THE EGO HAS LANDED
Though in the classic children’s tale the Grinch may well have seen the error of his ways and not gotten away with stealing Christmas, unless we are very careful what is now happening at PPC will see Jersey’s own political Grinch, Senator Philip Bailhache, stealing the absolutely essential - and very hard won at that – independence of the Electoral Commission.
The result in my view will be what I can only describe as a further ‘rigging’ of the democratic process to try and ensure that the already under-represented voters in Jersey’s urban areas like St. Helier are forever at an insurmountable disadvantage to the self-interested ‘Great and the Good’ and their ‘I’m alright Jack’ supporters who think Jersey is their own private club to exploit as they see fit and stuff the consequences for the rest.
MAINSTREAM MEDIA GET IT WRONG AGAIN
Readers and anyone genuinely interested in democracy should be aware that what was reported in the JEP this Saturday is a woefully inadequate report of what tactually transpired at the PPC meeting. Trust me – I was there; the JEP had not a single reporter there throughout. If they have been fed their story as fact then they have been misled.
The apparent ‘clearing of the way’ reported for our most egotistical of Senators to usurp the agreed independence of the Electoral Commission and pervert it to the desired ends of the Establishment (a Party finally waking up to the fact that the challenge on behalf of true democracy coming from the motley bunch of peasant democrats like me isn’t going to go away so easily no matter how underhand their tactics) is just more ‘spin’ to make this most poisonous of pills a bit more palatable to a misled public.
Indeed, the JEP report that this decision – which isn’t actually to change what was agreed following Daniel Wimberley’s excellent proposition, but to give States Members the chance to do so – was not passed by the emphatic two to one ratio claimed at all. No. With Deputies Montford Tadier and Kristina Moore not even present it was actually slipped through by just three votes to two.
Incredibly – and I bet readers could never see this particular sham coming – the decisive vote to allow the possibility of Senator Philip Bailhache being able to hijack the ‘commission’ with the collusion of new Chief Minister Ian Gorst was actually taken by…
Senator Philip Bailhache!
As you have probably fallen out of your chair in shock I’ll repeat that for you. The decisive vote was Senator Philip Bailhache’s
SHAMBLES OR PLOT - THE DIRE CONSEQUENCES WILL BE THE SAME
As a former member of PPC I can state as fact that in my experience of past meetings if what was being discussed involved one of the members in a highly contentious issue then he or she would not vote on the matter. Common sense really as I am sure most would agree.
Yet whilst hiding behind the complete baloney that the move wasn’t actually being engineered to allow Senator Bailhache to take the Chair of the review but rather allow any politician to potentially do so this common sense dictate was not adhered to.
Other politicians and more importantly the ordinary people of Jersey need to be aware of what is going on here. It is that serious. Not least Chief Minister Gorst’s part in what can only be described as another betrayal of what he promised within his pitch to become Chief Minister and his stated intent to bring about a brave new dawn in local politics. Check for yourself – its all their within Hansard and various media reports from the election.
In the meantime should anyone think I am being too harsh on the Chief Minister then just consider the following facts? The reality is that Senator Gorst was only elected to the role of Chief Minister on the back of securing the decisive votes of the political ‘Progressives’.
ONCE, TWICE, THREE TIMES A ….
The key fact here is that this ‘Progressive’ support for Senator Gorst was given on the back of promises of wholesale political ‘inclusion; and of equal importance his firm stated commitment to an INDEPENDENT Electoral Commission. Yet as we have subsequently seen this first promise of political inclusion was jettisoned no sooner than the Senator had been safely secured in the top job.
Indeed, maybe some readers are not aware of this fact; but this betrayal can be emphasised further by the fact that according to Senator Gorst every Minister was to be ‘instructed’ by him to take on an Assistant Minister with a ‘different’ political perspective to theirs to ensure this happened. A great idea but whatever happened to it, Senator Gorst?
Obviously not every Member can be a Minister. Yet even the most rabid of right-wing buffoons (Jon the Troll aside perhaps?) could not maintain an argument that the likes of ‘Progressives’ such as Senator Alan Breckon and Deputies Geoff Southern, Shona Pitman, Montford Tadier, Mike Higgins and yes- even me! - had less ability or appropriate experience than many given other roles within this new ‘inclusive’ government: some who didn’t even give the Senator their support for the job!
