After years of steady decline, Jersey is on the brink of a crisis in the overall quality of the States...Rose-tinted nostalgia is a dangerous trap but there can be little doubt that the average calibre of States Members has declined significantly over the last two or three decades.
Of course, we miss those great statesmen of the past. But the trouble is one remembers one or two who made a mark, and tends to forget the rest. Ralph Vibert, John Le Marquand, and the like. We don't remember those who made quite a different impression, and largely faded from public consciousness.
My mother was told (a long time ago) by one person (who was very naive) that he was hoping to get a planning application passed, but he would have to wait "until xxx [a parent] was back in the States"! They got back in, and it was duly passed. Purely on merit, of course! Incidentally, the parent is now long retired from the States.
But that's a private anecdote. More publically, who can forget Vernon Tomes riding to power on a platform of populist reform after being sacked as Deputy Bailiff - "I'm going to change the Bailiff's position if you elect me and we'll have a president of the States instead". But once he was in, that was all too soon forgotten as he drank deeply of the heady draughts of power. And here is a list of some of the others - names are omitted to protect the guilty, some of whom are dead anyway. But if you track back through the JEP, you can probably fit a lot of names to the tales.
There were trappists in the 1970s, like one of the Deputies for St Clement who said nothing for all the years he was in the States, and voted just the way he was told to. Members did not leave the Chamber like today, instead they just meditated for forty winks.
Of course, in those days, States members were not paid like today, but there were quite a lot of farmers elected in the country parishes who had no knowledge of the finance industry but suddenly became (in a Sark like manner) non-executive directors of companies, and collected a handsome job lot of directors fees every year. Talk about buying votes! But there was no register of members interests, so it was often easy to do that.
On buying votes, one Senator went on the rampage spending - in the 1970s - huge sums of money on election expenses - remember the kind of thing - glossy brochures, personalised with the electors name, in full colour, large posters around the Parishes, adverts in the JEP over many days etc. All posted and coming through the letter box. He got re-elected.
One Senator was drunk in charge of a tractor. Another jumped on a table at a party at the Grand Hotel, waving some women's knickers in the air above his head - he is actually still in the States!
Then there was the Postal Committee who went on fact finding holidays to the Caribbean - sorry, I mean fact finding trips in the Winter months. They also gave themselves first day covers, and some of the Committee went on to sell them for a profit. As a result of the ensuing scandal, one Deputy never managed to get re-elected to the States again.
The Senator whose hotel somehow always managed to get picked (during the time it was closed) for the renewal of the road tax in January, and whose hotel thereby gained extra revenue.
The President of IDC who made the most extraordinary planning decisions, and apparently asked one lady for "favours" for planning approval.
The pompous idiot of a Senator who didn't want sponsored bus shelters because that would be vulgar, or the Senator who had the brilliant idea of having all registry office functions (namely weddings) at the Crematorium! The same Senator rearranged all the Town traffic flow from the West massively overnight, and then reversed his decision when it caused total chaos.
The Senator who decided to dump potatoes at Beauport (on the basis of his officials advice) even though common sense suggested there would be problems caused by that.
The Constable who decided Haut Vallee did not need any physically disabled access - because it would have no intake of disabled pupils. Never mind if any of their parents were disabled, and would thereby find it difficult to get to school events!
The Senator who was caught out because of his sexual peccadilloes in a "sting" by a private detective.
Yes, rose-tinted nostalgia is a dangerous trap - we can rest assured there were giants in those days!
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