Monday, December 18, 2017

All At Sea

Fire crew and lifeboat crew are two vocations only suitable for genuine heroes and heroines, and fully deserve immense respect from everybody. However, the ability to bravely rise to life-or-death occasions carries no immunity to other human frailties in day-to-day life. For example, while nobody could reasonably begrudge them some pride in the status their heroism earns them, too much of it could lead some individuals to unheroic acts of vanity.

Jersey has seen some rather unheroic goings-on with its local lifeboat service in recent months. The RNLI operate three boats out of two stations, so, when all is well, there is quite a lot of help available for maritime emergencies in local waters. However, all has not been well. The crew of the biggest boat quit en bloc in the Spring of 2017, then retracted their resignations, but then announced that they were only coming back to the RNLI until they got their own boat. When the RNLI management had had a couple of days to consider the implications of that, they then took control of the situation by "standing down" the rebel crew.

Of course, such drastic actions were no casual whim. Not all of the events driving the decisions are in the public domain, and some of what has been made public can at best be rated as plausible allegations, rather than certain knowledge. The erstwhile Coxswain, Andy Hibbs, although clearly having the passionate loyalty of his own crew and the high regard of those local mariners fit to judge his seamanship, seems to be a divisive figure also prone to making bitter enemies among those who have to deal with him. I don't personally know any of the parties involved, and have no opinion on whose fault the bad feelings are, but his dysfunctional relationships with the port and coastal authorities, and the RNLI's own hierarchy seem to be undisputed facts. I have read a claim that the former parties bear or bore a grudge over being deprived of a fine salvage fee by a successful rescue, which would be disgracefully corrupt if true, and as disgraceful corruption happens, that is plausible, and none of the blame for it lies wth Mr Hibbs. There is another anecdote in circulation, claiming that Mr Hibbs refused an order from his onshore superiors on safety grounds, causing a falling out there. Once again, if that story be true, and it too is believable,  then Mr Hibbs was firmly in the right.

In the Spring of 2017, allegations of gross misconduct were made against Andy Hibbs, and the RNLI took them seriously enough to suspend him while investigations were made. And this is where our heroes stepped off their pedestals. The whole crew walked out "in support" of Mr Hibbs. This could only make sense as an attempt to influence the disciplinary process. It may simply have been an ill-considered emotional reaction with no sense to it, but if they were thinking through what they were doing, then it was a profoundly corrupt act. Not that it did influence the process, which initially found against Mr Hibbs, before an appeal stage dismissed the allegations and exonerated him with an apology. With both Mr Hibbs's reputation and the RNLI's disciplinary system vindicated, the stage was set to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Indeed, there certainly have been some carryings-on since, which is why it has moved on from being a private matter for a few RNLI volunteers and managers to a public and political issue worth writing blogs on. As soon as the initial walk out happened, there were numerous demands for a political solution to the diminished lifeboat cover. The island's politicians had a cannier sense of what is and is not in their domain and let the RNLI sort themselves out, however.

The crew seem to have remained disgruntled and unsettled though, while the leaders of the calls for political action coalesced with a sense of purpose around their objections to the RNLI's actions. Ever since they have been heading in directions that do not seem to me to be indisputably right.

The most unpleasant aspect of the affair is that the people around the rebel crew have been vigorously promoting a hate campaign against the RNLI, trying with some success to discourage islanders from continuing to donate, as well as some of them floating the suggestion that past donations received and held in Jersey should be seized as "ours". Apart from financially harming a very valuable public service, they have been whipping up ill feeling against it with sufficient skill to swing a significant minority. On the other hand, there are countless people with various personal reasons to hold the RNLI dear, myself included, who are being antagonised by this tactic, which is no help to them with the bigger part of their project.

The former crew and their leading supporters are trying to found a local independent lifeboat service, funded by such donations as they can divert from the RNLI and government money. Unfortunately, they have not laid a clearly thought out business case for it before the public, and evade questions about the obvious issues when challenged.

As the answers are not forthcoming, it seems fair to assume they don't have them, so I shall take a look at some of the reasons why I do not think the proposed independent lifeboat service is a good idea, beyond being somewhat prejudiced against it by the hate campaign.

The biggest weakness of the project is that instead of building an institution and recruiting for it, they are taking Andy Hibbs as the starting point and trying to build their new institution around him. There are grounds for thinking he may well be a suitable candidate to be the first Coxswain for a new service, but for him to actually be the service is putting too much onto him. Besides, he is already middle-aged and grey, and if it is to be all about him, then where will we be five or ten years down the line, when he is no longer physically up to it? The would-be founders of the JILS claim that nobody else is capable, which, if it were true, would mean that not only could the RNLI no longer operate their AWB, but that the JILS would be unable to carry on in the event of Mr Hibbs's absence or retirement.  A further doubt about making Mr Hibbs the centrepiece is that there is the suggestion that he does not have satisfactory personal relationships with the port authorities, which would hamper his effectiveness.

