Wednesday, 30 June 2010

On the Spot Fines for Motorists Again

When I was reading  "The Norman Isles" by Basil C de Guerin (1948), I noted the following:

Of these latter the most important is the parish "Constable", or mayor, whose duty it is to issue licences to motorists resident within his domain. Under the local law these Constables and their junior officers known as "Centeniers", all of whom serve on an entirely voluntary basis, have power to stop any motorist or cyclist and to fine them on the spot up to a sum of 5/- for minor offences committed in the officer's parish.

and asked the question:

I wonder when that practice stopped, and why?

Thank to the extremely diligent Senator Ian Le Marquand (who has given his permission to share this), I can now note that it has not been rescinded in principle, but the level of the fine has increased proportionately.

The Centeniers retain substantial powers to fine at a parish hall level provided that the offender agrees that he is guilty and agrees to the level of fine. Those powers were recently increased to up to 200 pounds per offence.

Ian goes on to tell me how the procedure has changed, which means that it is less used for spot fines, although it could be used at a Parish level to reduce the demands on the Police Court:

However, what has changed is that a Centenier no longer deals with his own cases. In other words if a Centenier using a laser gun detects a speeder it will have to be another Centenier who deals with the matter at the Parish Hall. This principle therefore makes it more difficult to have on the spot fines given by Centeniers.

There are countries which allow police officers to ward and collect on the spot fines and they seem to ignore this principle.

He also mentions that there is also a long term review over whether States police officers should have the right to give fines, but this has difficulties with respect to human rights legislation.

I worked for some years on a group called the 1864 Group which was chaired by the Deputy Bailiff when he was the Attorney General. This group looked at the possibility of the development of on the spot fines by States police officers. We did not exclude it but it is not without difficulties particularly in relation to Human Rights issues.

It seems that moving back to the Centeniers dealing with it at a Parish Hall level may be the way to go. The really big question is whether the paperwork of Parish Hall Enquiries can be streamlined in some way.

A former Centenier told me that this seems increased workload seems to have come in after 1974 with the passing of the Police Law giving the States Police island wide jurisdiction, and the task of administration has gradually increased. He noted that up to recently (and probably still in place), the situation regarding paperwork and administration involved quite a lengthy chain of referrals:

In my time, before a formal Parish Hall Enquiry could be held, there had to be prima facie evidence of an offence and this had to be supported by a Police Report (completed either by an Honorary or States officer) using States Police forms. The report was sent to the Administrative Support Unit at States Police HQ and considered by them. They would then send back an Enquiry Results form containing a recommendation as to how the matter should be disposed of; it was in the discretion of a Centenier not to follow this recommendation but he would be expected to give cogent reasons as to why not.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Small Rivets in the Titanic Court Case

According to the Belfast Telegraph, construction of the Titanic Signature project "is a month ahead of schedule, with the landmark building on course to open in the first quarter of 2012."(1)

But Titanic Quarter, the property development, is finding the going harder.

"Mr Smith [chief executive of Titanic Quarter Ltd] said he is not concerned Titanic Quarter - a 1,000,000 square foot development - may find it hard to attract tenants in the current depressed property market, though the company is having to work hard to secure investments on the scale of Citi Bank's recently opened operation"(1)

The Titanic Quarter has a number of apartments whose price was agreed at the height of the property market, before the credit crunch took hold, and property values fell, and financing loans became more difficult as banks became less willing to lend money. Here the picture is not so rosy:

"People signed a contract and we believe that those contracts are watertight," he said. "We are working with people to get them to complete their contracts. We haven't sought to litigate against everyone who has delayed. (1)

This can be seen most clearly in what is a landmark test case reported by the BBC News on the 11 June 2010, in which the person has no money at all:

An order for a cash-strapped buyer to complete on an apartment in the Titanic Quarter in Belfast would be impossible to enforce, the High Court has heard. Lawyers for a jobless man being sued for failing to honour a purchase contract argued that their client was completely without cash. The defence is being put forward as a test case and may determine the wider action brought by Titanic Quarter Ltd. The company issued writs against 12 customers who failed to secure finance. (2)

The financial situation in Ireland shows little sign of getting much better in the foreseeable future:

Lacking stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1 percent last year and remains in recession...Joblessness in this country of 4.5 million is above 13 percent, and the ranks of the long-term unemployed - those out of work for a year or more - have more than doubled, to 5.3 percent (3)

It appears that Neil Rowe, at the centre of this court case, is one of those jobless:

Titanic Quarter Ltd, owned by Dublin-based Harcourt Properties, is seeking orders of "specific performance" which would compel the defendants to honour their side of the deal. Several defendants are fighting the action by claiming they simply have no money. The court heard one of them, Neil Rowe, is currently unemployed and has no other assets to enable him to complete on his agreed purchase. His barrister, Richard Coghlin, said: "The element of futility and impossibility is brought about by the circumstances of the defendant and also by the impossibility, we say, of enforceability of any order for specific performance." (2)

I can understand that Harcourt, having invested in property, and having contracts agreed on the apartments, does not want to be out of pocket. That seems fair enough, but their pursuit of their claim seems to verge not only upon what might be seen by some as vindictiveness, but in the case of Neil Rowe, of a kind of willful blindness to the circumstances of the unfortunate man. Surely as with a bank foreclosing on a property, and then selling it on, Harcourt can argue a good case to reclaim ownership of the apartment and sell in to another buyer? But perhaps, given the parlous state of the economy, there may be no buyers;  perhaps the property market is not buoyant enough for them to pursue this strategy:

Drained of cash after an American-style housing boom went bust, Ireland has had to borrow billions; its once ultralow debt could rise to 77 percent of G.D.P. this year.(5)

The signs of austerity are all around:

Signs of the decline encrust Dublin's streets. Boisterous crowds still mash onto the cobbles of Temple Bar. Yet farther out, "To Let" posters obscure the hollowed shells of once-vibrant cafes and clothing shops. Fifteen minutes north of the city center, hulks of empty buildings form stark symbols of why Ireland must now hunker down. At Elm Park, a soaring industrial and residential complex, 700 employees of the German insurer Allianz are the lone occupants of a space designed for thousands. In the impoverished Ballymun neighborhood, developers began razing slums to make way for new low-income housing. Halfway through the project, the financing dried up, leaving some residents to languish in graffiti-covered concrete skeletons. "Welcome to Hell," read one of the tamest messages. (5)

The sunken road (maintenance £500,000 per annum cost to the States) and the prestigious Hopkins Masterplan that Harcourt dreamed of building belong to an age of plenty, of booming business, and Jersey's prosperity, but the downturn of the economy makes me wonder if we could end up with something like that terrible picture of half-finished decay over here. Perhaps it is time to scale back ambitions, and look for something more modest. Otherwise, the States may have to pick up the pieces, at a time when they are trying to save money, rather than spend it.

Ireland is a mirror of what Jersey might look like if we don't pull back on grandiose schemes, and a warning that hubris inevitably leads to nemesis. The court cases in the Titanic Quarter are small rivets, coming unstuck, but if enough rivets fail, the ship may sink.

(3) utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CalculatedRisk+%28Calculated+Risk%29

Monday, 28 June 2010

What's in a Name?

I'm going to change my name
Why, what's wrong with your old one?
It's Bill Smells
Yes, I can see why you are going to change it. What is your new name going to be.
Charlie Smells

(Chestnut Corner, Band Waggon, BBC Radio 4, 1940s)

In Jersey, the Superintendent Registrar holds the registers of births, deaths and non-Anglican marriages registered by the Registrars of the twelve Parishes from 1842 to the current year, and records of Anglican marriages registered by the Rectors and Vicars from various dates up to the current year. The surname of the child had been that of the mother where the parents were not married, and there was no allowance for the father's surname to be taken instead.

Jersey finally caught up with the same rights enjoyed in the United Kingdom with the Marriage and Civil Status [Amendment No 2] [Jersey] Law 2008 which came into force in March 2009 and "enables parents , both married and unmarried, to choose any surname for their children when registering the birth of a child."(1). The law is retrospective, so where this was not permitted before, it can now be permitted.

However, the Registrar is still the final arbiter over Christian names, and it would be interesting to know if the same degree of latitude that the United Kingdom enjoys can apply over here.

The Radio 4 Programme, "The Name Game" explored the world of changing names, both first names and surnames. Last year over 50,000 people changed their names by deed polls. There are a variety of reasons.

