Monday, 2 August 2010

The Senatorial Election of 1948 – Part 1

The death of Lord Portsea on 1 November 1948 can be seen as a portent of the changes that were about to take place in Jersey Society that month.

This was the month in which the first Senatorial elections would take place. Up to this point the Jurats had stood in the States as well as taking part in Judicial proceedings in the Courts. But from this point on, the new Senatorial positions opened up the mandate to the whole island. Unlike subsequent Senatorial elections, there would be 12 senators all elected on the same night. The candidates occupying the first four places would serve a term of nine years. The next four would serve six years and the final four would face the electors in three years time.

Lord Portsea, whose death was reported in the JEP, was formerly Sir Bertram Godfrey Falle. He was the son of the late Jurat Joshe George Falle. His father as a Jurat would have automatically had place in the States of Jersey. This had now been swept away in the reorganisation of the States which was about to come to fruition in this election.

In 1948 the JEP took a decidedly political stance in suggesting candidates the general public should vote for. The leader article said "we propose to place before our readers the names of the 12 men who in our opinion are best fitted to the Senatorial office". This was from the 18 candidates who were standing. But who were the 12 which the Jersey Evening Post were recommending? It is interesting to note that six of those 12 were already Jurats and therefore making the move to retain their positions in the States. Four of the others were deputies. And only two were not members of the States.

The JEP was very clear on its position on this. It is instructive to note the degree to which it demonstrated its own particular bias quite explicitly in a manner which simply would not be considered tolerable nowadays. Neither would be distinctly patronising tone with which the editor regales his readers in this extract!

"A newspaper, if it is to fulfil its true functions, should not exist merely as a sheet conveying news but seeks through its editorial columns, to expose abuses, advocate worthy causes, offer fair criticism of public affairs, and seek to help its readers to form an intelligent opinion and make a balanced and accurate judgements. A newspaper is very often in a better position to judge how valuable is the work done behind the scenes, in the committee rooms, than other members of the general public, many of whom are too often quite unaware of how effective or ineffective, is this or that particular representative. Therefore, armed with the knowledge gained from close contact with public men and public affairs, and equipped with many years of experience we made our choice and offer it as a guide to the electors."

I will return in my next posting to the candidates suggested by the JEP. In the meantime, it is also interesting to note other events which were occurring in the island at the same time.

There had been a spate of car thefts and the police Court Magistrate, Judge Dorey, decided to make an object lesson by sentencing a young car borrower to 15 days imprisonment "with hard labour".

"The accused has made a stupid attempt to be a plausible young liar and considering that he was in the witness box on oath it is disgraceful to expect the sympathy of the court," said the Judge pronouncing sentence.

The JEP notes that "most of the persons responsible are selfish young hoodlums, who care not one jot to the worry inconvenienced because the owner to often cause considerable damage to the car before leaving it in some out of the way spot. A prison sentence is the only punishment likely to deter such potential young thieves as they are."

It is not clear whether the Court policy of 1948 had much effect. Certainly car theft is still an occurrence in the Island, although as more people lock cars, and do not leave keys in them, it does not occur as often as it once did. I remember in the 1970s and 1980s there were still quite a few cases of cars being "borrowed". It is perhaps lack of easy opportunities today with better security measures rather than severity of sentences that helps keep the statistics down. Back in 1948, many people were inclined to leave cars unlocked, often with keys in the ignition.

But in 1948, car thefts were certainly prevalent. The same edition of the paper on November 2, 1948 noted that "a Humber saloon car belonging to A Pitcher, the well-known transport firm of Kensington place was missed from the garage this morning and up to a late hour this afternoon had not been found."

We still have car thefts today, but what is not so usual is robberies of petrol. In 1948, two robberies of petrol took place during the night of November 1 in the same Parish – St Lawrence. The theft of 80 gallons was stolen from Grande Route Garage and police suspected that the same person or persons had also stolen another 100 gallons of petrol that same night within the Parish. What is unusual about the other theft is that it was stolen from a shed near the residence of Mr W.P. Sarre, near his house in Clifton, St Lawrence – the said shed being was kept secure by means of a simple padlock which had been easily broken. Does anyone - even farmers - today keep so much petrol available in sheds under such poor security?

But Jersey was not the only place for crime. It also struck abroad when the Attorney-General Mr C.S. Harrison and Mrs Harrison had a diamond and ruby broach, a diamond and emerald ring and a small quantity of cigarettes stolen from the Grand Hotel Torquay where thieves broke into their room and ransacked their suitcases. Crime knows no borders.

Other news was a note in the JEP that thick fog caused a severe delay to all the air services. Some things never change, even with better technology.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Other news was a note in the JEP that thick fog caused a severe delay to all the air services. Some things never change, even with better technology."

I think that you also can count the JEP as one of those things that never change!