Monday, 31 October 2011

RIP: Jimmy Savile - Now then, now then, now then

"He was wearing a flashy tracksuit, and it looked as if he had redeemed every pledged gold chain from every pawnshop in Leeds and put it round his neck."

I remember the various adverts to try and persuade people to use seat belts. Before the law was enacted, there he was, in public information films, telling us to "Clunk-Click, Every Trip". Those films have become part of a bygone age, and most people have forgotten there was a time when wearing seat belts was optional

I didn't really listen to pop-music, but I did watch Top of the Pops, from time to time. There seemed to be a greater variety, and less manufactured pop-stars than today, and Top of the Pops also had both a dancing audience, some live bands (usually mimed!), and the start of the pop video boom - Abba were particularly notable for synchronised singing and visuals. And, of course, for teenage boys, there was also Pan's People.

Into this melee came various D.J.'s presenting the show. But none was more memorable that the cigar toting, gold chain wearing, shoulder length platinum blond D.J. Jimmy Savile, who would punctuate his banter with an extraordinary yodel.

And then, of course, came Jim'll Fix It. Jimmy Saville in a special chair, with a cigar holder and lighter which came out of concealed compartments in the arms of the chair. Here he was very much a showman, but one who used his fame to bring fun and enjoyment to millions, and special memories to those who had the "fix it".

Reading the obituaries, no one seems to have every found who he was apart from his public persona. I remember my friend, the Reverend Terry Hampton went to a charity lunch in St John. Jimmy Savile was there, along with Eric Morcambe, and Terry said that while Eric was easy to talk to, Jimmy was reserved, somehow distant.

Maybe he just didn't have time for small talk, and was quite shy beneath the outward shell. There is a clip of him pushing a hospital trolley, part of the melange of clips put together for his obituary, and he isn't smiling, showing off for the camera, and his expression is quite sad, almost melancholy; it comes as something of a contrast. I was reminded of clowns behind the makeup.

I think that nonetheless he was a genuine person, who did a lot unseen for charity, and not just charity - lots of people have spoken of his personal touch in their loves. He certainly was one of the great British eccentrics, even if he hid his real self. I hope they show a few Jim'll Fixit shows as a tribute.

A few catchphrases...

"How's about that, then?"
"Now then, now then, now then"
"Goodness gracious"
"as it happens" (pronounced "as it 'appens")
"Guys and gals".

Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Writer's Tale

When I was writing my meditation (see link above) - Thin Places, Scarred Times - I wanted to take the listener on a journey into some very dark places - places of suffering and pain - which are exemplified in the three little visionary snapshots. Only one of these can easily be attributed directly to other human beings, so it is also an exploration of suffering caused by natural forces.

After the dark places, the movement of the narrative, I felt, should then move back into light, joyful places, to contrast, and mirror the dark, and that the darkness would not be the final word.

At this point, I had "writer's block" and could not see how to move from the grief, pain, suffering to joy, in a continuous way, so that it did not appear as a break in the flow of the narrative. My solution, which came to me after a long walk, was that the way to move to the end section was by starting with a hymn of praise in creation - which doesn't appear to be an answer in the rational sense - but as I realised, has a lot in common with how God answers Job on the question of suffering, which I've always previously found a little odd, because it is not a direct answer at all. Now I understand the movement of that narrative a lot better.

The book of Job is of suffering of an innocent man, where disaster after disaster is piled upon him, and his friends come with trite and easy but false solutions to his suffering - for example, he has done something wrong, and is paying the price. It is in part an attack on the easy and glib explanation for suffering. In the final segments, Job confronts God, and accuses him of inflicting pain without explanation, and demands to know why. And the answer is not a rational answer, but a theophany, an appearance by God who speaks to Job of a great hymn of creation.

Martin Buber, philosopher, wrote of this, "But how about Job himself? He not only laments, but he charges that the 'cruel' God had 'removed his right' from him and thus that the judge of all the earth acts against justice. And he receives an answer from God. But what God says to him does not answer the charge; it does not even touch upon it. The true answer that Job receives is God's appearance only, only this, that distance turns into nearness, that 'his eye sees him,' that he knows Him again. Nothing is explained, nothing adjusted; wrong has not become right, nor cruelty kindness. Nothing has happened but that man again hears God's address."

According to this position, the answer to Job's dilemma is found in religious experience, not in theological speculation. Rather than a theoretical solution to Job's problem, there is this song of creation. And without seeking to imitate that at all, I found that was the same way that I'd also found out of my impasse on the movement from suffering to joy.

This is also mirrored in the final paragraph of my narrative, which is an allusion to Elena Farjeon's "Morning has Broken".

When read out loud to others, as I did last week, the tone has to soften in the final section, from the harshness of the first, which made me wonder if Job, as well, may have been originally presented in that form. While the ancient Israelites had a prohibition on theatre in the Greek fashion, they may have used various texts for a recitation in different voices. The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia notes that:

"The Song of Solomon, according to many scholars, is a regular drama, the heroine of which is the Shulamite, and in which the other dramatis personæ are: Solomon; a shepherd; chorus; watchmen, etc. (see Renan's translation of the Song of Solomon). To the foregoing may be added the Book of Job, which, if not so elaborate in dramatic form as the Canticles, yet represents several persons as acting, namely: Job; his wife; the messengers; Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (Job's three friends); Elihu; and God. These few crude dramas of the Biblical epoch had no immediate successors."

Seeing the faces of the dead was actually drawing on Harry Potter, the chapter "In the Forest", which has to be one of the best passages in the Deathly Hallows. Without imitating, I wanted to try and capture that "feel". And equally importantly, when Harry uses the Resurrection Stone, and the dead appear, J.K. Rowling makes it clear that they are "part of him", not some spirits called back from beyond - she makes it very clear that the dead have "moved on". 

"Light the candle, cast out all fear" is loosely paraphrasing the chant in the All Souls service at St Brelade's Church, when a roll of names is read, and everyone comes up to light a candle and place it on a large bowl of sand on a table. The names are paused in the reading, and the chant is sung (going by memory). I wanted to reflect that as a refrain, in the passages on suffering, as a sign that not all will be dark. As the nights draw in, we need signs of light.

 We kindle a candle to lighten the dark
And take away all fear

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Thirteen Clocks - Part 6

The sixth part of Thurber's post-modern fairy tale sees the hero and the Golux arrive at Hagga's house. Hagga weeps jewels, which they hope to take back and meet the demands of quest set by the Duke. More wonderful playing with the texture of language as well:

There was a smell, the Golux thought, a little like Forever in the air, but mixed with something faint and less enduring, possibly the fragrance of a flower.

There was nothing in the chest but limpid liquid, leering up at them and winking.
The Golux has a wonderful clever but humorous persona, and I've often thought that Patrick Troughton would have been an idea person to place the part in a narrated version on a talking book.

The Thirteen Clocks - by James Thurber: Part 6

It was cold on Hagga's hill, and fresh with furrows where the dragging points of stars had plowed the fields. A peasant in a purple smock stalked the smoking furrows, sowing seeds. There was a smell, the Golux thought, a little like Forever in the air, but mixed with something faint and less enduring, possibly the fragrance of a flower.

"There's no light in her window," the Golux said, "and it is dark and getting darker."

"There's no smoke in her chimney," said the Prince, "and it is cold and getting colder."

The Golux barely breathed and said, "What worries me the most is that spider's web there on the door, that stretches from the hinges to the latch."

The young Prince felt a hollow feeling in his zatch. "Knock on her door,"  the Golux said, his voice so high it quavered. He crossed his fingers and kept them crossed, and Zorn knocked on the door. No one answered. "Knock again," the Golux cried,  and Prince Zorn knocked again. Hagga was there. She came to the door and stared at them, a woman neither dead nor dying, and clearly only thirty-eight or thirty-nine. The Golux had missed her age by fifty years, as old men often do. "Weep for us," the Golux cried, "or else this Prince will never wed his Princess."

"I have no tears," said Hagga. "Once I wept when ships were overdue, or brooks ran dry, or tangerines were overripe, or sheep got something in their eye. I weep no more," said Hagga. Here eyes were dry as deserts and her mouth seemed made of  stone. "I have turned a thousand persons gemless from my door. Come in," she said. "I weep no more."

The room was dark and held a table and a chair, and in one corner something like a chest, made of oak and bound with brass. The Golux smiled and then looked sad, and said, "I have tales to make a hangman weep, and tales to bring a tear of sorrow to a monster's eye. I have tales that would disturb a dragon's sleep, and even  make the Todal sigh."

At the mention of the Todal, Hagga's hair turned gray. "Once I wept when maids were married underneath the April moon. I weep no more when maids are buried,  even in the month of June."

"You have the emotions of a fish," said the Golux, irritably. He sat on the floor and told her tales of the death of kings, and kindred things, and little children choked by rings.

"I have no tears," said Hagga. He told her tales of the frogs in the forum, and the toads in the rice that destroyed the poppycockalorum and the cockahoopatrice.

"I weep no more," said Hagga.

"Look," the Golux said, "and listen! The Princess Saralinda will never wed this youth until the day he lays a thousand jewels upon a certain table."

"I would weep for Saralinda," Hagga sighed, "if I were able."