Historically immigrants want to change their names, to sound more British, and to adopt a protective colouring when integrating with British culture. I know a Maurice Green, for example, whose family was originally Greenburg. This trend has probably diminished in a more multicultural society, but still goes on.

But there is also a drive towards rebranding, a kind of identity reinvention, to do with changing goals and self-image. Sometimes this can be to do with escaping the nonsense that your parents saddled you with, although this can be done otherwise - "Tiger Lily Heavenly Hirani" for example, manages by calling herself plain "Lily", "Zowie Bowie", the son of pop star David Bowie, was fortunate to have a first name of Duncan, and his father's real surname of Jones, so he now goes under the name of Duncan Jones.

But names can be changed temporarily to make political points. In October 2002 Labour MP Austin Mitchell "temporarily changed his name to Austin Haddock as haddock is a staple catch for his constituents that was suffering a decline and it was his wish to promote it."(2)

A more permanent name change was done by was Seán Dublin Bay Rockall Loftus:

In 1972 the Dublin Port and Docks Board proposed the building of an oil refinery in Dublin Bay. The plan was vigorously opposed by environmentalists, including Loftus, on the grounds that it posed a serious risk of pollution. At the 1973 general election, Loftus stood for election to the Dáil in the Dublin North Central constituency as a Christian Democrat on the issue of Dublin Bay. Under election rules, he would be listed as 'Independent', he changed his name by deed poll to "Seán D. Christian Democrat Dublin Bay Loftus" in order that his political affiliation and campaign issue would appear on the ballot paper.(3)

In the following years Loftus changed his name by deed poll several times more, to "Seán Dublin Bay Loftus", "Seán Dublin Bay Rockall Loftus" (as part of a campaign to press the Irish Government to make a territorial claim to the Rockall islet 424 kilometres off the coast of County Donegal) and "Seán Alderman Dublin Bay Rockall Loftus"....He continued to contest Dáil and European elections until 1997. He remained on Dublin City Council, and served as Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1995 to 1996.

As Lord Mayor, he would sign his documents "Seán Dublin Bay Rockall Loftus", so the name change has been included in official record.

Other surnames are changed because they are the cause of insults. If your surname is "Crap", for example, you may wish to change it. One family, interviewed for the programme, explained how they had changed their surname from "Gay" after it had blighted their son at school, where he was the target for bullies, and did not want to see his name on any awards or school certificates as a result. The family were happy with the idea of a name change; the wife said that " I think it was initially felt that my husband was more upset as he had experienced bullying at school and didn't want his son growing up with the same issues". Once the name was change, his confidence was restored massively overnight. And name changing can be quick - the husband changed his family surname online in little more than half an hour, plus fee, for the deed poll. Although as his wife said, while he boasted about how easy this was, it was she who had to write to the banks, the utility companies etc and sort out the real paperwork - "he doesn't accept that I spent six months time to really do it by writing to every company I came across!"

Sometimes the name change is practical. Someone divorced may revert to their maiden name. But among the more radical names changes (4) are:

A man named General Ninja Ant
Company director Janice Glover became Saxon Knight
Brown now answers to Aron Mufasa Columbo Fonserelli Ball In A Cup Boogie Woogie Brown
(representing his range of interests)

Happy Adjustable Spanners, 27, from Hornchurch, Essex, changed his name under the influence of alcohol, after a bet. Formerly Daniel Westfallen, he is now trying to get to grips with his new situation. For some, the motivation was a general yearning for a happier life.

Mike Barrett, chief executive of the UK Deed Poll Service, said that the rise was due in part to the increasing use of the agency's online service. The charge is only £33. The legal position is as follows:

- Changing one's name does not require legal proof. However, evidence of the change may be required, for instance when applying for a passport
- A public announcement such as a notice in a newspaper can be used as evidence that one's name has changed
- A letter from a responsible person, such as a GP, solicitor, minister, priest or MP will often be regarded as sufficient evidence, though not when applying for a passport
- Names can be changed by deed poll - a formal statement to prove the change. A number of private companies will supply a deed poll for a fee (4)

I liked the interview with Mrs British Battleaxe, who told the interviewer that "I am British, and I am a Battleaxe". The interviewer asked her what her friends called her - the reply was "bossy"!

Prof. Anthony Elliott of Flinders University in Adelaide was interviewed by BBC Radio 4 concerning his research on global identity transformations and his theory of 'new individualism', and he says it is a kind of rebranding of the self, and is one of the makeovers of personal reality like other crazes such as the rise of speed dating and therapy culture, and even plastic surgery. He said "I think something similar is going on with name changes today" that is what he calls "the reinvention craze"; here there is a "message that you can change yourself instantly", and "redesign yourself". But he wonders if it will really make the participants very happy for long. He suggested that it also goes hand-in-hand with the massive growth that we have seen in the last 20 or so years in people being interested in their own ancestry and doing their own family history; and he suggest that they "what they wanted to show uniqueness more homogeneity" in so doing.

The programme also mentioned something I was oblivious too and which is surprising. Surnames in Turkey were only adopted around 75 years ago, with the "Surname Law of the Republic of Turkey" (adopted on June 21, 1934.) This is astonishing, when in Britain, surnames emerged "in the 13th century when state bureaucracy got busy taxing and counting us increasing the need for surnames "

Few names are rejected by the authorities. Any name with Sir or Lord as a component is normally refused because it suggests a legal entitlement that does not exist. But the range of other names, as Mrs British Battleaxe demonstrates, suggests that changing names is one of the liberties of British people

Whether Jersey would permit such a libertarian attitude remains to be seen. I suspect that it may not.

There is one interesting local addendum on name changing, however. Before Jersey and Guernsey had a proper adoption law on their Statute books, adoption was an ad hoc process done by changing the surname (and often the Christian name) by Deed Poll, and by making the quasi-adoptive parents legal guardians of the child. A nasty consequence of this was that if the parents died intestate, there would be no legal right of inheritance. I imagine this could still effect some older people in either Island, although because an adoption law was introduced (The Adoption (Jersey) Law, 1961), the number of people so effected will someday soon be zero.

BBC Radio 4, The Name Game

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sea Change

Sea Change
It is the ending of days, last of sun and sand
The wind changes direction, a colder hand
Denoting a sea change coming, unsettled time
Weather not easily forecast, changing clime
Turbulent waves of the spring tide breaking
In their thunder, the language of the making
If we can but interpret it, but subtle are ways
By which we come to learn the book of days
In the rocks, above the tide mark, I can see
A spider's web, spun with design, of an end
In intricate mystery, a pattern to apprehend
Perhaps at best, a woven web of guesses
This way, and this alone, truth expresses
Above, the gulls soar in the wind, a dance
In the air, display of harmony and chance
And their cries rend the air, seeming call
To whatever destiny our path may befall
This is the sea of faith, the shingled beach
Always at hand, and always out of reach.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

What is a Well-Regarded Journalist?

A Whitehall Commonwealth Development Corporation holding a wine and canapés evening sparked a spectacular public relations disaster. Prodded by Private Eye with a mission to attend the event, e-mails were fobbed, and the Eye was told "you were not invited and you won't therefore be admitted"; the reason for this was given that "only well-regarded journalists" from "proper publications" would be admitted

It's interesting to see that Private Eye finds itself in the same deep gray "no man's land" which the bloggers in Jersey - who can be roughly grouped under the name citizen media - have also found themselves, when trying to attend critical meetings such as those held by scrutiny committees

The bloggers therefore find themselves in good company. From this, it seems very plain that part of the antipathy held by official groups is less to do with "accreditation" or being "well regarded" and more to do with the fact that, like Private eye, they cannot be counted upon to be submissive and servile.

In the event, Private Eye responded by holding its own review outside the event handing out a summary of the CDC's worst excesses to arriving guests. After the Eye team were sworn at by the Communications Officer, the guest speaker Bob Geldof agreed that the press censorship was "fokking outrageous" and after a complete climb-down Private Eye reporters were admitted.

Private Eye has never been part of the press lobby and demonstrates, as it bears repeating -- note to Rob Shipley -- that there is a place for an evidence-based but more vocal media outlet of local news. It is a lesson that should give heart to citizen media everywhere.

Private Eye, p5, No 1265

Neanderthals- Our Cousins

"In 1856, quarry workers in Germany found bones in a cave which seemed to belong to a bear or other large mammal. They were later identified as being from a previously unknown species of hominid similar to a human. The specimen was named Homo Neanderthalis after the valley in which the bones were found."(1)

"In Our Time", with Melvin Bragg, aided and assisted as ever by a team of experts - Simon Conway Morris (Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge), Chris Stringer (Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum and Visiting Professor at Royal Holloway, University of London) and Danielle Schreve (Reader in Physical Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London) - looked recently at Neanderthals, and the latest research on this species which was our close cousin.