In the last quarter of a century, the concept of due diligence has been brought to the front of all corporate and institutional managers' minds, by changes in the law to facilitate civil litigation for damages, pithily summarised the compensation lawyers' marketing slogan "where there's blame, there's a claim". Meanwhile a generation of MBAs were rolling out managerialist systems of corporate governance compatible with the new emphasis. Consequently, the days when working to rule was the penultimate sanction of a workforce on its employer in a dispute have gone, and it is now expected to be normal practice. It is no good hankering for the days when corners could be cut left, right and centre, times have changed and the stakes become too high. So a lifeboat service has to be as fussy about setting rules and collecting evidence that they have been followed as anything else. One of the complaints that has been repeatedly aired about the RNLI by the hate campaign is that they are too bureaucratic and restrictive, and do not give enough scope to the exercise of local expertise. Yet, an independent service would either have to copy the RNLI's rules, or run an anachronistically slack regime that would be wide open to being sued to bankruptcy by the lawyers of the first crew member to come to harm in service. What is so heroic about lifeboat crew is that they do put themselves in harm's way, so there is nothing fanciful about considering the What If scenario. But the promoters of the independent lifeboat just rail against the RNLI for having professional management, without offering the least hint of how they will operate a successful service without organising the administrative aspects.

Money has featured prominently in the ongoing campaign, in several ways. The initial idea that the Jersey restricted funds of the RNLI could just be taken as "ours" and given to the independents could not be implemented without opening a massive legal can of worms, and although some of the noisiest supporters have called for it, the smarter minds at the very centre of the scheme have not been pushing it themselves to any extent that I have become aware of. However the promoters of the putative Jersey Independent Lifeboat Service have certainly been hustling to divert present and future donations from the RNLI to the JIVS. Someone who does not seem to be a main member of the committee, but is certainly a friend of Andy Hibbs heavily engaged in the social media campaign, made the astounding claim quite early on that many people had already changed their wills to disinherit the RNLI in favour of Mr Hibbs. It strikes me as improbable that this is true on two levels, both the unlikelihood of RNLI supporters spending hundreds of pounds on legal fees to redirect their bequests to someone who has no lifeboat right now, and is likely to have retired by the time they die, and the unlikelihood that the campaigner has any access to such confidential information. However, it at least shows the level the JNLI camp are stooping to.

Future bequests are a long-term source of funding, but in the meantime the JILS are looking for a seven figure startup cost and six figure annual running costs from the Jersey public, whether as donors or taxpayers. But are they proposing to give value for all this money? The latest generation of all-weather lifeboats are substantially cheaper than the older "Tamar" class boats such as Jersey's RNLI boat, but when the RNLI still have that in service, the expenditure is otiose. The RNLI has a significant pot of existing covenanted donations to be spent on their Jersey services, and the interest on it must go a good way towards covering the expenses, together with the general collections received from year to year. The JILS would not have any pot in its early years, and would be dependent on what it could capture from former RNLI supporters, plus government subsidy. But once again, this expenditure would be surplus to the island's needs while the RNLI have an AWB in local service. So the public of Jersey would gain very little from the investment.

So who would benefit? Andy Hibbs and his crew have sacrificed some personal prestige in losing their places as the RNLI crew, and being the JILS inaugural crew would restore it. The promoters of the JILS would also gain prestige, and an enhanced political profile with elections coming shortly, and might be able to get themselves on a few junkets, if their secretive plan does not involve the urgent recruitment of a management committee of the great and good to hand it over to. But, can we justify such huge sums being spent on a vanity project for a few has-beens and their ambitious friends? The RNLI still has their all weather boat in Jersey, and no difficulty in finding further volunteers proud to serve as its crew, so the extra lifeboat would not meet a  genuine need.

And who would lose? The JILS may not have acquired a lifeboat yet, and possibly never will, but the one thing they have achieved is to damage the funding support given by local donors. The RNLI has significant capital reserves reserved for their Jersey operations, but the annual running costs are rather more than the interest the reserves generate, and they could not ride out a long-term fall in donations without cuts in services. It is quite easy to imagine a situation where the JILS fails to successfully establish a viable independent lifeboat station, but the RNLI has to reduce the cover they provide us with, because the harm the JILS has done to their income means they cannot afford to carry on with the present cover. An intangible loss being faced by the least deserving is that the JILS's hate-mongers are trying to brand the new crew as scabs and traitors. To maintain their loyal service to the RNLI (most have been the inshore lifeboat crew at Jersey's other lifeboat station) and their island, with quiet dignity and without politicking or tantrums is a fine thing that we should all be praising them for, not a pretext to hurl insults at them. This attitude by some of the JILS camp reflects very badly on them.

If there is truth to the anecdotes about attempts to force Andy Hibbs out for malicious and corrupt personal reasons, then he has undeniably been seriously wronged. However, his role as a figurehead of attempts to damage the RNLI's Jersey services, and to set up a multi-million pound boondoggle has ended his career of previously distinguished public service with a massive blemish. The gang of troublemakers and chancers surrounding him can't even offset their own disgrace with a narrative of being wronged heroes. None of them deserve our millions for such a pointless project, anyway. We should just be thankful that the RNLI is still with us, doing what it was founded to do.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Don't Throw Your Vote Away On An Abuse Of Process

I count the leading figures of Jersey's “Reform Jersey” political party among my personal friends. I wish them to remain so, thus I shall take pains to be temperate in this critique of their latest tactic. However, I disagree with it too strongly, not to challenge it at all.

