Sunday, 21 October 2012

A workable compromise?

I have just read that the Electoral Commission are to release an interim report at 10:00 am tomorrow, Monday 22nd.  There is of course some speculation about its contents.  Most expect it to retain the constables, and probably restore the number of senators back to 12.

Regardless of my personal preferences, I have pondered what sort of compromise might be possible that would produce meaningful change, but preserve as much of the current system as is practical.  In essence I am considering what might be a workable rather than desirable.

The big tension is between those who would have a single class of member, compatible with the various human rights conventions that apply as to the comparability of constituency sizes, equality of representation etc, and those who would preserve much of the current system. I cannot see how these obligations can be met by having multiple  types of full assembly member based on different constituencies. In fact it is hard to see how they can be met even using parish boundaries as the populations of parishes vary so much,except perhaps having constituencies the size of St Mary, each wholly within a parish.  That would mean 1600 population each, requiring an assembly of 60 to represent 96,000 population.  I am of course assuming the parish boundaries are not to be redefined by the Electoral Commission!  Any system that moves away from parish based representation is going to be perceived as undermining or diminishing the parish system . I do not believe the population will accept that, and I am sure the Electoral Commission will seek to avoid proposing anything that looks like that.
If the principal concern for those who would retain the constables in the States is that the parish system be not undermined or diminished, and we cannot have parish boundaries with equal representation, then the Electoral Commission needs to have a specific and ideally unique and central role for the heads of the  parishes to reinforce that parish role while permitting other changes to happen.

As it happens we already have non-members of the States participating in the wider machinery of government , as required by the composition of the Public Accounts Committee, part of scrutiny.  Using this as a precedent, it is possible to derive a partial solution that might be tolerable.  The pragmatic issue here is that the connetables would not be full States member, but would have rights and responsibilities in the States assembly and wider machinery of government:

Connetables to chair scrutiny panels and committees and be responsible for running scrutiny.  This single change would ensure parishes would be able to challenge and propose amendments to any proposals  coming from the assembly. It also creates a mechanism for parishes to produce reports to the assembly on matters of concern to them.

Connetables to have right of audience in the assembly. Simply they can speak up on matters of importance, especially as it affects their parish.

Connetables cannot vote in the assembly.

Connetables able to bring propositions and amendments to the States, but only as directed by a parish assembly.  This means the mechanism of the requete is still in place.

Connetables would not be eligible to be ministers  or  assistant ministers.  This is both a practical move for avoiding the conflict of being parish head, and minister , but also logically follows from being expected to take active part in scrutiny.

Constable not permitted to stand separately as a States member.  That would  undermine the separation of roles this compromise tries to bring about.

Ideal it most certainly is not.  It is a sort of substitute for having a second chamber, but avoids the questions that inevitably arise in that situation of supremacy and who has the superior democratic mandate.  Also it does not address the other changes that may be made such as super constituencies, all island senators,etc.  However I see the position of connetables as the major issue that has to be resolved. Without agreement on dealing with the constables, no proposition is likely to make progress.  We will be back to the same errors as implementing Clothier

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Taking liberties on the buses

With the bus strike now over I want to raise a couple of issues regarding buses that may otherwise have been lost in the strike debate.

On the 11th October, it was reported that CCTV surveillance cameras will be introduced  on the new buses at the behest of the States of Jersey.   See

I am not aware there has been a spate of on bus crime to prompt this.  More worryingly there appears, that I am aware, no debate on the implications of this move.  Perhaps the States think it only affects the poor and a few idealist environmentalists who actually use the buses, and they are not worthy of having their civil liberties considered?

So what is the rationale for this move?  Who is viewing the tapes, and how are they and the tapes managed? How long are they kept, and who has access to them?  Has our ever vigilant Data Protection Registrar anything to say on the implications of this when individuals are identifiable?

My second point arises from a recent visit to Les Quennevais school. It seems the school buses leave ten minutes after the end of the normal school day.  What's wrong with that?  At secondary school there are numerous very beneficial after school activities in which students are encouraged to participate.  How do those dependent on the buses do that if the buses leave immediately after standard hours? It seems to me if the buses left at say quarter past four everyone would have some opportunity to partake of the out of hours activities.  Even if students did not want to take up the activities, they could use the extra time to use the computer facilities and library to  do their homework.  A benefit surely to those who don't have access at home.  It seems to me to be a generally  better option for almost all, so why not change the afternoon school bus times?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Jersey in Transition October

Following on from the Transition Conference, and the last General Meeting where we discussed it all, this month marks the first steps of a local REconomy initiative. This will be a new group within JiT centred around people who want to start, or have started, a local business with a Transition ethos to it. This could be self-employment, a partnership, or a co-operative. It should be low on imports, low on crude oil and its products, and provide good honest products or services in exchange for good honest money. How many people in Jersey are either unemployed or stuck in a job that does nothing either for the greater good of the Island, or for their self-respect? How many people in JiT are either thinking of it, or already have a sustainable business running? Come along on Monday the 22nd so we can see who's interested, and build on this exciting vision for a rich and sustainable local economy.