The Prince had wandered to the oaken chest. He seized its cover with his hand and threw it open. A radiance filled the room and lit the darkest corners. Inside the chest there were at least ten thousand jewels of the very sort and kind the Duke demanded. Diamonds flared and rubies glowed, and sapphires burned and emeralds seemed on fire. They looked at Hagga. "These are the jewels of laughter," Hagga said. "I woke up fourteen days ago to find them on my bed. I had laughed until I wept at something in my  sleep." The Golux grabbed a gleaming handful of the gems, and then another, crowing with delight.

"Put them back," said Hagga. "For there's a thing that you must know, concerning jewels of laughter. They always turn again to tears a fortnight after. It has been a fortnight, to the day and minute, since I took the pretties to this chest and put them in it." Even as they watched, the light and color died. The diamonds dimmed, the emeralds went out, and the jewels of Hagga's laughter turned to tears, with a little sound like sighing. There was nothing in the chest but limpid liquid, leering up at them and winking.

"You must think," the Golux cried. "You must think of what you laughed at in your sleep."

Hagga's eyes were blank. "I do not know, for this was fourteen days ago."

"Think!" the Golux said.

"Think!" said Zorn of Zorna.

Hagga frowned and said, "I never can remember dreams."

The Golux clasped his hands behind his back and thought it over. "As I remember and recall," he said, "the jewels of sorrow last forever. Such was the gift and power the good Gwain gave you. What was he doing, by the way, so many leagues from Yarrow?"

"Hunting," Hagga said. "Wolves, as I recall it."

The Golux scowled. "I am a man of logic, in my way. What happened on that awful day, to make him value sorrow over and above the gift of laughter? Why have these jewels turned to tears a fortnight after?"

"There was a farmer from a near-by farm, who laughed," said Hagga. "'On second thought,' the good King said, 'I will amend and modify the gift I gave you. The jewels of sorrow will last beyond all measure, but may the jewels of laughter give you little pleasure.'"

The Golux groaned. "If there's one thing in the world I hate," he said, "it is amendments." His eyes turned bright and brighter, and he clapped his hands. "I will make her laugh until she weeps," he said. The Golux told her funny tales of things that were and had been, but Hagga's eyes were dry as quartz and her mouth seemed made of agate. "I laugh at nothing that has been," she said, "or is."

The Golux smiled. "Then we will think of things that will be, and aren't now, and never were. I'll think of something," and he thought, and thought of something.

"A dehoy who was terribly hobble,
Cast only stones that were cobble
And bats that were ding,
From a shot that was sling,
But never hit inks that were bobble."

Hagga laughed until she wept, and seven moonstones trickled down her cheek and clattered on the floor. "She's weeping semiprecious stones!" the Golux wailed. He tried again:

"There was an old coddle so molly,
He talked in a glot that was poly,
His gaws were so gew
That his laps became dew
And he ate only pops that were lolly."

Hagga laughed until she wept, and seven brilliants trickled down her cheek and clattered on the floor. "Rhinestones!" groaned the Golux. "Now she's weeping costume jewelry!"

The young Prince tried his hand at telling tales of laughter, but for his pains he got a shower of tourmaline, a cat's-eye, and a flux of pearls. "The Duke hates pearls," the Golux moaned. "He thinks they're made by fish."

It grew darker in the room and they could scarcely see. The starlight and the moon were gone. They stood there, still as statues. The Golux cleared his throat. The Prince uncrossed his arms and crossed them. And then, without a rhyme or reason,  out of time and out of season, Hagga laughed and kept on laughing. No one had said a word, no one had told a tale. It might have been the hooting of an owl. It might have
been the crawling of a snail. But Hagga laughed and kept on laughing, and precious jewels twinkled down her cheek and sparkled on the floor, until the hut was ankle-deep in diamonds and in rubies. The Golux counted out a thousand and put them in a velvet sack that  he had brought along. "I wish that she had laughed," he sighed, "at something I had said."

Zorn of Zorna took her hand. "God keep you warm in winter," said the Prince,  "and cool in summer."

"Farewell," the Golux said, "and thank you."

Hagga laughed and kept on laughing, and sapphires burned upon the floor and lit the Golux toward the door.

"How many hours are left us now?" the young Prince cried. "It's odd," the Golux muttered to himself. "I could have sworn that she had died. This is the only time my stomach ever lied."

"How many hours are left us now?" the Prince implored.

Hagga sat upon the chest and kept on laughing.

"I should say," the Golux said, "that we have only forty left, but it is downhill all the way."

They went out into the moonless night and peered about them in the dark. "I think it's this way," the Golux said, and they went the way he thought it was.

"What about the clocks?" demanded Zorn.

The Golux exhaled a sorry breath. "That's another problem for another hour,"  he said.

Inside the hut, something red and larger than a ruby glowed among the jewels and Hagga picked it up. "A rose," she said. "They must have dropped it."

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Thin Places, Scarred Times

Here's a meditation for Samhain, the Celtic name for Halloween, which takes the reader on a journey through the darkness and back into the light.

Thin Places, Scarred Times
The rain is heavy, and I walk through it, feeling the cold water upon my face. I am holding a stone, and I approach the top of the hill, and there are many people, of many ages, shadows in the night. There are all ages, from young children, to old people, bent with age, and I see their outlines, as the clouds break, and a patch of pale star light shines through.
It is an hour since midnight, and Mars is rising, and the cold wind chills me to the bone. And all around, I feel the presence of the others, all standing there, with hands clasped around stones, and I hear no voices, only the weeping for loss, the tears of sorrow for those departed.
And one by one, we come forward, and place a stone on the summit of the hill, until a mound of stones begins to take shape. Each stone is a memory, each tells a tale of the past, of loss, and of grief. The time of sorrows is upon us.
Now the mound is complete, rising high, a stone cairn raised to those who have died. The clouds have blown over. And there is silence, just the night, and the stars twinkling in the clear sky, and we are there, the sentinels, keeping our watch in the dark.
Then a lady steps forward and bends down, and places a candle at the foot of the mound of stones, lighting it with a taper, and she says:
Remembrance, the night of sorrow here
Light the candle, cast out all the fear
Then she stands and returns to our waiting crowd.
I look into the flickering flame, and I hear the sound of people moaning in their pain, and it grieves me, and as I look closer at the flame, I can see a monk sitting at a table, with a quill in his hand, and across parchment, he is writing; my vision takes me closer, and I can read what he is writing.
"The Black Death has come to our Island, and all is lost. Friends and neigbours take ill, and sicken, burning up with the fever, and death comes, the grim reaper, striking down Seigneur and peasant alike. No one is safe, death spares not even the priest."
And the wind speaks like a whisper
Old boundaries, sacred stones
Imprints in time, echoes past
Live and dead, flesh and bones
Presence remains, there to last
Then I am back again, looking at the candle, flickering in the breeze, at one corner of the mound of stones. Almost at once, an old man, bent with age, wearing a long burgundy coat, shuffles forward and slowly bends down, and places a candle at the foot of the mound of stones, lighting it with a taper, and he says:
Remembrance, the night of sorrow here
Light the candle, cast out all the fear
Then he stands and returns to our waiting crowd.
I look into the flickering flame, and I hear the sound of people praying desperately to survive the night, and I see a soldier, crouching in a muddy trench, writing a letter with the stub of a pencil onto a scrap of paper, and in my vision, I am drawn closer, and can read what is written.
"The air is full of the sound of bombs falling, brilliant flashes light up the night sky, as I wander across the muddy land. Here are ditches full of water, barbed wire, the cries of those dying. When the gunfire dies down, I look up, and I see Mars, the bringer of war, rising in the night sky, casting a baleful light upon our troops."
And the wind speaks like a whisper
Cold equations of deadly strife
Creatures of the mud and slime
Hatred, bloodshed, end of life
Dark places, and scarred time
Then I am back again, looking at two candles, flickering in the breeze, at one corner of the mound of stones. Suddenly, a young boy steps forward and bends down, and places a candle at the foot of the mound of stones, lighting it with a taper, and he says:
Remembrance, the night of sorrow here
Light the candle, cast out all the fear
I look into the flickering flame, and I hear the sound of people crying in fear, and I see a woman. She is sitting at a table, in a house, and outside the window, I can see the moon upon the waves, waves breaking on sharp rocks off the coast. She is writing a diary, and my vision takes me closer, and I can see what she is writing.
"The rocks were treacherous, and we heard the crash as the packet steamer hit a hidden reef. We saw those on deck, running, trying to get into lifeboats, or flinging themselves overboard into the waves. And few were saved, but many perished in the bitterly cold waters of the bay."
And the wind speaks like a whisper
The borderlands of dark and light
Where sensitives can still feel
A knowing with an inner sight
Crossing from real to unreal
The three candles are burning brightly, and a man steps forward, holding a long staff of elder wood, and wearing a white robe that reaches to his feet, and a gold band around his waist. He pushes back his hood, and I see long snow white hair, and beard, and dark eyes that blaze like fire. And he speaks:
Come now, take your fear away
All the sorrows, past and today
And the regrets, of things unsaid
And all the grieving for our dead.
And beside the mound of stones, we see a great mound of wood, of branches collected, and placed to make a bonfire. He lights a taper from one of the candles, and touches it to the kindling wood, and very soon, the bonfire is blazing out with light, the wood crackling as it burns. And I smell the burning wood, and in swift glimpses, I see flash before me, the wonders of the world.
I see the vast rainforests, teaming with life
Herds of  wildebeest crossing the vast rivers of Africa
Elephants crossing the great African plains
A snow leopard, a creature of grace and beauty
Running across the slopes of the Pamir Mountains
The great whales turning in the sea, singing a joyous song
Sleek otters swiftly swimming beside a river bank
And the rain falling softly on Glastonbury tor
Where a rainbow arches across the sky
And a voice cries