Neanderthals lived from around 4,00,000 BC to around 40,000 BC, and dwelt mainly (but not entirely) in the North and East, where our ancestors, Homo Sapiens were still coming out of Africa. We think we have bad times ahead with global warming, but over this period there were relatively rapid and violent oscillations in climate between extremely tropical conditions over much of Europe, and Ice Ages. These are, of course, geologically rapid - about every 100,000 years, but that is fast in the scale of geological time, and the speakers suggested that it was this violent change which was one of the key evolutionary drivers of human evolution.

It seems that they migrated from Africa during an glacial period, when there were sufficient land bridges across the continents, while our own species was stopped as tidal levels rose during the interglacial periods, and our own migration was very much delayed, and some time shortly before 400,000 BC, we split from a common ancestor, possibly homo erectus.

Hence, they were not in any sense a so-called missing link; rather they were very evolved humans and shared most of the characteristics of a large brain but with a larger brow ridge, a larger nose (possibly evolved for breathing in colder climates), and were much shorter and stockier than modern humans, which is why early specimens were thought to have been deformed, whereas in fact they were very muscular. They were hunter / gatherers rather than farmers, and usually cave dwellers. They also had fair skin and red hair which helped in a cold climate because fair skin can metabolise vitamin D.(2)

As there is a considerable overlap in time and geography, from around at least 100,000 BC, I wonder if some of the traditions of dwarves, trolls, or goblins might not, in part, be derived from the tens of thousands of years when we shared some of the same hunting grounds, which has somehow become a distant race memory, surfacing in folklore and legends. Think of short stocky people, with high brow ridges, large noses, and large beards, and the image is there.

The spread of Neanderthals has been discovered to be far wider than was previously thought, from a small sample of Neanderthals from Europe in particular, they have turned up in the Middle East and even as far away as Uzbekistan. DNA testing has been useful here in validating bone samples, as mitochondrial DNA can be found even in some of these ancient bones, and doesn't degrade too much as long as it is away from conditions of high humidity.

Neanderthals had the same gene that is a pre-condition of language, and by the evidence that they worked in teams, often at close quarters, jabbing at their prey with spears, it is likely they used language to communicate and coordinate their hunts. This also is reflected in their care of the injured, who would have been cared for, rather than just being left to die. Being at such close quarters with their prey, there is considerable evidence of injuries in the story told by the bones; a lifespan of around 30-40 would have been "old age", and there is also some evidence that they matured faster than modern humans.

This would tie in with the suggestion of Steven Mithen that the characteristic that distinguishes modern humans from Neanderthals is an extended period of infancy and childhood, allowing for greater growth in intellectual abilities. It is known (c.f. Stephen Jay Gould), that this retention of infantile characteristics, known as neoteny, marks a major difference between humans and apes, and is reflected in an exceptionally greater life span than would be expected statistically, and might explain the difference in brain power when it came to the development of more sophisticated technologies.

Neanderthals knew their landscape intimately, where to find their prey, and how to kill it - it is clear that in Jersey, they stampeded woolly mammoths over the cliff top near La Cotte, and then salvaged the meat from the carcasses. Dr Ron Wilcox describes this as follows:

At La Cotte on the Channel island of Jersey, two piles of bone were discovered beneath a rock overhang. The animals represented include mammoth and rhino. They have been interpreted as the result of hunting drives across the granite headland so that small herds were forced over a cliff. (3)

He also describes the tools found at the site relating to this period:

Amongst the flint tools, hand axes are rare but very common are tools made from flakes struck from cores using the Levalloisian technique. This involves carefully shaping a nodule of flint so that one side is domed. At one end a striking platform is made by knocking off one end of the nodule to leave a flat surface. A blow on this striking platform knocks off a domed flake. The procedure can then be repeated as long as the nodule is big enough. What is left is shaped rather like a tortoise and so is known as a tortoise core. (3)

But their diet also included shellfish; traces of seaweed and shells at sites some distance from the sea suggest they used damp seaweed as a means of preserving shellfish.

Their technology was not that sophisticated, but they were tool makers - they could make flint and stone tools, use fire (they ate cooked food, and had a diet extremely rich in meat), and wore animal skins, but there are none of the evidence of stone needles that human settlements had around the same time, which were used to thread clothes from animal skins. The species were close enough genetically for interbreeding to take place, and there also seems to be some evidence of borrowing of ideas, as some human technology seems to be borrowed in the form of bone beading (from a necklace) which begin to be found among grave goods.

When humans and Neanderthals overlapped, the Neanderthals were already in decline, and probably already down to thousands, but it is unclear how they died out, if it was in part, in competition over the same species to hunt, or otherwise.

There is some evidence that Neanderthals practiced cannibalism, which may seem gruesome, but if so, it probably was like the tribes of New Guinea, where the Fore people had a ritualistic practice of eating the brains of the recently deceased. How widespread this was is still unclear, but I wonder if - as with the Fore people - it gave rise to Kuru; Kuru was a slowly progressive fatal disease of the brain due to an infectious agent transmitted among the Fore by ritual cannibalism, and rather like CJD, transmitted by prions; it began with trembling, and over a year or less progressed the death; as the younger members of the tribe ate the brains of their dead relatives, the disease became widespread. If something like this was the case, then the Neanderthals own ritual practices could have hastened their own demise.(4)

This was a fascinating programme, and as Neanderthals are amongst the oldest inhabitants of Jersey, it is something we should know about as part of our own heritage.

Further Reading on La Cotte de St Brelade:

Robert R. Marett (1866 - 1943) worked on the Paleolithic site of from 1910 - 1914, recovering some hominid teeth and other remains of habitation by Neanderthal man. He published "The Site, Fauna, and Industry of La Cotte de St. Brelade, Jersey" (Archaeologia LXVII, 1916).

The Cambridge University excavations of the 1960s and 1970s found important examples of remains of Pleistocene mammals carried into La Cotte, including a pile of bones and teeth of woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros. Princes Charles took part (as a student) in these excavations, directed by Professor C.M.B. McBurney, which were published as "La Cotte de St. Brelade 1961 - 1978: Excavations by C.B.M. McBurney." (Geo Books, Norwich).

Katharine Scott, in 1980, published an article on the hunting methods used by Neanderthals at La Cotte entitled "Two hunting episodes of Middle Paleolithic Age at La Cotte Saint-Brelade, Jersey (Channel Islands)" (World Archeology 12:137-152. ),

"In Our Time" has an extensive archive, and the programme is permanently available to listen to.
(2) In Our Time Newsletter, Melvin Bragg
(3) - good on hunting at La Cotte
(4) - on Kuru

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Penultimate Senatorial Election?

This Senatorial election may well be almost the last one. Next year, I think we may well see the final election for Senators.

The Senators for 2005 were:

Stuart Syvret (Independent) 15,131
Ben Shenton (Independent) 14,025
Freddie Cohen (Independent) 13,704
Terry Le Main (Independent) 12,159
Terry Le Sueur (Independent) 9,976
James Perchard (Independent) 8,998

Of these, it is highly likely that Le Main and Le Sueur will step down. Syvret was not re-elected, and that will leave three candidates to try again.

Why the landscape of elections has changed is to do with the proposition brought and accepted by John Le Fondré for a single day election. Previously, sitting Deputies have "thrown their hat in the ring" by trying for Senator, and the Senatorial elections have been a mix of old Deputies and completely new members, and sitting Senators. Where Deputies have failed, they have had the chance of standing again as Deputies, as of course have Senators (like Paul Le Clare) who have been ousted as Senators.

But a single day election removes that, and exposes a candidate to Island wide scrutiny, with no safety-net. Often Deputies have looked after their districts and their parish matters well, and this counts as much in Deputies elections as how they have voted on Island wide matters like GST or the Waterfront. A Deputy who looks after his district and his parishioners well stands a good chance of being re-elected, whereas a Senator is more dislocated from these matters, and their voting on States issues counts for more.

Consequently, what I predict will happen is that more Deputies will play safe, and not gamble a safe seat against a longer term. The result will be that independent outsiders will get more of a look in, and rather than moving from Deputy to Senator, I can see the change being reversed, as a less popular Senator seeks the safe harbour of a Deputies seat, where there are less voters to woo.

