Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Memory Cheats

A few days ago, I heard former Chief Minister Frank Walker talking about his time in Ministerial government - which began in 2005 - and saying on BBC Radio that "for the first 18 months, Senator Syvret was a very effective and good health Minister". That takes us well into 2006, which is long after the contract was signed giving Bill Ogley an exceptionally good deal if he decided to retire early.

But Frank Walker also has stated that Bill Ogley needed this deal because Chief Officers were becoming subject to public criticism by States members. And yet, by his own account on BBC Radio this morning, that could not have been Stuart Syvret because for the first 18 months, Frank Walker found him to be "a very effective and good Health Minister". Indeed, Frank Walker stated in 2007 that it was only over a short period of time that the breakdown in relations took place between them:

Unfortunately his behaviour and actions of late are not in keeping with the role and responsibilities of a Minister and in my view and that of my Ministerial colleagues it is no longer possible for him to remain in his Ministerial position.

Bill Ogley himself, in a deposition to the 2007 Dismissal Proposition to remove Stuart Syvret as Health Minister, raises no problems apart from recent ones:

I have not heard of any formal concerns, before the current set of e mails.

But in 2005, Bill Ogley speaks of "recent exhibitions of political instability and vitriolic attacks on senior officials". I'm not sure where those came from. Looking at news stories, in 2005, there was a fiasco with the staff when an IT error gave public sector workers a 100 fold pay rise:

The island government's most senior civil servant, Bill Ogley, said: "This was the first time a new system was run. Although the error was identified,  the money was already in people's accounts."

So where does this notion that there was political instability come from? In 2005, Stuart Syvret was still behaving himself. Indeed, he was commended for his speech later in the year, when standing against Frank Walker for Chief Minister. The JEP reported how "statesmanlike" he was in his presentation. So much for the notion that there was "unpleasantness" in the States.

In April 2005, there was a mass rally of 1,000 people held at Fort Regent, where the Jersey Democratic Alliance was formed, hoping to field candidates in the 2005 elections of senators and deputies to the States of Jersey. The JEP reported that:

THE Jersey Democratic Alliance was born last night, with all the glitz and glamour of a US presidential election. Close on 1,000 people crowded into Fort Regent for the launch of the new party. They heard from Senator Ted Vibert , Deputy Geoff Southern and Trinity's Rector, the Rev Tony Keogh, about a new party that would 'change the face of Jersey politics' and seek to wrest the first ever Council of Ministers from the political 'establishment' after the introduction of ministerial government, which will follow this autum's elections.

Mr Keogh, the interim chairman of the JDA, backed Senator Vibert's claim that the party would be seeking control of the council of ministers at the end of the year, not just providing organised opposition. Asked what he thought the 'political establishment' were thinking about the new party, he said: 'I think they are probably wishing it would all go away.

But that was before Bill Ogley's letter of 2 March 2005 expressing his concerns, and the JDA was concerned at that time with politicians, not civil servants.

The only account I have come across in 2005 was the revew of Connex's appointment, where the JEP reports that:

Chief executive John Richardson [of Environment and Public Services] and director of transportation Alan Muir will face more questions tomorrow from the three-man committee of inquiry team investigating the background to the award of the £4.2m seven-year contract to Connex.

and marginally related was a clash in the States over the Financial Services Commission:

Senator Vibert made a protest because he had not been given permission by the Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache, to ask questions in relation to allegations he has made on the website about matters relating to the director general and deputy director general of the Jersey Financial Services Commission.

But perhaps that could be the point of raising fears - Bill Ogley was concerned in case Stuart Syvret became Chief Minister. Certainly that makes a lot of sense of the following statement by Mr Ogley:

Over the next year I could do everything possible to deliver on what is expected of me and I could still fail, either because the necessary steadfast political support had disappeared, or because the personal attacks and other blocking tactics had soaked up so much of our time and energy. In that context and depending on who the States determine to be the next Council of Ministers I could face a political executive determined not to work with me.

But in fact, Bill Ogley did not come to public notice or even appear much in the photographs of the JEP and elsewhere until after the Haut de La Garenne matter blew up in 2008, and I remember wondering, at the  time, who he was. In fact in 2008, he was so little known that I wrote after the St Martin's press conference:

Now we have Bill Ogley, who came in to "manage change", and the chief change he has managed is conspicuous absence. He doesn't make pronouncements, write articles for supplements in the JEP, and pictures of him are scarce. He was involved in Imagine Jersey Conference, and stood behind Frank Walker at the farcical St Martin Public Hall Press Briefing glowering at Stuart Syvret  - but public appearances are far and few behind.

So until 2008, he was very much a figure behind the scenes. The spectre he raised to get a special golden handshake clause seems to have been just that, a phantom that didn't exist.  It is noticeable that he cites no actual cases of unpleasantness, or how it would effect him personally.

The memory cheats.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the party holds to be truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.

O'Brien, in Orwell's 1984

One of the other great 1984 quotes is Whoever controls the past, controls the future. That Frank Walker still has the degree of control he has at the JEP suggests that liberation will not come to Jersey any time soon.