Sing, heavens! Shout for joy, earth!
Let the mountains burst into song!
I see the foundations of the world,
The dance of life and death and rebirth,
And all my sorrows melt away.
Now the flame of the fire burns brightly, warming me, and sparks fly high in the air, and now I look into the bright core of flames.
I look into the heart of the fire, and the heart of myself
And I see those whom I have loved
And all who are now lost to me, beyond the veil of death
And all the regrets, all the times lost, all that was unsaid, leaves me
And rises in the ashes, caught in the breeze
And I see them, one by one, faces in the flames
And they are smiling, glad
And I know they are at peace
And I too feel calm, at rest.
And we gather round the fire, and dance, as the wood burns away, and watch the ashes, which are carried up in the currents of hot air, in the flames, ashes rising into the night sky, memories carried up to the starry night.
And a voice cries:

To give to those who mourn
Let there be joy and gladness instead of grief
A song of praise instead of sorrow
Dawn is breaking as we leave the glowing embers, heading down the hillside, the grass damp with dew, and the new day is starting, full of hope and promise. The sun rises over the hill, and the soft sunlight caresses us with warmth. Somewhere, in the distance, a blackbird begins to sing.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Post Election Irregularities in Jersey 2011

Nine current States members will get to vote on the 2012 budget and a range of other issues even though they failed to retain their seats. There are also nine members who are leaving the states for other reasons. Due to the nature of Jersey's system the outgoing members will sit twice more, and in those two sittings they will vote on some important issues. They include the 2012 budget with tax increases, and millions of pounds of spending. The newly elected members will take their seats on 6 December.

Outgoing chief minister, Senator Terry Le Sueur, said it was better than having inexperienced states members voting on such important subjects 'fresh and unaware'.  He said: "It is becoming a bit of an anomaly. When there were three separate elections there was less of an urgency to change it. The alternative is you have someone coming in totally fresh and unaware of all the implications trying to make decisions in their first sitting in the house. It is a no-win either way"

Political Analyst Professor Adrian Lee said this post-election system was an "unusual" set-up, and he could not think of any other place it happened. (1)

Having permanently increased the days the States can sit from 14 days to 28 precisely in order that the outgoing States should bind the incoming one, Senator Terry le Sueur now comes up with a specious excuse to justify that. "The alternative is you have someone coming in totally fresh and unaware of all the implications, trying to make decisions in their first sitting in the house."

This is the phrase in big bold letters on the BBC story alongside the main story. I would personally have highlighted the comment by Adrian Lee - "Professor Adrian Lee could not think of any other place it happened". The patent absurdity of this can be seen once we look to another jurisdiction, and apply the same argument.

Consider if Gordon Brown had been able to propose a budget, knowing there was an election, and had been given extra days for that session of Parliament to carry it through - and it would have been binding on any incoming Government. You might have read a news story like this:

"Never mind if there are Conservatives who may win the next election," said Prime Minister Gordon Brown, "it was better than having inexperienced Members of Parliament voting on such important subjects 'fresh and unaware'. The alternative is you have someone coming in totally fresh and unaware of all the implications trying to make decisions in their first sitting in the house."

Can you imagine the uproar, not to say the sense of outrage from voters, who might be able to vote on the Governments past record over prior years with the economy, but who would be able to do little or nothing about the most recent budget?

Voters would have seen themselves as cannon fodder, as electoral eunuchs, castrated by the outgoing Government, and unable to do anything but vote in the vain hope that the law on this might change in years to come, but they would be disenchanted and disillusioned with the whole voting process. Voting turnout in the United Kingdom might slump from 76% to 45% or lower - much the same as it is now in Jersey. That is why Parliamentary business is suspended when there is an election, and if matters fall by that guillotine, so be it.

The matter of the open vote for Chief Minister comes up next month, when forces will be mustered to reverse the decision taken earlier by the States, and again provide a woeful lack of transparency for the voter. A decision was made, and to overturn it with such unseemly haste would certainly be the work of people who really deserve the appellation of "wreckers". Will there be a "wrecker's vote" on the issue?

It should also be noted that elections where control of the national executive is not at stake generally have much lower turnouts, which is hardly surprising. If you don't know the way the people you are voting in have voted in the past, and they won't disclose how they voted in a closed ballot, essential information about where they stand is missing, and the electorate are again treated as errant children, for whom the Chief Minister, like a benign Headmaster, knows best. Is this kind of patronising stance really the best choice for a mature democracy?

And is there any chance of implementing what is certainly needed - an amendment to the States of Jersey Law = so that no Chief Minister can serve more than two terms. If the period of time between sittings becomes 4 years, as is highly probable, and there is always the possibility that one Parish, over whom most of the electorate have no say at elections, can supply a Chief Minister, then it is essential that there are firm limitations placed on the power of a Chief Minister.

For the moment, however, we will have to watch from the sidelines, as States members who were voted out of office decide on the budget, and it is no good emailing those States members because they have nothing to loose - they have already been kicked out of the next States. They have, for a brief period, power without any accountability whatsoever, and no voting record to worry about - unless they try for a return in three years, in the hope that the electorate's memory is short.

There is also another vote again on the open ballot for Chief Minister - and taking part will be the outgoing Chief Minister Terry le Sueur, who is now completely unaccountable to the electorate, for he is not standing again. He is still abiding by his principle of making misleading statements such as  "It is no-win either way". Perhaps from where he is sitting that is correct, but for the average voter, it is no-win all the way.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fishing for Co-Operation

We often hear it said that Guernsey and Jersey should pool their resources, and work closely together. Certainly, in the fiscal sphere, Philip Ozouf tells us on his website that "I am working closely with my colleagues in Guernsey".

In 2009, as Economic Development Minister - that is only two years ago - Senator Ozouf went over to look at areas in in which Guernsey and Jersey could better cooperate have been identified, and talked to Guernsey's Treasury minister Charles Parkinson; they committed the Islands to greater cooperation. Here are a few quotations from Senator Ozouf:

"Times have changed - we have a real drive and determination to work together, to be much more rigorous and detailed and dedicate time and resources to move the cooperation agenda forward, with the objective of efficiency and savings for both islands."

"Competition helps in some fields but that doesn't mean we can't be very cooperative and friendly and share information about better ways of doing things."

"I am not going to tell Guernsey how to run its affairs at all, but I will talk about how we can run things together" (1)

But I wonder exactly how well we have since "run things together"? How close Senator Ozouf worked that is? Unknown to the Treasury Minister, or even the Economic Development Minister, Alan Maclean, Guernsey was unilaterally negotiating its own position for fishing rights, regardless of the fact that this would seriously damage the livelihood of Jersey fishermen, who have fished in those waters for many years unimpeded, and who would now have to apply for licences, with the very real chance of those being rejected.

At the moment there is a three-mile protection limit around Guernsey, but the island has agreed a deal with the UK to extend it to 12 miles. Don Thompson, Jersey Fishermen's Association president, said it was "an erosion of the rights of fishermen". He said: "They have been fishing there legitimately for decades." Mr Thompson added: "It is not as if we should be on our hands and knees begging for the right to carry on doing something we have been doing legitimately for decades and decades.".. The agreement licenses UK fishing boats to operate within the three to 12 nautical mile zone around the bailiwick. Dougal Lane, president of the Guernsey Fishermen's Association, described the move as a "very good deal". He said local fishermen had been kept informed by the States throughout the negotiations. (2)

The news report tells us that local fishermen "had been kept informed by the States". Perhaps Senator Ozouf or Senator Maclean could ask the States of Guernsey why they neglected to tell the States of Jersey, who were not kept informed. How are we to have co-operation between the Islands if these kinds of issues are not resolved?

The situation at the moment is that "positive talks" are now going on, which Alan Maclean says are "a step in the right direction", even though he is in fact not attending the meetings!

Senator Maclean who, like Mr Thompson, did not attend the meetings, said: 'My understanding is that they were positive discussions. This is the beginning of the process and there are many more discussions to be had, but both sides are working towards a sensible solution that suits both parties.' (3)

Let us hope that a sensible solution is found, and that the discussions don't break down, but perhaps mechanisms could be put in place to ensure that this kind of event doesn't happen again. Otherwise, all the trips across to Guernsey, the good photo-opportunities, the cheerful sound-bites making it sound as if the Islands are co-operating, are just hot air.

And in the meantime, another story says that "The Channel Islands competition watchdog is looking for more ways for Jersey and Guernsey to work together."

The Channel Islands Competition Regulatory Authority wants to address issues in both islands at the same time to make sure people get a fair deal. Executive Director John Curran said some issues will be different in the two islands. But he added he wanted both offices to work together to promote value, choice and quality in goods and services. He said: "Reducing our costs further, sharing our resources where possible and engaging in joint working are all integral in fulfilling our mission." (4)

Fishing might be seen as a competition problem between Jersey and Guernsey, where a little bit of sharing resources and "engaging in joint working" might be useful. If the Channel Island really want to work together, perhaps the competition watchdog should broaden its scope to look at a situation which could well mean that Jersey fishermen do not "get a fair deal".

