Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Senatorial Election of 1948 – Part 3

In 1948, when 12 senators were elected in one election -- the first Senatorial election -- the rounds of parish meetings which preceded the voting differed from modern elections in not having all the candidates present or speaking at each parish. Of the 18 candidates, it appears that only 11 or 12 spoke at the meetings. It is not clear why this was the case. As the Senatorial elections were a novelty, it is possible that some of the candidates were feeling their way towards how they might best connect with the public and get their message across, and perhaps some decided that a parish meeting was not a good place to do so. I will comment on two of these meetings to give a flavour of the times.

At the St Clement's meeting, it appeared that only the Deputies were present. This suggests they were familiar with the forms of election such as hustings whereas the Jurats, never having stood for election before, were unfamiliar with placing themselves in the public arena in this way.

The focus of the meeting concentrated on agriculture, education, relations with the British government, health, and pensions. On agriculture, Deputy Le Feuvre announced that in 1948 Jersey had set up an all time record for its potato and tomato crop, and he stated that the gross value of the crop to the island was over £4 million. This was a tremendous increase over £3 million for the year before. This was also reflected in a small article in the JEP which stated that prices of tomatoes at Covent Garden had double from 1 shilling and three pence to 2 shillings and sixpence. The Deputy placed support for agriculture at the heart of his campaign. (On today's values, from retail price increases, this would be a rise from £1.69 to £3.38)

Deputy Philip Le Quesne spoke on education. It is here that we see the considerable degree in which education has improved in the island and some of the prejudices against the education of women. He suggested that, at the States' expense, girls should be taught how to cook and the way to run a home; boys, on the other hand, were to receive a more academic education. The audience did not agree with the Deputy and there were cries of " rubbish".

Deputy Rumfitt talked of prospects of even more frequent conferences between representatives of the island and representatives of the British government and told the audience that for this they needed men able to speak and with full wisdom and knowledge of the subject under discussion. This seems uncannily similar to the election campaign of former Senator Frank Walker, and shows how the same issue of the relations between the island and the UK have remained very much on the political map since the second world war.

Deputy Ed Le Quesne opened by remarking that " there was an old saying that a man who does nothing cannot be criticised." To general laughter, he went on to say that " as the most criticised man in the States, he must have done something." He also noted that apart from the Constable of St Clement, he was the only States member who had been there 23 years ago. He talked of the work, which he had been involved with, of the public health committee, the introduction of occupational therapy at the mental hospital, and the building of a home for mentally deficient children " of which there are 200 in Jersey."

Deputy Edwin Gibaut said that while the public could not live without the farmer, the farmers must remember that they had a lot done for them, and owed a lot to the public too. He also commented on old age pensions and said that he could not see why people of 70 and over should have to face a means test. He did not approve of this. We may think ourselves lucky that retirement is earlier, and pensions are provided on a more equitable basis. But although Deputy Philip Le Feuvre's first report, brought in 1946, had proposed a single universal compulsory scheme, the States had put this in abeyance while States reform went through. On the 1948 election, Deputy Le Feuvre was determined to do something, and stood on a firm platform of implementing Social Security.

At the meeting at St John's Parish Hall, 60 electors turned up to listen to 10 of the candidates. Once more, the Jurats were noticeably absent. The JEP only reported on the speeches of two of the candidates, Colonel Riley and Mr Frank Le Quesne. Colonel Riley made a forthright inaugural election speech in which he said that, as a loyal member of the Church of England, he could not vote for divorce. He also mentioned that in cooperation with the British government some check should be put on the presence and restricted flow of new residents to the island -- one of the main causes of the acute housing problem. While the matter of divorce has now been resolved, and made legal in Jersey, it is interesting to note the link between immigration and housing being made back in 1948 which is still being made to this day.

Poor Mr Frank Le Quesne simply had it reported that his first public election speech was as well received as that of the Colonel, but unfortunately none of the contents made its way into the JEP, which is curious as he had been one of the JEP's preferred candidates suggested to its readers. Unlike today, we must remember that the JEP was the sole organ of news reporting for elections. From what I can see, it appears that they tried to balance reports from the different Parish meetings so that coverage extended to all candidates, but only on selected issues.

There was another election at the same time in the parish of St Saviour where Deputy T.P. Mourant was nominated for the post of Constable on the retirement of the preceding holder of the office, Mr L.T. Anthoine. It is interesting that even that far back there seems to have been a desire to appoint Constables from politicians who had established their credentials for serving the parish rather than from rank outsiders. The "proven track record" has become a cliché of our modern times, yet for all that it is not without merit.

How did the potential candidates consider the JEP endorsements? And what did the letter writers to the newspaper make of the election? In my next section, I shall consider these and other matters events of interest in the island.

In the meantime, if you suffer from backache you might be interested to know that your backache may be due to a sluggish kidney action. According to an advertisement in the JEP on 1948, " life is not so good when you are troubled with backache, rheumatic pains, stiff, aching muscles and joints, lumbago or common urinary disorders due to sluggish kidney action." The solution -- ask your chemist for "Doan's Backache Kidney Pill". The advertisement states that " they stimulate and cleanse sluggish kidneys and so help them to rid the blood of excess uric acid and other impurities which might otherwise collect in the system and cause distress. Doan's pills have helped thousands; let them help you."

Curiously enough, while we don't see a whole four square inches of advertisement in the JEP for medical products like this, under the name "Doan's Pills", this medication is still around, available for prescription by doctors, and is not a quack medical product, which, at first sight, the glowing advertisement suggests. The pills contain contain magnesium salicylate. This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to reduce pain, swelling, and joint stiffness caused by arthritis, so they do actually work, although the modern medical advise suggests that long term use can cause harmful side-effects. Reading the advertisement, I am struck by how little medical advertising on television today (the modern equivalent) has changed - there is a preponderance of glossy visuals, but often very little actual information.

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