Tuesday, 26 July 2011

New Directions for St Lawrence?

In ancient times, the people would come to a priest or a pious layman (who would then be ordained) and ask him to be their bishop. One can picture this, the priest, praying quietly in the church is interrupted as a group of people enter and one spokesman for the group says that he is the one they want to be their bishop.

Something like this occurs, for example, in the life of St Martin of Tours.

About the year 371, Lidorius, bishop of Tours, died, and the people demanded Martin in his place. Martin was so reluctant to accept the office that they resorted to stratagem and called him to the city to give his blessing to a sick person, then forcibly conveyed him to the church.

It seemed to be that kind of moment, when I read in the JEP on Friday night of James Le Feuvre standing for Constable in the Parish of St Lawrence. The report was that:

"A deputation of parishioners visited Mr le Feuvre last night to formally ask him to stand"

One can imagine the great man himself, reclining in an armchair, deep in thought, pondering (as he himself notes) whether he should stand - and suddenly there is a ring on the doorbell. The door is opened and the parishioners file in, and one spokesman for the group says that he's the one that they want to be their Constable. Humbled in the face of such a request, he agrees to do so.

This is rather like those TV shows where the interviewer knocks on the door, and when the door is opened, the person opening it feigns is complete and absolute ignorance of the interviewer for the TV cameras, and indeed a complete absense of the cameras.

In the words of Victor Meldrew," I don't believe it". So why does the JEP persist in promulgating this kind of farce? Because this appeared in the Evening Post on Friday, 22 July 2011, and yet I had heard on the grapevine two weeks earlier that Mr le Feuvre was retiring from his position as hospital director and was planning to stand for Constable. I'm pretty sure it was common knowledge. But perhaps the situation is even more farcical, and like the TV show, Mr Le Feuvre had arranged for the deputation to visit beforehand, so that it could be reported in this way in the paper.

That would make it rather like that scene in "The Two Fat Ladies", where they come to Jersey, trundle along on their motorbike and sidecar, stopping at a wall close to L'Etacq to pick up from a farm stall not just farm produce - but also a jug of fresh Jersey cream! Never in my life have I ever come across such a stall, and Mr Le Feuvre's deputation would appear to show the same kind of preplanning with his "deputation".

From the author of the Health Department's "New Directions" project, which I'm not entirely sure ever got off the ground, there is a distinct lack of direction in what he's told the JEP, and I can only hope that some clarity will emerge in the fight for St Lawrence. Do you remember "New Directions?". In 2006, it was still trying to get off the ground. The Amos group noted that:

'New directions' group on health care has still not met. James Le Feuvre says that progress is being made in informing 'internal stake-holders' before going public but Amos will be asked to take part in public consultations by the autumn. Some present commented on the luxury fittings at some wards and general lack of consultation of staff by management

It might be useful to know why he has retired from the hospital administration at 55. Was he offered part of the general redundancy package that has seen some of the middle management removed from the States? If so, for what reason was he offered it, and why did he decide to go? And how much did he get? Would a supplementation of a £40,000 States salary, for example, be helpful?

Anyhow, here is what he said to his little delegation last night:

" I want to work to strengthen and defend the parish system and to bring a fresh perspective to some of the long-term challenges that face both the parish and our island".

No mention here of what perspective he would bring, or indeed what long-term challenges he has in mind. "Fresh perspective" seems to be the political version of "new directions"! But there is a clue:

" This requires politicians who are constructive in their approach, will work with others to build consensus, and to demonstrate leadership in taking important decisions that will affect our future"

If I wanted to be unduly cynical, I'd translate this as -- I'll be happy to vote the way the council of ministers would like me to those, and please can I be an assistant minister. He goes on to say:

"I believe that there is a role for caring and effective Constables, who can bring their parishes together, at the heart of this agenda"

Which could translate as - unlike the sitting Constable, I'll vote the way the council of ministers wants me to vote.

We shall see.


L'Office du Jèrriais said...

But deputations in the past were almost always stage-managed thus. There's a good example in the literature with GW de Carteret's poem Les Députations (of which a translation can be found, for convenience, in The Toad and the Donkey, and the original on Les Pages Jèrriaises along with other political Jèrriais literature). If the potential candidate needed preliminary arm-twisting, the advance party would sound him out as to his willingness to accept a deputation - the deputation itself has been basically a publicity exercise since the introduction of the secret ballot.

TonyTheProf said...

Your are certainly right; it is just that - like the jug of cream at the farm stall - they just read like something stage managed nowadays - i.e phony.

TonyTheProf said...

Shameless promotion - I see Geraint Jennings has a book out this year

"The Toad and the Donkey: An Anthology of Norman Literature from the Channel Islands"

Which looks as if it has original texts and translations.

L'Office du Jèrriais said...

Indeed, The Toad and the Donkey has a chapter which covers the vernacular literature of "Politics and Parishes". Interestingly, one of the differences between Guernsey and Jersey literature is that Guernsey writers have been less concerned with politics - there are far fewer vernacular political texts. Jersey writers on the other hand have been much more engagés - and it could be argued that political writings are by far the largest category of texts in Jèrriais. One of the problems with reading old political texts nowadays is that they are rather cryptic if you don't know the background and don't get the allusions.

Forthcoming: the Michaelmas issue of Les Nouvelles Chroniques du Don Balleine has elections as its theme, and the contents will include a selection of old texts about elections temps passé.

TonyTheProf said...

On the past, you might find the postings on



Nick Palmer said...

Two weeks ago on the grapevine? Ha!

My wife overheard (in a tea room) some Parish worthies discussing Iris's offspring riding in, like the Lone Ranger, to save us all at least three months ago.

Incidentally, whenever candidates claim they've been "approached" by "deputations" I've always wondered how many it takes for them to call it a deputation?

I was "approached" in town, by a nice old chap, yesterday to stand again (and they weren't by any means the first) but I'm not implying it was a multitude, unlike some.

TonyTheProf said...

I know that tea-room. It's the one just past the Church, but on the other side of the road, and quite close to where Iris used to live, but James lives now. There's also a lane off there where there are horse-chestnuts, if I remember rightly!