  • Meditation Flash Mob. Tuesday 9 October 6.00 - 6.40 pm, Liberation Square, St Helier. 30 minutes of silent meditation followed by 10 minutes of sound bath - please bring your voices, your mantras, singing bowls, chimes, bring a candle, bring your cushion or stall for sitting meditation. Bring Everyone! Let us come together as One Community... as ONE... This is an event open to everyone, all ages, from every path, experienced in meditation or not.
  • J-CAN Monthly Meeting. Tuesday 9 October, 8.00 pm, The Town House, New St, St Helier. The Jersey Climate Action Network have moved their monthly meetings back into town for the winter. Their agenda is attached.
  • Upcycling. Thursday 11 October, 7.00 - 8.30 pm, Upstairs at the Harbour Gallery, St Aubin. Sewing machines and magic with Kirsten. If you want to take part, please contact Kirsten either via Facebook or by e-mail at
  • Free hugs. Saturday 13 October, 10.30 am - 1.30 pm, King St, St Helier. Come and help spread some love and kindness in town. For every hug you give, you get one free! It's fun and worthwhile once you break the ice, and we really know how to break ice.
  • Cider making. Saturday 13 October, 2.30 pm starting at Hampton Villa, La Rue du Douet de Rue, St Lawrence in the orchard, and moving on to La Robeline, St. Ouen, where the cider is actually produced. Jersey Organic Association member Sarah Matlock has kindly agreed to show JOA supporters and friends how organic cider is produced, and has kindly extended this invitation to include supporters of Jersey in Transition. Sarah and her husband Richard will talk us through the production process, and there will also be an opportunity to sample the product for those so inclined. We are advised that Morris dancers will hopefully also be there to add to the atmosphere.
    Parking is limited at both Hampton Villa and La Robeline, and you are therefore asked to share cars if possible. Directions for Hampton Villa: From Carrefour Selous, take La Rue Sara (the road that runs between the front of David Hick Antiques/Laura Ashley shop on the left and the Carrefour Selous Health/Fitness club on the right) then take the left/immediate right (in other words, go straight on) into La Rue du Douet de Rue.  Hampton Villa is on the right hand side about 1/4 mile down the road.
  • JiT General Meeting. Thursday 18 October, 7.30 - 9.30 pm, "The Board Room", The Town House, New St, St Helier. Hear the latest news from all the JiT groups, and help to make the plans that steer JiT into the future. All welcome. 
  • Green Drinks. Friday 19 October, 7.30 - 9.00 pm, The Town House, New St, St Helier. The informal, kick-back time when we can relax and chat together over a drink. Ask questions, have ideas, make friends, laugh.
  • REconomy inaugural meeting. Monday 22 October, 7.30 - 9.00 pm, St Brelade's Youth Project, Communicare, Quennevais Rd, St Brelade. There will be a plan in place in time for this evening, I'm just not sure what it is yet. I'm talking (and listening!) to people in the meantime about the details. Please come along if you are interested in the proposal in general. I hope that this, alongside everything else we already do, can rejuvenate the interest of lots of people, and should bring in many of those who have been hovering around the edges of JiT for some time, interested but not sure whether to get more fully involved. If that describes you a bit, we'd really love to see you there, and hear your thoughts.
  • JiT Film Night. Saturday 27 October, 7.30 - 9.00 pm, St Brelade's Youth Project, Communicare, Quennevais Rd, St Brelade. The last Fishermen ‎"You're going to lose all the knowledge that's been handed down, and that you'll never get back... When it's too late, people'll think, 'Oh! We should've helped them', but it's too bloody late then" (5 mins). Followed by Future Permaculture in Britain, a BBC Natural World documentary from 2009. With her father close to retirement, Rebecca returns to her family's wildlife-friendly farm in Devon, to become the next generation to farm the land. But last year's high fuel prices were a wake-up call for Rebecca. Realising that all food production in the UK is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil, she sets out to discover just how secure this oil supply is. Alarmed by the answers, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel. With the help of pioneering farmers and growers, Rebecca learns that it is actually nature that holds the key to farming in a low-energy future. (48 mins).

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The crumbling facade of trusted institutions

The last day or two have seen something like a tsunami beginning to build. The previously formidable apparently untouchable great institutions of the land are showing their dilapidated moral fibre under the crumbling trustable facade that has been presented to the public for so long.

Here is just a brief list:

The UK civil service bungling £40 million of a railway contract, that  now has to be revisited.

The BBC who covered up what they knew of the unacceptable and illegal behaviour of a star performer.

