Many of you have wondered what has been going on, with Geoff Southern's somewhat unexpected decision to stand against Stuart Syvret. And it is very much a question of standing against Syvret, as well as the heavyweight challenge of Francis le Gresley, not seeking a futile upgrade in Geoff's job title. We have seen some lively comments on the Council's blog, not all supportive, but many asking for explanation. Geoff has been too busy with organising a campaign in a hurry to prepare a soundbite-packed Press Statement, but we can now quote at length from an email in which he explains his position to a leading activist from outside the party.
Geoff admits “I have struggled with this decision over the last few weeks. I originally said that I would not stand against Stuart if he stood, as we share some common principles.I assure you this has not been an easy decision to make.”
“However,” he goes on to explain, “ many people have approached me to indicate that they had lost faith in Stuart and asking whether JDA would stand a candidate. Many said that they were unable to bring themselves to vote for Stuart and might not vote at all. I have tried to find ways to get another credible candidate but have been unable to do so.” Geoff correctly anticipated the tenor of the comments on our blog and others with his prediction that “Stuart has a core vote that will stick. I will not take those votes, I believe. Those who cannot bring themselves to vote for Stuart would in my absence vote Le Gresley if at all. Those are votes I can pick up, based on my record.”
Despite the protests of Syvret's die-hard followers, their man has been less of a leader in the States than they like to think. Geoff reviews his recent performance, as seen by fellow progressives: “I too have been disillusioned and disappointed by Stuart's behaviour. I feel his action in leaving the island has contributed very little to the debate over child abuse and cover-ups, let alone corruption. Many of us have attempted to carry on the fight here on the island including Bob, Trevor and Monty. Stuart's absence from the fight was I believe largely counter-productive... In the meantime I have helped investigate and publish positive moves to prevent abuse in our Protecting Vulnerable Children report.
“I'm sorry but I have been [working flat out] establishing a party for the last 5 years in the face of incredible opposition. Stuart has maintained his position as outside any party throughout. Whilst we have been fighting public sector cuts, lifting the minimum wage, fighting the wage freeze etc, Stuart has largely sat on the sidelines. I have been trying to form a broader team with other progressives (success over Town Park and redundancy payments). Where was Stuart? Off island.”
Stuart Syvret is clearly so well-loved by his loyalists that we would simply not be believed, were we to leak the whole story of his bombastic threats against us. However, Geoff cites the tip of the iceberg. “Apart from his bullying tactics in stating that all not on his side are his enemies, the final straw for me came with his statement that the only way forward was the forming of an undefined party, his party, to bring about change. This is a line we have often heard from Stuart but he has never followed through. He was invited to join (and indeed lead) the JDA by both Ted and later by me . He refused.”
Geoff draws clear conclusions from all this, as these final quotes show:
“The fact is that after 5 years of struggle I believe that the JDA is the spearhead of a progressive movement which is increasingly respected. Stuart sits outside it and is trying to bully others out of the way. Stuart's way is "my way or no way" it seems. His politics remains personal and not collective. For the JDA to not stand a credible candidate in this election and give the centre-left a way forward would be a failure of its duty. Whilst we have been striving to create cohesion, Stuart has chosen to remain apart ... If the JDA were to duck this challenge, many would conclude that we are not a serious political force. Success in this election does not leave us static, but establishes us with an island-wide mandate and the chance to increase our numbers in the following Deputy by-election in St Helier 2.
“This is not a zero growth policy. It could be a gain. Neither is it due to my personal ambition. I would love to stand aside, but I believe that would damage the party. Like it or not JDA must stand, and equally like it or not, I happen to be the best available candidate. All I ask is a fair contest. Politics is a numbers game, but to predict worst outcomes is defeatist. It has held us back for years. I will not join in. I think the JDA has won the right to carry the banner of the progressives. We will not go away.”