Monday, 31 May 2010

New Lamps for Old

Transport and Technical Services (TTS)  is improving lighting and saving money by replacing the lights on the walks along St Aubin's Bay with new low energy, LED long life lamps. The lighting which runs along the south coast promenades has been in service for 22 years and parts of the equipment need replacing. The new LED lighting will make it cost effective for the department to replace all the lamps, while re-using the existing cables and lamp holders, which remain in serviceable condition.

The project is likely to be particularly welcomed by cyclists, some of whom had approached the department to see if improvements could be made. They had identified particular badly lit stretches of the cycle track in St Aubin's Bay which made it difficult for them to commute home, in the dark, during the winter months. The lights are currently being trialed along a section of the promenade cycle track, west of Bel Royal.

Savings on maintenance and electricity costs will cover the cost of investment in the lighting in just over 3 years and as the lamps are likely to last up to 25 years, there should be many years of ongoing savings. "TTS is continually reviewing the services it provides to look for service improvements and cost savings," said the Connétable Mike Jackson, Minister for Transport and Technical Services. "The replacement of these lights manages to achieve both these objectives. After the initial payback period, we will be saving about £15,000 a year. "(1)

This is good news on three fronts.

First, the lighting is better for cyclists who are the main users of the lighting over the cycle track, so it is responding to users, rather than people who just look at the coloured lights. While coloured lights are pretty for the tourists, but for tourists along the promenade, I think that white lights will do just as well, and also make it safer for them too.

Second, it is a move to energy savings. A real improvement at last, and perhaps with low-energy spotlights now available, a trial on a monument should be the next item on the agenda. And lighting within States buildings, as well, perhaps? But at least one States department is looking to make significant savings. It's a positive start. Why didn't this kind of innovative thinking emerge from the misnamed "Imagine Jersey"?

Lastly, it is being trialed to ensure it works properly, and there are no snags. Instead of a utopian, all or nothing expense, which usually leads to projects having major and costly flaws, this is a trial over a segment. If it works well, it will be extended. But this kind of piecemeal thinking is a significant change for States departments, and is to be welcomed. Try, see and extend. The same thinking is behind the double-decker buses - bring one, and if it works, extend it. It is a basic scientific way of doing things, but it is very welcome to see Mike Jackson doing it with the States.


"The Anti-Christ" by Friedrich Nietzsche

"The Anti-Christ" by Friedrich Nietzsche: A Review

This book contains one of the strongest and most powerful attacks which Nietzsche ever made on the Christianity of his age and the moral values held by society at that time. It is still important today because many the points he make still have validity, and they illustrate a way of thinking that is violently antithetic to the idea of a caring society with respect for "human rights".

He opens his attack by condemning Christianity for devaluing reason by "teaching men to feel the supreme values of intellectuality as sinful, as misleading, as temptations". As an example, he cites Pascal. Pascal wrote a treatise on conic sections at 16, and invented the theory of probability and the hydraulic press. In 1654, he underwent a "mystical" conversion to Christianity and thereafter gave up his scientific endeavours; Nietzsche considers him to be "the most instructive of all sacrifices to Christianity." Nietzsche's comments are still of value today, as forms of Christianity such as Roman Catholicism sometimes still demand "obedience of the intellect", as do many of the varied religious cults which have sprung up.

Aside from this, Nietzsche also attacks Christian belief for being manifestly unreal; he observes that it consists of: "nothing but imaginary causes ('God', 'soul', 'ego', 'spirit', 'freewill'): nothing but imaginary effects ('sin', 'redemption', 'grace', 'punishment', 'forgiveness of sins')." It can be seen here that Nietzsche is arguing from the standpoint of absolute empiricism. This position is coherent, even if it means jettisoning much "traditional morality" as well. But what does he suggest should take its place?

In place of moral considerations, which Nietzsche considers rooted in Christianity and "decadence", he puts a philosophy of power. "What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man. What is bad? All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power increases - that resistance is overcome." It can be seen that there are close affinities between this and the ideology of Nazi Germany. What could better sum up its spirit than this: "Not contentment, but more power; not peace at all, but war." But this poses a problem for the materialist. If you discard "traditional morality" because it has no empirical base, what is to stop the idea that "might is right"? If you take the first step, the second follows as a matter of course, and Nietzsche scorns the cowardice of those who fear to take it.

This ties up with Nietzsche's criticism of those Christian values which have led to "active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak..". He sees one result of this in "the poison of the doctrine 'equal rights for all'". Why does he so vehemently attack this? He argues that such an idea brings everyone down to the same level, and will not permit high ideals. As always, he takes this to its conclusion, and does not hesitate to say that "no one any longer possesses today the courage to claim special privileges or the right to rule." We may be opposed to such a position, but it must be admitted that it has a certain strength in its empiricism which the idea of 'equal rights' does not (especially when it is taken as "natural" rather than a moral demand).

This is an a thought provoking book. Nietzsche is a thinker who so often describes the rationale of "men of power" in the many dictatorships of the world today, particularly those of Africa and South America. In this way, it is still most pertinent for us today.

Saturday, 29 May 2010


I am not speaking of randomness, but of the central principle of all history-contingency. A historical explanation does not rest on direct deductions from laws of nature, but on an unpredictable sequence of antecedent states, where any major change in any step of the sequence would have altered the final result. This final result is therefore dependent, or contingent, upon everything that came before-the unerasable and determining signature of history....Replay the tape a million times from a Burgess beginning, and I doubt that anything like Homo sapiens would ever evolve again.
(Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life)

With Dr Who looking at the old monsters Silurians again in "The Hungry Earth"; I've taken the late Stephen Jay Gould's idea of "contingency" (most represented in his book "Wonderful Life") - that if life's tape was replayed, there are so many unpredictable factors, that nothing would quite be the same. Instead of humans, we might have homo reptilia!

The contingent facts of history
Seem set in stone, a progression
A ladder in time for all to see
Upward motion, this impression.
But rewind the tape, play again
See how the die is now thrown
There may be life, but not men
Chance can certainty dethrone
Now lizardworld may emerge
Reptile bipeds walk the earth
Mammals wiped out in purge
Different intelligence rebirth
It is a truly wonderful life
Time splits upon luck's knife.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Why are so many questions asked in the States?

Paxman: Did you threaten to overule him?
Howard: I was not entitled to instruct Derek Lewis and I did not instruct him.
Paxman: Did you threaten to overule him?
Howard: The truth of the matter is that Mr. Marriot was not suspended-
Paxman: Did you threaten to overule him?
Howard: I did not overule Derek Lewis-
Paxman: Did you threaten to overule him?
Howard: -I took advice on what I could or could not do-
Paxman: Did you threaten to overule him?
Howard: -and acted scrupulously in accordance with that advice. I did not overule Derek Lewis-
Paxman: Did you threaten to overule him?
Howard: -Mr. Marriot would not suspend him-
Paxman: Did you threaten to overule him?
Howard: I have accounted for my decision to dismiss Derek Lewis-
Paxman: Did you threaten to overule him?
Howard: -in great detail before the House of Commons-
Paxman: I note that you're not answering the question whether you threatened to overule him.
Howard: Well, the important aspect of this which it's very clear to bear in mind-

Why are so many questions asked in the States?

