Deputy Geoff Southern's letter to the JEP, responding to Ben Queree:-
The careful reader of Ben Queree's column (8th June) would draw the clear implication that my motives in bringing a motion of no confidence in the Chief Minister were solely based on opportunistic electioneering. Such an accusation would be fair (but mistaken) if coming from from a rival candidate, but totally inappropriate when expressed in the island's only newspaper about one of nine candidates in a by-election. I am grateful therefore to the Editor for granting me this right to reply.
Ben Queree appears to have a limited grasp of the realities of political life. To oppose and defeat a major piece of the Council of Ministers' policy, no matter how ill-thought out and badly constructed, requires enormous efforts. The argument and debate will go on to September, and will pre-empt the budget decisions in December. It is not just a case of turning up and giving a speech on the day. The weaknesses and flaws need to be aired early and often in order to allow them to be firmly established.
The fact is there is no political coherence to the Comprehensive Spending Review. In the absence of a strategic agreement amongst ministers, and with no consultation with front line workers, it has been left to chief officers and senior mangers to produce the 2% savings. The States still has no evidence of what the full cuts (10% or £50m savings) will look like. Neither do we have any idea of what alternative tax changes might be acceptable to mitigate the cuts. We are making decisions in the dark.
An early and full debate on the overall strategic vision of the Council of Ministers in the serious context of a no-confidence debate is, I believe, legitimate. What has happened so often in the past is that some individual parts of the package will get picked off by members and defeated but the main body of measures will get bulldozed through. Scrutiny will do its best, but in the rushed timescale required, but it cannot amass the required evidence of the harm that these savage cuts will do to the workforce and to the most vulnerable in society. Scrutiny is in any case often ignored.
I have brought over 80 propositions, including votes of no confidence, to the States in my time and I know that timing is critical. The CSR debate needs to be had now, before it is firmly established as the only option. A no confidence debate, whatever the outcome, will set the context for the long campaign to come on this, the most serious issue which has come to the States in recent times. It will affect the quality of life of all residents for years to come. I maintain that my actions are appropriate, timely and based on a long-held promise to protect public services.
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