It is ironic that " looking for more ways for Jersey and Guernsey to work together" has come up at the same time as a story which shows that there is at least one way for Jersey and Guernsey to work together, and that is to develop a joint fisheries policy. At the moment, the plight of the fishermen highlights a significant lack of communication in areas outside the finance industry.

And so for the moment, the fishermen are left with "positive talks", by Senator Maclean, who is not, we are told, attending the meetings. Perhaps he should take note of what Senator Ozouf said in 2009 about closer co-operation between the Islands:

"Talk has been cheap and now we need to roll our sleeves up."


Monday, 24 October 2011

Bailhache secures record victory

Headline this week in the JEP: Bailhache secures record victory

Sir Philip Bailhache, a recent contender in X-Factor, impressed the judges and the voting public with his rendering of Elvis Presley's "Devil In Disguise", beating Stuart Syvret's "Jailhouse Rock".

Hearing the verdict, Simon Cowell texted: "Sir Philip is a real fiend, sorry, I mean find. That's the trouble with predictive text. Nonetheless, it's a record victory, and we'll have the new single ready for release by November"

Other Elvis songs making the chart were:

Lyndon Farnham: Wooden Heart
Jeremy Macon: My Boy (arr. Mrs Macon)
James Le Feuvre: She's Not You
Terry Le Main: Hound Dog (You Ain't Nothing But A)
Freddie (Mercury) Cohen: All Shook Up
Mike (Michael) Jackson: Are You Lonesome Tonight?
Angela Jeune: Way Down
Montfort Tadier: I Forgot To Remember To Forget

But the Beatles were not forgotten, and there were strong contenders here:

Geoff Southern: Back in the USSR
Philip Ozouf: Taxman
Rob Duhamel: The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
Alan Maclean: Fixing A Hole
James Reed: Nowhere Man
Trevor Pitman: Revolution
Ian Gorst: Magical Mystery Tour
Alan Breckon: Don't Pass Me By
Sarah Ferguson: Dear Prudence
Ian Le Marquand: I Wanna Be Your Man

Special thanks for those extra Elvis and Beatles songs to my musical informer, Monty Croix.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Challenge of Election Defeat

What happens to politicians after they cease to be elected?

In his book "The Political Animal", Jeremy Paxman describes how there is a gap in political memoirs and reflections. There is little captured of the elation of winning, or the despondency of counting of votes, and "little about the feelings that churn through a candidate's heart as he or she watches the votes being stacked up, and nothing much, either, about what it is like to put politics behind you. Either these things do not matter any more, or the wounds have been cauterized ".

Instead, politicians tend to look back on their time in power, and write their own history to suit themselves, and show what a difference they made. But as Paxman remarks, if it had not been them to take certain decisions, it would have been someone else. Economic and social forces are often out of the control of the politician, and the best they can do is to react to the changes in the best way that they can.

There had been calls for a change to Parish welfare for over a decade before it was finally put in place, but the way in which the older system based on small parishes was breaking down meant that it would come, sooner or later. And yet one still hears an argument that the old system was better, because the Constable knows the people in his Parish - despite the patent absurdity of this in a Parish like St Helier or St Brelade.

Likewise, the pressure on the taxation system from outside the Island meant that sooner or later, some kind of Goods and Services Tax would be inevitable. Zero -ten was a frantic and rushed steal from the Isle of Man, which itself was a quick fix against European pressure, even though it is was presented as carefully thought out!

Politicians may be responsible for the form changes take, but they also have their advisers, and often easily come unstuck when they do try and do something entirely by themselves - Guy de Faye being a notable example. And yet they bounce back, and seem unaware of the judgment of the electorate. As Paxman remarks, "even the most disgraced find things to crow about"

Paxman notes the problem may be over the kind of person who wants to be a politician:

"There are ritual remarks about wanting to change the world, or to be of service. They are rarely totally convincing. It often seems, in both autobiography and conversation, that the self-confidence required of a politician is the enemy of self-knowledge. They are not, by and large, a reflective breed."

Jungian Analyst Larry Staples commented on how rationality plays such a key part in our lives, and with politicians, there must be quite a severe Cartesian split between their political life, presented as well-reasoned and their home life where they can let their emotions out

Descartes' " I think, therefore I am" reflects a pervasive attitude in highly rational western societies. Here, rational thought is sacred. Thoughts trump feelings as the respectable guide for decisions and action. Feelings are treated as inferior and are seen more as nuisances that have to be tolerated than as helpful providers of direction for our lives.

So what happens after you are voted out of office? In the UK, they clear their desks as swiftly as possible, often trying to avoid meeting those who are still there, and get away unseen. For there is an element of humiliation, and they don't want a reminder of what they have lost. But in Jersey, there are 28 days in which they remain in the States, and in office, if a Minister. For people who are not, by and large, reflective, and who may have enough problems coming to terms with their experience, this may be very difficult.

It may be an experience, on a lesser scale, but none the less comparative to a bereavement, where people simply don't know what to say when they meet you, or perhaps say "I'm sorry you didn't get elected", and then rush past.

Sharon Barr-David has an article on "Managing Downsizing-Related Conversations" which is very germane to this kind of situation. She says how it is difficult for people to talk to people who have lost their jobs, and very much the same applies to people who have lost an election, when they have been in politics for a number of years:

You might find that the most difficult part of the conversation has to do with you your reactions, thoughts, discomfort and anxiety. In some situations, you might find yourself dreading even the thought of having to go through the actual conversation. Or you might find yourself feeling uncomfortable during the conversation itself. These responses are normal and not atypical of managers going through similar organizational changes. Here are some potential sources for these feelings:

Mixed feelings about the change. You might have questions in your own mind about the direction of the change, the way it is handled or your role within it. You might be experiencing a sense of internal dissonance that makes the conversation uncomfortable for you.

Difficulty separating from the departing person. The attachments you formed with the person in question might be meaningful to you. Some may have been your colleagues for many years. It is difficult to say goodbye to a team member or friend as well as to your shared experience.

Perceived lack of skills. You might feel that you lack the necessary skill to navigate the conversation competently and handle whatever comes your way during the discussion.

General discomfort with this type of conversation. You might have an overall sense of discomfort with conversations that have a strong overt or covert emotional component.

The other person's response. A conversation can become difficult as a result of the other person's manner of handling it. You might encounter a wide range of responses - some will be delighted to be leaving, others will be emotional, angry, blaming or bitter. Some will handle their feelings with more restraint; others will show them more openly. Regardless, each difficult conversation will have an emotional dimension: in some cases the feelings will leak into the conversation; in other cases they might burst into it.

Some politicians, especially those past retirement age, can retire gracefully. Deputy Bob Hill is going to write about the history of farms in St Martin, which he has never had time to do before. But for those of still working age, it can be much more difficult. Bills, after all, still have to be paid, and there is no longer the politician's salary, either as income or as a boost to income.

We have heard at least one politician saying "I don't know what I'll do now". It is, of course, these times that people find out who their true friends are, and how many just evaporate, or say they'll get in touch, and have been meaning to get in touch, and never do.

But perhaps this also can be considered a time for reflection, for looking not just at what you want to do, but what kind of person you want to be. In his book "A Matter of Life and Death", John V Taylor said that experiences of dying, if we embrace them, and learn from them, can help us come back to life in a more reflective and profound way.

"Most people are content to remain only half alive... God is not hugely concerned as to whether we are religious or not. What matters to God, and matters supremely, is whether we are alive or not. If your religion brings you more fully to life, God will be in it; but if your religion inhibits your capacity for life or makes you run away from it, you may be sure God is against it, just as Jesus was."

Can politicians move on? Moving on does not mean dumping the past, or forgetting the past, but not forever trying to relive past victories, past triumphs. How many politicians who have left the States feel they have a special mandate to point out why things are going wrong - and what they would do to fix the issues?

Perhaps it is true that they have good insights, but I often get the impression that they have never quite got over that loss of power, that experience of being "in there", and are trying to recover some sense of what it was like to make pronouncements that would be heard, like a record that wants to play again and again, somehow stuck in a timeless groove - and of course, the JEP is happy to feed into that pattern in their lives.* As Jungian Analyst Larry Staples noted:

We hold onto jobs, relationships, locales, or political or religious beliefs long after the real feeling and nourishment have disappeared. The openness to change, which was a part of childhood, had become a distant memory. We become flat and depressed, and growth slows. Gone from our lives is the animation that comes from movement and change.

And that is echoed in John V Taylor's remarks about "holding on".

"Death followed by resurrection, life through dying, is the way things are. It is not a truth limited to the one event of Christ's death and resurrection, nor does it affect us only when we approach the end of our lives. It is the principle of all existence. Hang on to what you have of life and you are lost. Let go, do the necessary dying, and a fuller, richer quality of aliveness will be given to you" (John V. Taylor, Weep Not for Me for the World Council of Churches, 1986).

The Political Animal, Jeremy Paxman
Weep not for Me, John V Taylor
A Matter of Life and Death, John V Taylor

* I'm excluding the JEP article here where they got opinions from people such as Ben Shenton, Jennifer Bridges etc. That is the JEP proactively contacting ex-politicians, not the ex-politicians trying to get a platform for themselves.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Lovers

Naked they stand, and hands reach out
While the Goddess above removes their doubt
Blesses their union, soon now coming
As to their love they are succumbing
Behind, the mountain peak rises tall
Their destiny, to rise and not fall
There is now gaze in adoration
Love unfolds in supplication.