Part of this has to be with the fact that we have politically active members who are not prepared to be silent if they aren't on the Council of Ministers. Back in the 1970s, there were a number of members who rarely asked any questions, or indeed made any speeches. Some of them spent most of the time in the States Chamber asleep.

The Deputy for St Clement was a friend of my parents, and was an extremely nice chap, even if he and his wife did keep the TV on in the background all the time when we visited! But he could have been a Trappist monk, with a vow of silence; for all his time in the States, not once did he ever say anything. He was not alone.

Along with that in the "good old days" were farmers from the Northern Parishes who would enter the States, and suddenly appear as nominee directors on half a dozen companies. I remember a friend of mine Ken Webb commenting on this. "I taught Tom," he said, "and he was as thick as two short planks. Yet now he's been elected, he's suddenly got all these directorships. Fancy that!"

In those days, before the reform of Jersey's company law, accountancy firms would supply their own partners as nominees on hundreds of companies, and charge a suitable directors fee each year - easy money, and Jersey was as much involved at that time as Sark - I know, I worked in accountancy at the time!

So the old days, where States members were less inclined to ask questions, and the business of the States went faster (because some members never spoke or were asleep) is not all a "golden age", even if there were some members like John Le Marquand, a master of oratory, who could deliver long speeches ex tempore, without muddle, rambling or hesitations. Alas, other members were also rambling windbags, including one past member of Policy and Resources (charity forbids me mentioning, ah, ahem, his name). But there were less of them, and more Trappists.

Another reason for asking so many questions is that so many States Ministers evade the question. Here is an example. Deputy Wimberley asks the following:

"Given the evident importance of the Comprehensive Spending Review process can the Minister tell members where they can find the written guidance, authorised by himself and/or agreed by the Council of Ministers and issued to Departments, outlining exactly how they were to approach and carry out their duties under this review?"

Simple enough, you would think. But it gets a non-answer from Senator Ozouf:

The Council of Ministers approved the principles of the Comprehensive Spending Review in late 2009 and in February this year agreed the rules and framework which would deliver longer term financial and business planning, improvements in financial management and control of States spending

After the Council of Ministers approved the parameters of the CSR, it was, and is, for officers to develop a process to achieve the agreed principles and parameters. At the beginning of 2010, a dedicated team of seconded officers was brought together to work with departments to deliver the CSR and developed a toolkit and templates for departments to complete for 2011, 2012 and 2013 targets. The written guidance was sent out by officers and, although both I, as Treasury and Resources Minister, and the Council of Ministers are kept up-to-date with progress, we do not get involved in the process of the CSR.

So the written guidance was sent out, as he mentions, but in rambled on for two paragraphs and he has still not not managed to answer the simple question - where can States members find it (and obviously read it). That's not an answer; it's an evasion, and poor Deputy Wimberley will now have to frame the question differently in the hope that he might get a copy of this written guidance - he doesn't want to know whether the Council of Ministers or Old Uncle Tom Cobley is involved with it; he just wants to get hold of it.

Why are so many questions asked in the States? Clearly, from listening to all the indirect evasions and muddle Ministers give in reply, because their interlocutors still are encouraged with the hope that if they keep asking, like Jeremy Paxman asking Michael Howard, they might just one day get a straight answer.

Paxman: I'm sorry, I'm going to be frightfully rude but - I'm sorry - it's a straight yes-or-no question and a straight yes-or-no answer: did you threaten to overule him?
Howard: I discussed the matter with Derek Lewis. I gave him the benefit of my opinion. I gave him the benefit of my opinion in strong language, but I did not instruct him because I was not, er, entitled to instruct him. I was entitled to express my opinion and that is what I did.
Paxman: With respect, that is not answering the question of whether you threatened to overule him.
Howard: It's dealing with the relevant point which was what I was entitled to do and what I was not entitled to do, and I have dealt with this in detail before the House of Commons and before the select committee.
Paxman: But with respect you haven't answered the question of whether you threatened to overule him.
Howard: Well, you see, the question is...

Stuart Syvret Syvret is of the mould of Thomas Payne

I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. (Thomas Paine)

I see that the "Sage of Mont Gras d'Eau" has another letter in the paper. That is the retired psychiatrist, Dr Joseph Labia, with a letter entitled "Revolutionary change with caution". Dr Labia writes:

Stuart Syvret Syvret is of the mould of Thomas Payne, author of the Rights of Man (the equivalent of today's -human rights, and unrelated to duties). Revolutionary changes have to be introduced cautiously, as was well documented by what happened in the French and Russian Revolutions, i.e., the birth of tyrannies. In order to work, the intended changed need to have popular backing, run with the grain of a society, besides being practical and equitable.

Dr Labia (retired psychiatrist, with perhaps a compulsive habit of letter writing) is known for his short letters to the Jersey Evening Post, which come over as almost a collection of aphorisms from a wise man, which is clearly how the writer sees himself. But he does not check his facts very well indeed, or he would known that Paine's name is usually given as "Paine", not Payne.

Well, let's see how Thomas Paine acquits himself of duties. With "The Crisis", written when the Americans were struggling for freedom from an oppressive, and quite irresponsible British government (no duties there, except those that were taxes!), Paine wrote:

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

This is not just a call to arms, it is a call to service, a clarion call upon the duties of the patriot. Paine is not saying that the patriot only has "rights", but that that there is also a duty to "the service of their country". This is a thread running throughout his writings on the matter - "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. "

Paine was certainly an advocate of cautious revolutionary change. This is what he said about government:

It is the nature and intention of a constitution to prevent governing by party, by establishing a common principle that shall limit and control the power and impulse of party, and that says to all parties, thus far shalt thou go and no further. But in the absence of a constitution, men look entirely to party; and instead of principle governing party, party governs principle.

So what did he have to say about rights? Paine argued that it was the duty of the State to care for the elderly - "at sixty his labour ought to be over, at least from direct necessity. It is painful to see old age working itself to death, in what are called civilised countries, for daily bread." He argued that the State should provide a pension, not charity, so "not as a matter of grace and favour, but of right".

He also argued for free education: "After all the above cases are provided for there will still be a number of families who, though not properly of the class of poor, yet find it difficult to give education to their children; and such children, under such a case, would be in a worse condition than if their parents were actually poor. A nation under a well-regulated government should permit none to remain uninstructed."

Now it must be remembered that Paine would not have been arguing for these particular "rights" if they existed in the society of his time, which they did not. But this was not just rhetoric - he worked out the mathematics of financing this project from the public purse and taxes. And far from leading to bloody revolution, his argument was that these changes would lessen riots and violent change and "prevent the further effusion of blood":

"The hearts of the humane will not be shocked by ragged and hungry children, and persons of seventy and eighty years of age, begging for bread. The dying poor will not be dragged from place to place to breathe their last, as a reprisal of parish upon parish. Widows will have a maintenance for their children, and not be carted away, on the death of their husbands, like culprits and criminals; and children will no longer be considered as increasing the distresses of their parents. The haunts of the wretched will be known, because it will be to their advantage; and the number of petty crimes, the offspring of distress and poverty, will be lessened. The poor, as well as the rich, will then be interested in the support of government, and the cause and apprehension of riots and tumults will cease."

