Tuesday, 19 July 2011
DEMOCRACY IN JERSEY IS ALIVE… BUT IT’S PROBABLY IN INTENSIVE CARE!
With apologies for not having had time to get around to the intended new post - as a stop gap - I thought it might be interesting to look back briefly at some of the more intriguing happenings of the past two weeks since I wrote. And, indeed, at a couple of the joys lying ahead for us in the Chamber this coming week.
Will he/won’t he/will he/won’t he – will he Chair the sub-panel…
As I have already explained to readers for obvious reasons I will not be expressing any thoughts on possible, eventual outcomes to the current Scrutiny review.
There was never any chance of this happening once we had decided to go ahead and I certainly didn’t need the rather foolish and ill-informed – and thankfully, of course, wholly dismissed – objections of the Home Affairs Minister to remind me of this. That said, and also given some rather confused reporting in the media, I certainly can and may well comment briefly in future on what is already now in the public domain via both these media outlets and Scrutiny’s own website.
However, first I very briefly want to comment on an incident that – following hot on the heels as it did of Senator Le Marquand’s attempts to remove me from the Chair – made up my mind then and there that once this important review has been completed I will be resigning from Scrutiny immediately. Indeed, not just resigning for the immediate future but also that I will never again play a further part in the Scrutiny process until the whole current machinery of government that has turned the ‘ministerial’ period into a right-wing farce of unaccountability, secrecy and elitism has been overhauled.
This incident revolves around comments made by former Chairmen’s Committee President, Senator Ben Shenton during the meeting at which the Home Affairs Minister’s objections to me chairing the review sub-panel were discussed. Put quite bluntly these comments - which both I and others present - felt both wholly inappropriate and profoundly shocking boil down to his opinion that Scrutiny shouldn’t be: ‘wasting time interviewing a pipe fitter.’ This being a reference to Mr. Rico Sorda.
I have to say that in my nearly three years on Scrutiny I have interviewed a lot of what might be termed ordinary working people; people who were not wealthy or holders of well paid, high profile jobs. Regardless of this these people have generally been of the very best witnesses in terms of providing insights into how issues or problems directly affected people. The fact that many were just ordinary parents and not ‘experts’ with letters after their names was wholly irrelevant. They told it how they saw it – and more often than not told it all the clearer for this fact.
The bottom line to all of this is that in my view all and everyone is worth listening to. For when it comes to Scrutiny the final acid test will always be that opinions/arguments/claims and counter claims will stand or fall by analysis of the evidence.
The inference that only those with power or status are worthy of being listened to or taken seriously is one that I find both unacceptable and deeply offensive. Certainly an inference of a world view that I feel to be wholly incompatible with the ethics of government Scrutiny. Viewed alongside objections that I feel to be politically motivated, once the work to which I am committed is completed I genuinely feel that I wish to play no further part until this undervalued and flawed governmental process is overhauled and given the resources and value it undoubtedly should and must merit.
In the meantime I think the Senator owes Mr. Sorda a sincere and humble apology. But I doubt he is man enough to give it…
‘Reform’ debates on hold until after the Electoral Commission…
How many times have we all heard the nodding dogs within the Chamber complain that they really were all ‘reformed out’ – that the public were sick to the back teeth of us Progressives ‘wasting everybody’s time’ with such debates? Hundreds? Thousands? Indeed, I have the distinct personal impression that I have heard this very thing from Senator Philip Ozouf on at least a few dozen occasions.
So guess what? Yup, I brought this very proposition, Not that you would have known it from the complete lack of coverage in the JEP who have also echoed this sentiment ad infinitum. Consequently, any reasonable person might well have expected that this proposition would sail through easily. Oh no! You see the problem was that - rather like the Barclay’s wanting democracy but only if it served their purposes – the Great and the Good of the Establishment Party only wanted to stop reform debates that didn’t serve their purposes.
Supporting me would have meant they couldn’t retain any small degree of credibility they had left if they then voted for the ‘Save our Senators’ farce. Having tried unsuccessfully to make a mockery of Standing Orders to move Deputy Carolyn Labey’s (or was that Lyndon Farnham’s?) proposition ahead of mine lodged a full three weeks earlier – the result was entirely predictable: it was defeated. Still, let’s just remember who voted against and hear no more such protestations from these hypocrites during the next three years. Which brings us very neatly to…
The ‘Save our Senators’ debate…
Of course it is true that a whole book could be written about this saga -not least being the fact that the tiny petition and handful of ‘outraged, disenfranchised’ letter writers confirm the reality that 99% of the public actually really don’t give a fig. But anyone still harbouring lingering doubts that failure to support the proposition only half jokingly dubbed ‘Projet 666’ would automatically lead to democratic Armageddon in the island might be given a reality check by considering the following.