Friday, 21 October 2011

End of the World?

As Harold Camping has yet another bid for the "end of the world", here is a sketch from the 1961 "Beyond The Fringe".

The cast are Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. They are seated, huddled, on the top of a mountain...

Jon :How will it be, this end of which you have spoken, Brother Enim?

All: Yes, how will it be?

Peter :Well, it will be, as 'twere a mighty rending in the sky, you see, and the mountains shall sink, you see, and the valleys shall rise, you see, and great shall be the tumult thereof.

Jon :Will the veil of the temple be rent in twain?

Peter :The veil of the temple will be rent in twain about two minutes before we see the sign of the manifest flying beast-head in the sky.

Alan :And will there be a mighty wind, Brother Enim?

Peter :Certainly there will be a mighty wind, if the word of God is anything to go by...

Dudley :And will this wind be so mighty as to lay low the mountains of the earth?

Peter :No - it will not be quite as mighty as that - that is why we have come up on the mountain, you stupid nit - to be safe from it. Up here on the mountain we shall be safe - safe as houses.
Alan :And what will happen to the houses?

Peter :Well, naturally, the houses will be swept away and the tents of the ungodly with them, and they will all be consuméd by the power of the heavens and on earth - and serve them right!

Alan :And shall we be consumed?

Peter :Con..sum..éd? No, we shall not be consuméd - we shall be up on the mountain here, you see, while millions burn, having a bit of a giggle.

Jon :When will it be, this end of which you have spoken?

All: Aye, when will it be - when will it be?

Peter :In about thirty seconds time, according to the ancient pyramidic scrolls... and my Ingersoll watch.

Jon :Shall we compose ourselves, then?

Peter :Good plan, Brother Pithy. Prepare for the End of the World! Fifteen seconds...

Alan :Have we got the tinned food?

Dudley :Yes.

Peter :Ten seconds...

Jon :And the tin-opener?

Dudley :Yes.

Peter :Five - four - three - two - one - Zero!

All :(Chanting) Now is the end - Perish The World!

A pause

Peter :It was GMT, wasn't it?

Jon :Yes.

Peter :Well, it's not quite the conflagration I'd been banking on. Never mind, lads, same time tomorrow... we must get a winner one day.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


I'm in Victor Meldrew mode tonight...

1 The next time someone tells you something is the "least worst option", tell them that their most best option is learning grammar.

2 I hate the word "deliverable". Used by management consultants for something that they will "deliver" instead of a report.

3 The irritating phrase: "You do the Math." Math? It's MATHS. Short for Mathematics. With an "S". Have you ever heard of "mathematic"? No? Then add the "S".

4. Period instead of full stop. Periods happen once a month. Full stops are at the end of sentences.

5. "It's the economy, stupid." A hideous phrase of Bill Clinton. Reply: "It's the bankers, stupid" where the blame is on the idiots whose financial gambling caused the credit crunch; this is better, factually and grammatically. In fact, in Bill Clinton's case, "It's the trouser snake, stupid" would have been more appropriate.

6. "It's not rocket science". A tag onto the end of sentences that really doesn't add much at all, as in stupid mistakes like. " Follow these easy steps, and you can easily cook an omelette in the non-stick frying pan. It's not rocket science." Teflon, anyone?

7. Can-do. A hideous Americanism, which is seen as a good thing, as in these example: "My mom said it's okay to talk to lesbians because they take good care of their cats and have a can-do attitude." and "no matter what your age he can infect you with a can-do attitude". Too many English speakers have the infection, alas, and it is spreading like the Black Death, carried by management consultants in shiny black suits. They killed off the black rats to stop the infection, and maybe we should do the same with the management consultants.

Jersey General Election - Results and Comment

Final Result parishes have declared so far. The last parish to declare was St Helier.

1. Sir Philip Bailhache - 17538 votes
2. Dep Ian Gorst - 15614 votes
3. Sen Francis Le Gresley - 14981 votes
4. Lyndon Farnham - 11095 votes

5. Adv Rose Colley - 8253 votes
6. Sen Freddie Cohen - 7922 votes
7. Stuart Syvret - 6402 votes
8. Mark Forskitt - 2813 votes
9. Linda Corby - 2489 votes
10. David Richardson - 1570 votes
11. Darius Pearce - 1562 votes
12. Sylvia Lagadu - 1332 votes
13. Chris Whitworth - 1296 votes

As the bookies predicted, Philip Bailhache did top the poll. How he will find the other side of the States is another matter. His predecessor, Vernon Tomes, did not live up to expectations, and managed to lose significant popularity during his term of office, so much so that although he never stood for re-election, his funeral, which had been expected to draw thousands, with standing room outside, failed to live up to expectations and was more modestly attended. It is one thing to top the polls, another to come back in three years with a record of achievement to be assessed at the bar of public opinion. In that respect, Ian Gorst and Francis Le Gresley have both done better - Ian Gorst, as a sitting Minister, particularly.

After always at the heals of Lyndon Farnham, Freddie Cohen finally fell behind Rose Colley, who is clearly an obvious contender next time around. And Stuart Syvret did surprisingly well, probably to the detriment of Mark Forskitt and Linda Corby. Syvlia Lagadu managed even to beat Chris Whitworth, showing that facile stunts with cardboard cut-outs do not go down well with the electorate. David Richardson was a rather "grey" candidate, did better than the two male idiots down the bottom, but not really making much impact either.

Mark Forskitt did surprisingly badly, probably because of a perceived over focus on green issues above domestic matters. But his time may come - some of the issues he raised, while global, are not going away. Stuart Syvret showed that he still has some pulling power.

Out go more progressive members Bob Hill, Debbie de Sousa, Paul Le Clare with the Deputies.

But also out go more establishment members Peter Hanning, Mike Jackson, Terry Le Main.

For all his past record as a young Deputy and Senator, it is not perhaps surprising that Terry Le Main failed to get elected,. His recent record has gone against him, and his age shows a man whose powers are clearly waning significantly. Age may also have been a factor in St Martin, where Bob Hill failed to get in. Although he is bright and alert, it may be that the electorate wanted someone slightly younger, although it has to be said that St Martin's doesn't go for youngsters.

Jackie Hilton got back in - again topping the poll - alongside Andrew Green and Mike Higgins, with newcomer Richard Rondel doing well. The retirement of Ben Fox meant that all three sitting Deputies could get in, with a space for one more, so Mike Higgins retained his seat. Ben Fox going and Richard Rondel coming in, means a more progressive element replacing him, as can be seen from his manifesto (on farm shops and GST).

New entrants in town James Baker and Rod Bryans mean that Debbie de Sousa and Paul Le Claire are out. But elsewhere, the left wing has managed to retain seats Trevor Pitman, Shona Pitman, Judy Martin and Geoff Southern all back in. Let's hope Bryans manages to bring some consensus and communication to the House - he never said if he managed that with his parents who were politically left and right!

St Saviours saw little change in the Deputies - Roy Le Hérissier, Jeremy Macon, Tracey Valois, Rob Duhamel and Kevin Lewis, but Constable Peter Hanning is out, toppled by Sadie Rennard. A beautiful Jersey result!

Grouville saw no change, with Carolyn Labey back in.

In St Brelade, there was a sea-change as Steve Pallett toppled Mike Jackson, showing perhaps, as Alastair Layzell found out when Deputy and President of Home Affairs, that in a Parish as large as St Brelade - like that of St Helier - a Constable should not perhaps be Minister as well, because there is too much to do in the Parish, and if that is neglected, you will not get re-election. Mike has done some very good stuff at TTS, unlike the previous incumbent, the disasterous Guy de Faye, in double decker buses, economic lighting for the Avenue cycle track, recycling, but he has been too distant from Parish matters, as seen by the disconnect over the black gravestone.

But in St Lawrence, Deidre Mezbourian beat off newcomer James Le Feuvre, showing that family connections are not enough along to ensure victory.

Patrick Ryan got in easily in St John, and Andrew Lewis failed, showing perhaps that the electorate have a better memory than he had hoped for his last term of office as Home Affairs Minister, and the very questionable suspension of Graham Power.

St Clement saw newcomer Susie Pinel alongside Gerard Baudains, with a terrible showing for Ann Dupre, showing how a failure to live up to manifesto promises may not be easily forgiven. The St Clement's gadfly is back as Deputy!

The same scenario played out in St Brelade where Angela Jeune came last, and newcomer John Young swept in. The gap between candidates was more evenly stepped, however, unlike parishes like St John or St Clement or St Ouen, where the gap between elected and failed was large, so that failed candidates Margaret Holland Prior and Jeff Hathaway still polled a decent vote.

James Reed surprising did extremely well in St Ouen, despite his controversial time as Education Minister, beating his rivals by a large margin. If he had faced just one opponent, he might have had a fight on his hands, but his rivals pulled the anti-Reed vote apart - a problem endemic to First Past the Post.

There were also "all new elections" - no sitting members of the States involved.

Michael Paddock as Constable in St Ouen, Kristina Moore as Deputy in St Peter, and John Le Bailley as Deputy for St Mary.

