The unpleasant exchanges began during question time as Environment Minister Freddie Cohen was answering a question. Senator Syvret stood up and said: 'On a point of order, I am sorry to interrupt the minister. But the minister to my right, Senator Perchard, is saying in my ear "you are full of f*****g s**t, why don't you go and top yourself, you bastard".'Senator Perchard immediately responded by saying: 'I absolutely refute that. I am just fed up with this man making up allegations against people. I just wish he would not.'
Roger: Chris, those that were listening to question time may have heard some words we cannot repeat...
Chris: Well, it was the Father of the House, Senator Stuart Syvret who interrupted an answer to say the Health Minister had verbally abused him and said he should 'top himself'. We can't use the words the Senator said aloud in the States, but Senator Jimmy Perchard strongly refuted them and claimed it was part of a personal vendetta Senator Syvret was waging against him. The Deputy Bailiff, who was presiding over the meeting yesterday, said he couldn't rule on a private conversation but asked politicians to treat each other courteously and not use abusive language about or to each other.
From reading the report in the JEP and on the States website, one would be forgiven for thinking that Senator Perchard had denied any kind of bad language - "strongly refuted" was the term used. In fact, on Sunday 15th March, on Talkback, he admitted that he had used bad language - that he had been swearing at Stuart Syvret - only that the swearing he used was not that which Senator Syvret reported, and that was what he really meant by "refuted", which seems a very pathetic excuse. And he apologised for the swearing, saying that it was not statesmanlike, but was part of a private conversation.
I marvel at the way that argument keeps cropping up. When Frank Walker famously used the phrase "you're trying to shaft Jersey internationally", he mentioned that it was a private exchange, and he was not aware that it was being recorded. Somehow it is deemed fine to engage in all kinds of vulgarity, and insults, and stoop to any level, as long as it is "a private conversation". Personally, the idea of a politician who wears two faces - or should it be - has two voices - one for public consumption, and a nastier more unpleasant one for private use - does not strike me as particularly endearing, and not the kind of politician I would like to vote for. After all, if they have two different sides with respect to language, what else might they behave like "in private"?
Usually, it is the other way round, of course, and people who have been pretty nasty in public are praised for private virtues - such as Himmler for being "a family man" - which is used as an excuse for public brutalities. But I'd like my politicians to be all of a piece. If they are political thugs in private, I'd wonder how they behave behind closed doors in the Council of Ministers, or how they might behave if I contacted them as a member of the electorate on a personal but political matter such as housing or planning.
Linda Corby has alleged that the late John Le Sueur, as President of the Planning Committee (IDC as it was called) on one occasion asked for "favours" in order to grant planning permission. Once the "private conversation" is taken out of the equation, all kinds of mischief can go on, all excusable, it would seem.
But who is the real politician? The polite one at the hustings, or is that just a mask used to gain votes because voters might not like it if the mask slipped, and "private conversations" became public?
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