During the debate – the sixth on related issues that have now cost the taxpayer many tens of thousands of pounds - one of the Senators whose seat would undoubtedly likely be seriously at risk, Senator Terry Le Main, was accused of snoring loudly whilst Deputy Paul Le Claire was making a speech! Understandable, perhaps, to anyone who has heard one of the Deputy’s ‘playing both sides’ speeches but hardly appropriate all the same.
Then, of course, we had another one at risk after six years of living off his father’s political reputation - Senator Ben ‘The Invisible Man’ Shenton. Not only was the usually publicity hungry Senator strangely reluctant to accept full credit for having come up with the original idea to cut four Senators (back in the days when he was popular – heck, even I had voted for him!) but in repeating the desperate spin yet again that this was actually all a horrible plot led by wicked Deputies, with the debate over the Senator again did what he undoubtedly does the best: vanished!
The Protectors of Democracy? Get real – we need these people like a ship in a stormy sea needs a hole below the waterline.
The vote of Censure on the Chief Minister…
Thirteen failures was the description used to report it. Thirteen disasters may have been more accurate. Whichever you prefer the most surprising aspect of all of this was the nature of the dozens of contacts I received from the public. Were they all lambasting me for this ‘effrontery’ to one of my betters? Well, no actually. Apart from BBC Brigit and former Senator Dick Shenton (who to be fair was probably eager to write something to distract from his son’s spectacularly appalling attendance record at states sittings over the past six years).
They were actually all 100% supportive. Indeed, the only criticism, and one repeated many times was that I was quite wrong to only highlight thirteen! One multi-millionaire – actually a 1 (1) K I believe – even wrote to me to ask angrily why I wasn’t also seeking to hold the Chief Minister, Senator Terry Le Sueur, to account for his failure in costing the Island’s taxpayers millions of additional pounds by his shambolic handling of the incinerator contract!
Of course, the motion’s defeat was always inevitable. But one or two things did prove very enlightening in the course of the debate and are thus worth commenting on. The first was the expected total absence of any real focussing on the seriousness of the thirteen issues at hand by those who leapt to the Chief Minister’s defence. Much like the wholly warranted vote of no confidence brought by Deputy Shona Pitman in the former Bailiff three or four years ago – the issues were simply swept aside.
What mattered, apparently, was that the Chief Minister was ‘a really good chap’. Not only this – but as I was a full time politician and wasn’t a wealthy part-timer I really ought to know my place and shut up! For the record I have no doubt that the Chief Minister really is a nice chap. But that, I’m afraid, was hardly the issue and government should be mature enough to rise above such nonsense.
Another point that really is worth highlighting was the extraordinary speech of Deputy Paul Le Claire. Here was a ‘Progressive’ who just short weeks ago had been e-mailing a lot of us begging that we all support him because he wanted to bring votes of no confidence in…well, just about everyone actually or so it seemed! But now, without the Testicular Fortitude to go forward with his apparent convictions, he was to stand up and spectacularly about turn to tell the listening world how I really wasn’t showing the States in a good light by my motion! Was I surprised? Sadly I have to be honest and say – not really. As I have said before. I think it is what they call trying to ‘play both sides’. As a disgruntled constituent e-mailed me: a dangerous game so near an election…
Commonsense GST exemptions on healthy food – in the very same week Senator Ozouf wants us to support 1 (1) Ks to pay as little as 1% tax…
Poor old Treasury & Resources Minister Philip Ozouf. As a committed proponent of long-discredited free-market policies that would still seek to con the public that giving the wealthiest ‘a bigger slice of the pie’ automatically makes all of the rest of us better off he really can’t have foreseen that this despicable proposal would be up for debate - in the very same week that we would also have to discus GST exemptions on essential healthy food. But here we are.
Indeed, this one will be a challenge for even Philip’s finely honed Machiavellian manipulation of his colleagues. Look out for all the stops being pulled out. If someone – as happened last year – has to pay £250.000 minimum tax with my amendment on the sale of a company bringing in profit in the region of £90.000.000 + it will, indeed, surely be Armageddon for the island. Won’t it? The rich will surely flee in their droves! Civilisation will rapidly fall! And yet…
Actually doing something intelligent, proactive and highly moral to actively encourage and assist those on low incomes to shop and eat more healthily – with the long-term result that the action will eventually save the Treasury and taxpayer millions through reduced strain on the health service etc… Nah, this would simply be a step too far. Predictable outcome or not – I really can’t wait for the black is white and white is black nonsense from the Minister and his cronies during the debate!
Just remember to make a nice big list of the names who support the wealthiest but who give another kick to the poorest – circulate it to your friends and make sure you don’t give any of these hypocrites a single vote come October 19th!
Keep the faith.