must be given to the States Greffier Michael de la Haye and his staff for the publication of the Election Manifesto booklet and for the Vote. je website along with the video recordings of the Hustings. 

Readers who wish to see read the results from yesterday’s election will be able to do so by clicking on to the Vote.Je website HERE.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Jersey's Elections (3) The "Yes Vote" ---The Myth Exposed.

The Yes Campaign has posted the reasons for voting yes.

Below is my response


The loss of the Constables will weaken opposition to the current proposals for a centralised property tax. This proposal will cost Islanders more than the current rates system, and be set by the Treasury Minister, not Parishioners.
A yes or no vote will make no difference to what is only a proposal and thankfully is most unlikely to get past the starting post.
Parish Rates have remained steady for 10 years. Without an effective Parish Administration bureaucracy will increase, stifling business in Jersey, and increasing the burden on the individual Ratepayer.
A red herring. Parish Administration is good and the Connetables are to be complemented but there is no justification to claim that by voting No will lead to an increase in bureaucracy.  Parish Rates is down to the effective Parish administration and from close scrutiny by parishioners who have a direct say in parish expenditure at the annual rates meetings
If the Constables are removed from the States, they will either have to be paid by their Parishes or not at all. This creates an imbalance and without pay the only people who will stand will be those with the time and money to afford it. It also risks destabilising the whole honorary system should one office holder receive remuneration and the others not.
Voting No does remove the right of Connetables sitting in the States only their automatic right. It will be for the electorate to decide whether they think their Connetable is worthy of a States seat.
The Connetable is head of the HONORARY parish system where many parishioners give freely of their time. Whilst some already receive an allowance from their Parish if they feel they need to be paid for carrying out their duties then it will be for the Parishioners to decide.
Ask yourself how effective the administration of your Parish is compared with the States of Jersey, and would you want to remove this efficiency from your Government and Assembly?
The referendum is not about parish efficiency
Through their political role, the Constables can interact with Parishioners and work as part of a support network. The loss of the Constables in the States will undoubtedly lead to a significant weakening of the Parish system – as has been the case in Guernsey for many years.
Sadly Parish Assemblies are poorly attended so there is very little interaction. Apart from St Mary’s the other 11 Connetables have not had to contest an election yet not one of them has organised a parish meeting to discuss the Referendum. Where is the interaction?
Constables have been identified as the future for ‘e-Government’ interaction as well as care and the community. This cannot happen if they are not in the States Assembly.
Where is the evidence? Most of the Connetables are yet to master the art of uploading their manifestos on to the website.
Through the Parish Assembly, and being available at the Parish Hall, the Constable is uniquely placed to be able to understand the concerns of their parishioners. These concerns are taken to the States Assembly directly, through the political role of the Constable. This cannot be replaced.
Again where is the evidence to support this claim? There is however ample evidence to show how few questions, propositions and amendments have been lodged by the Connetables. What does not exist does not need to be replaced.
The Constables are continually accountable to the Parishioners through the Parish Assembly as well as the ballot box. No other type of States Member is. Parishioners, by the ancient law of Requête can force a Parish Assembly to be called.
The outcome of the Referendum will not change the present arrangement. Surely all elected members are accountable at the ballot box.
Most Deputies do not represent the Parishes in the States. Where is the evidence?
They are elected in their own districts, on the basis of their political views. Each Parish, as a corporate body, is represented in the States by its Constable similar to the way each Department is represented by its Minister.
I find the above to be an odd claim. As a former Deputy I considered my self to be a representative of my Parishioners in both Parish and Island affairs. I would have thought that principle applied to my Connetable as well.
The removal of the Constables has the potential to de-stabilise Jersey’s Government. The Finance Industry requires confidence in government. Radical changes in the structure of government could damage confidence at a time of economic uncertainty.
I can only repeat that the Referendum is to seek the public’s views as to whether the Connetables should have an automatic right to a seat. Removing the potential of the Connetable’s block vote might concentrate the minds of the Council of Ministers but that might be one of the positives from a No vote.
There is a suggestion that Constables have a “block vote”. While they may vote the same way, they do so as individuals bringing Parish concerns to the assembly. Statistics show that Senators vote the same way as Constables do, but this goes unremarked. It is worth noting that a Party System would be one in which Party members had to vote the same way and take the agreed Party line. That would be a real “block vote”.
The above claim is not supported by the facts.
Constables have proven they are reforming States Members. They led the way towards a single election day, a four year term and spring elections. They also removed their own policing powers. Without them reform becomes more difficult to achieve.
Quite an audacious claims where is the evidence to substantiate them? The policing powers were removed thanks to continual pressure from back benches.  It is worth noting that unlike the Deputies and Senators Connetables are not subject to the States of Jersey Law nor do they take the same oath.
The retention of the Constables IS compliant with the Venice Commission, which makes allowances for different jurisdictions: “The geographical criterion and administrative, or possibly even historical, boundaries may be taken into consideration.” Our Parish boundaries are both administrative and historical and thus meet these requirements.
The Venice Commission can be interpreted as above but is hardly relevant to the Referendum. I am pretty confident that many Connetables would be elected if they stood shoulder to shoulder with other candidates and this would enhance their status.  However voting yes will only perpetuate a system that is broken and will remain so for many years to come.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Jersey's Elections (2)-- The Facts Speak For Themselves

