Thursday, January 7, 2010

Some observations on questions raised by Citizen’s Media ‘Team Voice’

Before Christmas ‘Team Voice’ – one off-shoot of what has become increasingly known as ‘Citizen’s Media’ over the past couple of years - contacted all those politicians who had been elected to new positions at the 2008 elections. This was to ask if they would consider responding to a number of questions relating to their experiences of the past year. With the Christmas/New Year festivities now out of the way, I respond to some of their key questions in what will be the first of three or possibly even four postings covering a number of different issues.

Some questions Team Voice asked about, such as how many oral/written questions a new Member might have asked during the 2008 States sittings, are really best answered by simply pointing anyone significantly interested to the appropriate areas of the States website where this information can quite easily be found. But I felt that some responses really demanded a little more detail be given: hence the decision to split the comments over a number of postings.

I would add that what is written below and within the posts that will follow will be far from a full account of the past twelve months in politics as I have experienced it. But I would nevertheless genuinely like to thank Team Voice for taking the trouble to ask their questions. I certainly don’t agree with them on every single issue but the reality is that the more people who take a deeper interest in local politics like those behind Team Voice the better it is for democracy. And that should be true regardless of whether one is left, right, centre or green. In my experience the only politicians who don’t like such interest are those who also don’t like accountability.

Posting One

In this first response to Team Voice’s questions I will outline the main Scrutiny work that I have sat on this year, and also offer some thoughts on the fascinating (honest!) issue of States sittings. The second posting in a few days time will look at the issue of the propositions/amendments that I have brought; along with discussing the different areas of a States Member’s workload.

Scrutiny work - panels and sub-panels

Like a number of politicians I firmly believe that there is a good deal that needs to be done to finally make Scrutiny what it should be i.e. the key check and balance by which the Executive is held accountable. Put in a nutshell Scrutiny needs to develop real teeth; whilst Ministers need to recognise the absolutely crucial need for adequate checks and balances to the functioning of all democracies. I would even go as far as to say that it is also quite possible that Scrutiny may not even be the best way forward to achieve this - given the general contempt that it, and those politicians who put so many hours into the work in good faith, are viewed with by so many members of the Executive. But more about that in a future posting. For now let’s get back to Team Voice’s question about panel/sub-panels I have been involved with.

Since elected I have been the Vice-Chairman of the Education, Sport & Culture and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel. This is chaired by Deputy Roy Le Herissier and also includes Deputy Montford Tadier and Connétable Graeme Butcher of St. John. Other States Members have also been co-opted for various sub-panel reviews. Full reviews are only one aspect of the Scrutiny process; but our most recently published report was an investigation into Fort Regent. Arising directly from this the panel has a proposition to establish a working party to try and finally kick-start some much-needed, co-ordinated re-development of this sadly neglected community facility up for debate in January 2010. I also have an amendment to this proposition – which I’m pleased to say has been accepted by the ESC Minister – lodged in my own name. Again, more about that next time.

During 2009 I also served as Vice-Chairman on the Vulnerable Children’s Services Review (a Health, Social Security & Housing Scrutiny sub-panel) arising from the Williamson Report. This was a very intense and time-consuming piece of work due to the very tight deadline constraints. It was chaired by Senator Alan Breckon, who I have to say put in a truly incredible amount of hours, and also included Deputies Geoff Southern and Roy Le Herissier.

I could say a great deal on this particular review, but for now will simply observe that having been the politician who persuaded the other members to lodge the proposition calling for an independent Committee of Inquiry I was truly appalled that this was subsequently rejected by the States. Why? It offered the one clear opportunity to ‘de-personalise’ (politically speaking) the whole issue and finally, however painful, ensure that the States could eventually draw a line under the issue. As it is I think this will now take many, many years.

Further still, along with being a member of the sub-panel chaired by Deputy Tadier that examined the Prison Board of Visitors system I am currently Chairman of the ESC/Home Affairs sub-panel investigating the issue of School Suspensions. The report on this issue – which is bringing to light some areas of real challenge for government to try and find means to adequately support our teachers in 2010, - should be completed by the end of February.

Finally I would also point out that a major consequence of Deputy Le Herissier and my self needing to be pulled off work to assist with the Vulnerable Children’s Services Review was that some other planned work for the later part of 2009 will now be undertaken in the coming months. This will include looking at Higher Education fees and the delivery of political education following on from the recent lowering of the voting age to 16.

