Friday, 25 May 2018

Ineffectual changes

The recent election in Jersey didn't catch the imagination of voters it seems.  A few small changes and novel occurrences didn't make much of a dint in the voter turnout.

Moving the election to May instead of the usual Autumn period  didn't do it, even though the weather was favourable. Personally it meant for the first time in three decades I had no active part in a significant election where I was eligible to vote.  April and May are the busiest times for  general fruit and vegetable growers.  Miss the planting season and it is most of a year's earnings lost.  So I wasn't a candidate and couldn't get involved in campaigning. 

Unprecedentedly I think half the ministers didn't restand.  And at least two ministers decided to refight deputy seats rather than  put themselves before an Island wide electorate.  The result is that voters were unable to give those minister a drubbing  if they felt policies or performance warranted it.  In a party system of course they have the chance do do that by proxy by voting against the party candidate.  This aspect is particularly  irritating to me. The ministers stand as individuals, but act together under collective responsibility.  But as soon as an election comes they want to be independents again and deny collective responsibility where it really matters - to the electorate.  

The third different thing this election was the presence of a party with a worked out manifesto and standing enough candidates to have an outside chance of being a major  driving force in the assembly. In those respects I think what Reform did was a service to the electorate and set a bar for others in future election about the level of detail and comprehensive nature of manifestos the electorate might expect. 

Perhaps the most notable  feature of this election was the fact that all but two of the candidates restanding for election were returned.  Given there were 9 sitting members contesting  8 senatorial seats one casualty at least was guaranteed there.  The other was constable of St Mary in a re-run of the last election which was similarly close the other way.  The conclusion I draw is the that the electorate was fearful and went for the 'better the devil you know' option.  What they feared is the question.

And the outcome of this election?  Well actually not much change as I can see.  I don't expect much from the new Assembly on ecology, sustainability or  resource dependency.   That the election in the Assembly for chief minister is between a former accountant and another former accountant probably speaks volumes for what is the principal and overriding concern and interest of the elected members.  And as they say if you want to know what someone values look at what they count. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

CoM, CoI and coincidence?

As I write at least six of the current Council of Ministers are not seeking re-election to the States let alone as ministers. . Add in a handful of assistant ministers also bowing out at the prospect of another election and one has to wonder what has triggered this unprecedented winnowing of the chaff.

Commonly  social media  messages refer to rats jumping a sinking  ship.  I doubt that is the cause. If the CoM had lost a vote of confidence in the assembly, or serried ranks of protesters were evident outside the latest meetings I might  take that suggestion.  

I put to you another reason - their job is done as they see it.  Is it coincidence that many of those ministers were in the Assembly when the events leading to the Committee of Inquiry into abuse in care was put in place.   Some of them worked very hard to undermine, deflect and eviscerate the terms of reference and the standing and findings of the CoI.  Well the CoI reported  and there is now nothing left to attack.  The findings, however weak, are being implemented and the questions that never were put are now unnoticed.  Questions of no import to anyone except perhaps historians of some future age.

Job done. Arses covered, reputations quickly buffed up again and those who were to be protected have been .  Rewards, titles, and invitations in the post soon....

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Still wondering who runs Jersey?

As a follow up to my last posting,  I noted this  Population policy delayed until after May elections As though the ministers didn't know the date of the coming elections, or that policy might need scrutiny.  All very convenient for the don't change the near enough non existent population policy line up of the Chamber and IOD.

Another long time proponent of  immigration and growth is Mark Boleat.  He appears as a research fellow for the newly rebranded/relaunched  Jersey policy forum  I was intrigued to read they are registered as a charity.  I can quite understand such an organisation being a not for profit.  But its  difficult to see how they would meet the  usual criteria of a charity. I don't know any of the 3 executive officers but I am acquainted with a few of the board members.  A fairly typical selection of what elsewhere is termed the great and the good.   Comfortably middle class and  well off for the most part.  Also I did a quick call to a few other acquaintances who run what you might call informed politically aware organisations - the sorts who respond to  States consultations.  Not one had ever had any communication from the Jersey Policy Forum. All the more intriguing when the web site states "
Our values

We believe that working together in a diverse and democratic society is best achieved when people have an open mindset and are focused on achieving common purposes. We work to encourage civic engagement from all people who live, work and play in Jersey to listen to each other’s voices and create a better future together. We adhere to the following values and principles in our approach to our work and invite you to join our Knowledge Partnership:"

If you still aren't convinced about the magic circle effect of these 'independent' bodies, look at the invited speakers for their forthcoming conference. 
Senator Ian Gorst - Jersey's Chief Minister,
Charlie Parker - Chief Executive for the States of Jersey,
Deborah McMillan - Jersey's first Children's Commissioner,
David Goodhart, author of The Road to Somewhere,founder of Prospect magazine and Head of the Demography, Immigration and Integration Unit at the Policy Exchange think tank based in London.