(Background for non-Jersey readers: The island has a unicameral parliament, but with three different modes of election for the members, having different titles for functionally the same office.)

Senator Zoe Cameron was frozen out from working on her subjects of special interest and competence by the Council of Ministers, was totally ineffectual and rapidly became disengaged. To her credit, instead of serving out her full term as a waste of space, she admitted her failure and stood down so that another could put her seat to better use. So, we have an island-wide by-election to look forward to.

The purpose of a by-election is to replenish the House to its full complement of working members, that is all. The ballot asks no other question of voters than, which of the candidates do they prefer to take office. In practice, for many voters, the choice is who is the least unacceptable, rather than whom do they want, but it is still about filling a vacant office with another holder.

Reform Jersey have disappointed me greatly, by putting forward Deputy Sam Mezec as a candidate for the by-election. Now, this is not going to be an ad hominem attack on Sam: I know him personally, like him a lot as someone to talk with about our mutual interests, and I approve of him as a politician. However, I believe that his candidature in this election is wrong in principle on multiple levels.

The first objection I have is that Sam is already a member. If we vote for him, and he wins, then we have made no change at all, but simply delegated the choice of who the new member eventually is to the electorate of Sam's current constituency as a Deputy. This is an abdication of our democratic right to no discernable benefit. We have no idea who the candidates would be in the consequent by-election there, and, moving from principle to strategy, it is one of Jersey's most bipolar constituencies, with a track record of electing both very right-wing and very left-wing candidates to its multiple seats, so we can hardly count on them to give us another in Sam's mould, even if Reform Jersey offer them one.

My second objection is that Reform Jersey are justifying the plan with some sophistry about how a vote for Sam serves as a referendum on the proposed Medium Term Financial Plan. No: As I said above, the vote chooses a new Senator, that is all. It is quite possible to disapprove of the MFTP and also want to see one of the other candidates become the new member of the House, and totally impossible to legitimately deem votes on an explicit question of who should be elected to office as referendum votes on another matter entirely. I am pretty sure all the RJ leadership are sharp enough to understand that, so to suggest otherwise is a cynical ploy that I am somewhat less than proud of them for stooping to. Disowning them as friends would be a gross over-reaction, but I am not going to pretend I approve of the duplicity.

A more trivial objection is simply this: Elections have a substantial cost, to the public purse, to the candidates and in the time of honorary officials and volunteers working pro bono publicae. To contest an election with an intention to simply cause another is an irresponsibly wasteful plan.

Now RJ have announced this, they are pretty much obliged to go through with it. So, I shan't waste my time calling on them to think again. I can address my fellow voters, though. If you have no sympathies with Reform Jersey anyway, do what you would have done. If, however, you are like me in wanting Sam to be in the States, we already have him there: We do not need to waste our votes on him now. By the time all candidates have declared, there will at least one credible and capable progressive candidate in the field, whom we can get behind to fill Senator Cameron's place to good effect.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Whose Shops Are They, Anyway?

I spend several thousand pounds a year at the Channel Island Co-Op, for the convenience of their shop locations and the few hundred pounds kickback in dividends. I also shop a little at Jersey's other chains, for different product selections, or because I happen to be nearby.

Therefore, as a customer and shareholder, I like to think that the management have their eyes open for opportunities to minimise prices and maximise dividends and range. And so, it gave me food for very mixed thoughts, when they recently announced a grand new plan to shift almost all of their procurement to the mainland Co-Operative group's new national distribution centre at Andover.

There would certainly be significant upsides to the Andover move, in terms of efficiency and profitability.(*1) However, closer analysis reveals that there also some serious downsides, and, moreover, downsides that either do or should matter a lot to the CI Co-Op's general membership.

The biggest practical advantage would be that dairy and provisions could be ordered from national stocks on a day-to-day basis. At present, the CI Co-Op outsources fresh goods procurement to local wholesalers, who buy in stock to order for the Co-Op shops according to pre-orders estimated a week in advance, and sell it on to them on arrival. This shifts jobs from the Co-Op to their suppliers, but still keeps them in-island. The flexibility and responsiveness of 36 hour lead times has to be a good thing in itself. The obvious difficulty, however, is that shelf lives will necessarily be poorer on goods bought from stock held at Andover before shipping, than on goods shipped direct from source and redistributed locally on the day of arrival. The other major drawback would be that the work now done locally by the workforces of CI wholesalers would be done by the Andover staff. It would still be the same amount of work, but the cost of it would be drained out of the local economy to England instead of recirculated by local workers. A neutral decision for the company in terms of cost management, but a strategic blunder for the community in terms of economics and social responsibility.

The logic of shifting stocks of long-life goods to England does not stack up at all.(*2) Fresh foods can only be handled with a just-in-time system; too soon and they perish before sale, too late and they have missed the opportunity to sell and once again perish. But it is different with long-life foods. The freight links cannot operate in all weathers, so it is essential to carry local buffer stocks sufficient to cover the longest foreseeable interruptions. The running costs of local storage may indeed be somewhat higher than a proportionate share in the running costs of the Andover base, but they are necessary costs, and trying to dodge them will doom the CI Co-Op to empty shops in windy weather. Moreover, once again, local costs are mostly recirculated, while UK costs are more money lost to our economy, that somebody has to export something to replenish.