And finally, my home district - St Brelade No 2 produced no change, with a repeat of the order of two years ago - Sean Power, Montfort Tadier and once more failing to get in - Mervyn Le Masurier. Ah well, at least he has more time for golf!

And my own "guestimation" - I didn't see Philip Bailhache doing quite so well, or Mark Forskitt doing so badly, but if you look down at the last posting, I didn't do so badly after all.

And something to ponder. As the BBC academic pundit, Adrian Lee noted, this is NOT a general election because 6 Senators were not up for election, including Treasury and Economic Development Ministers, so while the economy played a part, as he pointed out, there was no opportunity to vote in judgement on the direction taken by the Council of Ministers. He also noted that twice now, we have had a Chief Minister who had not had to face the electorate before their appointment, and again had left the States leaving no possibility of the electorate passing judgement on their performance. The next election WILL BE a general election, with ALL candidates standing.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011



BAILHACHE, Philip Martin (Philip Bailhache)
COHEN, Frederick Ellyer (Freddie Cohen)
COLLEY, Rose Edith
CORBY, Linda Daphne Irene Gay (Linda Corby)
FARNHAM, Lyndon John
FORSKITT, Mark Bruce
GORST, Ian Joseph
LAGADU, Sylvia
LE GRESLEY, Francis du Heaume
PEARCE, Darius James
RICHARDSON, David Raulin Tanqueray (David R.T. Richardson)
SYVRET, Stuart
WHITWORTH, Christopher Paul (Chris Whitworth

"She voted for four because she felt under pressure to do so." (Nick Le Cornu)

Is voting preference determined in anyway by alphabetical order? Given that - as Nick Le Cornu has demonstrated by anecdotal evidence - there is a "push" to use all four votes, when electors have "spare" votes, especially from first time voters there may be a tendency to give the spares to those at the top of the list.

This very much like the phenomena in Australia termed "donkey voting", and is most often seen as a result of ignorance - the voter does not understand the voting system. It is more likely to occur in Proportional Representation systems, but can also occur where there is more than one candidate to vote for (so the election is not a straightforward First Past the Post). Votes who are confused either assign votes at random, or pick the names at the top. Chance favours those at the top. So perhaps the names should be listed - not in alphabetical order - but in a random order.

Perception influences voting, which is why the extremely selective reporting of the Hustings by the JEP may influence voters considerably more than the Hustings themselves, a phenomena I have noted before, especially when candidates see good feedback from hustings, and wonder why that doesn't translate into votes - the reason is the bias in the reporting. Philip Bailhache has received more press coverage than the other candidates, and better priority in being pictured or mentioned on front pages.

BBC Radio Jersey, in getting Frank Walker on to talk for an hour, with repeat quotations from that later in other shows, while he mentioned no names, nevertheless painted a picture of the kind of candidates he would like to see get in and those he would not ("wreckers"), and his letter in the JEP endorsing Freddie Cohen will undoubtedly have linked this in the minds of readers and listeners. So far the BBC have shown no sign of balance by getting in someone like Daniel Wimberley to talk for an hour.

The dominant narrative of the election is not so much policies, although those do count, but telling a story of a States Assembly that is "destructive", with people on the sidelines, outside of the Council of Ministers, causing trouble, making over long debates, asking endless questions, etc. That is the picture that is being drawn, and presented as accurate. It is, however, propaganda, not history.

There are many failures - and to name a few - the fiasco of the hedging of the euro (brought by the rush of Terry Le Sueur to sign the contract), the failure of housing to maintain properties (with Terry Le Main in charge for years doing nothing in funding maintenance), the failure of the Treasury Minister over Lime Grove, and the sheer neglect to consider terms of contract so that Senior Civil servants could walk away with thousands of pounds when they decided of their own volition to resign ahead of the end of their contracts, and the requirement of a costly hospital administrator brought in from the UK on a contract to sort out the mess there (although how that could be with James Le Feuvre in charge is ponderable!). We also have the record of Terry Le Sueur often saying one thing ("building a wider consensus") and doing nothing or the opposite.

The dominant narrative ignores or glosses over these failures; it's a version of history that ignores the mistakes made. In a party system of elections, a government that has just taken office can blame mistakes on its predecessor. But in Jersey, in the absence of parties, the only way to do this is to move to a different position, and for the incoming incumbent to gloss over the errors they inherit.

The dominant narrative calls critical history into question - raking over old coals, going over the same old ground, Groundhog day, and so on, and mocking anyone who wants to scrutinise that past. The results is that the past is another country, and we must move on - in case, of course, we look back in anger and see the catalogue of errors.

This can be seen in the trajectory of the Treasury Minister, whose deficiencies in the £22,000 saga of Jodie Marsh as Economic Development Minister was highlighted by the Auditor-General - "A failure by the Minister to ensure that the terms on which he offered further grants had been discussed with the Department's officials and that they were then properly recorded, defined and applied." " I understand that decision to make the payment was made by Senator Philip Ozouf, the Minister, without previously seeking the Department's advice.". Of course, Senator Ozouf moved on to become Treasury Minister, and the past was buried.

In 2010, Senator Ozouf employed temporary Treasurer of the States Hugh McGarel-Groves on the grounds that he was needed to sort out problems. But if the problems had been there under Terry Le Sueur's watch, why did he do nothing about it? Again, the trajectory of moving from one position to another meant that any problems which Senator Le Sueur had not tackled were forgotten!

Dominant narratives are well known to students of history, and the Bible, especially the Old Testament, can be seen as a conflation of at least 5 dominant narratives, all vying for their version of events.

Anyhow, my "guestimation" on how well they may do - is built up from three "slates"...

This is NOT a recommendation, just a prediction.

If you wanted an "establishment slate...", you might well vote for

1. BAILHACHE, Philip Martin (Philip Bailhache)
2. COHEN, Frederick Ellyer (Freddie Cohen)
3. FARNHAM, Lyndon John
4. GORST, Ian Joseph

Outsider "split" votes to
RICHARDSON, David Raulin Tanqueray (David R.T. Richardson)
COLLEY, Rose Edith

I imagine this will be the rural vote, except perhaps in St Ouen, where Mark Forskitt has his heartland and may make some inroads.

If you wanted a "progressive slate..."

1. GORST, Ian Joseph
2. LE GRESLEY, Francis du Heaume
3. COLLEY, Rose Edith
4. FORSKITT, Mark Bruce

Outsider "split" votes to
CORBY, Linda Daphne Irene Gay (Linda Corby)
SYVRET, Stuart

I suspect this will be the urban vote.

If you wanted a more "maverick slate..."

1. SYVRET, Stuart
2. CORBY, Linda Daphne Irene Gay (Linda Corby)
3. WHITWORTH, Christopher Paul (Chris Whitworth
4. LAGADU, Sylvia

Outsider "split" votes to
PEARCE, Darius James
FORSKITT, Mark Bruce

I suspect this will also be the urban vote.

On the assumption that votes will be split, the "maverick slate", although not commanding as many votes as the others, will split votes off the "progressive slate", and there are more possible outsiders in each camp.

The "outsider votes" will tend to remove candidates in places 3 and 4. Some people may come across as appealing to more than one camps.

Note that I am not saying that they are actually "establishment" or "progressive" or "maverick", but simply how they may be perceived by portions of the electorate - see the notes on "perception" and the "dominant narrative" above.

It is also well known that if the turnout is lower, this usually favours the establishment camp, as the curve of voter turnout parallels those of education and income.

There is another factor, that of "pivotal status", which is also - again a matter of perception - if it is perceived - perhaps from reading the JEP's printing of odds by "Honest Nev" that a preferred candidate will do very badly, then the voter may well decide not to vote for them after all. If they think their candidate stands a reasonable chance, and their vote may well be pivotal, then they will turn out. The "cost" of voting determines whether a voter will turn out, and that is related to how they perceive the margins of victory.

This has been dealt with in a paper called "Victory margins and the paradox of voting" by Micael Catanheira, but it involves some extremely complex and abstruse mathematics involving Bayesian Nash Equilibria, which I am not going to inflict on the reader!

My final guestimation:

1. GORST, Ian Joseph
2. LE GRESLEY, Francis du Heaume

Then for the next places, any two of:

BAILHACHE, Philip Martin (Philip Bailhache)
COHEN, Frederick Ellyer (Freddie Cohen)
COLLEY, Rose Edith
FORSKITT, Mark Bruce
FARNHAM, Lyndon John

and with perhaps more chance of the first two, but place 4 will be very close indeed

and in the middle ranks

SYVRET, Stuart
CORBY, Linda Daphne Irene Gay (Linda Corby)
RICHARDSON, David Raulin Tanqueray (David R.T. Richardson)

and at the bottom of the heap:

WHITWORTH, Christopher Paul (Chris Whitworth
PEARCE, Darius James
LAGADU, Sylvia

Whitworth will do badly because of the silly faces on the site and elsewhere that he's been pulling, and the ridiculous stunt with the cut-out. Pearce will do badly because of his bizarre ideas of polling the voter every time he wants to do something, and Lagadu will do badly simply because she's probably a very nice person, but no one has ever heard much of her before.

Pensions - Alan Breckon's Proposition

Carolyn Labey: I support the principle of what he is proposing, I just need
to hear the arguments and if what he is proposing is the best way forward to
achieve what we are trying to do.


The population is crushed!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Computer Skills

This ought to make you feel better about your computer skills, and for those in Jersey, a lighter break from heavy election stuff!