The other group at an advantage is a party, such as the JDA, because they can afford to field candidates on the Party mandate who have not yet been elected on the grounds that the general public know more or less what they are voting for. It may well be that an "establishment" party or loose coalition may form to counter that, or - and this is the more likely outcome - the Council of Ministers will try to remove the position of Senator, as it is mainly a place for newcomers and new party members, rather than sitting Deputies seeking promotion.

However, the last election, and the bi-election recently, shows that the JDA have yet to transfer their obvious popularity in the Urban parishes to the country ones.

But if we have less established candidates seeking the Senatorial position, we may well move towards a Deputy as Chief Minister, and the degree to which Parish and Island issues predominate in their district may well determine how long they can remain in the States, but to have a Chief Minister chosen from such a small subset of the population may well lead to unrest at the impotence of the average voter to make any changes. In Guernsey, the larger electoral districts, while clustering around Parish boundaries, do mean that their Chief Minister has more widespread support.

In Jersey, a relative safe country seat could lead to a Chief Minister who could be in office for years, and will surely lead to more voters wanting to know if their candidates will vote for the existing incumbent or an alternative. This could be mitigated, in part, by adopting the same provision as many countries, and allowing the Chief Minister only so many terms of office, which would be a worthwhile check and balance.

The other problem over Chief Ministers is that, as with Jim Callaghan, John Major and Gordon Brown, the incumbent - both the present and previous - have not had any election hanging over them; they have been in the middle of their terms as Senator. This means that the electorate has no indirect say over who is elected, because the candidate can avoid all interaction with election issues, and indeed could be extremely unpopular with the voters.

It is surely not a good state of affairs that both Senator Frank Walker and Senator Terry Le Sueur came in mid-term, and Senator Walker has left the States, and Senator Le Sueur will do so precisely when an Island wide Senatorial election would have given a vote of confidence or no confidence in their governance. One prospective candidate, Senator Ozouf, would also be mid-term, but as he is relatively young, he might wish to stay on and face the electorate in four years; alternatively, by seeking a safer Deputies seat, he might avoid any Island wide vote on his term of office.

This returns me to the start of this post, and the dangers inherent in the Le Fondré proposal, which may well extinguish the position of Senator by stealth, and sooner than we think. If too few Deputies come forward, it may well be argued that we should do away with that mandate.

Against this, a suggestion has been made those standing for election must come up with a deposit, as happens in the U.K., the idea being that it would stop frivolous candidates from running. But it would also disenfranchise those who are serious, perhaps taking early retirement around 60, who would want to contribute to Island politics, but are unable to do so because of the cost. We would be moving back to the bad old days when those who could stand needed a private income to enable them to do so.

What a large number of candidates does do is to provide pressure on the existing format of the Parish hustings, which is clearly inadequate to deal with those circumstances; the answer is surely to revise the format of the hustings, rather than try and reduce the number of candidates. Parish hustings belong to the old days when membership of the States was unpaid, and the population of most Parishes was not much larger than St Mary's. Perhaps a "West Show" style solution could work, where the candidates would be divided by two or three, and the Parishes in the West, East etc have a joint hustings for those candidates, giving a greater chance to ask questions in depth.

The other option mentioned recently is of Senators having to come from the ranks of those who have proven themselves as Deputies. This would screen out very able candidates like Ian Le Marquand and Francis Le Gresley, and is again an action against the outsider entering Jersey politics at the Senatorial level.

If Senators have to come from the pool of Deputies, from those confident enough not to mind if they are voted out (or arrogant enough to assume they won't be), will the public have sufficient choice? It might well be the case that much smaller numbers standing lead to greater apathy, because the public know and don't want to vote for most of those standing - yet by default, because of the smaller numbers, most of those sitting Senators will get in again and again. The essence of democracy is the ability to remove the ruler from power peacefully; if this cannot be done easily, the twins of apathy and revolutionary activism will rear their heads.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Tuesday Boy

You're giving me credit for being more of a mathematician than I really am. I'm strictly a journalist. I just write about what other people are doing in the field." (Martin Gardner)

Martin Gardner, who has died recently aged 95, was considerably too modest. With his mathematical puzzles and games, he entertained generations, and recreational mathematics was a bridge to drawing people into all kinds of deep mathematical theory, with fun rather than the pain so many people remember of their school experience of maths. And he was a man full of fun - the Telegraph reports how "he once wrote a devastating review of one of his own books and got it published under a pseudonym in the New York Review of Books".

The obituaries also mention that he was a sceptic, albeit a "philosophical theist", and published "The Annotated Alice", in which he delves behind the text to show Lewis Carroll's inspiration in puzzles, and spoofs of well know (but now almost forgotten) nursery songs and rhymes of the Victorian age. We learn how the Cheshire Cat got its grin, why the Mock Turtle wept, and who inspired the Walrus and the Carpenter, and the meanings that the curious words in Jabberwocky may have.

Yet it is not dry academic notes, but an inspiring annotation which enhances the original text. It was - and is - so popular that he also annotated Carroll's lesser known masterpiece of existential angst, "The Hunting of the Snark".

For someone with an antipathy to more organised religion, it was strange that he also found a kindred spirit in Chesterton, producing "The Annotated Innocence of Father Brown", and an introduction to "The Man Who Was Thursday".

You meet someone who tells you, "I have two children. One of them is a boy. What is the probability I have two boys?"

On hearing this for the first time many people think the answer must be 1/2. There are two children. One is a boy. So the other must be a boy or a girl with equal probability. But the mathematical trap lurking in the question is we are told there are two children, and one of them (but we don't know which) is a boy. It is like tossing two coins together, and then revealing one is heads. The possibilities are:

Boy Girl, Girl Boy, Boy Boy or Girl Girl

But we know one is a boy, which leaves just

Boy Girl, Girl Boy, Boy Boy

So the chance of Boy Boy being right, and a Boy being the unseen child, must be 1/3

Now there is a recreational mathematics symposium called "Gathering 4 Gardner", named in honour of Martin Gardner. In 2009, puzzle-maker Gary Foshee got on stage and proposed a problem that is like that, but even more tricky:

"I have two children. One is a boy born on a Tuesday. What is the probability I have two boys? Your first impression is: what does Tuesday have to do with it?" says Gary, "And you might think that it doesn't. But in fact Tuesday has everything to do with it. "

For the solution, and more beside, read the details on BBC Radio 4's "More or Less" website at:

Monday, 21 June 2010

Motivation and Mind Reading

The overall result was as follows: Francis Le Gresley (5,798 votes), Stuart Syvret (3,437), Patrick Ryan (3,212), Gerard Baudains (1,329), Deputy Geoff Southern (1,085), Nick Le Cornu (382), Gino Risoli (76), Philip Maguire (72) and Peter Remon-Whorrall (27). There were 113 spoilt papers.

Both in the main text of the JEP, and in one of the columnists - I believe it was Christine Herbert - mention was made of the 113 spoilt papers. The adjective placed before these, on each occasion, was "deliberately" as in "deliberately spoilt ballot papers".

Either the JEP is privy to confidential information, is breaching all kinds of election laws on the secrecy of the ballot box, or has a special mind reading device of the kind seen in Doctor Who. I cannot see any other way in which they knew that those ballot papers were spoilt "deliberately" rather than simply accidentally. It is the kind of sloppy assumption that some accredited journalists make - although I would say that this does not apply to the BBC who are far more careful in their use of language.

In the election for Chief Minister, all the States members present have to vote, and there is no provision for abstention, so the only way possible to register that you don't want the candidates is to spoil your paper. And yet on reporting of that, when the election for Chief Minister was between Frank Walker and Stuart Syvret, the few spoilt papers there were described in terms of members being unable to complete a ballot paper properly; in other words, in the one election where deliberate spoiling was much more likely, it was assumed again (sloppily) that a few States members were simply incompetent.

My son was voting for the third time since the two elections for Senators and Deputies back in 2008. In both of those, in our Parish, voting was for multiple candidates, and it would be a natural mistake for someone whose only experience had been those occasions to assume this election was on similar lines, especially as this was much lower profile, and he hadn't really been following the candidates much. Voting for two candidates would be a spoilt vote, as would anyone following the Stuart Syvret election posters, with their large tick instead of a cross. [Needless to say, he knew from my instructions that it was a cross against just one candidate].

Now I know that the signs are clear on the booths, but my experience of people reading manuals to tell them how anything operates - pcs, mobile phones, microwaves - is that 90% of the time, they assume they know what to do, and just do it - someone may show them how to do it, and then they don't bother with any written instructions; it is only when something goes wrong that they bother to do so. I think that accidents and incompetence could well add up to a number of the spoilt votes.