States sittings – When being ‘present’ is not all it appears

Team Voice also asked how many States sittings new Members have missed. The answer to that in my case is none. Though most of us will have been unwell on occasions; or had something serious come up leading to them missing the odd thing as a result some people have not been so lucky. Here I would just pay tribute to my JDA colleague Deputy Debbie De Sousa. Debbie has endured a terrible year of bad fortune in 2009 including losing both her mother and father; her grandmother and the awful blow of her daughter losing a baby. She even ended up in hospital herself just days after the last States sitting. The fact that Debbie has soldiered on, contributed fully and still managed to serve so many constituents so well in St. Helier No.2 along with Shona and Geoff is a real credit to her strength as a person.
However, with reference to the issue of attendance at States sittings I actually think that interested ‘politicos’ like Team Voice should probably be asking slightly different questions.

Such as with regard to the number of ‘part-time’ politicians we appear to have for example. Politicians like those who squeal to the media about having to ’listen’ to long, boring speeches/propositions. Yet who all too often, having come in to say ‘present’ for the marking of the school register actually then disappear to their external business offices or to who knows where. Disappear in fact regularly not to be seen again for the rest of the day; or possibly just hurry back in to vote on debates they will often have never even heard!

I honestly think members of the public who have never observed a full States session would be quite intrigued by just how many of the ‘great and the good’ regularly contribute nothing whatsoever to debates or question time or very close to it. Just how these Members can subsequently claim to have been able to make an informed decision on which way to vote I’ll leave to readers to fathom.

When you consider the flak that Senator Syvret has received for very publicly not being present in the Chamber you also surely have to ask those Members who often only appear to be there ‘in name’ if they are really in any position to criticise? Maybe they all keep in touch via taxpayer-funded Blackberries instead? Of course, in January I have a proposition to try and combat this disappearing trick by forcing more people to stay in the Chamber by upping the quorum from 27 to 35. I wonder who will support it.

Another directly related problem that needs sorting out is the regular mass exodus. Everyone needs a quick ‘comfort break’ at some point during the morning/afternoon as I have said. But the regular, quite deliberate contempt for some Members every time they rise to speak – and Deputy Southern and the Deputy of St. Mary are two prime examples of Members being treated in this way – is both disrespectful and quite frankly wholly pathetic. What makes the behaviour all the worse is that the two Members I mention above regularly give some of the most informative and best researched speeches anyone is ever likely to hear in the States! This Establishment Party tactic has certainly become far more blatant as the year progressed. As I say…if only more of the general public would come along and watch for themselves.

To conclude? I openly acknowledge that I came into politics with very strong views. Yet the fact is that I can nevertheless say quite honestly that I have still always been willing to support and vote for another Member’s proposition on merit of the argument as I see it. Those who simply don’t/won’t vote or listen to a Member just because it happens to be the JDA; a Deputy Wimberley; Senator Breckon; Deputy Higgins or Tadier etc really aren’t fit to be in government. Unfortunately, this type of ‘politician’ is still in the majority.

But if we do really want listening, accountable and effective government; government willing to work together for the benefit of all we can change all of this very easily. Just take the same kind of interest displayed by those at ‘Team Voice’ for example and then in 2011 - vote!

Trevor Pitman


  1. Deputy Pitman.

    Firstly, I am sorry to here about the horrendous year Deputy De Sousa has endured. Secondly thank you for replying to "the Team Voice questionnaire".

    It is such a shame more of your colleagues in the States are not so willing to inform the public of their work. There is no doubt there are some that work tirelessly and others..well I will be posting a Blog about some of them myself soon.

    After paying pretty close attention to the newly elected members, I have you marked down as one of the "doer's" that is to say, although I might not agree with everything you do, the fact is you are actually doing something more than turning up twice a week to press a button, like some of the other newcomers, and indeed some of the old guard too.

    The work you have been doing on Scrutiny is exemplary, as you are aware I have a very close interest on the education department and I can vouch that you have been working tirelessy.

    However I shall wait for your next post before I comment in depth about the Scrutiny work and I fear this is where you and I might disagree.

    Thanks again for engaging with the electorate,by responding to questions, it does show you to be a 21st century politician by using Citizens Media to do so.

    Look forward to your next "installment"!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to respond, and a lot of the content of your post I am in agreement with.
    Let us welcome true democracy with open arms, Citizens Media et al, much as it may be distasteful to the 'Firm'.
    Onwards and upwards in 2010!

  3. "Those who simply don’t/won’t vote or listen to a Member just because it happens to be the JDA; a Deputy Wimberley; Senator Breckon; Deputy Higgins or Tadier etc really aren’t fit to be in government. Unfortunately, this type of ‘politician’ is still in the majority."

