Monday, 21 November 2011

The Legacy of Terry Le Sueur

The matter of Vulture funds is something that Senator Terry Le Sueur said, in 2008, "would not be left to rest". Of course, like much of his time in office, there was a significant failure to live up to the promise; instead, that is precisely what happened; it was left to rest.

SENATOR Terry Le Sueur has promised a new era of consensus government after being elected as the next Chief Minister.

'If we are going to get the best results we are all going to have to work together as a team,' he said. 'At the moment there are polarised views - some Members think that ministers are too secretive, that they don't listen to Scrutiny, and some assistant ministers feel that they are out in the cold. We have not got an inclusive House. I have got to make sure that the team gets out and engage themselves with the rest of the States Members. I am determined that we have a government which puts the interests of the people first. And I want a States that listens, engages and talks.'(1)

Instead, as Chief Minister, he reappointed all the familiar faces, and ended with a Council of Ministers which was, if anything, more secretive than that of Frank Walker's regime. Sir Philip Bailhache had a trenchant criticism of both Frank Walker and Terry Le Sueur's inability to provide anything resembling consensus, speaking sharply of how "in the last 6 years where Ministers have felt free publicly to disagree with each other have not worked and have just spread discord to the rest of the Assembly.".

He sees the rot beginning at the top, and he notes that while Scrutiny may have been used for personal ends, it was aided and abetted by the attitude of Ministers, who "did not treat Scrutiny seriously and with respect", and having read the transcripts observed "sloppy behaviour by Ministers and their officials" where there was such a lackadaisical attitude they would "turn up without the proper documents and without properly preparing themselves". And of course, the lack of leadership particularly under Terry Le Sueur resulted in the resignation of a Health Minister who used foul language in the States Chamber. Standards were slipping, and there was no firm hand on the tiller.

There were also a small number of individuals - mostly the Council of Ministers alone - playing a role in policy development, and keeping others shut out until it was presented - invariably the Business Plan would be presented as a fait accompli with little or no prior consultation, leading to endless amendments which could have been easily avoided had a wider dialogue taken place; as Ian Gorst noted, what was needed as "a more inclusive approach to Government" and this, as he spelt it our, would mean "increasing the number of Members who play a role in policy development and subsequent implementation" That was another failure of the Le Sueur years.

One of the most notable failures was the absence of any control over the Chief Executive, Mr Bill Ogley, who both managed to negotiate a huge pay-off for his friend Mike Pollard, but also managed to secure a good early redundancy package for himself. No one seems to have bothered with doing more than rubber stamping those contracts, and the failure to do so must be, in part, at the Chief Minister's door. The word "sleaze" would probably be used by UK newspapers of these kind of self-service contracts, with apparently a complete lack of control by the Chief Minister.

There was also the strange case of Terry Le Main, who resigned as Housing Minister, and was subsequently given the mildest of reprimands, being told by Terry Le Sueur that he could return to office if he underwent a little training so he understood matters better. The political commentator for the JEP was aghast at this.

SO that's sorted then. In case anyone was in any doubt, it's essentially fine for a minister to pester the Law Officers to drop a prosecution against someone who has donated to his campaign costs for decades, and then to plead with the Royal Court to go easy when it comes to sentencing. And if this campaign contributor - not 'friend', dear me no - happens to have been caught breaking the law that the politician is meant to enforce as a minister, that's not a big deal either. These things are good to know. And it's probably good to know too that 'essentially fine' means that the rules were broken, but that it doesn't really matter - that the whole thing can be dealt with by a little 'training and education'. Try that one out next time you get a parking fine. Exactly what kind of 'training and education' Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur has in mind for his erstwhile Housing Minister Terry Le Main was left tantalisingly hanging in the report, released last week, into the whole sordid mess. Pointing out that the code of conduct exists might be a start. Or perhaps a slide show of some kind, or maybe using glove puppets to represent the distinction between the executive and judicial branches of government. Or possibly just sitting down in a little room while someone reads the ministerial code of conduct out loud. Very . slowly.'

And there was a broken promise from the Walker administration's time, to have an enquiry into the matter of child abuse in the Island, in the wake of the Haut de la Garenne court cases, which showed the kind of moral pragmatism which can cheerfully tear up any past commitments made by a previous Council of Ministers in which he was a member. In fact, having also promised he would liaise with Bob Hill on the related Napier report, he failed to do so, and the report was subject to endless delays "for legal reasons", which were resolved with the speed of light when it was apparent Bob Hill would release his copy to the public domain if matters where not expedited.

But there is even a legacy of failure from Terry Le Sueur dating from his time as Treasury Minister. In the rush to get the contract for the incinerator in the dying days of the Walker administration, there was a complete lack of oversight, so that Philip Ozouf, discovered, in his first day in office "that the euro contract for the incinerator had not been hedged." The signatories for that contract were Guy de Faye and Terry Le Sueur, and of course it was rushed extremely quickly in the gap between the Senatorial elections of 2008 and the Deputies elections.

And there was worse to come from Terry Le Sueur's time as Treasury Minister. As Philip Ozouf found out, in a matter of days, there were "revised estimates for public finances that showed a deficit, with no contingency." In fact, as he found out, matters had been left to drift, so that there was a "need to radically restructure the Treasury". If the Treasury was in such a mess, what had the previous incumbent - Terry Le Sueur - been doing during his time there?

So what can be seen as the legacy of the Le Sueur years? His final public act was to unveil a sculpture of a duck. I cannot help pondering whether the duck was lame. That would certainly have fitted his time in office.



Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like Senator Ozouf inherited a boatload of problems that he's now held responsible for. Just an outsider's view.

Anonymous said...

An excellent resume of T le S's achievments. Its a pity he didn't achieve 1/2 of what he set out to do. Had he, then IG would be inheriting a more consensual framework. With the allocation of ministers as it is, I fear its just more of the same.

Jersey needs a new system. Something that is substantially more democratic, more representative, consensual. I posed the question- How would I like the States to look? More like society. More women, some Polish, Portuguese and youth representation, someone disabled or if not acting on behalf of. Also an anti-discrimination bench that includes whistle blower safety, individual and public grieviences with SoJ.