But incompetence, or accidents, are simply ruled out of the last election, where the JEP adds a subtle moral discourse by implying that there are some people out there who deliberately want to spoil their ballot papers, and all the ballot papers must reflect those nasty undemocratic people.

Yet most people - and I know quite a few - who didn't feel like voting for any candidate for a variety of reasons, simply took the easier option of not voting at all. If the JEP had said that 70-75% of the electorate deliberately decided not to vote at all, they may well have been nearer the mark. And that sounds pretty terrible, much more so than 113 people "deliberately" spoiling papers, and it is more accurate reporting. That is the real challenge for democracy.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The Dance of the Cosmos

The Dance of the Cosmos
(A meditation for Midsummer)

It is Midsummer, the longest day, and the sun is still bright in the sky. My feet are firm on solid ground.

We am standing on the earth, the earth spinning round at a thousand miles an hour. It feels solid, unchanging, unmoving. But it is not. Under out feet is not solid ground, but a lightening swift movement. Feel it, and sense the motion. The earth is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. This is the start of our dance around the sun, and who knows where it will end?

The time has come to journey forth, and reach into your minds eye, and come with me, come leave the earth, and rise, through the clouds, until we reach the emptiness of space.

Here is sunlight, raw and beautiful, the darkness of the void, and the solar wind, the particles dashing through space, and we drift outwards, beyond the planets, past the great eye of Jupiter, the rainbow rings of Saturn, and the cold gas giants at the edge of darkness.

We look back from the cold depths of the Oort Cloud, the fringes of the Solar System where the ice cold comets dash to and fro, cold specs of ice and rock.

And we look back, and see in the distance the planets, large gas giants, the smaller planets, and our own green earth, all moving along their ellipses, the motion of the planets in their own stately dance.

And we move further out, and the solar system itself is but one jewel in a sparkling diadem, a part of the great spiral dance of our galaxy, all in flux, all in motion, against the vast gravity well at its centre, straining against that black hole, and turning, a cosmic wheel.

And further out still, and now the galaxies themselves are small spirals, moving in their own dances, against the vastness of the night, the dark backdrop of the universe. A universe of shining beacons in space, all alone in the night.

The cosmos is a dance, and stars coalesce from cosmic dust, and are born in flame, burn so brightly, flare and die to red dwarfs in old age.

This is the dance, and we hear the tune playing, sometimes joyful or plaintiff, or light and small or sombre and booming, and the Lord of the Dance calls to the Universe, and a thousand civilisations, countless sentient beings, reach out to make those notes, and join the dance.

A billion stars, a billion suns, and around on a multitude of these swirl planets, turning, where alien faces celebrate their own seasons, their own midsummer days.

We are but shadows, fragments, each a microscopic spec against this vastness, and yet each mote of dust has its part to play, each moves within the dance; there is a place, and an order within all things, and we follow the rhythms of our universe, back through our galaxy, our sun, our world,, until we are back with feet upon the good soil; we see the branches dancing in the wind, and the passing of the seasons of the earth, and we rejoice that we are one part of this whole.

The universe is vast and awesome, but the molecules of our body are the same molecules that make up this planet, that burn inside the sun and stars themselves. And we are the children of the stars, star dust come alive, the universe made manifest.

And throughout the world, on this midsummer day, people are lighting bonfires, burning wheels cascade down hills, and there is drinking, rejoicing, singing, merriment - and we see that even the least of us is needed, however short our span , we have our part to play, and each note is needed for the song, else the cosmic dance would not be complete.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Drawing the Line

Watched a fascinating programme on BBC3 with Sir David Frost looking at the history of TV satire in the UK and in the USA. It was clips, interspersed by interviews with the satirists themselves.

One of the interesting sections towards the end was on boundaries, and how the satirists draw a boundary between what was acceptable, and what went beyond boundaries of good taste, decency, etc. A very similar conclusion was reached - that there are indeed boundaries, but it is up to the satirist to know what they are comfortable with. It can be a fine line.

I know when I write my "News from Nowhere" that what I present in terms of politicians are caricatures, which may be drawn not only from the politician, but how the public perceives them, anything other politicians have said in similar circumstances, and like the Spitting Image puppets, my characters are larger than life, and crudely drawn - but I hope also memorable and funny. If someone is a lawyer, such as the Attorney-General, then lawyers jokes (such as jokes about golf) are obviously good old chestnuts which can be pressed into use (as they used to in "Band Waggon" on Radio, for those readers with long memories!). I've never had a complaint yet; in fact, some politicians positively delight in their spoofed alter-ego's appearances.

I can quite happily portray a politician (as I did with one) as always having a pint in his hand, but that while that suggests he enjoys a good booze up frequently, I take care not to suggest in any way that he is drunk or alcoholic, as that would be crossing several lines - drinking a lot is funny, being drunk all the time is not.

Moreover, alcoholism is too serious an issue to be mocked, as is child abuse, rape, violence, accidents and injuries. Private Eye can sometimes skim by and just touch on those, but I couldn't do it properly, so I take great care to avoid those matters.

Death, however, on occasion, if not tragic, always has a tangential relationship with humour - as with Fawlty Towers "The Kipper and the Corpse", or the ever-present grim reaper in One Foot in the Grave, so here can be occasions when I think it is appropriate for comic effect, although the following caused a good deal of upset from a legal friend who said that "Lady Crill would not be amused" if she read it. I'd be intrigued to know if she would; I rather suspect that after years of living with Sir Peter she might see the funny side. I would add that another younger lawyer of my own age (who was not Nick Le Cornu, in case you are guessing) found it very funny, so perhaps it is a generational thing:

We probably won't have whisky on the healthy menu, which would have disappointed the late Victor Tombs, a short squat man with frog-like spectacles who once was in the running for Bailiff of Malaisey. He'd been blackballed at the Unity Club, and the then Bailiff, Sir Peter Pompous, decided that it would be a good idea to get rid of him as Deputy Bailiff. So he heaped lots of complicated court cases on him, and then complained to the English Government that Victor wasn't pulling his weight (not that there was much of it), and should be removed from office. It was one of those cases when we needed the English lot to intervene in Island affairs, but we don't like to mention that kind of thing in case people get the wrong idea, and think it can happen any time things go wrong.
Anyhow, Sir Peter was able to dismiss Victor Tombs, who stood for the States on a campaign to get Sir Peter Pompous out, and got into the States, and as we all do with our promises, forgot all about it and became pompous himself. At Victor's funeral, in consideration of that, they played the song "I did it my way", although "I drunk it my way" might have been more appropriate.
Luckily - or perhaps it was providence - that meant that when Sir Peter Pompous retired to write his memoirs - published after his death with the title "Posthumous Insults of a Pompous Man" - our current incumbent Sir Robespierre could step into the post.

Election Surprises

My first surprise of the evening was the almost absolute runaway success of Francis Le Gresley, being beaten only in one Parish, the home of Patrick Ryan who beat him by 12 votes in St John. I'll be interested to see if anything comes of his "progressive taxes" - he mentions capital gains tax in his manifesto, and I've always been of the opinion that the French model (where it is reduced to zero after x years) rather than the English one is the better way of justly curbing property speculators - who sometimes buy and sell new houses in a matter of months without even living in them - and so inflating prices of property.

I thought Patrick Ryan had the better policies, but didn't seem to get the public spotlight as much as Francis Le Gresley. By a stroke of good fortune Francis Le Gresley had also the Annual CAB report coming out shortly before the election got going - - and I don't think conspiracy - it is an "annual report" and due that time. It's just that random element called luck, as C.P. Snow used to say. It would be a shame if Patrick Ryan did not stand again, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of his manifesto ideas get "borrowed" by other States members.

The St Helier "surge" effect pushed Stuart Syvret into second place, after being behind Patrick Ryan in third place for most of the other Parishes. Yes this was not consistent - Stuart also came second in St Brelade, St Clement, St Peter and St Saviour. As Deputy Roy Le Hérissier pointed out, capturing about 1/5 of the vote, and coming a good second indicates a level of dissatisfaction with the Council of Ministers that they would be wise to acknowledge, otherwise, as he put it on BBC Radio last night, there might well be a "bloodbath" at the next election.

As a side issue, it was not such a good vote for green issues like global warming, as Francis Le Gresley is much more an "undecided" unlike both Stuart Syvret and Patrick Ryan who can see the scientific evidence is overwhelming.