The election merry go round enters its second week and Hustings are now being held for Deputies as well as Senators. The one Husting for the only election for Connetable will be held at St Mary on Tuesday 7th October at 8pm.

The first Hustings for Deputies got underway last night and tonight there are 5 Deputies and 1 Senator’s Husting. I shall be chairing the St Helier Number 1 District Hustings at 7pm this evening at the Ommaroo Hotel at Havre des Pas and look forward to the occasion.

There is a rare Husting at Trinity this evening where the Health Minister Anne Pryke who was “elected” 9 years ago will be appearing before the electorate for the first time, thanks to Hugh Raymond throwing his hat into the ring. He is a well qualified candidate and it will be interesting to see how the pair perform at the Hustings and the support each candidate receives from what is expected to be a high turn out.

The fact that a candidate can be elected unopposed and become a Minister without facing the electorate is another example of how outdated our current electoral system is. Also this evening at St Lawrence there is a Senators Husting where the Connetable and the 2 Deputies were all re-elected unopposed. The two Deputies Noel and Le Fondre (who has not uploaded his manifesto) are both seeking Ministerial positions as is Deputy Kevin Lewis who if re-elected will be hoping to carry on as Minister of Transport and Technical Services.

Whilst I don’t support the continuation of the Senator's role it still exists and, as such I believe that candidates wishing to become Ministers should seek an Island mandate to give them credibility, It has been noticeable that some Senatorial candidates like Anne Southern, Zoe Cameron, Deputy Young and Green are seeking an Island mandate to enhance their chances of becoming Ministers. I wish them well and I consider that all are well in with a chance of being elected.

Some may say its surprising how little interest is being shown in relation to the referendum as to whether Connetables should retain their automatic right of a seat in the States Assembly. The referendum is half cocked and if it was not being held on the same day as the General Election there would be an all time low turn out.

It is interesting to see how Senator Bailhache says he supports reform when he has done so much to stifle it and continues to do so  by supporting the Connetable's right to an automatic seat. The Senator is also of the view that there needs to be a reduction in the number of States Members. Had he not ambushed the Electoral Commission there would have been a reduction and a genuine election where all the candidates would have to face the electorate and the public would have a genuine say in who represents them.

I have always supported the Clothier recommendation for a smaller Assembly which the Senator also wants but he stops short of the full Clothier recommendation of a one class of States Member. Having just read his leaflet which has come through my letter box it is evident that Senator Bailhache is unsettled by those States members who question what Ministers do, including those who are caught out reading confidential papers on aircraft. There is no Opposition Party in Jersey and true opposition is left to the ever decreasing number of Members who are prepared to make Ministers accountable.

Opposition can come via questions and propositions being lodged and it is evident that the outgoing House has hardly excelled its itself. In the House of 2008 to 2011, 1402 propositions and amendments were lodged. This outgoing House has lodged 848. That number would have been much reduced had the Plemont and Electoral Commission not been recycled at the behest of Senator Bailhache.

The same reduction can be found in the number of written and oral questions asked. The previous House asked 2359 written and 1049 oral questions. The outgoing House has asked 1892 written and 878 oral. I wont embarrass the Connetables by revealing the number of questions and propositions they have lodged because a number would have a zero figure. Therefore it is not surprising that Ministers wishing for an easy and unaccountable way of life seek the retention of Connetables remaining as ex-officio States Members.

Confirmation of the figures I have produced can be verified via the States Assembly website which be accessed by clicking HERE  

In my last Blog I commented on the number of Connetables who had failed to upload their manifestos onto the website. Having checked before publishing this Blog it is evident that only two of the re-elected have. One displays his website but on reading it I found that it had not been updated since 2011. What is particularly disappointing is among those who have not uploaded their manifestos are the two Connetables who have been elected unopposed. Therefore their parishioners have no idea what they stand for or what they hope to achieve during their term of office.   

In conclusion it is pleasing to note the States has taken a leaf out of the Voice for Children and Tom Gruchy book and is now videoing most of the Hustings via the Website. Whilst the visual and sound quality can be improved the recordings offer those unable to attend the Hustings with the opportunity of seeing the candidate and hearing what they have to say.

The website can be accessed by clicking HERE.