Of course, when this was neglected, by the aristocratic and absolutist monarchies of France and Russia, then those countries were ripe for a bloody revolution, and contrary to what Dr Labia believes, these had the full support of "popular backing, run with the grain of a society"; it was the mass of people who rebelled against rulers who saw only the divine rights of kings, and gave only token regard to their responsibilities. And how they achieved this in France was both "practical and equitable"; anyone could have their head neatly severed by the guillotine. Paine stood out in France against the execution of Louis XVI, was imprisoned for 11 months, and nearly suffered execution himself.

And a last word of Paine against those who are too cautious for change. When the American revolution took place, he warned the founding fathers, such as George Washington, that they would be storing up trouble for the future if they did not address the issue of slavery. He thought slaves had rights as well, and that "all men are created equal", if it meant anything, should include those enslaved:

That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising; and still persist, though it has been so often proved contrary to the light of nature, to every principle of Justice and Humanity, and even good policy, by a succession of eminent men, and several late publications.

Stuart Syvret is of the "mould of Thomas Paine", says Dr Labia, in what is intended as a criticism.

But if one looks at Paine's record, and not the misleading one line comment by Dr Labia (who clearly hasn't ever read any of Paine's books), then if I were Stuart Syvret, I should indeed be pleased to be accorded the distinction of being compared with possibly one of the greatest political geniuses of that age.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Oaths of Allegiance in Jersey

On reading the recent Hansard, I was struck by the sentence:

"Nationality for qualification for election - The Committee [Privileges and Procedures] agreed that this should be confined to British citizens in accordance with provisions for national parliaments and because of the requirement to swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty;"

I wrote to Constable Juliette Gallichan as Chairman of the PPC to clarify what the Committee's position is regarding those religious organisations such as the Society of Friends (Quakers) who, on grounds of conscience and belief, refuse to swear any oath, and historically this has also included refusing any oath of allegiance to the Crown.

I noted the following point in Jersey history where it is mentioned:

Oath taking was a common procedure required by law in the seventeenth century, from the expected oath of allegiance to the King, to the 1665 proclamation which required "the abjuring of Papal authority and the doctrine of transubstantiation." . In in the nineteenth century a Jersey Quaker Philip Lemprière was imprisoned for refusing to take the oath when called to be a witness at the Royal Court. He and George Payn were called as witnesses in a court case in 1837. As they had both refused to swear, they said they would affirm instead, but this was not permissible under Jersey law at that time although it was allowed in England As a result of the Lemprière case, on the 21st of October 1847 an Order in Council in Jersey was made allowing Quakers and Moravians to make an "affirmation when an oath is or shall be required".(1)

In the UK MPs can affirm instead and they can swear on the Qur'an too if they prefer, in Welsh or Gaelic if so inclined!
Currently, all MPs who wish to sit in Parliament, must recite the following:

"I [name of MP] swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God."

For those uncomfortable with the deeply Christian tone, there is the option:

"I [name of MP] do swear that I will be faithful..."

For some people it's not the fact of swearing before God that's the problem, it's the fact of swearing an oath at all.
Quakers, for instance, object to swearing oaths, believing that it is their duty to tell the truth at all times, not just when on oath. People who object for this or other reasons to swearing oaths can make an "affirmation" that they are telling the truth.
For MPs, these are the words:

"I [name of MP] do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law."

I asked her "Please can you confirm that an affirmation this is sufficient for qualification for election, and if possible provide the form of this affirmation?"

Here is her very complete reply, which she very kindly allowed me to share publicly.

Members who swear a religious oath do so before 'God' The text is:

You swear and promise before God that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of (Senator) (Deputy); that you will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to Law; that you will uphold and maintain the laws, privileges, liberties and franchises of Jersey, opposing whomsoever may wish to infringe the same; that you will attend the meetings of the States whenever you are called upon to do so; and generally that you will fulfil all the duties imposed upon you by virtue of the said office. All of which you promise to do on your conscience.

That does not specify a Christian God and members of the Jewish faith have happily taken the oath in the past and I can see no reason why a Muslim, Hindu etc would not also be happy to swear before their own God.

We have never used a book such as the Bible in Jersey, members simply raise their right hand in the Royal Court and the oath is read out.

Those without religious faith or those who do not wish to swear before God for any reason can affirm under the provisions of the Solemn Affirmations (Jersey) Law 1963. That changes the first few words of the oath to become the following affirmation -

I, AB, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of (Senator) (Deputy) (etc as above)

This is identical to the position in the UK which you mentioned. I assume a Quaker in Jersey might decide to affirm rather than swear an oath.

There is, however, no getting around the allegiance to Her Majesty which is a requirement for everyone who wants to be a States member. This is identical to the position in the UK where, for example, the Sinn Fein members are unable to take their seats because they are not prepared to take the oath of allegiance. There is obviously a political argument that parliamentarians should not be required to swear allegiance to the monarch but this is the current position in the UK and Jersey and a person elected who is not prepared to swear allegiance cannot take their seat. This is why the nationality requirement is in place at the moment as a member cannot pledge allegiance to a foreign country instead of the Crown.

In the Northern Ireland Assembly, for obvious reasons, there is no oath of allegiance for members.

kind regards
Juliette Gallichan
Constable of St Mary


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Ministerial Lobotomy

Deputy Sean Power was on BBC Radio Jersey this morning making a couple of points about Harbours and Airports. These were put with admirable brevity, and were as follows:

a) the Harbours department has around 70 staff, and it needs to be reviewed to see if it is overstaffed (which he suspects).

b) as trading committees, the airport and harbour both run at a loss, and if they can't manage to make a profit as public trading companies, perhaps they should be taken over by the private sector.

Senator Paul Routier was the Assistant Minister who was answering these questions. He did pick up on one error, the harbour actually made a small profit last year. But most of his lengthy replies said very little - "doing business with companies of good standing", "looking at different ways on doing things", "commercial opportunities", "consulting with commercial groups"  etc etc, or was only marginally relevant - Condor have been doing well - forgetting that Condor is a private company.

On hearing this waffle, in which poor Chris Stone tried very hard to get answers to basic questions - such as giving a simple example of "different ways" - my son asked why they didn't get a politician who knew the subject. I told him that Paul Routier was the Minister who was in charge of looking after Harbours and Airports, which prompted the comment: "politicians obviously forget to read the small print which says they must have a lobotomy on becoming ministers".  Politically aware and intelligent children can sometimes indulge in very plain speaking!

And yet there are very good points to be made for not taking the harbours and airport wholly into the private sector. We are on a small Island, and both for tourism and the locals, there are only two ways on and off the rock. A private company could push up prices to make a profit and make travel uneconomical for tourism, or, as happens with the private ferries and planes, provide cheaper fares to the Island and expensive ones for locals (who have little in the way of choice). Do we want this scenario extended to harbours and airports, and possibly also a more commercial squeeze on freight, raising the cost of living even higher? Deputy Power didn't consider these matters, and Senator Routier didn't take them up at all.

Unlike the U.K., where there are alternative airports and Harbours, and even the Channel Tunnel, we have only one airport and one harbour, and there is, I believe, a case for social need, a public service element, even if it may mean that the airport and harbour run at a loss. Otherwise, the poorest members of society will be penalised, and become virtual prisoners upon the Island.