    That is still the Jersey way. Brutally stupid and ignorant people who are so arrogant that they actually think they are "somebody".

  4. Trevor,

    This is a very clear and precise posting. All I would ask (and I don't want to be picky) is that you could note that the personal information about Deputy Debbie De Sousa appears here with her permission, as this is information of a sensitive nature. I am sure you checked with her out of courtesy, but it would be nice to have it confirmed.

  5. Wow what an eye opener for me, re so called members of our parliament dissapearing during a states sitting. it is nothing short of disrespectful at least. I think your idea to up the quorum from 27 to 35 is a good one, but i think if members just turn up to clock in (so to speak) and then disappear (except possibly to the toilet) they should be banned from voting if they only nip back to support the establishment.

  6. "Yet who all too often, having come in to say ‘present’ for the marking of the school register actually then disappear to their external business offices or to who knows where."

    This wouldn't refer to a Senator with not much hair and a famous dad from the docks would it?

  7. Deputy Pitman.

    As Deputy Dupre was one of the people who didn't reply, I wonder if you've got any idea what she does?

  8. This blog should be closed down forthwith. It has no future, 2 of your members are registered criminals for votal fraud. No give it up and do something more constructive you are going nowhere.

  9. What happens when a child tells a big fib, then a school councellor makes a huge mistake on a child protection referral form, then a social worker kidnaps two of your children, police arrest your husband, one child returned, one husband found guilty of abuse, one care order placed on kidnapped child, one criminal appeal which states had the police transcribed interview correctly in the courts view he would not have been found guilty -

    Well it amounts to the persecution of our family to cover up the mistakes of the so called professionals.

    A full review of each child under care orders should be undertaken.

    For my son, his lie has cost him his family - hows that child protection - they should have looked at why he lied and the reasons for that and helped him.

  10. Dear 'Anonymous'

    Always interesting to see someone trying to pass lies as truth then hiding behind the moniker 'Anonymous'. How brave. Why not be really,really brave and repeat the lie in your own name? No, didn't think that you would. Meantime, given that sources can still be traced I look forward to putting the necessary in motion. Of course, as brave 'Anonymous' knows full well, no JDA politician has ever been found guilty of - or even ever been charged with - 'votal fraud' but simply the awful crime of helping disabled, elderly or other members of the public in need of assistance to APPLY to be registered to subsequently recieve a postal vote. Something that research by lawyers revealed to be wholly legal throughout the democratic world - including the UK. Maybe, 'Anonymous' you also could busy your mind with the puzzle: why was it that those non-JDA candidates who also felt strongly enough to break this non-Human Rights compliant law were not also prosecuted? Kindest regards.

    Deputy Trevor Pitman

  11. Am I right in thinking that Citizens Media thinks its controlling the Island because I don't wish to drop any bombshells but I would guess 0.01% of the people are not even aware of it, and the people who are, are bored sick of the stupid stories about historic child abuse. The trial is over and why the hell the JDA are now joining in also shows a lack of foresight.

  12. Anonymous, you are wrong in thinking that. Maybe a few of the faceless ones on Planet Jason think they do, but that is all.
    There are still a lot of unanswered questions arising from the historic child abuse investigation, especially secondary stuff about whether the police were nobbled, and whether Jersey's justice system meets the standards expected of modern Western civilisation.

  13. So these unanswered questions...Will they cut my tax bill down will they? Make houses more affordable for my family? Reduce the costs of living? Get rid of GST etc etc etc? No the JDA should be representing the working class in Jersey and not a minority who have dragged this historical child abuse enquiry long enough when the Police are fully capable of dealing with it without political rumour mongering.

  14. The child abuse issue rumbles on because it has so many embarassing ramifications for the Jersey State - incompetence, indifference, corruption, cover-up etc. The media and Establishment have done their best to close down the issue, but it just keeps poping up again. There are so many unanswered questions. Even the dumb Jersey Public that prefers not to be faced with uncomfortable facts, cannot entirely ignore reality. How do we explain Operation Blast, the dismissal of Graham Power, the organised media discrediting of Lenny Harper.

    The riled comments of right commentators indictes that this is an open wound. Our job is to make it worse.

    Haut de la Garenne will yet be written on the grave stone of the ruling clique.


We shall not accept comments that are offensive in language or content, libellous, irrelevant or deranged.
We have no means of editing comments -it is all or nothing. So, if there is any of your comment we can't use, we can't use any of it.