Even if some added value can be gained by judiciously targeted use of Andover for specific products, the CI Co-Op's local warehousing and wholesale supply networks are essential to the stability of its supplies on the shelves. Beyond that, it is supposed to be a player in the Channel Islands' economies, not Andover's.

The rundown and disposal of the local warehouses would release a substantial capital windfall, that would look good in the accounts for the year they took place. They are an asset that can only be stripped once, though. Once the directors have taken their bonuses for that cash-rich year, the shareholders are just left with badly supplied shops to show for the divestment.

One final point, those of us who hold share accounts in the CI Co-Operative Society are not merely customers. We are the owners and employers. And do we want to be the sort of employers who throw hard-working long-term employees on the scrapheap in the pursuit of an irresponsible fast buck? I for one do not, and if there are some who do, I am glad they are not my friends. On the other hand, do we want to be the kind of employers who meekly tolerate the managers we employ taking reckless measures in the pursuit of their own financial benefit? No again, speaking for myself.

If you are CI Co-Op members, please make the effort to get to the forthcoming Special General Meeting, and stand up and be counted against the Board implementing this shameful betrayal of workers and customer alike in your names.

Email comments
(*1)The significant upsides have only been stated not rigorously debated from the figures I look at it is going to cost the CI Coop more, the shelf life will be marginally less and the range in the Grande Marches will be reduced. As for the logistics they will be a nightmare for the shops, with small back stores, used to JIT in cages for all their goods.
(*2)This is an issue which *originates* in Manchester/Andover not the Channel Islands and the fact that the UK Coop have built an infrastructure that is underutilised. It is no coincidence that in the UK Ice-cream World has closed its doors because the UK Coop has *just* taken all the ice-cream distribution in house - sound familiar. Andover is throwing everything at the CI Coop to persuade them to change over, how long before they realistically price I have no idea but by then it will be too late. 

The CI Coop has the 3 biggest outlets by sales in the whole of the Coop group, the UK Coop is far more used to dealing with and ranging for the normal smaller UK Coops.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

By-election Speculations

Followers of Jersey politics are in for a feast of fun over the next few weeks, as the Town by-elections get under way. Psephology is a game of guesswork most of the time, anyway, so I may as well join in.

If you only read this blog to keep an eye on the opposition, you know who your people are. Gordon Forrest in No. 1 and Ian Philpott in No. 2 are the “establishment” candidates. Blatant marionettes, but if you are among the thousands who actually like their puppeteers, then they are your men.

But what if you want an alternative? Frankly, you are spoilt for choice. If the name of your game is Beat The Establishment, this will of course be a disappointment, as the three or four of Us will split the vote in a way the one each of Them will not, leaving Them the front-runners. On the other hand, if you are interested in democracy and alternatives, then you may be heartened by the vibrant interest in taking things forward differently.

Should they consider themselves socialists, No. 2 voters need look no further than Sam Mezec. While his youth is no great advantage in politics, he is intelligent, articulate, educated and sensible. Although he can be rather gauche on the internet, this election will be determined offline, and being both a good conversationalist and public speaker will pick him up many more votes than his occasional online gaffes could cost him.

No.1's socialists have a tougher choice though. If the cliches of life coaching, about Wanting It and Working For It, held any truth, Nick le Cornu would not be a candidate, he would already be a sitting member. Sadly, for him, being desperately earnest and enthusiastic is never quite enough. He is a convinced Marxist trying to fight the Class War for the more deserving side. However most of those he would fight for are not Marxists, and do not see themselves as proletarian class warriors, and not all the rest feel a posh lawyer makes a convincing champion.

Also in No. 1's Red Corner, though, is dark horse Maureen Morgan. While she also professes left-wing ideals, she is a radically different personality to Nick, and can hope to collect the votes of both those who like Nick's views but not his manner, and those who like Paul le Claire's attitude without having confidence in his intellect. For her, it will all hinge on the doorstep chats, I think, but I have no idea how well she does them.

There are a lot of voters in Jersey, who like neither the establishment nor socialism, of course. The famous centre ground. They are probably the biggest block of votes, but they are getting more ways to split theirs. In particular, No. 2 have little to separate community stalwarts Paul Huelin and Bernie Manning. I think Huelin will take votes from Philpott, while Bernie is a little more radical. The question is, will his softer persona and political stance than Sam take more votes than Sam's panache and boldness take back?

No.1's middle ground will be fought for by veteran ex-politician Paul le Claire and Roy Travert. The charisma is very unfairly shared between them, le Claire being as dull and monotonous as Travert is vital and animated. However, Travert has seemed rather shallow in previous campaigns, whereas le Claire is an assiduously deep, even if not particularly lucid, thinker who speaks with reams of notes before him. Despite Travert's force of personality, I think people will trust le Claire more. Then again, Morgan is downplaying her left-wing sympathies, and might capture the someone-to-trust vote better still.

If the readers who comment are a fair sample, your votes will be going to the unofficial Reform Party, Mezec and le Cornu. But who will the many non-readers actually vote in?

