Sunday, 28 November 2010

Little Figures that Don't Add Up

Lennie Godber: Blokes by me bet on how many bricks are in the cell.
Norman Stanley Fletcher: That's common.
Lennie Godber: I can't think. It drives me mad, listening to their recounts. "341, 342..."
(BBC TV, Porridge, "The Hustler")

There were calls for the Treasury Minister to be sacked last night amid claims that he lied to Islanders about raising the rate of GST. Senator Philip Ozouf came under heavy fire from all sides at last night's protest rally at Fort Regent, organised by the union Unite, and a petition is now circulating to get him removed from office. The minister, who recently went back on a promise to the States not to bring a proposal to increase GST, was branded 'Pinocchio' and posters bearing his face on the body of the cartoon character, complete with long nose, were placed around the hall. Around 180 people turned out for the rally - far fewer than were expected and well short of the 1,000 who attended the last protest against GST. However, the crowd remained defiant and many expressed their anger and frustration at the proposed cuts and the current state of Jersey's political system.

A rally against tax rises and government budget cuts was attended by about 450 people at Jersey's Fort Regent on Wednesday evening.
The treasury minister, Senator Philip Ozouf, wants to raise the Goods and Services tax (GST) to 5% and cut £65m from States spending.
He was called "Pinocchio" at the union rally for breaking a promise made in 2008 not to increase GST.(2)

It was a disappointing turnout for the organisers of Wednesday night's union rally against public sector cuts in Jersey. They'd expected a thousand, but only 400 people went along to air their gripes over pay cuts, reduced public services and the planned rise in GST. Despite the low turnout - the union behind the rally won't back down without a fight. They now plan to ballot members on industrial action.(3)

So how many people did attend the rally at Fort Regent? The JDA reports on the meeting on their own website, but doesn't give any figures.

Said Mr. Vibert: "This was a chance for islanders who feel strongly about the issues to come together at Fort Regent and by their presence illustrate to the Council of Ministers how deep the feeling is against the path they are walking."(4)

But he doesn't say how many came together at Fort Regent.

The BBC reported "about 450", while Channel Television was slightly behind that at 400. How the JEP managed to get 180 turning out is beyond belief - either their reporter was simply unable to count or just looked around and guessed - or it was an example of deliberate spin - "far fewer than were expected..." certainly indicates it was used in that way.

Interestingly, while both the JEP and CTV mention an expected turnout of around a thousand, that figure made its way into the BBC but with a much more positive slant concerning a petition (unmentioned by the JEP or CTV):

A petition calling for Senator Ozouf to be dismissed as treasury minister has been signed by about 1,000 people.(2)

Geoff Southern made a great show of making Philip Ozouf out to be a liar, but somehow failed to mention that Philip Ozouf had made a very public apology at the end of October and explained why he had to change his position. Can we now expect an apology for Geoff Southern regarding his own change of position?

The St Helier deputy and Jersey Democratic Alliance member says if Senator Stuart Syvret doesn't return to the island in April he'll put himself forward in the by-election.(5)

Yet Senator Syvret did return to the Island, and Deputy Southern did stand against him. Clearly Senator Ozouf is not the only one who can be called Pinocchio!

The JDA website notes that: "Regardless of the fact that Trevor, Shona and Debbie are no longer part of the JDA, they still support all of our objectives and we will not be putting up candidates against them." Let's hope they stick to what they have said this time!

The rally also disclosed the possibility of industrial action.

Despite the low turnout - the union behind the rally won't back down without a fight. They now plan to ballot members on industrial action. (2)
Unite is now planning to ballot its members about possible industrial action over the planned government spending cuts.(2)

It is good to see they are balloting their members on this occasion, especially as last time, when Deputy Southern stood for election as Senator, the union decided to sponsor him and back him with money - despite not deciding to ballot members before spending their money. I asked one or two union members whom I knew about this, and they not only told me their had been no ballot of membership, but that they would have voted against any such decision as a waste of money, since Deputy Southern was already in the States.

Is it any wonder that so few people decided to turn up to Fort Regent, especially Union members who are used to the rank and file not being consulted? If there is to be better democracy in Jersey, then the lack of democracy within the JDA and the Unions is not a good sign. I am certainly not that happy when I also read on the JDA AGM that:

In discussions under " any other business" the president outlined that he had prepared a training programme for new members who are prepared to stand under the JDA banner in the forthcoming elections) (4)

I couldn't find details of that programme, despite it being described as "available elsewhere on this site", but it sounds very much as if there is a JDA "mould" and candidates are expected to conform to that, thereby reducing possibility of dissenters such as those who left the party before. Aren't members supposed to help decide policy rather than the other way round?



Ugh, It's Him! said...

No, of course members aren't supposed to have a say on policy, not even the elected officers. Geoff and Ted take care of policy and the rest can rubberstamp it or slink ignominiously off as turncoats and traitors.

TonyTheProf said...

Well "a training programme for new members" did sound a teeny bit like the "re-education" that communism used to offer.