And tell me if I’m wrong, readers but in what way exactly does Deputy Eddie Noel have a ‘different political perspective’ to his new Minister at the Treasury, Senator Philip Ozouf? I think the appropriate term is: I rest my case - unless being even more right-wing than your Minister is seen as meeting the instruction’s criteria?
‘THE BEST POLITICIAN WE HAVE HAD FOR A VERY LONG TIME’
No, don’t worry I didn’t proclaim the above nonsense: JEP reporter Ben Quérée did. I wonder what the said reporter – who I seem to recall only a year or two ago held the very same rose-tinted view of Senator Ian Le Marquand – thinks now? Because just days after giving Gorst the above glowing testimonial Ben Quérée had to report on the next act of betrayal.
This was the new Chief Minister going back on his word to me that he would bring some transparency to the shameful scandal of taxpayers’ money being used to line the pockets of discredited, incompetent senior Civil Servants under the Le Sueur regime with obscene ‘golden handshake’ pay-offs amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
So here we are in only January let us remember. We are still to have the first States Sitting of 2012. Two promises made. Two promises broken. And now we get what has the potential to be the most damaging of all: the selling out of the independent Electoral Commission to pacify one Senator’s hugely inflated ego. It is to put it quite bluntly sickening.
As I have highlighted, being the only States Member who sat in on the PPC meeting this past Thursday (for the record the only reporter there was the BBC’s Chris Raynor) I witnessed the contempt with which the ordinary public of Jersey and all fair-minded politicians within the Assembly are being treated by the likes of Gorst and Bailhache for my self.
WILL THE REAL CHIEF MINISTER PLEASE STAND UP?
Though under no obligation to do so having defeated Senator Bailhache for the role of Chief Minister, Senator Gorst is now displaying all the political backbone of a jellyfish in colluding with him to ensure real, beneficial change to the make-up of the States that an independent Electoral Commission could not fail to recommend does not happen.
Worse that as a result while the people of less fortunate countries are risking their lives for genuine democracy we will likely slip backwards toward something resembling some shambolic, oppressive hybrid of a neo-Feudal State and the Weimer Republic! If it doesn’t worry you it really should.
Believe me – if Philip Bailhache gets his way democracy in Jersey, flawed as it is, can be kissed goodbye for at least the next generation. We will be on the way to a legalised dictatorship. The result will include the removal of the limited and wholly inadequate checks and balances that exist now.
Checks and balances such as the ‘Troy rule’; creating instead myriad extra token ‘Assistant Ministers’ that effectively mean no questioning of the ‘leader’ and thus no meaningful ‘opposition’. In truth almost unfettered power for a Chief Minister who will alone pick his chosen ‘inner circle’ of sycophants. Worse still a permanent imbalance in representation between country and urban parishes that will dwarf that which we all know exists already.
And all of this is being justified, legitimised with excuses that I’m afraid are at best garbled, pseudo-intellectual nonsense; and at worst downright untruths. It is quite frankly shameful, morally bankrupt, and the public must be made aware of it before it is too late. Yes, it seems that while Senator Gorst may have won the vote for ‘Chief Minister’ he clearly already holds the title only in name? Or surely he would not let this happen?
WE ARE BEING SLEEP-WALKED INTO A DISASTER
Check it out for yourselves. Senator Bailhache is desperately spinning the myth that he somehow ‘has a mandate’ to usurp the States agreed independent electoral commission simply ‘because he topped the Senatorial poll having talked about reform’.
Even by the Establishment Party’s long record of 1984-style rewriting of history this is nothing more than demonstrable garbage. Indeed, it is absolutely risible. Should you be tempted to disagree just consider the case of former Senator, Stuart Syvret.
Love him or loath him – and I have certainly had my serious disagreements with him as I have observed before – Syvret was the most popular politician in Jersey for the best part of two decades. With the advent of Ministerial government (and the lack of a mature party political system as exists in most proper democracies) Syvret surely could have had every justification to claim that he was the majority choice of the public to become our first Chief Minister.
Cast your mind back. Did this hold any water with the Establishment Party members inside the States in 2005? Not a bit of it – the role went to Frank Walker who had scraped in to be re-elected by the skin of his teeth. In the words of so many Establishment figures at the time Syvret’s popularity apparently gave him no such mandate whatsoever.