I was also much surprised by the very good showing of Gerard Baudains, who I'd have placed after Geoff Southern, but evidently his appeal was broader. If he stands again, either for Senator in 18 months, or as Deputy, I think I'd rate his chances quite well. Evidently the Harcourt incident, where he was David to Frank Walker's Goliath, has not been forgotten. And yet, unlike Patrick Ryan, he didn't manage to top the poll in St Clements, although he did well there. And I was not the only one - one Assistant Minister suggested to me the order would be: 1. Francis Le Gresley 2. Stuart Syvret 3. Patrick Ryan 4. Geoff Southern. So I was not alone in underestimating the appeal of Mr Baudains; I think he'd should stand as a Deputy, especially after the manifesto promise volte-face of Deputy Anne Dupre over her GST exemptions promises.

Geoff Southern was another surprise, coming a poor third - after Stuart Syvret - in his strongest position in St Helier. As with the last Senatorials, outside his power-base in St Helier, the voters just don't go for Geoff. Even there, I would be worried about his poor showing - Patrick Ryan, after all, got top position in his home Parish. Whether he will do better next time with no Stuart Syvret remains to be seen, but the acrimony between the JDA (and Ted Vibert) and Stuart Syvret's supporters suggest they might look elsewhere. I think it would be prudent for him not to try again for Senator, especially with no second chances - the Senatorial and Deputies will be on the same day. I'd also be very interested in a breakdown of his election costs, with those large advertisements splashed across the JEP.

As for "Citizen" Nick Le Cornu, his positioning of himself as the left of Geoff Southern, and his "Tooting Popular Front" approach needs a rethink.

Philip Maguire, with his strange "guerrilla democracy" and bright waistcoats brought some colour to the proceedings, but it just wasn't clear what he was standing for.

Gino Risoli managed to beat two other candidates, and I fear that means we will see him valiantly striving for transparency in the next election. I suspect some people think invisibility might be a better option! Look for a letter heading to the JEP within the next 6 months.

And Peter Remon-Whorral polled 26 votes and his own, making 27, but someone had to come last, and his "stream of consciousness" approach to election issues made a refreshing change for the more calculated answers of the others, and I found it refreshingly different - he should have his own 5 minute "point of view" on BBC Radio Jersey, sharing whatever thoughts come and go during a week. I would genuinely enjoy listening to that rather than some politicians speeches.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Final election results

Francis Le Gresley 5798
Stuart Syvret 3437
Patrick Ryan 3212
Gerard Baudains 1329
Deputy Geoff Southern 1085
Nicholas Le Cornu 382
Gino Risoli 76
Philip Maguire 72
Peter Remon-Whorral 27

The Climate for Electoral Change

The JEP did not report on the questions about climate change (from Deputy Wimberley) at St Mary's hustings. Jersey Climate Action Network have surveyed the candidates for their views and did a press release but so far (Tuesday), the mainstream media have not covered it. I have permission from Nick Palmer to publish it here, and thanks to him, and J-CAN for conducting the survey, which is an excellent and informative piece of work.

Here is the survey with the candidates' answers

FLG=Francis le Gresley; GB=Gerard Baudains; GR=Gino Risoli; GS=Geoff Southern; NLC=Nick le Cornu; PM=Philip Maguire; PR=Patrick Ryan; PRW=Peter Remon-Whorrall; SS=Stuart Syvret

Where two or more answered the same, their initials are alphabetically placed

1. How convinced are you that global warming is happening?

Completely convinced: GR GS PRW SS
Mostly convinced: NLC PM PR
Not sure: FLG GB
Not at all convinced:
Don't know:

2. If global warming is happening, what do you think is causing it?

Caused mostly by human activities: GR GS NLC PR PRW SS

Caused mostly by natural changes in the environment: FLG GB PR PM

Don't know:

NB Patrick Ryan felt both were contributory but stated that human activity
is the only one we can influence

3. In recent months there have been high profile (the "Climategate") controversies suggesting that there are flaws in some of the work of some climate scientists. What do you think?

I am now less convinced of the risks of climate change: FLG

I am now more convinced of the risks of climate change: PRW

My view on the risk of climate change has not changed: GB GR GS NLC PM PR SS

4. Which comes closest to your own view on the scientific consensus on global warming?

Most climate scientists think global warming caused by humans is happening:

Most climate scientists think global warming caused by humans is not
happening: GB

There is a lot of disagreement among credible scientists on this issue: FLG

Don't know:

5. Would you say that, in general, the risks of climate change and its possible consequences have been presented proportionately, or do you think they have been understated, or do you think they have been exaggerated?

Proportionately: GR GS NLC PR

Understated: PM PRW SS

Exaggerated: FLG GB

6. How do you think Jersey as an island should tackle global warming?

Invest in renewable energy: GR GS NLC PM PR PRW SS

Improve public transport: FLG GR GS NLC PR PRW SS

Improve recycling facilities: FLG GB GR GS NLC PM PR PRW SS

Make buildings more energy efficient: FLG GR GS NLC PM PR PRW SS

Control the population: GB GR GS PRW SS

Don't know:

Any other suggestions?

GS: Reduction in use through behaviour change also good ie awareness raising

PM: Floating houses as per Holland

PR: Encourage the education of climate change to young people

PRW: Yes, a few, but not now

SS: Strive to set a global example. Localise as much economic and production
activities as possible - especially food production.

7. Priority or not?

Climate change issues are so fundamental to our future, they should be strongly weighted in all aspects of the political process, when planning strategy: GR GS PRW SS

Mitigating climate change locally should be a strong component of the Island's environmental strategy: FLG NLC PR PRW SS

As a developed, energy hungry, nation with a very large environmental footprint, Jersey has a much greater than average global responsibility to take action now: PRW SS

We shouldn't take action because disastrous consequences have not been proved beyond all reasonable doubt:

It's all conspiratorial propaganda designed to restrict us and bring in a world government: GB

Global warming will be good for most of the world so we should do nothing to stop it or encourage it:

Any other view?

GB: I am amazed,given the scientific evidence available, that there are those who still cling to the theory of anthropogenic global warming. Truly the modern-day flat-earth society!

GR: Making our politicians accountable. Taxpayers' spending must go online so that evidence can be used to change representation. The world will still be here after humans are extinct. We over rate our importance, yet we are at

GS: Jersey could be a model community in energy use

PM: Climate change will completely transform our Island and our lives. Short term effects are unclear but we should be seriously studying it

PR: In my manifesto I have put forward the idea to ringfence the funds generated by burning Guernsey's waste in our incinerator in order to kick start Jersey's environmental policies. Provide funding for investment in renewable energy etc.

PRW: Hope maybe to have some time to chat with you. I'd love to pick your brains!

SS: The changes we have to make - are going to happen. Period. It is far better for us to engage with those changes voluntarily - and as early as we can.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Election 2010 - Front Runners

Who will get in, and which order will they do it?

All I'm going to do is suggest whom I see as the front runners - whom I would place (in alphabetic order) - together with their strengths and weaknesses.

Francis Le Gresley - he has the advantage of being the "new kid on the block", but is also seen by some as an establishment candidate, perhaps a tad too willing to please the Council of Ministers. Also the part of his manifesto on taxes, balances its ideas (capital gains, higher taxes for incomes over £100k) with the phrase "we must look into the feasibility", which suggests a degree of uncertainty in his own mind. Because he has no baggage may do rather well, and he has worked - albeit as a paid manager - for a charity, which suggests social concern. [Although a lot of people I spoke to were under the impression that when he said "he worked for a charity", he was doing so in an honorary capacity, which is not the case.]

Patrick Ryan - definitely the "thinking businessman" yet with a broad appeal, and a wide ranging manifesto. His past record has both constructive financial elements - the strategic reserve was his brainchild - and some social commitment - voted for exemptions for GST on food. He also managed to get his scrutiny panels to bring in changes, not produce verbose and often filed away reports. Perhaps he has not come over as forcefully as he should - there's a lot of light under his bushel - but certainly should do well. He also has a carefully thought out manifesto over a number of key issues, and some interesting ideas on States reform. He even had an answer prepared when Daniel Wimberley asked a question about Green issues at St Mary!

Geoff Southern - the JDA candidate of "the left". Whether his endorsement by the Union will get members out to support him (although they weren't asked when their union decided to sponsor him) remains to be seen; past support from Union chiefs didn't translate into support from Union Indians. He has justified standing in a letter saying that "Senators carry more weight", which sounds like a statement about obesity. In practice, as everyone knows, Senators don't really carry more weight - they still have one vote - except in their title, which sounds grander, and that they are open to all Islanders to call upon (although there is no reason why Deputies can't help anyone where there is need.) Voting for Geoff Southern is voting for someone already in the States, and will lead to another bi-election, and I suspect most people will see this as pretty pointless.