Tech support: What kind of computer do you have?
Customer: A white one...
Tech support: Click on the 'my computer' icon on to the left of the screen.
Customer: Your left or my left?

Customer: Hi, good afternoon, this is Martha, I can't print. Every time I try, it says 'Can't find printer'.  I've even lifted the printer and placed it in front of the monitor, but the computer still says he can't find it..

Tech support: What's on your monitor now, ma'am?
Customer: A teddy bear my boyfriend bought for me at the 7-11.

Customer: My keyboard is not working anymore.
Tech support: Are you sure it's plugged into the computer?
Customer: No. I can't get behind the computer.
Tech support: Pick up your keyboard and walk 10 paces back.
Customer: ! OK
Tech support: Did the keyboard come with you?
Customer: Yes
Tech support: That means the keyboard is not plugged in.

Customer: I can't get on the Internet.
Tech support: Are you sure you used the right password?
Customer: Yes, I'm sure. I saw my colleague do it.
Tech support: Can you tell me what the password was?
Customer: Five dots.

Tech support: What anti-virus program do you use?
Customer: Netscape.
Tech support: That's not an anti-virus program.
Customer: Oh, sorry... Internet Explorer..

Customer: I have a huge problem. A friend has placed a screen saver on my computer,  but every time I move the mouse, it disappears.

Tech support: How may I help you?
Customer: I'm writing my first email.
Tech support: OK, and what seems to be the problem?
Customer: Well, I have the letter 'a' in the address, but how do I get the little circle around it?

A woman customer called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer.
Tech support: Are you running it under windows?
Customer: 'No, my desk is next to the door, but that is a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle  next to me is under a window, and his printer is working fine.'

And last but not least!

Tech support: 'Okay Bob, let's press the control and escape keys at the same time. That brings up a task  list in the middle of the screen. Now type the letter 'P' to bring up the Program Manager.'
Customer: I don't have a P.
Tech support: On your keyboard, Bob.
Customer: What do you mean?
Tech support: 'P'.....on your keyboard, Bob.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Pensions - Who Will Vote Which Way

Senator Breckon's Proposition on pensions is timetabled to go through in a sitting of the old States of Jersey.

THE STATES are asked to decide whether they are of opinion -

(a) to agree that future annual increases in the old age pension should no longer be linked automatically to the Average Earnings Index but should be increased in line with whichever is the highest for the year
in question of -
(i) the Average Earnings Index;
(ii) the RPI Pensioners' Index produced by the Statistics Unit; or
(iii) a figure of 2.5%; and

(b) to request the Minister for Social Security to bring forward for approval the necessary amendments to legislation to give effect to the proposal, at the earliest opportunity.

He notes that: "The cost of life's necessary basic needs, like food, utilities, light and heating, have increased significantly over the last few years, hitting pensioners particularly hard - when REAL costs have risen, but pensions have not matched this, leaving many to suffer in silence and make do.", and also comments that "It has been demonstrated to me that some pension increases are being offset by REDUCTIONS in Income Support for pensioners, and they can actually finish up worse off after 'the increase' in pension."

As voters may be aware, there is now a 28 day gap (increased in September from 14 days by the current States voting for "extra time") from the election date this Wednesday, and the new States sitting for the first time. During that period, the old States will be sitting and voting on matters such as the budget, and the proposition below.

I think it only right that the electorate should have some idea of how sitting States members, who are seeking re-election, will be voting on this proposition. After all, you may be voting in someone who would not vote the way you would like, and that may effect how you vote.

I have, therefore, emailed all States members seeking re-election to see how they would vote, but the number of replies have, by and large, been derisory.

Voting POUR (in favour of the proposition):

Deputy Bob Hill

I will be voting POUR

Deputy Debbie de Sousa

"It goes without saying that I will fully support Senators Breckon's pensions proposition. I did meet with Mr. Hall and start work on this but due to standing for re-election did not want to open myself to the usual statement that I would do this purely to get re-elected. Sad but true this would have been the perception. I even went so far as to refrain from speaking in the final sitting of the states so that it could not be said that I was electioneering. This is so important an issue it needed some one like Alan Breckon who was not up for election."

Tracey Valois

I will be voting POUR

Senator Francis Le Gresley

I was considering bringing this proposition myself but as I was up for re-election felt that it was better for Alan Breckon to take the lead. I will be supporting it and have no problem with my response being made public.

Deputy Paul Le Claire

As with most proposals of Alan's which make good sense I will be supporting him and voting POUR

Deputy Geoff Southern

I shall be fully behind the motion.

Deputy Jackie Hilton

I will be supporting the proposition.

Deputy Roy Le Hérissier

While I await Alan Breckon's detailed arguments, particularly his broader proposals for economic growth, I will probably vote for (2) if he is prepared to separate them out. I have to say that I have great difficulty with the old house voting on proposals like this in the midst of an election.

Grey area votes

Constable Mike Jackson

The difficulty here is that we don't yet know what the consequences will be in terms of cost and  would rather have some certainty in the that direction before confirming support. Notwithstanding that I am erring towards 'Pour' at present."

Deputy Sean Power

I have not read a report and proposition in two weeks nor have I seen any comments by COM.  The answer is neither Pour, Contre or Abstain because I simply have not studied the R&P.  I always do. What worries me far more than what I have read of this R&P is our economic wellbeing and I have to say that those on COM and aspiring to be on COM have not painted a very clear picture of a vision for Jersey and how they would go about economic stability.

I had no reply from the other candidates, although (from receipts), I know that Kevin Lewis, Peter Hanning, and Rob Duhamel all read the question. However, Anne Dupre sent me this:

Thank you for your emails.  As I am sure you know, most of us a extremely busy with canvassing etc at this time. I have not looked into any future States business, as I just have not got the time at present. I will read all the proposals that will be put forward, and, of course, read the comments made by the Minister for Social Security and the Treasury Minister when this proposition comes to the States to be discussed.

Which is amazing, because the Minister most effected by the change, Deputy Ian Gorst, did have time to make a very measured reply, which I am publishing in full below:

I held a meeting with Senator Breckon some weeks ago about this issue and informed him of my position and what action I had taken and intended to take. My position is that I am 'in principle' in favour of the change. I have already instructed the Actuary to look at the cost implications. I have then committed to place that information together with the latest Actuarial Valuation before the States for any decision. I therefore believe that this decision should not be taken until these two pieces of necessary information are known. I attach below an extract from a press release about the subject that I issued in August.

Deputy Gorst announced a review of the mechanism for uprating pensions:

"The UK Government Actuary is currently completing a three year review of the Jersey Social Security Fund.  The results of this review will be used to plan future changes to the Social Security Scheme.  As we know, the number of pensioners is increasing and people are living longer.  The States has already agreed to increase the pension age from 2020 onwards, but we will also need to increase contribution rates over the next few years to ensure that pensions can continue to be paid in the future.

I have asked the Government Actuary to include in his review an analysis of the impact of changing the method used to increase pensions from year to year.  At present, pensions are increased automatically in line with the increase in the earnings index so that pensioners' incomes  rise at the same rate as the incomes of the working population.  This method was introduced in 1990 and has ensured that current pension rates have kept pace with the general level of wages in the island.

Since the earnings index began in 1990, the growth in earnings has been higher than the RPI (Retail Prices Index) in most years.  In only six years has the increase in RPI been higher than the increase in earnings.   As a result, the Jersey pension rate of £184.45 a week compares very favourably with the UK pension of £102.15.

In recent years, the RPI has been higher than the earnings index in 2008, 2010 and 2011.  The review by the Government Actuary will calculate the cost of changing the method of uprating, so that it takes into account both the cost of living and the earnings index.    In the UK this has been referred to as a "triple lock" and the UK government has committed to uprating the basic state pension by a triple guarantee of the highest of the increase in earnings, prices (CPI) or 2.5%.

The cost of changing the method of uprating will need to be borne by the current working age population.  Any decision will need to take into account the increase in the contribution rate that is needed to maintain the current system, as well as the extra cost of a more generous uprating method.

I intend to publish a report setting out this analysis at the end of October.  Following the elections, the new Minister for Social Security will be able to put proposals to the new States Assembly."

Senator Breckon's Proposition

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Inner Dimension of Politics

"How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You give to God one tenth even of the seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill, and cumin, but you neglect to obey the really important teachings of the Law, such as justice and mercy and honesty. These you should practice, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23)

As we approach the elections in Jersey, it is perhaps time to look back on the last three years, as Daniel Wimberley has been doing. If you go to his site, you will see a good many of the States decisions, and why he sees many of the actions and words coming from those with the levers of power as misleading the general public.

It is the commentary of someone of great integrity, who has been rather shocked to see how politicians really behave, and what he sees as a fundamental lack of honesty. I don't agree with every one of his comments, but some, such as Lime Grove, display clear evidence of deception and mismanagement.

He refers to this as "lying", a charge which I am sure will be denied by most of those mentioned, or over the events discussed. Now lying is perhaps deliberately chosen as a strong word, to get people to think, but it is also perhaps the most easily dismissed of words. It can be argued that these are matters which are difference of opinions, and to hold a different opinion is not to lie.