However, as far as overstaffing is concerned, we don't have an organizational chart, so there is little that can be seen as to how well staffed the department is, which is something which missed by Deputy Sean Power. Perhaps he can press for States departments to be run according to rudimentary principles of good business organisation, and draw up one. Only then can we see if there are savings to be made.

Also not mentioned is the ludicrous paper trail in which Harbours, as a trading entity, lease out for rent the Maritime Museum site to Jersey Heritage; they argue that this is (1) a reduced rent and (2) that they could rent it out more profitably at market value. But Jersey Heritage is a quango which is financed by the States, leading to the absurd situation whereby balancing the books leads to money chasing round from the States to the States.

Why this happens is because far from "joined up government", each department is seen as its own little fiefdom, protecting its own rights and privileges and budgets jealously against others. It is this segregated Empire building mentality which needs to be changed, and Ministerial government simply combined separate departments under one Minister, with little or no attempt to integrate them; it is the political version of papering over cracks.

Sir Humphrey: We want all responsibilities, Minister, if they mean extra staff and bigger budgets. It's the breadth of our responsibilities that makes us important, makes YOU important, Minister. When you see vast buildings, huge staff and massive budgets, what do you conclude?

Jim Hacker: Bureaucracy?

No, Minister, you conclude that at the summit there are men of great stature and dignity who hold the world in their hands and tread the earth like princes.

Jim Hacker: Yes, I see.

Sir Humphrey: So each new responsibility must be seized eagerly and each old one guarded jealously.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Amos Group - Waterfront Presentation

Minutes of AMOS GROUP of  CHRISTIANS TOGETHER IN  JERSEY on Wed. May 19th at 5.15 at  St. Thomas

ELeQ welcomed Mr. Stephen Izatt to the meeting.   SI has been Managing Director of WEB (Waterfront Enterprise Board) since May 2007 having run his own development companies and more recently been involved in the Edinburgh waterfront.  

He went through a Powerpoint presentation, making these points (and others)

The landfill started in 1985.

WEB was set up in 1996 with the Chief Minister as chief shareholder and all money needing to be approved by the Treasury.
It has  received about £43m in public money.

He said there were some myths about, for example that the public has had no say, though there have been several public consultations  or that it is little used.     He agrees that the Radisson is badly designed and the swimming pool was not an adequate replacement for Fort Regent pool, though it was built exactly as requested by the States at the time.  He also agrees the cinema is in the wrong place but there is a long term lease to Cineworld. so it will stay for some years.   It is still not clear what the effect of the collapse of company running Liquid will be.

His present directors, John Tibbo and Peter Crespel+ States members Dan Murphy, John Refault and Eddie Noel are very supportive.+ finance director Lee Henry.    There has  been quite a turnover of chairmen (5), States directors (16),managing directors (3) and changes in States policies.   However WEB has assets worth £88m and a cash balance of £6m.  It intends the future assets should remain in Public hands, generating an income year on year.
Some WEB developments include Les Jardins de la Mer, Route du Port Elizabeth, the carpark with a grass area on top, Maritime House and Albert and Victoria Place Housing.   All these have been successful.  The Leisure Centre is less successful and still has a 20 yr lease.   Harbour Reach has 42 units, all of which were sold off plan, though he  agrees they are too small. The Radisson is picking up, helped by being an international brand.  Liberation Station and Liberty Wharf have been completed while Harcourt have been given  a 60 day deadline to complete their work on the abattoir site.  He is proud that the Weighbridge site remains open space and didn't have an Art  Gallery built on it.  Many of the flats in Castle Quay phase one have also been sold and are slightly bigger..

In the future they are planning Westwater, 11 expensive apartments behind the Radisson and Zephyrus   58 apartments, sharing a common basement.

He hopes there will be a debate on June 22nd on the setting up of a States of Jersey Development Company with the prime purpose of acting as a delivery vehicle for surplus States of Jersey property.    It will have an independent chairman, a managing director, finance director and non-executive directors, both States and non-States.  Hopefully it can be set up by the end of the year.  

Other big projects include East of Albert going step by step, first the New North Quay.   He says it must retain low cost berths for local boat owners.   Also SoJDC may have to oversee  developments at the old JCG, St Saviours Hospital and the North of town master plan..

He foresees the Esplanade Quarter development proceeding building by building as there are firm commitments from  finance clients, starting at the Castle St end   Only when several are complete would there be any thought about sinking the road.  ( We didn't get into the wisdom of that, which Amos has strongly opposed)

Our overall feeling was that there was a real strategic vision and a determination to get the maximum benefit for the people of  Jersey.  We thanked Mr Izatt for his presentation.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

End of the Line

End of the Line
The train is chugging away, steam so white
I have missed this departure, have to wait
Yet somehow, I know that all will be alright
This was your heaven, a transport of delight
Coming round the tracks, passing the gate
The train is chugging away, steam so white
And I weep again, as you depart from sight
A steam fayre, your ghost here, signals late
Yet somehow, I know that all will be alright
You have left me, gone into that dark night
Tracks curve away,  no longer so straight
The train is chugging away, steam so white
Your patience shone through all your plight
Like coals of fire, your dear heart's fate
Yet somehow, I know that all will be alright
Such bravery, you so fought the good fight
End of the line, junction to an altered state
The train is chugging away, steam so white
Yet somehow, I know that all will be alright

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Island Home

Island Home by Gerard Le Feuvre

Ours is an Island home
Firm on rock and strong by sea
Loyal and proud in history
Our thankful hearts are raised to God for Jersey

The beauty of our land
Long inspired both eye and mind
Ours the privilege to guard its shore
So help we God that Jersey might through grace endure

This is the "National Anthem", and there has been a concerted campaign to get school children to sing it in schools. Why? The main reason is probably that while it was selected as the nominated anthem at a competition in 2008, it was done so by a panel of judges, and is not the public's own choice.

When you hear children singing it, their voices are nice, but the tune sounds like a pastiche of the worst Victorian hymnody (of the sort beloved by school assemblies in the 1960s and 1970s), with a touch of Handel in the gap between verses. And it just doesn't have much spark or liveliness to it.

It is a slow moving ponderous song, and even the words have ugly phrases - "So help we God that Jersey might through grace endure" sounds as if the words were twisted round to help the rhyming; we are into the same kind of territory "there is a green hills without a city wall", where archaisms help to patch up a bad rhyme..

For Jersey, I'd expect something with a French feel to it but this sounds English and stodgy. The Bergerac theme tune has more French riffs to it, and feels as if it comes from an Island where the French influence is still apparent, as in place names.

It is interesting that the Isle of Man anthem "Arrane Ashoonagh Dy Vannin" was given official status in 2001 as the Manx national anthem by the Manx parliament, although it dates back originally to 1770 when it was composed by William Henry Gill. But Gill drew upon the native Island culture, and composed it basing it on a traditional Manx melody called Mylecharaine. By contrast, Island Chrome has no apparent historical links at all to Island melodies. The Isle of Man anthem was not the result of a competition; it won its status by usage.

Yet the composer has been noted as saying "his musical inspiration was rooted in Jerrais poetry and traditional folk music". I defy anyone to find a trace of traditional folk music in Island Home.