My guesses, for you to laugh at the following day, are Sam Mezec by a landslide in No. 2, by simply being obviously the highest calibre candidate, while No. 1 will be very close, possibly recounted, with Forrest coming bottom, then Morgan, Travert and le Cornu closely bunched and le Claire scraping in. I think it is a wide open race, though, and the only winner that would actually surprise me would be Forrest.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Clothier? Think Twice

Many of my politically interested friends are pleased to see that this week The States Of Jersey finally approved, in principle, a referendum on the revised electoral system proposed by the Clothier Commission. There is certainly a strong case for replacing the current mish-mash of accidents of history with a modern and coherently designed process. Nevertheless, despite those around me telling me how good Clothier is in theory, I have yet to see any explanation that actually convinces me it is the right way forward.

The Clothier scheme successfully addresses the equality questions that so many hold against the current complex voting system. Neither voters in their representation, nor politicians in their mandates, have any kind of equality from parish to parish and office to office. Clothier would have a single rank of members, all from similarly-sized constituencies. Job done.

However, I feel Clothier has provided the right answer to the wrong question. In general, equality is a better principle than inequality, but I disagree that it should take priority over effectiveness of representation. Before they started chipping at the current system, I had fourteen representatives, the Constable, a Deputy and twelve Senators. In the urban districts, despite their whinging about getting less than their share, the multi-Deputy districts had sixteen or seventeen representatives, including up to four of their own local ones. So, apart from uncontested elections, we all got to vote for or against over a quarter of our little parliament. That is actually pretty strong democracy, that most of the world would envy, despite the awkward structure benefiting the kind of candidates, that people who read blogs like this would not want. Now, cuts in Senators bring our shares down a little, but I can still look forward to ten votes at the next election. Even so, that is still almost a quarter, a real say in the make-up of the States.

What, in contrast would I have to look forward to on the first election day after an implementation of Clothier? Possibly, one single seat to vote on, and in my particular locality, if it were contested at all, there would still be only one potential winner. Thus, as an avid follower of politics and current affairs, I would find myself denied any significant power to contribute to the success of those I would like to see in government.

All around Jersey, others like me would find the same disengagement foisted upon them. Each district would put forward its popular local bigwig, with or without the bother of seeing off a no-hoper or two, and except in a handful of less predictable town seats, effective democracy would be wiped out. That prospect saddens and scares me.

A “Yes” vote for Clothier would certainly blast the present political establishment, but it would be a suicide bomb that takes our own hopes for better democracy with it. Don't do it!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Trinity For Unity?

With a year to Jersey's next election, the politically interested are once again turning their mind to the island's remarkable lack of formal political parties.

Eight years ago, the 2005 election saw a surge of interest in party politics. The Centre Party, who were actually staunchly right-wing, but just not of the Establishment, soon vanished, while the Jersey Democratic Alliance nearly settled into becoming a permanent institution, taking several years to fade away after an unsustainably vigorous start. The Establishment politicians, for their part, did not see the need to set up a formal party to promote their own side, but they made it clear that there was a considerable amount of teamwork between those who intended to be working together when elected or re-elected.

Several more years of drifting in the same direction have kept those who are content with it from wanting to be any more politically active than they were. However, those, who are are discontented with various aspects of Jersey's current government, are beginning to feel the lack of formal vehicles to express their grievances and, one day, possibly implement solutions.

To topple, or even constrain, the established clique of ethically challenged cynics will require all who are not positively with them to unite against them. Saying that much is facile, but the first challenge is in how to unite them in a manner that is both flexible enough to accommodate internal dissensions without schism, and strong enough to maintain a cohesive direction. The Jersey Democratic Alliance was initially founded with the intention to be a very broad group, hence the name of Alliance. However, the centre-right element soon found themselves uncomfortable with the dominance of more left-wing thinkers, by both work rate and intellectual power, and baled out. The centre-left element bled away more slowly over the next five years, and, since the left-wing remainder became, in effect, the Jersey Labour Party, it has done nothing, if it even continues to exist at all. If practical lessons can be learned and applied from the JDA experience, though, then it was not all in vain.

To form a party, there has to be a nucleus of people agreed on a series of policies that they either desire, or at least assent to for the sake of their colleagues' desires, and motivated to pursue them. They can then recruit the uncommittedly sympathetic as rank-and-file members, and market the policies to the relatively apolitical general public as something worth voting for, come election time. Now, it seems to me that there are more than one tenable set of policies that could be pursued, according to taste and conscience. Therefore, there should be different nuclei of supporters around the different visions. The consequence of that, in turn, is a multi-party system.

A multi-party system, though, does not in itself unite the opposition, so much as formalise its divisions. Thus, to actually achieve anything, the parties must form coalitions to implement the overlaps on their policy lists, which will probably be quite substantial. Many things that should be either done or undone remain good or bad in capitalist, social democratic and socialist societies alike, and the parties can agree to do that much together. In a simple two-party system, cross-party agreements do not happen as often as they should, as tactical gaming tends to displace political integrity, but, with four-plus parties, dirty players can just get frozen out and marginalised.

If Jersey is to succeed in achieving the degree of political health most comparable jurisdictions enjoy, we need more than a party. We need a diversity of parties, and we need formal inter-party structures in turn. I envisage something like this as the way forward:

Four to six smallish parties, perhaps representing left, centre-left, centre-right and right on the traditional socio-economic continuum, and maybe green and libertarian taking other priorities, would make the basis. Most people, who would be activists at all, could find something for them amongst that selection.