You might not know of David Goodhart, but this piece should leave you in no doubt about where he comes from politically.   Populist revolt future politics Does that look like a balanced, programme to you ? Pure coincidence of course that while the Chamber, IoD and even the Chief Minister  refuse to discuss population policy ahead of the election, the one person given a platform is David Goodhart aka the liberal Powellite.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Comments of interest

Sometimes it is the small asides that are the most revealing.  Two such incidental points came to my attention this week and both made me shudder.

First the Bailiff, taken from  the piece  innocent and anonymous until proven guilty  There's much could be said about the whole article and the importance of justice being seen to be done.  However I want to focus on a sentence almost at the end of the piece.  " On the subject of whether centeniers should be able to form part of the jury, the Bailiff commented that it was “not a problem” in his view, but that it could be for some members of the public". 

Centeniers are police officers- they carry a warrant card and have pretty much the same powers as paid uniformed police officers at least within their own parish.  In most civilised parts of the world the notion that police officers could sit on juries would be seen as dangerous and often disallowed. Police Officers in England and Wales used to be excused jury service until the changes in the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

The changes brought in in 2003 were challenged, see  police jurors are a threat to fair trials. One judge said: "I do think the notion of opening up juries to those actually involved in the legal system is a step too far. When I say the legal system, I include police officers." Another said: "I think it's too far to have judges and policemen sit on juries... In a criminal case police in particular are not who you would want on a dispassionate jury."

Actually the problem with centeniers on juries is rather worse.  Centeniers are the only ones who can bring charges.  As such they are also part of the prosecution system.  The concept of  having police officers who are also prosecutors sitting on juries is a true challenge to the perception of impartiality of  juries and the right of defendants to a fair trial.

The situation in Jersey goes one step further in its difficulties than the English system.  Over there the understanding is that police officers, MP's judges who are called to serve on juries do so outside of any court where they have regular contact.  In England and Wales what not to difficult, but in Jersey  it is effectively impossible. 

Couple all of that with the absence of private prosecutions and the Attorney General's unchallengeable ability to determine whether prosecutions can proceed (not in the public interest).  Id say that really ought to be a concern for all  members of the public, and it is hard to fathom how the Bailiff can so readily dismiss Centeniers on juries as "not a problem".

 The second item that caught my attention  was a comment on a  twitter thread about having a population debate ahead of the coming elections in Jersey. Kevin Keen suggested a population debate.  The interesting part is this.

In theory no  States assembly can bind a future. Of course they do it all the time by undertaking long projects and capital  builds that require maintenance or (bond repayments) for decades to come.  But more worrying is the fact Chamber appear to think their debate is somehow a States policy making body.

I am also incredulous that any organisation is would want a subject of importance like population not to be debated ahead of an election.  Incredulous unless of course that body though they could better manipulate the outcome post election by non democratic means?  Is this where we have arrived in Jersey?

And it isn't an isolated example.   Our new Chief Executive announcing his plans does so at the Chamber of Commerce.

Of course the Chamber of Commerce is free to debate or not debate issues as they see fit.  But this proximity of the Chamber to the States policy making is not a healthy thing.  In many jurisdictions  Civil Servants would not  be permitted to make policy announcements to a private body without it first being released to Parliament.  The UK Civil service management rules are published


The central framework derives from the need for civil servants to be, and to be seen to be, honest and impartial in the exercise of their duties. They must not allow their judgement or integrity to be compromised in fact or by reasonable implication. In particular:

civil servants must not misuse information which they acquire in the course of their official duties, nor without authority disclose official information which has been communicated in confidence within Government, or received in confidence from others. They must not seek to frustrate the policies, decisions or actions of Government either by declining to take, or abstaining from, action which flows from ministerial decisions or by unauthorised, improper or premature disclosure outside the Government of any information to which they have had access as civil servants;

civil servants must not take part in any political or public activity which compromises, or might be seen to compromise, their impartial service to the Government of the day or any future Government;

civil servants must not misuse their official position or information acquired in the course of their official duties to further their private interests or those of others. Conflicts of interest may arise from financial interests and more broadly from official dealings with, or decisions in respect of, individuals who share a civil servant’s private interests (for example freemasonry, membership of societies, clubs and other organisations, and family). Where a conflict of interest arises, civil servants must declare their interest to senior management so that senior management can determine how best to proceed; and

civil servants must not receive gifts, hospitality or benefits of any kind from a third party which might be seen to compromise their personal judgement or integrity.

Neither the Civil Service Code ( nor this central framework is comprehensive. It does not deal for example with such issues as isolated neglect of duty, failure to obey a reasonable instruction or other forms of misconduct which may properly be dealt with under disciplinary arrangements."