Ma Normandie, by Frédéric Bérat, 1836, had often been taken as an "unofficial anthem", and it is easy to see why. While it refers to Normandy, rather than France, it has a folk-like French lilt to it, and feels much of a Jersey song than Island Home.

When far from us the Winter flies,
And the world is born to hope anew,
Under France's lovely skies,
When the sun returns in sweeter hue,
When Nature 'round us greener be,
When swallows homeward wing their way,
I love to see my Normandy,

Quand tout renaît à l'espérance,
Et que l'hiver fuit loin de nous,
Sous le beau ciel de notre France,
Quand le soleil revient plus doux,
Quand la nature est reverdie,
Quand l'hirondelle est de retour,
J'aime à revoir ma Normandie !
C'est le pays qui m'a donné le jour.
The land that gave to me the light of day.

The other song which is sung by Sadie Renard at Liberation Day is "Beautiful Jersey". This is not only a song about Jersey, but also while in translation, is also in Jerrais, the language native to Jersey which came from the old Norman French.

There's a spot that I love that I ne'er can forget,
Tho' far I may roam 'twill be dear.
For its beauty will linger in memory yet,
Where'er o'er the world I may steer.
Dear Jersey, fair Isle, of the ocean the queen,
Thy charms are so many and rare;
For love finds a home 'mid each beauteous scene,
My heart ever longs to be there.

Beautiful Jersey, gem of the sea,
Ever my heart turns in longing to thee;
Bright are the mem'ries you waken for me,
Beautiful Jersey, gem of the sea.

On thy shores I have wandered in glad days of yore,
With one who is dear to my heart.
And the love-links will bind us as one evermore,
Although for a while we must part.
And oft in my dreams do I see the dear place
The dear little Isle of the sea,
And in fancy I gaze on a sweet loving face,
The face that is dearest to me.

Beautiful Jersey, gem of the sea,
Ever my heart turns in longing to thee;
Bright are the mem'ries you waken for me,
Beautiful Jersey, gem of the sea.

Man Bieau P'tit Jerri
Y'a un coin d'terre que j'aime, que j'n'oubliéthai janmais -
Dans mes pensées tréjous preunmyi -
Car jé n'vai rein à compather à ses bieautés
Dans touos mes viages à l'êtrangi.
Jèrri, man paradis, pus belle taque souos l'solé -
Qué j'aime la paix dé chu Jèrri!
L'amour lé veurt, j'ai si envie dé m'en r'aller
Èrvaie man chièr pétit pays,

Both "Beautiful Jersey" and "Ma Normandie" have two things in common.

The first is that they are aesthetic rather than religious songs; they celebrate the beauty of place. This is true of many national anthems, with a few exceptions such as England and America. The Ukrainian, Australian, Spanish and Irish national anthems do not mention God, or indeed anything specifically religious, which one might expect in Spain or Ireland as bastions of Catholicism; but instead, they celebrate a sense of place, of beauty, and leave hymnody to do God.

This is also true of the Guernsey and Isle of Man anthems; indeed the Guernsey anthem, which is also sung in Guernesiais , is very similar in feel to Beautiful Jersey.

Sarnia; dear Homeland, Gem of the sea.
Island of beauty, my heart longs for thee.
Thy voice calls me ever, in waking, or sleep,
Till my soul cries with anguish, my eyes ache to weep.
In fancy I see thee, again as of yore,
Thy verdure clad hills and thy wave beaten shore.
Thy rock sheltered bays, ah; of all thou art best,
I'm returning to greet thee, dear island of rest.

This brings is to the second thing that these anthems have in common, which is that what I call the theme of "exile in place", the idea that wherever one goes, far from home, the memory of home calls the Islander to return. Or again, it can be seen in terms of not losing sight of what is close to home, a theme of "lest we forget". This is also true of many other national anthems.

Island Home has "Our thankful hearts are raised to God for Jersey" which conjures up not so much a sense of any deep feeling, but is more like a toast with people chinking glasses.

There is a video on You Tube of a group of ordinary French people from Normany in Rome singing "Ma Normandie"; I can imagine people singing "Beautiful Jersey" when away from home. But why on earth would anyone want to sing "Island Home" is beyond me! It is the "call of the heart" that is so missing from "Island Home"; it has no emotional pull to it, which is probably why "Beautiful Jersey" is still so much a part of Jersey, and may it remain so.


Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Haut de La Garenne – A Retrospective Review Part 1

The historic abuse enquiry that came to be centered on Haut de La Garenne sprung into the public domain, and indeed a worldwide domain, on 23 February 2008. The police had been examining cases of alleged child abuse within the sea cadets and elsewhere since November 2006 in a covert investigation and allegations were also arising about abuse at Haut de La Garenne, a former children's home.


Seventy victims had come forward, most detailing abuse at Haut De La Garenne. Among the victims were a few who said that children had been dragged from their beds at night screaming and had then disappeared. Two others said they had knowledge of human remains at the location but were not specific.


A local advocate also came to police and said he had a client who knew there were human remains buried at the home. The collation of numerous complaints of both sexual and violent abuse of children led to the decision being made to enter the home to carry out a screening search for human remains and evidence in support of the allegations of abuse. The advice and assistance of the NPIA in the deployment of UK specialists was secured.[i]


It was decided to make a preliminary investigation of the Haut de la Garenne site, and it was during this that a fragment which appeared to be bone, and from its size, that of a child, was discovered. This was logged as follows:


"23 February 2008, 09.10 hrs

Examined JAR/6. Recovered from Context 011 Trench 3. Degraded fragment of bone thought to be human skull, probably from a child (see full inventory for details). Associated with mixed debris including animal bone, buttons and a leather "thong". Discussed findings with SIO Lenny HARPER and Forensic Manager Vicky COUPLAND. It was decided that the bone should be sent for C14 dating."[ii]


This fragment, found on the morning of 23 February 2008, would have remained under wraps, was it not for the fact that a "News of the World" reporter had somehow got hold of the story and had been caught with a camera in the bushes outside. Lenny Harper was faced the choice between accusations of a police "cover up" and concealing evidence, or coming out with the evidence to date, even though it still required further work.


The "News of the World" is a United Kingdom newspaper which has often made accusations of police cover-ups – a notable example, and certainly still fresh in the public mind because of an ongoing inquiry –was the in the accidental shooting by police of Mr de Menezes as a terrorist suspect in 2005, where they alleged that police officers had deliberately falsified vital evidence to hide mistakes[iii] They often aim for the biggest front page splash possible in order to sell the paper.


Lenny Harper decided that the best response was to go public:


I knew therefore that someone had leaked our work to the media and I also knew that it would only be a matter of time before the JEP found out about the fragment. Over the previous couple of years we had mounted several enquiries to find the source within the force who kept leaking details to various journalists of the JEP. My view was that if the media reported it before we did we would lose credibility with our vulnerable victims and witnesses.[iv]


It does not appear from that the origin of the leak ever came to light, or that there was any investigation into who could have known about it and informed the newspaper.[v] The circle of those "in the know" could have been quite narrow, or quite wide, if victims were aware that Haut de La Garenne would probably be the focus of attention by the police, but it is interesting to note that a later leak of information to a journalist by a politician was identified very rapidly[vi], despite the fact that more people – including States members – were now "in the loop".