Pairs or trios of parties with substantially overlapping aims would then have coalition agreements to work together on these shared aims and co-operate electorally. Certainly there is scope and even need for such a coalition between a leftist party and any centre-left and green party that may also form, and other parties will probably want to make similar connections.

All parties would benefit from also having an association of Jersey political parties, strictly concerned with the general promotion and support of party politics, and neutral as to what its constituent parties' politics may be. This could be used to both make general recruitment drives to encourage the public to work for their political beliefs, whatever they may be, and as a lobby group, to discourage The States from further measures to restrict the formation and growth of political parties.

The detailed picture of what emerges would have to depend on how many people actually care enough about what policies. There is a threshold of 20 signatories required under Jersey Law to found a party in the first place, and, given our firmly entrenched tradition of political apathy, some of the parties that could have been might not find them.

Anyway, I see the way to mount an effective challenge to the Establishment clique as not a simple unity of opposition, but a trinity of such left-wingers as there are in Jersey in one party, non-socialist liberals like myself in another, and a formal joint project of the two parties to organise a coalition in pursuit of the two parties shared objectives.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Option A In Depth

for longer than I can personally remember, Jersey has been beset by a widespread concern that the machinery of government does not function quite so well for us as we could expect, from the examples of how it functions elsewhere. Thus, we have had, in recent years, the Clothier fiasco and now the Bailhache Commission, looking to make much-needed improvements.

 A decade ago, the public's leading grumble was inefficiency: All those members putting their 2d-worth into everything, slowing down the pace and sometimes even forcing the cancellation of rash schemes. However, we weren't careful enough in what we wished for. Now we have Ministerial government and the Troy Rule, concentrating power at the expense of diminishing control, and leaving a majority of Members on the back-benches, constitutionally barred from the work they actually sought to do. Meanwhile, they continue to be derided for perceived inefficiency.

 The focus of concern has moved on, though, to the question of how we end up with the politicians we do, anyway. And so, we have had the Bailhache Commission. They have given us four options, none altogether satisfactory, and passed the buck back to the voting public for the next stage, although the final decision will not be ours.

 The Commission have, inexplicably, demanded that any reform of electoral process be yoked to an arbitrary reduction in the size of the House. This is hugely problematical: Already, Ministers and Assistant Ministers are unable to oversee their Departments with anything like the thoroughness of the traditional Committees that they replaced. Reducing the number of Members, with a pro-rata decrease in Assistant Ministers, will only aggravate that problem. A 42 member States will soon find themselves torn between three problems. The Executive can keep power at the expense of control, as all the decisions pile up on a reduced number of desks, or they can abandon the Troy Rule, and its theoretical check on executive excess, to bring enough politicians back into government to keep the workload down, at risk of idealogical dilution, or they can urgently add a seat or even two per constituency, to make a 48 or 54 member House that can sustain a 25 or 28 member executive within the Troy Rule.

 All that should not really have been part of the question, but as it has been wrongly made so, we must take it into account.

 I deliberately wrote that we have been offered four options, despite there being only three on the ballot paper. There is a fair groundswell of support for “Option D”, the implicit fourth choice of abstention, whether passively by boycotting the poll, or actively by spoiling the paper. In favour of this choice, it does send the message that none of the others met people's hopes. On the other hand, it is open to being spun as a sign of indifference, and, if it is the dominant response, the States are likely to regard it as carte blanche to please themselves

. Worse still is Option C, to positively endorse remaining with the system that is failing us. No doubt it would be a relief to sitting States Members to know that their seats will still be there, should they want re-election, but it would completely fail to deal with the inequalities of votes and mandates that discredit the States in the eyes of so many electors

. Yet even Option C looks good in comparison with Option B. The new constituencies can be considered when I look at Option A, but the glaring feature of Option B is the increased emphasis on the role of Constables in the States. I know of no other place in the world where free places in parliament are automatically given to local municipal mayors, as Constables would be described elsewhere. If we had the best government on Earth, then we would have a case for taking pride in this being part of our winning recipe. However, the starting point for the whole reform issue is that our government is conspicuously failing to measure up to its peers at present. So, what might we be doing wrong here? One of the most obvious things is clogging up a quarter of the places in the legislature with people with a primary duty to another level of administration, to the detriment of their work for both. The claimed justification that they are there specifically to represent those other levels is misguided, to say the least. Nowhere else does it, and nowhere else has a problem with local government arising from not doing it. I do not believe that there is something uniquely feeble about Jersey's parishes, that would make them wither, were they to gain their Constables' undivided attention. Option B would aggravate the problem, by reducing only the number of Members without split commitments.

 A further drawback of the Constables' continuing membership of the States is, that the community standing and knowledge of the municipal administration that go to make a good Constable do not necessarily go together with the outlook on larger issues that a voter might wish for in his States representative. For example, in the UK, with its clear and unmuddled separation of tiers, it is not uncommon for the Liberal Democrats to be a town's party of choice for the local council, despite sending another party's candidate to Westminster.

