Thursday, 12 August 2010

A Crisis in the JDA?

I've just been reading the following:

As hinted at recently, the main author of this blog left the JDA today, and I am taking the blog with me. So, I have contrived something else to fit the initials JDACMB and renamed it. Without the JDA link, we can accept copy from anybody, if it is suitable

Jersey Discussion, Argument, Comment and Message Blog

David Rotherham

I was not totally surprised that David Rotherham has left the JDA, as he has been extremely critical of Deputy Geoff Southern's decision to stand as Senator in the recent by-election, with some pretty solid arguments on why it was unwise. A new blog has been created for the JDA at:

As the old blog contains about 60% of material from David Rotherham and about 30% from Trevor Pitman, I would be extremely interested to note if Trevor will now appear on the new blog or the old, and if the new JDA blog will remain largely moribund. The section on the JDA's own website ( ) under the link on "news" does not inspire confidence. The latest news appears to come from the appointment of patrons in May 2009, along with the heading " a new council" which has the same date. One wonders who bothers to keep the blog up to date and how long David Rotherham will remain on the biographies. For the time being, if you want a picture to his face, you can see it here, along with this comment about his age:

Bad things can happen to people who let their date of birth appear on the internet," David continues with a smile, "so to date me: let's just say the oldest local news I can remember is the Caesarea being the brand new mail boat!"

The Caesarea, as those of us with as those of us with long memories can recall was the male boat which replaced the Isle of Sark with her maiden voyage on 18 November 1960 - sorry, David, couldn't resist showing off! Those were the days when there really was a mail boat departing in the morning, often with newly weds!

On perusing the JDA website further - the "hot topics" section on the JDA website mentions the recent by-election, which suggests that the Webmaster is updating on a very ad hoc fashion.

What I have been trying to discover from the JDA website and elsewhere is the democratic process by which Geoff Southern gained the approval of the JDA membership before standing as Senator. Was this checked with all party members? Was it the result of a vote by activists alone? Or was the decision taken by a majority of the JDA council members? Or did Mr Southern decide unilaterally, or perhaps after conferring with Ted Vibert?

From the comments on David's blog, it seems to have been "more or less unilateral", with Geoff persuading all of the Council, except the North Coast dwellers, to endorse him. It doesn't look as if the membership got much of a look in. So much for democracy!

The support of the union Unite for Geoff does not inspire confidence in this respect. I have no problems whatsoever with the union deciding to sponsor an individual or a party. After all, we now know that a local businessman effectively sponsored Senator Le Main's publicity - and as long as it is stated, as that was, in the register of members interests, I have no problems with that. Sponsorship is transparent and we are a long way from the days in the 1980s when Cyril Le Marquand could spend thousands on election materials with no questions asked; in hindsight, that was not a good practice and would not happen today.

But my particular gripe is that the union Unite did not ballot its membership before deciding to use their union membership fees to sponsor Mr Southern. I have 100% verifiable evidence of that. And that leads me to question how many JDA members took part in the decision of Mr Southern to stand as Senator, and whether there was an open discussion on that decision.

It is perhaps unsurprising that Mr Rotherham has left the JDA as he was certainly and justifiably critical of that decision, and of the judgement by the JDA and Mr Southern that the catastrophic failure at the polls had done no damage to the JDA. It seems that degree of criticism was not tolerated.

Any political party, even large ones in the UK such as Labour and the Conservatives are to some degree internally a coalition of differing perspectives. That is why even Mrs Thatcher had so-called "wets" in what was arguably a very right-wing cabinet. Tony Blair with a centrist Labour position made sure that John Prescott was included.

It is when a party cannot accommodate and tolerate a degree of diversity that it fragments and loses membership. From an outside point of view, it is too early to judge whether this is happening with the JDA but the signs are not promising. If this party, which is still relatively young, is to survive, it must learn from other jurisdictions and consider its own internal workings to decide precisely how it should function as a group. The Liberals are learning this fast, as they have to accommodate their own critics from within, and work to govern for coalition policies.

In the meantime, readers can still enjoy David Rotherham's excellent and intelligence discussion, arguments, and comments on Jersey society and politics, which he may be able to express more freely as he has been doing rather than curtailing what he thinks to suit a party line. It is a shame he had to leave the JDA and perhaps they may learn lessons from this on how to involve and listen to all the membership.

1 comment:

David Rotherham said...

Thank you for the kind words, Tony. In fairness, although the by-election put thoughts of resignation into my mind, I was not pressured to leave, at all.
I simply felt unable to support a major new policy initiative that certain people launched on the party's behalf, and found my continued membership untenable. There will be a brief statement at the weekend, then the dirty linen will be binned.