Following Lenny Harper's press release, in which he mentioned a bone fragment which appeared to be part of a young child, the story was reported in the local media – BBC Radio Jersey, Channel Television, and the Jersey Evening Post.


Within a very short space of time, scenting a scoop, the Haut de La Garenne site was besieged by reporters for newspapers and television crews. The reporting was, however, extremely variable, and at this stage, it was not mentioned that the fragment was a small piece which might have been part of a child's skull


Because of the way the media speculated and exaggerate what had been said, Lenny Harper came into criticism for this lack of clarity from local politician Health and Social Services Minister Senator Ben Shenton[vii]. Apart from the frivolous nature of his email, for which he later apologised, he made this point of substance:


One question was about the initial press reporting was handled. "Remains of a child" was very ambiguous, and for most of us who heard that police report, it suggested far more that "fragment of a child's skull"; the issue over whether than pre-dates the inquiry was also not made clear at the time.[viii]


However, the police strategy followed by Lenny Harper was a standard one. In general, the police do not want, if they can help it, to release all the information at one time. That way, any statements by – for example in this instance, people alleging child abuse – can be corroborated. Early release of all the information would contaminate future witness statements.


This is true of police work in practice, and not just for the Haut de La Garenne. Admission of "hidden details" is a fundamental strategy; the more that is in the public domain, the more it can be excused by a potential suspect, and used by a lawyer acting for their defense.


How variable the reporting was can be seen in the following extracts from newspapers


Community Care accurately stated no more than the police press release, and mentioned simply "Jersey Police found what is believed to be partial remains of a child's body at former children's home on the island on Saturday morning"[ix]


The Daily Telegraph mentioned "the discovery of a body at the home at the weekend."[x] There is no indication that these are partial remains – readers would assume a more or less complete skeleton.


The Times said "After the discovery of the skull buried in a Victorian-built institution used as a location for the television series Bergerac, officers searched the area with sniffer dogs. They have identified six more sites of interest at the hostel and say they cannot rule out the discovery of more bodies."[xi]  The fact that it was just a fragment, and not a complete skull is lost in the Times reporting.


The Mirror reported that: "Police investigating allegations of child abuse said on Monday their search of a former children's home in the Channel Islands where a body was found at the weekend was now focused on a bricked-up cellar. A child's body parts, thought to date from the early 1980s, were unearthed at the Haut de la Garenne house in Jersey on Saturday after a sniffer dog detected them through several inches of concrete"[xii] The Mirror suggests more than one part of a child's body, and not just one fragment.


The Guardian led with: "The body of a child is found at the home after a sniffer dog detects remains through several inches of concrete. It will take several weeks for the gender of the body, and how long it had been there, to be established"[xiii] The Guardian has a complete body, and the possibility of establishing gender!


It is clear that "partial remains of a child's body" was quite ambiguous, and the noun "remains" can indicate either a singular or a plural. Given only the scantest information, it can be seen how the press assumed a greater amount of remains than was, in fact, the case – I remember myself, on hearing the news, assuming it was at least several bone fragments.


Lenny Harper undoubtedly also wanted to grab a lot of media attention in order to get as large a field of publicity as possible, and spread the net widely.


This was so that former residents or staff of Haut De La Garenne, who had left Jersey, and might have pertinent information, would be more likely to come forward. Indeed, some people came forward from as far as Australia. He also wanted to get the respect of those who had been abused, who would feel confident that this was a policeman who would listen seriously to what they said.


In this respect the attendant publicity was a success, but in terms of the exaggerations caused by the ambiguity of the statement to the press about "partial remains of a child's body", it caused some lurid speculations and exaggerations even at the outset, even among normally fairly sober newspapers.


This publicity was to have far reaching implications, as two of the Island's politicians became entangled in the media spotlight.

[i] States of Jersey Press Release, 28 May 2008

[ii] Lenny Harper, Guest posting on Stuart Syvrel's Blog

[iii] Police 'faked Tube death log', The Independent, 29 January 2006, report by Sophie Goodchild

[iv] Lenny Harper, Guest posting on Stuart Syvrel's Blog

[v] It is a significant omission from the first "ACPO" report – "Report of the Association of Chief Police Officers, prepared for the States of Jersey Police in respect of the Historical Child Abuse Investigation." Even if it was deemed unlikely that the suspect would be found, one might expect to see consideration that a "leak inquiry" would be a waste of resources.

[vi] The politician was identified as Senator Jim Perchard by the Guernsey Press. On September 20, 2008, Senator Perchard wrote to the paper, "This letter alleged that I leaked an official email to a national newspaper journalist. Not only is this untrue, as confirmed to you by the journalist in question, but you printed the allegation without checking your facts and without offering me a right to reply." Lenny Harper noted that "Perchard e mailed Graham Power (I believe on the instigation of [Peter] Rose[Daily Mail journalist]) and challenged the origins of the original fragment. Mr Power, believing that the e mail had been sent by Perchard in his capacity as a minister, replied to him giving him a full briefing of the situation to date. This reply was passed to Rose….On 23rd May Rose, (a journalist with a history of seeking to undermine paedophile investigations) telephoned Graham (the call which was taped on our routine business call system) and during the call said he had been given the e mail by Perchard. Graham said that a simple technical audit would show if this was true."

[vii] "Health and social services minister Ben Shenton wrote to his colleagues comparing Jersey's deputy police chief Lenny Harper to comedian Lenny Henry.", BBC News, 6 March 2008

[viii] Ben Shenton to Jersey Evening Post, March 2008

[ix] Community Care, Maria Ahmed, 27 February 2008

[x] The Telegraph, 25 February 2008

[xi] The Times, February 25, 2008

[xii] Daily Mirror, February 25, 2008

[xiii] The Guardian, February 25, 2008


Monday, 17 May 2010

A Hole in the Masterplan

ENVIRONMENT Minister Freddie Cohen has bowed to public pressure and ruled out any building on the Millennium Town Park - despite winning yesterday's vote to hold off decisions until the debate on the Masterplan for the north of town in six weeks. In the States yesterday Members effectively rejected St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft's proposition to force work to start this year on a park without any buildings on it. That appeared to set up a clash in six weeks' time, with the Masterplan proposing building on the eastern end of the site and a counter-proposal ruling out the plan for a four-storey development on the eastern end. But this morning Senator Cohen made a concession ruling out any building on the site, although he says that some underground parking will still be needed.  (1)

But is this the only reason for dropping the houses? If we cast out minds back years ago, to when Dereck Carter was President of the Public Services Committee, on 7th November 1995, the States minutes report this question:

Would the President inform the States at what stage the present works of the `cavern' and main line from the Gas Works to the Weighbridge are, and the works on the shaft at the Gas Works end  of the drainage system?

He replied as follows:

The present stage of construction is as
        follows -

(a)  the storage tank, or `cavern', has been excavated to 90 per cent of its size;
(b)  the surface water tunnel from the Weighbridge to Snow Hill is approximately 50 per cent complete;
(c)  following breakdown and repairs,  the tunnel boring machine (TBM) constructing the surface water               tunnel from Snow Hill to the Gas Works car park has just re-started cutting the rock, and is still going through commissioning stages;
(d)  the shaft at the Gas Works car park is almost fully excavated, but the TBM will have to be removed before this shaft can be finished.