 Finally, my reverse tour up the ballot paper stops at Option A. As I noted above, the reduction of numbers to 42 is a mistake that will be regretted, should we choose to go down this road. However, the six-constituencies for all members elected on similar mandates is a massive improvement. I liked having 12 Senators I could vote for, but their numbers are being cut anyway, so the possibility of voting on over a quarter of the places in the States has already been lost to us. The big multi-member constituencies maintain a large fraction of the choice, though, and would improve matters by removing “rotten boroughs” that send Members, be they Deputies or Constables, to the House on so few votes that their credibility forever suffers scornful comparison with those there by the choice of thousands. These are the issues the Electoral Reform Commission was established to address, and Option A is, by and large, a remedy. Despite the unwise cut in numbers, option A is the only one to bring us up to the expectations of a modern Western democracy, and we need to send the message to the States by going out and voting for it. We shall just have to hope then, that the States then implement the voters' choice, but exercise some discretion about the reductions, which they well might, considering the cliché about turkeys and Christmas that perennially haunts the subject.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Option A, in a nutshell

Despite the superficial fairness, the even-handed offering of retention of Constables or both Constables and Senators as alternatives could be interpreted by voters as implying that they, too, would be equally acceptable outcomes.

There are strong grounds for endorsing Option A, the six multi-Deputy constituencies without Constables. Only the first option delivers a House in which all Members are specifically elected to do the job by a comparable electorate and all voters have a fair and equal say in choosing their Members.

The second option provides only 30 Members unencumbered by the running of a parish, while the part-timers would hold equal power from fewer, and in some cases far fewer, votes; one of principal flaws of the status quo that the reform should be addressing.

Even choosing to stay with the present unsatisfactory system after all would be better than Option B, although it would be a sad waste of an opportunity to both make a real improvement and close the subject for the long term.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sam Mezec On Referendum

I have nearly finished a more succinct piece on the same subject for this blog, but for a superbly written in-depth argument for Option A, read this:

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Real Party Here At Last?

Press release

A group of Jersey residents are planning to set up a Jersey branch of Lib Dems Abroad. A new States is in place. We recognise that Jersey needs policies that face up to the scale of the economic, environmental and social challenges facing the island. To help to draw up these policies, Lib Dems Abroad in Jersey can look at the work of the UK Liberal Democrat party and can consider how far they apply in a local context. We feel that their strong emphasis on local community issues alongside an outward looking international agenda fits well with the best of Jersey traditions.
While we endorse open debate and fairly placed criticism we do not collectively associate with the views of any particular Lib Dem MP or spokesperson on matters affecting Jersey.. However a grouping of people, proud of traditional Jersey values, who wish to see them continue to flourish in the best interests of all Jersey people, not just in finance, can help to promote positive new policies here.
An initial meeting has been planned for 5.30 pm on Wednesday, December 7th at Hautlieu School to form a committee and receive ideas from everyone interested in the proposal. Later there will be a vote on a constitution for the Jersey branch, using a draft provided by Lib. Dems Abroad.
We are supported by two candidates in the recent Senatorial elections, Rose Colley and Mark Forskitt, both of whom have served as Lib Dem councillors in the UK in the past.
We hope to involve both young and not so young. Maureen Lakeman, studying the International Bacclaureate at Hautlieu, has already attended two Lib Dem conferences in UK. Ed Le Quesne was a member of the SDP and then joined the Lib Dems when it first formed and through the Amos Group of Christians Together in Jersey has long taken a close interest in local affairs.
If you can’t attend the initial meeting, please register your interest by e-mailing one of us. It is not necessary to be a member of the Lib Dems to attend.
Maureen Lakeman 07797 920606
Ed Le Quesne 730131
November 2011

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Syvret petiton

Ian Evans is seeking support for a petition to the UK Parliament about Stuart Syvret's imprisonment. I think he is bang to rights, but I know some of my readers are more sympathetic to him, so here is the link:-

Thursday, October 20, 2011

roll on 2014

There we go then: some big disappointments, e.g. the excellent Mark Forskitt ending up amongst the back-markers and Sir Phil topping the poll, but generally completely unsurprising stuff, e.g. the excellent Mark Forskitt ending up amongst the back-markers and Sir Phil topping the poll.

The only real shock results for me were the losses of Deputies Bob Hill and Debbie de Sousa. Both principled and hard-working politicians who pulled their weight. Their successors have a lot to live up to and owe it to the whole island to prove that they were worth displacing the other two for.

Lyndon Farnham didn't seem as good a politician as he is a businessman last time around, but I would rather have him than Cohen.

With the Cameron government due to remain in power on the mainland for some years to come, we can probably get by a little longer with the current regime. By 2014, we may, of course, have seen a major reorganisation of the States, one way or another, and if we get that wrong, then the status quo could become even more deeply entrenched. However, I shall just have to hope that a lot more of the people who just grumble that politicians are all the same bother to come and help us elect some better ones next time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Senatorial Voting??

As this was originally an explicitly partisan blog, I really ought to take a few sides in the coming elections. We don't really do elections in a very big way out here in Trinity, but at least there are the Senatorials. And they are a rather challenging choice this time around.