Stuart Syvret - he will get support for bringing a number of issues to light - which he still does - read the latest entry about the appalling treatment of Carolyn Labey - but may well have alienated a lot of people by his hyperbole - he doesn't believe in politeness, and bandies insults left right and centre. Also his move into self-imposed exile, which he says was necessary to avoid Data Protection problems locally while publishing abroad, has not had the explanation taken on board by lots of his former supporters. They tell me "he's lost it". So it will be interesting to see if blog and hustings performances can turn into votes, especially as the JEP certainly is gunning for him to lose (the recent editorial makes Rob Shipley's comments on balance look particularly suspect!). But fighting the election more or less on one issue may be detrimental.

An Evil Agenda?

Gerard Baudains's website functions very much as a blog, albeit without comments. It is a collection of pieces, some relating to the election, and some quite obviously his own bête noire, such as, for example, global warming, which he regards as a hoax. He writes:

'Useful idiots' support the global warming hoax. I guess there are 3 categories supporting global warming:
1.     the public who have received the propaganda from the media & haven't done their own research, therefore believing the nonsense,
2.     the 'useful idiots' who go further by preaching this bullshit to their fellow men without realising they are being used by others with an evil agenda,
3.     those who use 'global warming' as a tool for their evil agenda.(1)
The "evil agenda", of course, is in the name of global warming, to do away with democracy under the pretext of dealing with the problem. One wonders - after looking at Copenhagen - why these conspirators are so ineffective. No doubt Mr Baudains would argue that it is due to the efforts of those who are vigilant like himself.

Like many of the global warming sceptics, and indeed like creationists, Mr Baudains tells the reader that they must deal with "the facts", and then purveys a selection of those facts which support his own case. The more rarefied schemes of geoengineering are taken seriously to be laughed at and dismissed, and at the same time, this is used to dismiss anything to do with greenhouse gases or carbon footprints. Likewise, the thawing of the ice caps and mountain tops is dismissed on the basis of a few bad winters, which shows how little Mr Baudains actually understands of climatology.

Similarly, the near drought conditions that Jersey faced recently are dismissed scathingly about the Jersey Waterworks Company - "Weren't they aware we had TWO INCHES of rain last weekend? Apparently not.". But if Mr Baudains had gone out to the reservoirs, he might have noted their level, which is surely a better indication than a few days of rain. After a very dry spell, it takes time for the water table to become saturated, and a good deal of his two inches may not reach the reservoir as it seems away from streams on the way.

And yet, amidst the dross, there is some very serious and important stuff. For example:

Now the JEP reports that our water company (Jersey New Waterworks Company as was) wish to raise the dam at Val de La Mare....Oh, and have they forgotten Val de La Mare dam has problems? Concrete degradation & sits on a dodgy base. And they want to substantially increase its loading. Glad I don't live near there. 

Now that, if true, is certainly something that bears investigation, but it is lost amidst the middle of a diatribe about water supplies and global warming. 

On evidential matters closer to home, I understand Mr Baudains is a dowser. Now I think there may well be reasons why dowsing works in some cases, but I'm not convinced by dowsers own explanations. But all the evidence - from scientific controlled tests - shows that dowsing simply does not work. The interesting fact is that the dowsers themselves usually agree to the tests, and are confident that they can perform, and then they don't. Here is are the results of one such test, as done by James Randi:

All of the dowsers agreed with the conditions of the test and stated that they felt able to perform the test that day and that the water flow was sufficient. Before the test they were asked how sure they were that they would succeed. All said either "99 percent" or "100 percent" certain. They were asked what they would conclude if the water flow was 90 degrees from what they thought it was and all said that it was impossible. After the test they were asked how confident they were that they had passed the test. Three answered "100 percent" and one answered that he had not completed the test. When all of the tests were over and the location of the pipes was revealed, none of the dowsers had passed the test.(2)

A survey of the literature (3) does not provide a great deal more success, and when the States conducted tests to see if there was any water coming from France, this was negative despite the dowsers convictions:

The report concluded on the basis of the investigations undertaken that there is no significant difference between the water in the shallow aquifer and the deep groundwater beneath the Island.  There is no evidence of underground streams from the European mainland.  Thus Jersey's groundwater is recharged entirely by the rainfall that falls on the Island.  Based on the present evidence, there is no separate major deep groundwater resource that is capable of significant future development to contribute to the water needs of the Island.  On the basis of the signed agreement of the D.G.A.G. members, the findings of the investigations represent the definitive test. (4)

With his strong and forceful agenda against global warming, it is perhaps wise that Mr Baudains does not mention dowsing on his site, as the scientific evidence for that would raise the question about why he can be so sceptical about an idea for which there is certainly some scientific evidence, and so credulous about an idea for which there is virtually none.

There can be no doubt that he has done some good work in raising matters in the States assembly, unlike his successor, Deputy Anne Dupre, who almost instantly reneged on her campaign manifesto regarding exemptions on GST. He is one of those mavericks who ask awkward questions, and if he was elected, it would not be a bad thing; he would not be one of those "yes men" (or "yes women" politicians, if we count Deputy Dupre), who appear to be part of the "block vote" that the Council of Ministers can rely upon. One global warming sceptic would be no bad thing in the House.


Monday, 14 June 2010

Union Democracy or Barony?

Geoff Southern had a large advertisement in the JEP recently, sponsored by the UNITE union.
People have wondered if the Unite members were balloted over their funding for this advertisement, and if not, why not?

In fact, I have done a bit of checking up, and I can confirm from speaking to several Union members that they certainly knew nothing about it.

I would also just comment that if they did not ballot members, that is not Geoff's fault. If they came to him, and said "we can sponsor you" - it is their decision, their responsibility, and not his; it would be unfair to blame him for how the union may behave in using funds without asking their membership.

Perhaps he should have asked if the membership were behind that, but they may not need to consult the membership on matters like that, and who would look a gift horse in the mouth?

In England, laws were introduced in the 1980s to ensure that the Unions behaved in a more democratic manner, and the Union leaders could not so easily behave like Barons as if the Unions were their own personal fiefdoms. This does not appear to be the case in Jersey. Perhaps, in the interests of democracy, and accountability, the JDA could look into this - maybe a job for Deputy Southern?

Election Costs - Beware the Semi-Attached Figure

How Does He Know?

This is perhaps the most important question you can ask in my opinion. Often all that is required to dispel the superficially-convincing fog that accompanies some statistic or factoid is to ask How did they find out? What would actually be involved in gathering that information? (Darrell Huff, How to Lie with Statistics)

The election (according to the media) is costing £30,000, but where does that figure come from? I am extremely suspicious (as mathematicians tend to be) of any figure plucked out of a hat, especially when (a) it is so exact a round figure (b) there is no breakdown given anywhere that I can find (or sources given by the JEP, like "according to...").
Obviously candidates costs are their own affair; and the constable (chairing the hustings) is not paid extra (above their States salary). However, when figures are run in the national papers for election costs, the costs are mainly those of the political parties, and the candidates election expenses. Because it is not clear where the £30,000 figure comes from, we don't know if candidates election costs have been factored in.

- Clearly there must be some associated costs - overtime for parish staff? heat and light costs at hustings perhaps? Election day costs?
- Costs of some parish staff on election day (but that is a working day, and most the day they'd be paid anyway, or does the Parish ask the States to settle the bill for their wages)? In fact, where there are hustings, does the cost fall on ratepayers? 
- Are the scrutineers paid? How much? (Is this value for money?)
- How much does the paper for election forms cost? Pencils for same? Putting up / taking down booths? Is it ever put out to tender? (In this age of frugality and cost cutting, why not?)
Call me a pernickety old mathematician, I think it would be good to have a breakdown of these kind of expenses before this £30,000 gets bandied about as if it is accurate. At the moment we have a Paul Daniels figure, plucked like magic, out of a hat. Without any breakdown, it could well be just a good illusion.

Teignbridge District Council is quite helpful, because they provide a breakdown of the main cost areas which have to come from the public purse for the election of district and parish counsellors.(1). This form has to be completed so that the associated costs of elections can be made.