Now that shaft - which is massive - was finished around 1997, and is located at the eastern end of the Gas Place car park - just where the foundations of the four storey development would be. The report (2) presented to the States on 17 April 2002 goes into more detail.

Various options were considered, and it was concluded that a relief sewer was required to take surface water from the Gasworks area to the Weighbridge, and that overflows of foul sewage would have to be picked up from the Bath Street sewer system and at the Weighbridge, from the overflow.

So under the proposed housing for Gas Place - which would be at the eastern end of the car park - would be partially on top of the access shaft to the tunnel from the Weighbridge.

The entire 1,100 metre length of the three-metre diameter tunnel from the Weighbridge to Oxford Road would be constructed in rock, at least ten metres below the top of the rock and a minimum of 20 metres below ground. This would ensure that there would be no significant effect on buildings and structures along the route. This was a prime concern of the scheme, as there was a high water table, with the foundations of the older buildings being in the soft ground. It was essential to have a tunneling method that did not cause dewatering of the ground and settlement of the buildings.

The northern end of the route would be a shaft (S4) in the north-east corner of the Gasworks car park. This shaft would provide the connection point for the Gasworks Brook and for a planned surface water sewer from Oxford Road to Springfield.

I imagine that it would cost a considerable sum to relocate this shaft, which, by a happy coincidence of Freddie Cohen dropping the housing, will no longer prove a problem - especially as none of the wonderful Hopkins Masterplans seemed to even be aware of its existence. Did they do their homework? It would have certainly caused massive problems if they had not.

Whether the tunnel will be deep enough not to cause problems for an underground car park is something which has also to be considered. Again, none of the planned "parkscape" seems to make any mention of this. Obviously, an underground car park may not need as deep foundations as a four storey building, but engineers need to be able to ensure that the tunnel is not damaged, and that the access shaft area is excluded.

What is more, and this will also need to be taken account of with any underground parking - is problem that the tunnellers encountered with the groundwater conditions - with a high water table in the Gasworks vicinity:

Considerable delays occurred in the sinking of the deep shaft at the Gasworks (S4). Work started in October 1994 and the sinking of the shaft was programmed to be completed in four months, then to await the arrival of the TBM tunnel from Snow Hill. A problem was encountered in sinking the shaft through the interface between the soft ground and the rock, with a high water table present in the soft ground. This resulted in a very long delay, while the Contractor attempted to inject grout into and around the interface. After negotiating the interface, further delays occurred in sinking the shaft through the hard rock, and this was not completed until October 1996.

Shaft at the Gasworks (S4). Unforeseen ground conditions - higher than foreseen magnitude of groundwater inflow at soft ground/rock interface and through fractures in rock, increased hardness of rock, and additional specialised grouting of rock.

Has this been factored into the cost of an underground car park? Let's hope it is before any work actually starts on the site, or the cost could rocket into the stratosphere.


Flights of Fancy

LONG-stay parking charges at Jersey Airport are the highest in Britain. Motorists pay £100.80 to park for seven days - significantly more than the notoriously expensive London airports and almost twice as much as Guernsey Airport. The sky-high charges have been revealed in a survey by consumer magazine Which?, which examined parking costs at the UK's busiest airports. Although Jersey was not included in the survey, the JEP has found that seven-day parking at the Airport is £12 per week higher than the business parking option at Heathrow, which topped the league. Senator Alan Breckon, chairman of the Consumer Council, said that the Airport parking charges were 'crazy'.(1)

Senator Alan Maclean said, not surprisingly, that you couldn't make comparisons with the U.K. because the Island had no long term provision as it was so small. That is true - if someone is travelling for a long period, then they can always take a taxi instead. But a taxi from the east of the Island can cost easily as much as £35 for a one way journey (as one of my correspondents informs me), which makes it £70 for long stay, which is still a large sum. He didn't mention this!

Guernsey appears to have restructured its parking significantly. The Airport Guides which seems to have information on Guernsey from 2000 (but has not been updated since)  has the following available (2):

Guernsey airport operates a pay on foot parking system, with parking
available for 275 cars. The charges are as follows:

Up to 1 hour free, 1-6 hours £2, 6-12 hours £4, 12-18 hours £6, 18-24 hours
£8, 24-48 hours £16, 48-72 hours £28, Over 72 hours £16 per day

which gives £112 for a seven day period.

However, the Guernsey Airport site (3) has

Up To 1 Hour        Free
1 - 6 Hours            £  3.00 (w.e.f 1st Feb 2010)
6 - 12 Hours          £  5.00 (w.e.f 1st Feb 2010)
12 - 18 Hours       £  7.00 (w.e.f 1st Feb 2010)
18 - 24 Hours       £  8.00
24 - 48 Hours       £ 16.00
48 - 72 Hours       £ 24.00
Over 72 Hours    £  8.00 Per Day

Which means 7 days is £56.

Now this is studiously avoided by Senator Maclean, who argues - quite rightly - that UK airports take passengers who travel some distance, and for whom a taxi would not be appropriate. But Guernsey is just next door, and is a small Island like ours, yet somehow he does not explain why their costs are significantly less.

Guernsey also has free parking up to an hour. Why can't we have this too? We used to. There seems to be a desire to squeeze the consumer for every penny in Jersey, even if they are picking someone up and will only be there for 5 minutes. As a Guernseyman I know says:

what I like about Gsy airport is that you can park for up to an hour free when you go to pick someone up/drop someone off.

I know the Airport has to be a profit making concern, but as always, somehow Guernsey is managing this so much better. It does not seem to be run by people who evidently have some affinity with Scrooge.


Saturday, 15 May 2010

Now Ear This

As Charles Clarke lost his seat in the 2010 election, I thought I'd offer a last "tribute" to him.

Now Ear This
Charles Clarke was a man of advancing years
Also with each decade, longer grew his ears
When he was student, they were hidden well
Beneath his hair, scraggly shoulder length it fell
But then he became a serious politician, haircut
Revealed these monstrous appendages, the butt
Of much wicked comment amongst his cronies
Not forgetting the passing smirk from Tony’s
An education secretary, pulled down standards
Lest maths measure the ears growing onwards
Then to the home office, up the greasy pole
Promotion, in charge of all police who patrol
Mr Plod must now answer to Big Ears, they say
But not in hearing distance, there they portray
Mr Clarke as unflappable, a serious politician
With those ears? And their enlarging span?
You might say. I couldn’t possibly comment
About his advancing ears, and their extent.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Leading by example - the UK and Jersey

David Cameron today redeemed his first pre-election promise by announcing that all ministers in his Lib-Con coalition will take a five-year pay freeze, as well as a 5% pay cut. (1)

This forms part of a whole package, as he said in his own words

We need to control public spending as part of our plan to reduce our deficit. We must find ways to cap the biggest government pensions. This cap should prevent any taxpayer-funded increase in government pensions already worth over £50,000 a year. We've also said we need a public sector pay freeze for everyone apart from the million lowest paid workers.

But it's also important that we show leadership in Westminster. As well as closing the MPs' pension scheme to new entrants, we need to cut ministers' pay by five per cent, and freeze ministerial salaries for the lifetime of the next Parliament. (2)

It's interesting to note how completely different it is over here in Jersey. While the States Members have agreed a pay freeze - it is the year following a pay rise of £1,000. In the U.K., by contrast, David Cameron evidently wants to set an example with ministerial pay, and there is not just a pay freeze, but a pay cut. He has taken the moral high ground, where the States of Jersey have so clearly not done so.