If you are content with the current States, and want more of the same, your choice is easy: Bailhache, Cohen, Gorst and Farnham. All competent to play their parts in effectively continuing to deliver the same old failing right-wing agenda.

However, politics is about moral values, as well as competence. If you are reading this, you probably are not particularly keen on right-wing moral values. Thus, while you may prefer the above to the utterly clueless people who occasionally stumble into elections, you may join me in wishing for some capable people with a centre or even left-wing value system. Now let us try and find four of those on the ballot paper.

Rose Colley? Rather ambiguous, as political lawyers often are. Her background suggests a social conscience, and she seems to say the right things. On the other hand, her proposers were as establishment as you can get. Was she using them, or is she really one of them, and making a misleading election pitch. Given the alternatives, I think I shall take a chance on the former being true, and vote for her, but I am not without doubts.

Linda Corby? I know her personally, and she is an entertaining raconteuse who has led a colourful life, as she tells it. She will bring passion and commitment, and will not be pressured into shutting up when there are whistles to be blown. I fear she would be out of her depth on policy, though. If you are sure there will be another right-wing landslide, then she is at least cut out for being a fierce backbench watchdog, and you may want to vote for her to take that role. I want an alternative government, though, not more snipers, so I don't think she is for me.

Mark Forskitt? YES! Political experience in a bigger jurisdiction, a firm grasp of both local and global issues, and rather better credentials than Syvret to take a stand on the child care problem, despite a balanced view of priorities that push this one some way down his list.

Sylvia Lagadu? Sylvia Lagadu?

Francis le Gresley? YES! He may be a lacklustre public speaker, but he is a doer and an organiser who has pulled his weight in his brief term as a Senator.

Darius Pearce? Colourful character and creative, original thinker. Sooner or later he will think of something I can approve, probably later. This time's idea is an abdication of responsibility and misses the point of representative democracy, however, so I shall not vote for him.

David Richardson? Clever and serious, but doesn't really communicate any clear strategic view. He certainly is not bottom of my list, but nor has he earned a place in my top four yet.

Stuart Syvret? My readers' favourite, and, in bygone years, the recipient of a few of my own votes. Still intelligent, articulate and an exceptionally talented public speaker. However, he is now conspicuously broken by his struggles,and his common sense, judgement and integrity have all crumbled to ashes. Vexatious litigation and poison-pen blogging are poor qualifications for high office, to my mind. Deserves twelfth place, but will probably come higher. Hopefully not in the top four, though.

Chris Whitworth? When I saw that he had declared, I thought that was another of my votes settled. Then, I saw the tongue-in-cheek tone of his campaign. Chris is a another clever and serious candidate, with a fine track record of serious work at the grass roots of Jersey politics. He is a bit uncharismatic, though, and lost badly for that in a previous campaign. This time he has overcompensated in his efforts to be seen as a colourful character and made himself look a lot sillier than those who know him think him to be. As I do know him, and have confidence in his ability, I should vote for him. On the other hand, he has campaigned badly, and a vote for him is probably wasted. So, there is a case for tactically voting for Linda Corby after all. She is rather unlikely to get in, either, but there is at least a remote chance of a shock result, which a few more votes would help towards, while poor Chris is now a lost cause in this election.

Friday, October 14, 2011

JRA Survey

JRA Election Candidate Survey now at

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mark Forskitt For Senator

Jersey needs what Mark Forskitt has to offer even more now than when he stood in 2008, so he has been persuaded to run again this year. He has a Facebook page at​/Mark-Forskitt-for-senator-201​1/224697014235844 for more information.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Big Trev's Back Online

Deputy Trevor Pitman, formerly the main author of this blog, now has his own blog page. See The Bald Truth in the links box on the left.
By the way, Dave Rotherham, the other main writer of JDACMB is now using his own blog page, Ugh, it's him! for all new material, too. Link in same box.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Emille’s Funeral will be held on Wednesday at 10.45 am at the Crematorium followed by a meeting at the Old Magistrates Court (back of Town Hall) from 1145am.Family, friends and former colleagues are welcome to attend.
By voiceforchildren

Monday, January 17, 2011

Interesting Meeting Next Week

The famous or infamous, according to your perspective, economist Richard Murphy will be in Jersey for a public meeting on the topic “Jersey – Let finance work for you” at Hautlieu on 24th January at 7pm. He is looking forward to debating with his critics, as well as meeting his supporters, so it should be a lively and interesting meeting, wherever your own standpoint is.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Facing It!

Facing what? that this blog is to all practical intents and purposes defunct, that's what.

None of the numerous people whom I invited to keep or start contributing, when we hived this off from the JDA have submitted anything since, and I already have a personal blog I sporadically use anyway for my own articles.

I am not going to delete this one, and, with 2011 being an election year, I might start getting some submissions yet. However, I cannot see where any new material would come from at present, so I am leaving it up merely as an archive of the live stuff there was in the past.

Thank you for having been readers, and for commenting, if you did.


David Rotherham

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JRA Apology

Thank you to those who came to The Peirson tonight. We owe you all our apology for not considering that Deputy Power might be taken too ill to even cancel, and so not checking he was still coming 24 hours previously. We hope you enjoyed your social drink sufficiently to be a reasonable compensation for our failure to deliver the promised event.
David Rotherham