- For the hire of each room for the purpose of an election, other than a room which the Returning Officer is entitled to use free of charge, inclusive of heating, lighting and cleaning, each whole day.
- For the heating, lighting and cleaning in case of a room, the use of which the Returning Officer is entitled to use free of charge.
- For adapting and fitting-up of any building or room for the purpose of an election (including the provision of voting compartments and any necessary furniture) and restoring it to fit condition for its normal use.
- For the provision and repair of voting compartments, ballot boxes and stamping instruments.
- For general stationery, postage, telegrams, telephone calls, bank charges and miscellaneous expenses.
- For the conveyance of ballot boxes and ballot papers in those cases where the cost of transport is not included  in the travelling expenses of Presiding Officers
- For printing and providing ballot papers
- For printing and providing official poll cards.
- For printing and providing notices and other documents required and costs of publishing the same.
- Returning Officer's fee for conducting the election and generally performing all the duties which a Returning
Officer is required to perform under any enactments relating to the elections.
- Poll Clerks - remuneration
- Counting Supervisor (i.e. Deputy Returning Officer Limited Powers - count only)
- Counting Assistants
- For services in connection with the despatch and receipt of the ballot papers of persons entitled to vote by post
So to have any idea of costs, we'd need some breakdown of anything along these lines. But there is no evidence that anything like this has been done, yet if Teignbridge can do this - population 125,500 - rather more than Jersey - why can't we? Teignbridge also has district and parish elections, so it is not dissimilar. But they seem to have far more transparency over costing of elections, it has to provide a breakdown to satisfy its auditors. Are the States and Parish auditors doing a good enough job here, because I can't find anything similar?

If you have any information to shed light on this fog, I'd be pleased to know. In the meantime, treat any large round figures with suspicion.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Moon on Water

Moon on Water

The tide ripples in the moonlight
The wind is whistling in the tree
The firmament, so starry bright
The curving bay, so clear to sight
Light and dark, in shaded beauty
The tide ripples in the moonlight
The gravelled path calls to alight
To walk beneath the oaken lea
The firmament, so starry bright
Ghostly gravestones can afright
Cause unwary travellers to flee
The tide ripples in the moonlight
The tide is rising, in its might
In its deep waters, reflected see
The firmament, so starry bright
Foam flecked, the sea is white
A sacred place this now for me
The tide ripples in the moonlight
The firmament, so starry bright

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Then and Now!

"What more I also want to see the housing committee privatised, so that we are not a burden on public expenditure and capital expenditure" Terry Le Main, Election Campaign 2005.

Deputy Power says that in the 18 months remaining until the end of his term as minister he plans to give the Housing department financial independence. (Election to Housing Minister Speech, June 2010)

What's in a name?

What is my view of the Senatorial election candidates? As readers of this blog might expect, I have a sometimes quirky approach to these matters, and I'm proposing instead, to say "And now for something completely different".

I'm look at something distinctive about the candidates, probably of little value in assessing voting merit (although there have been some remarkably snide remarks about Irishmen on Stuart Syvret's blog), but certainly of educational value. What do their surnames mean? Where are they derived from?

Balleine writes about the origin of Jersey surnames in a 1940 article:

Surnames began to appear in the Eleventh Century. Till then everyone had been content with the one name given him at the font. But, when a dozen Jeans lived on the same fief, something had to be done to distinguish one from the other. So gradually and quite haphazard the custom arose of adding a second name to the Christian name. There was no plan or system about it. A surname at first was merely a nickname given a man by his neighbours. It was at least three hundred years before the process was complete. But by the end of the Fourteenth Century most people in France and England had a surname as well as a font name. These surnames fall into five easily distinguishable groups.(1)

What were these groups?

1) Christian names - names which became surnames, but which started life as first or "font" names. These have mutated, and are also French in form, so difficult to spot, not as easily as, for example, Elton John. Other examples - Peters, James, Simon.

2) Names from Occupations - an English example would be Archer, Carter, Barker, Baker, Thatcher or Smith.

3) Descriptive Names - These are nicknames about appearance or habits - Brown, Black, White, Longfellow, Proudfoot, Little, Large. A Jersey example might be "Le Gros"!

4) Geographical Names - These are names about the locality people come from Orange, Scott, London. Guernsey has some "De Jerseys", both Islands have "Langlois" meaning L'Anglais, the English.

5) Address Names - Rivers, Hill, Willows, Bush, Bridges. These are places people lived by within a locality such as a town or village.

And here are the candidates surnames, and their derivations:


A Jersey name: First mentioned in the Assize Roll of 1309, the derivation is probably from a parent's Christian name in the form "Baudain". Surnames Baudains, Baudain and Baldwin share the same root - Stanley Baldwin was, of course, Prime Minister in the inter-war years in the UK. In Jersey, the French form is retained. It was a name given to scores of mediaeval babies. Charlemagne had a nephew Baudain. Baudain de Beauvais, Baudain Chaudron., and Baudain du Bourg were heroes of the First Crusade.(1)


A Jersey name: Also mentioned first in the Assize Roll of 1309. It derives from the pre 12th Old French 'Cornier' a word which describes a trumpeter or herald, and a position of considerable importance. The equivalent English surname is Corner, which dates back to the Norman invasion of 1066.(2)


A Jersey name: This is a descriptive name meaning slim. But be warned - Balleine notes that "some names which sound complimentary, Le Gresley, for example, which meant slim, from the Latin gracilis, and Beloeil, beautiful-eyed, may have been given by rustic humorists to men who were conspicuously the opposite."(1)


Recorded in several spellings including Maguire, MacGuire, McGuire, and even Macquire, this is a famous Irish surname. It derives from the pre 10th century Gaelic "MagUidhir". The prefix "Mac" written as "mag" before a vowel means "son of", with the personal byname "Uidhir", the genitive of "odhar", dun-coloured.(2) Maybe that's why he wears such distinctive waist-coats!


This is an Italian "cereal" surname, referring to a producer-dealer of rice, or a "spot name", to do with someone who lived in an area where rice was grown or sold at market. Risi is another variant.(3)


This fine Irish surname, chiefly recorded in the Munster counties of Tipperary and Limerick, is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O'Maoilriain", descendant of Maolriain, a male given name, the first element of which has two possible interpretations. Firstly, "maol" may derive from the pagan Irish "mal", chief, related to the Welsh "mail", hero, and secondly, it may stem from "maol", literally meaning "bald, tonsured, but probably used here in the transferred sense of "devotee". The second element "rian" is so ancient that its meaning is obscure, however, it is believed to come from "rian", an Old Irish word for "water", thus connecting the name with the cult of a water deity; hence, "heroes of Rian", or, "worshippers of Rian". (2)


This unusual name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a topographical or regional surname derived from the Old English pre 7th Century "sutherne", southern, "the man from the south". The surname has two possible interpretations; firstly, it may be a purely topographic name for someone who lived to the south of a village or settlement. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Secondly, Southern(s) may be a regional surname describing "a southern man", one who had migrated from "the south".

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey le Sutherne, which was dated 1243, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Staffordshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. (2)


A Jersey name: Syvret is another Christian name that became a surname. It is either a French form of Selfrid (Two Selfrids, Bishops of Chichester, are called Sifroi by the Norman Chroniclers) or of the Latin Severiacus. (1)

It is a development from the pre 7th century personal name 'Sige-raed'. Meaning "Victory-counsel" it is composed of the elements "sige" meaning victory, and "roed", counsel. Whether this may have originally described a sort of army staff officer, one who gave wise counsel in the event of war, is unclear. What is clear is that the surname is one of the earliest on record and that in the modern idiom, the spelling forms include Sirette, Sired, Syred, Syrad, Syratt, Syvrett and possibly others.(2)


A Jersey name, in part. Remon is a Christian name that became a surname, from the French Raymond, or the Teutonic Ragenmund. Mentioned in the Extente Of 1331. "Raginmund" (perhaps the earliest form) is a compound of the elements "ragin", counsel, and "mund", protection.(1)

Whorral is English, and is recorded in the spellings of Worral, Worrall, Worrell, Worrill, Whorall, Wyrall and Wyrill, is of English origin. It is a locational name either from the district of Wirral in Cheshire, or from the village of Worrall near Sheffield in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The former place, recorded variously as "Wirhealum" and "Wirheale" in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle dated 894, and as "Wirhale", circa 1100, in the Cartulary of the Abbey of St. Werburgh, Chester, is so called from the Old English pre 7th Century "wir", meaning a bog, and "halh", meaning a corner or "a piece of flat alluvial land by the side of a river".(2)

(1) G.R. Balleine, Societe Jersaise Bulletin, 1940
available as a booklet at
(3) "Our Italian surnames" by Joseph Guerin Fucilla