Yet now, surprise, surprise we are being asked to do an about turn; ask no uncomfortable questions and agree that Philip Bailhache can hijack the Electoral Commission just because he topped the poll in the latest elections of 2011! But let’s also get a few further points spelt out quite clearly as well.
There are others in the States even now who might not have topped the Senatorial poll but have been elected not just once, but twice, three and even four times on a reform platform. And a reform platform at that far more coherent and considered than the elitist hotchpotch being put forward by Philip Bailhache.
Senator Bailhache is also on record, of course, as saying he doesn’t even support the idea of an electoral commission process. He in his boundless arrogance it seems thinks he knows best even though analysis clearly demonstrates otherwise.
Indeed, though having sat in the Chair as Speaker for many years whilst Assembly after Assembly have failed over countless debates to manage to agree meaningful reform that would be beneficial to ALL of the Island’s community Senator Bailhache incredibly further states that the problem apparently ‘isn’t too difficult’. In fact he said it again in the PPC meeting. Oh to be so superior!
THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION HAS TO BE INDEPENDENT – AND ITS RESULTS HAVE TO BE PUT TO THE PEOPLE FOR SUPPORT OR REJECTION
Without so many vested interests at play it would be possible to agree with the Senator on coming up with a wholly workable reform. But then… all I want from electoral reform is a system that is constructed so that all, rich or poor, town or country Parish dweller has fair and equal representation.
This is also all that every other ‘Progressive’ that I know wants. Sadly it isn’t what the Establishment party wants. They want to maintain their grasp on power and control; and the fact that this grip is slowly loosening means they will fight all the more desperately to try and cling on to it. Don’t make any mistake – this attempt to hijack the Commission is a mark of their growing desperation.
Vested interests are what make the independence of an Electoral Commission and the public having the ultimate power of rejection or support absolutely essential. I repeat: the potential for the influence of vested interests are precisely the reason why Philip Bailhache, like any other States Member, cannot be allowed to shape the reform process.
Deputy Daniel Wimberley’s successful proposition made this clear and that is what we must continue to support under this insidious attack.
THE COMMISSION HAS TO BE GIVEN A BLANK CANVAS
I’ll leave readers with these final thoughts. Whatever one thinks about reform – for example, whether the Island-Wide mandate should go as would happen under Senator Bailhache’s adoption of ‘Super Constituencies’; whether all seats should need an Island-Wide vote; or any other variant – this in itself is not the issue.
Suggesting that Deputies should go, the Constables, the Crown Officers, the Dean or whatever – it is all absolutely fine. Let the Commission examine it all. Let them reach conclusions. And then right or wrong let their recommendations be put to the people.
What is wholly wrong, divisive and what must not be allowed to happen is doing what Senator Philip Bailhache wants to do: i.e. say that we must reduce numbers but that retaining the position of the Constables is non-negotiable. Perhaps even worse is to attempt to justify this by misleading people by spouting supporting facts that simply aren’t true. Why do I highlight this point so forcibly?
One of the few amusing moments in the meeting came when Senator Bailhache came out with the complete fabrication that it was quite clear that the vast majority of the Island’s people wished to retain the Constables in the States.
For a man who is busy desperately trying to give everyone the impression that he alone is the great font of all reform wisdom; someone who can succeed where all mere mortals have failed, one might have thought even the Senator would know that his claims were absolute nonsense. Perhaps he did know?
Whatever the truth I did have to smile when the Greffier – a really genuine repository of reform debate knowledge – politely interrupted him to point out that, even at the time of the last Mori poll, opinions were pretty much hotly split down the middle between those who strongly wanted the Constables to remain and those who equally strongly wanted them removed. Exposed the Great One fell silent.
The most telling point of all? The fact that by his own words Senator Bailhache said he would not be content to just have a seat on the Electoral Commission – he will accept only being able to control it as Chair. If this doesn’t give cause for concern to all of those who might be tempted to be sleep-walked into this disaster then frankly there really isn’t any hope. Let this happen and who knows - before long we’ll likely even begin to believe that collagen can be found in coconuts…
But just to stop all you democrats from having nightmares and to leave you on a positive note. Don’t despair. We aren’t a dictatorship yet. There are ways to fight this. Oh yes, Senator Farnham would be proud of us…
Keep the Faith.