If public sector workers complain about the pay freeze, David Cameron can point to a pay cut for Ministers, as a demonstration not just that "we are all in this together", but that they have gone an extra mile themselves. By contrast, in Jersey, all kinds of special pleading over when pay years start was trotted out to excuse the increase in States pay at the same time as the pay freeze for the public sector. It looked like the worst of fudges, the kind of verbal dexterity that would not have been out of place in "Yes Minister"

Items 1-3 bring the claim down to about 18% for the top grades. Therefore it should be calculated from 1973, which was the high point in percentage increases [not in income]. And take the calculation to the end of two years from now, i.e. the end of this claim period rather than the beginning. These four measures bring the percentage increase down to about 6%. (Sir Humphrey Appleby, The Complete Yes Prime Minister)

(To be fair, a few States members have publically or privately donated that increase to charity this year)

The other significant wording to note is with the public sector pay freeze - note that this will apply to everyone "everyone apart from the million lowest paid workers". Now obviously the number of lowest paid workers in Jersey would be a considerably smaller number, but the States pay freeze applied to all workers, so that more of the lowest paid would probably have to apply to income support as they descended into the poverty threshold.

Why is it that a Conservative Government can get this so right, and Jersey cannot?


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A Liberal Conservative Dawn

It's not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It's the smallness of our politics. America's faced big problems before. But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions. And that's what we have to change first. We have to change our politics, and come together around our common interests and concerns as Americans. (Barak Obahma, Speech, 2007)

So now David Cameron is Prime Minister, it will be interesting to see what happens with the coalition. For the sake of the United Kingdom, I hope it works and they tackle common interests and concerns rather than scoring partisan points.

Reading Barak Obama's "Audacity to Hope" recently, I was struck by the distinction which he makes between those politicians who want to win arguments, and those who want to solve problems. Obama notes that often the paradigm for political confrontation is that of the law court, where winning arguments is more important, but that in politics, solving problems is far better.

"I wish the country had fewer lawyers and more engineers. Lawyers win arguments, engineers solve problems."

If the Liberals and Conservatives see this coalition as an opportunity for a broader range of views, so that they can combine their greater expertise to solve problems, rather than win arguments, then it has a good chance of success. Political parties are, after all, coalitions with a range of views, which is why people can speak, for example, of the "right wing" or "left wing" or "centre" of a political party. When it comes to voting in elections, the boundaries are clear cut - Liberal, Conservative, Labour - but when it comes to being in Government, I suspect the boundaries may be a good deal more fuzzy.

There is an economic battle to be fought and won to get the country on its feet. Perhaps a better model for looking at coalitions would not be the Lib/Lab pact, but the 1940s Wartime Government, which had Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, Lord Beaverbrook, Gwilym Lloyd-George, Ernest Bevin, Harold Macmillan, Antony Eden among its members.

It is notable also that Ernest Bevin (Labour) successfully achieved mobilization of Britain's workforce and became one of the most significant members of Churchill's war cabinet. Sometimes coalitions can bring to the fore effective people who would otherwise have languished on opposition benches.

Is an economic crisis facing Britain enough to make a cohesive coalition Government? It may not have the heady excitement in fighting a war, but it is perhaps time for politicians to set aside Party differences, and start to look at solving problems, rather than winning arguments. It is also a lesson which Jersey would also do well to reflect upon.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Hopeless Masterplan

I've just received this flyer, which I am posting on my blog. The Hopkins proposals mentioned are absurd. They count in bits of widely separated green spaces as all belonging, in some strange mystical way, to the "Town Park"; I'm really surprised they didn't include the green spaces at Springfield as well - that's close enough to the area to merit inclusion in their peculiar arithmetic.

For most of us, a park is a single unit, not separate entities distributed over St Helier, and even the oddest topological transformations in mathematics could not combine them. Only an architectural  firm could argue this bizarre case.

This should be nicknamed "The Hopeless Masterplan" rather than the "The Hopkins Masterplan". It's from the same people who gave us the proposed sunken road around the Waterfront - which would cost  1/2 million pound a year in maintenance. This Masterplan is self-funding, but it effectively turns a park into a communal housing area.

The Millennium Town Park Support Group (MTP) has campaigned for this much needed green space in the densely populated centre of St Helier for over 12 years. In September 2009 the States voted the funds needed to treat the contamination and create a full sized park.
The car parking on Gas Place will be replaced by a temporary car park at Ann Court and several other sites have been identified to cater for town residents and shoppers longer term needs. Hopper Busses, car sharing schemes and States policy to reduce car commuting will lessen the need parking spaces. This long awaited park now faces a threat from proposed plans to build blocks of four storey apartments on the site. We believe 50 or more private apartments are planned; we are seeking confirmation of the detail.
This proposed development would destroy the vision of an open, green park on the whole site, these private apartments would tower across the east end of Gas Place. The building of private apartments would severely limit the use of the park by town residents, restricting the opportunity to play, relax and exercise, and stop future expansion of the park to the East.
There are also difficulties inherent in building anything on this land. It is contaminated and marshy so any buildings will require extremely deep foundations. There would have to be yet more investigations and reports which will escalate costs and lead to even more delay to the delivery of your park.
The recent Hopkins report recommends building on the park to fund the North of St Helier Master plan and to "frame" the park. It offers to deliver a park 'at no cost' but puts no value on the obvious social and health benefits a full sized park would offer the community. This report has ignored the views of the thousands of people who asked for a park across the whole area and who will be sold short if development goes ahead. Trees to frame,. an open vista encompassing existing Jersey buildings that reflect our industrial heritage, a regeneration of adjacent properties and pedestrianised boundary side roads plus a sympathetic scheme from top class firm of landscape designers are what is needed to form a successful Public park. These architects seem driven to push St Helier into accepting their vision of a London Square on this space, enclosed by buildings, walls and railings.
Constable Crowcroft will be taking a proposal to the States to ask that work start. on clearing the contamination and finalising a design which could deliver your Town Park by the end of 2011, if they reject the plans to build housing on this Public Park. Action is needed to ensure that your views and those of the 16,000 plus people who signed the petition to the States are not ignored.


- write letters to the Jersey Evening Post.

- contact the local media, BBC Radio Jersey and Channel 103.

- post comments on JEP website:  and Channel TV

 - write to your States Member and States Members who started their political career in St Helier (Senators LeSueur, Ozouf, Le Main, Maclean and Routier). Are they prepared to disregard the very people who launched their political careers? Why are St Helier residents treated as 2nd class citizens? - contact States Members by phone or meet them to ask if they will be supporting Constable Crowcroft'sproposal which is due to be debated on May 11.

- listen to this important debate on BBC Radio Jersey - or in the States Chamber. The Constable's proposition asks for the States to agree to start work on the` Town Park without further delay.

If you are a member of Facebook you can join our page at "Millennium Town Park"

The`Town Park is more become a reality for you, your family and your children if you help to make it      happen. This is your park - please take action today as we suggest above.
Millennium Town Park Support Group