The Attorney General in the Isle of Man facing charges of acting against public justice!!

A magistrate in Jersey in court today for sentencing for fraud.

A chief inspector in Jersey  suspended today.

If you want to know why the public have lost faith, why turnouts decline election by election, why trust has evaporated, read the list and weep. Just imagine if the AG here were acting against the public interest he would have to determine whether to prosecute himself, or perhaps decide it really wasn't in the public interest to do so. And that decision not challengeable!

It may be simply coincidence of course.  Perhaps though it is symptomatic of an altogether seismic change.  No longer does a coterie of  well connected key people at the top of a handful of  central organisations have total command of the situation. No longer can that clique rely on the others in their circle to think and behave as the club would expect.  We have enquiring minds in the public with skills to test the consistency and coherency of the evidence and action, coupled with the means to rapidly communicate that to a wide public.  That fact must be dawning on the minds of those who inhabit the rarefied heights of those institutions, surely?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Public and private personas.

I would not usually do things this way round, but I am going to cite a couple of references before I start. I hope people will note them, particularly  the first, from The Lawyer 2008, that substantiates a point that some people have challenged me on in the last couple of days.

It will have come as no surprise to those who followed events concerning  children in care in Jersey , and particularly Haut de la Garenne, that  Jimmy Savile has both been previously investigated (in 2007), and has now had accusers publicly supported by Esther Rantzen , somewhat backed up by Paul Gambaccini. Nor will it be any great surprise to those who follow such things that it has taken decades for the facts to dribble out, and for those who  knew or suspected, colluded as Ms Rantzen puts it, to come clean.

There will be those who dismiss the repeated accusations simply because they cannot believe that someone can be such a public figure and do a huge amount of charitable good work and simultaneously do such evil things.  To do so fails to recognise an important point.  The public persona is a construct; it may well not be the same as the private persona.  This is obvious for actors, but it often holds for politicians and entertainers, even sometimes writers.   It is one reason why in many of those professions the given name and the performance name differ.

I know barely any professional entertainers or actors personally, but I do know a fair few politicians both local and further afield.   There are those with whom I vehemently disagree politically, but like and trust personally.  There are yet others who are of a similar political persuasion to me, but with whom  I find it almost impossible to work.  Over years I have come to the conclusion that frequently the important distinguishing factor between the 2 groups is  congruity.  People whose actions and views are 'in synch', unless they are fundamentally abhorrent, are easier to  deal with than people who give a compatible impression, but whose actions are at odds to their position.

Unfortunately you generally have to be close to someone for sometime to know if they are really congruent.  The trap it is all to easy to fall into with public figures to assume you know them and therefore that their action are congruent.  In truth you only know the public persona.  Oftentimes a similar error occurs with people in a position of authority.  If they are in such a position it is taken because we know something of the position we know something of the person.   Why is this important?  Because given one voice against another, unless you are aware and conscious of such biases, it is likely you will trust or believe the famous person over the unknown; the holder of office over that ordinary person, the adult over the child.  It is one reason why, unless guarded against, the voice of children does not get heard.  And that is one reason why abuse can get to persist and go unreported and unchecked for so long.

There is another strand to this too.  It is what Margaret Thatcher summed up neatly when someone was nominated to her circle:  “Is he one of us?”  People are more likely to believe those who they perceive are more like themselves.  It is another source of bias.  It is also only a short step from there to groupthink: the  psychological condition that occurs within groups, in which the desire for harmony in  decision-making overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives.  Nothing better describes a bias.  It also goes someway to understanding how individual group members can go decades knowing or deeply suspecting something is wrong, yet not acting on that.  It is not an excuse, it is not a good reason for not acting or speaking clearly, especially when you know you will have the ear of the media or key decision makers, like Gambaccini above.

This piece is not about whether Jimmy Savile did obtain an injunction against the Sun about involvement at Haut de la Garenne.  Having engaged lawyers and initiated  action, both the publicity loving Sun and Mr Savile go silent.   There is one overriding likely reason for that.  Nor is it about whether Jimmy Savile did or maybe did not visit Haut de la Garenne, though there is a pretty convincing photograph still on the web, and of course dozens of children there at the time who could inform that view.

The real point of this piece is to learn some lessons and see some parallels.Having a high profile and reputations for public good works is not a guarantee or safeguard against atrocious personal actions. Ask yourself  what you really know about the personas of the people involved in the child abuse debacle in Jersey.  How much of what happened and did not happen in the past was shaped or determined by what people thought they knew about others rather than what they actually knew of the private person and the facts?  How will we ever get to the truth of this and learn the lessons unless we get under those public facades and what we think we know and get to the hard facts and the real personalities and motives of the participants. What the recent public 'revelations' regarding  Jimmy Savile means for us now is a proper, full open Committee of Inquiry.