But there are shades of deceit, of a lack of honesty, which do not perhaps manifest themselves in obvious ways. It is a powerful irony of conscious rational thought that it is blind to all other forms of cognitive engagement, such as that gained from introspection, or learning to listen to others, and so can believe itself correct, and obviously correct. Self-deceit is perhaps the most dangerous form of lying, and I think there is a lot of self-deception in politics because of its very nature

The art of listening, of engaging, and really concentrating on what others are saying, and understanding what their concerns are, is not one that we are good at. Our own ego tends to come first, and while most people will engage in turn taking in a conversation, that is not the same as listening. More often, it is a case of letting another person speak, before we can come in with our own thoughts and ideas.

When another person is talking, what are you doing? If you are like most people you are thinking about what you are going to say as soon as there is a break in the conversation. If no break appears shortly you rehearse what you plan to say. Is that you? Do you know what the other person said? Can you repeat what has been said or do you merely know what you are going to say? Embarrassing, isn't it?

There is a technique called active listening that can help you overcome this habit. Active listening is where the listener takes an active role in the communications process by applying four techniques: restatement--restating or paraphrasing a message, summary--summarizing the main issues of a series of important points, responding to non-verbal cues--acknowledging and verbalizing the presence and effect of non-verbal messages, and responding to feelings--acknowledging and verbalizing the presence and affect of the feelings expressed... Managers need to be active listeners to improve their communication effectiveness by verifying understanding, clarifying communication, and encouraging more effective communication. Active listening also demonstrates to the communicator that the message was important, and that the manager is conscientious. (1)

Now there are a good many consultations, of asking the public what they think, and this is deemed to be politician engagement. But it is not. For a start, the matrix for the engagement is often limited by the kind of questions asked by the politicians or their advisors. But equally importantly, not only is the politician setting the agenda for the way they want the consultation to proceed, they are also removing themselves from engagement with real human beings, with going and actively listening to what people have to say. Imagine Jersey was another example - get people together, and fix the agenda on which they can speak. Active listening doesn't just involve this kind of consultation, which may be little more than listening and then persuading people that your view is right, and picking a selection of views, so that you have some that agree with you - it also means engaging in an active way in the listening process, of being humble enough to be able to change, however difficult or even painful that might be.

Within the States, what has struck me more than anything over the last three years, much more so than in fact on Frank Walker's watch, was the way in which there was a division between us and them, reflected quite clearly in voting patterns, and a fortress mentality in which dialogue was not taking place; instead of harnessing talents of all the members, there seemed to be a fear that this would lead to compromises or weaknesses in the Council of Ministers own position. The promised consensus, of bringing a wider States into the heart of Government, which was in the speech of the Chief Minister evaporated within a week on his election. Political commentators in the Jersey Evening Post have noted this, but there has been no sense in which the contradiction between word and act has ever been the subject of introspection.

There seems to be a failure to learn, and I don't just mean leaning from mistakes, I also mean learning to see one's own motivations, to be more introspective. Perhaps politicians in their quieter moments, are introspective, but that doesn't often appear apparent to me from anything they say. The interior journey, and the self-examination, with regrets, mistakes, apologies seems to be almost wholly lacking. Instead when mistakes are made, "the last word" seems to be the order of the day, coming back with a final vindication of one's own position.

O God, you have searched us out and known us, and all that we are is open to you. We confess that we have sinned: we have used our power to dominate and our weakness to manipulate; we have evaded responsibility and failed to confront evil; we have denied dignity to ourselves and to each other, and fallen into despair. We turn to you O God; we renounce evil; we claim your love; we choose to be made whole. (Anglican Confession of Faith)

We acknowledge that we are on the land of our Indigenous people. We honour their care of this part of the earth, their capacity to tread lightly over God's creation and to share its gifts. We weep, 0 God, for the lives of our people. We toil day and night and still our children go hungry. We sow the fields, planting your seeds of abundance and bringing in the gifts of your harvest. But this is torn from our hands and all that is left are the crumbs from tables of the rich. The gap grows wider and wider as we die from lack of health care and fall back in life without education and freedom. We bow our heads in shame, 0 God, for our tables groan with plenty. Our only questions are about which good thing to eat, and how much is too much. We puzzle over what more we can choose to add to our clothes, our homes and our style of living. As we hear the cries of the suffering people in the distance, we know that we have betrayed your dream. We have failed to live in your just community.(Confession, Service of Trade Justice)

One of the remarkable facts in the blogs, and on occasion - though usually slapped down by the speaker in the States - has been the appeal by those in opposition to the religious beliefs of some of those in power, even though some of those making those appeals are not themselves religious believers. But they see an inherent contradiction between the way the religious areas of life do not seem to have any impact on the politic arena, either in introspection, and any kind of confession that those in power might be mistaken, or in the values of social justice which they rightly see as apparent threaded through.

It is always as if they are saying: you are Christians - surely we expect better of you than a pragmatic attitude to fixing things, and some acknowledgement of when you make mistakes, a little less arrogance, a little more social concern and compassion for others. In fact they are saying that Christian belief should make a difference, but they can't see that it is apparent. And of course, the whole arena of debate deliberately is such that politics and religion have been sharply divided in a way that our ancestors of even two hundred years ago would have found hard to believe, so that even the word "godforsaken" is forbidden in the States Chamber. It is almost as if the removal of the Rectors from the States Chamber have shunted religious matters out as well. But that ban shouldn't mean that politicians can't draw upon those religious traditions in speeches outside the Chamber, and show the roots of social justice are deeply part of their lives. No one wants a theocracy, but the prophetic voice has also been silenced, where truth speaks to power.

Why is that important? I think it is important because it means that the kind of introspection which is needed, such as that which can confront the subtle tendencies to "dominate and our weakness to manipulate" (as the Confession above states) are also lost, or become simply an empty form of words, declaimed on Sundays, but unseen elsewhere. Without that element, politicians who are not prone or able to reflect on their motivations, tend to recall themselves in the best light, simply because their are powerful mechanisms for self-deceit within all human beings:

In every person's memory, times of not knowing what they now know are accompanied by moments of discovery--times when they are presented with new information that contradicts and then changes their prior beliefs. Such memories reinforce a widely shared folk theory of how people learn: Take ignorance, add information, and then gain competence at tasks such as knowing which of two remote cities is farther north. The human ability to recall such sequences is nearly universal. So is the ability to describe them. As a result, the folk theory is easy to communicate. Relative to more complex explanations of how we learn, we should expect this one to suffice in casual conversations in which the cost of being incorrect is insubstantial.

But the folk theory can be deceptive. The deception takes the form of inducing people to derive a causal story about how people learn from data insufficient for that task. The deception is a consequence of what statisticians call "selecting on the dependent variable." In other words, people recall the cases where the theory is accurate (for example, we start incompetent at a particular task; we pay attention to a new piece of information; it changes our views, and we then gain the ability to accomplish the task) and not cases in which it fails (for example, we start, incompetent, at a particular task, we either ignore new information or use it in a way that does not increase our intelligence, and we, therefore, gain no task-relevant abilities) (2)

Politics can be tough, and politicians often need to develop a tough shell. That's even been stated during the course of these elections. But the danger is that the protective layers that keep one's self esteem intact can also lead to all kinds of other problems, and in particular, a kind of reflex action to defend one's position, rather than ever subjecting it to self criticism. Instead, what develops is the ability to create "rationalizations as protective devices":

In a very important sense, life is devoted to the protection of the ego, the care and promotion of the self. Nor is the definition of what is ego or ego-involved confined to the body, or even to wholly personal attributes. On the contrary, it tends to be extended to people, symbols, ideas, and objects which in some way are associated with some aspect of the person. The selection of these ego-involved objects is the product both of social designation and idiosyncratic personal preference, the operation of the two factors making for individuality within a common framework. Self-esteem, then, inevitably rises and falls with the "fortunes" of the ego-involved objects. The socially determined sources of self-esteem have been termed "status," and the individually determined sources as "self-integrity." In reinforcing self-esteem from these sources, people fall back upon rationalizations as protective devices. (3)

Political motivation, is in part to do with an effort to maintain or enhance self-esteem. This can lead to an inability to decide once one's preferences have been clarified. But it does not always have to be that way. The example of Gandhi shows us that introspection can go hand in hand with politics, and the external journey can also be guided by the internal journey:

Though he freely experimented with western ways during his stay in London, he remained faithful to the Hindu beliefs of renunciation and selflessness, which served as a formative moral and ethical matrix throughout his life. These virtues also contributed to his identity as both a spiritual and a political figure and reflected his perception of his own development as a process of "self-realization" gained through "deep, self-introspection." (4)

A sea-change in politics is perhaps not likely to come overnight, but I think there must be room for improvements, and for more introspection into motivations, more active listening to the general public, for at the moment, we are still in the shallows and the dry places, and the deep well of life is still some way in the distance.

"How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside but are full of bones and decaying corpses on the inside. In the same way, on the outside you appear good to everybody, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and sins.
(Matthew 23:27-28)

(1) How the Manager Can Use Active Listening. Contributors: Jay T. Knippen, Thad B. Green, Public Personnel Management, 1994
(2) Deliberation Disconnected: What It Takes to Improve Civic Competence. Arthur Lupia , Law and Contemporary Problems, 2002olitical Life:
(3) Why People Get Involved in Politics. Robert E. Lane, 1959
(4) Gandhi, Mao, Mandela, and Gorbachev: Studies in Personality, Power, and Politics. Anthony R. Deluca, 2000