Thursday, 31 May 2012

Open Government

Bernard Woolley: "Well, yes, Sir...I mean, it [open government] is the Minister's policy after all."
Sir Arnold: "My dear boy, it is a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government."
(Yes Minister)

The vote for an "Open ballot for Ministers and Chairmen" went through the States yesterday, and it was voted in by 27 votes to 18, with one abstention.

The comment by PPC about delaying it to be part of a larger review didn't really stack up, expecially as that was the reason given back in November last year - said review is still being prepared, no doubt, but it's taking its time. It's not even been tabled for debate, so there is no deadline, and consequently, plenty of opportunity for it to drift along. Fortunately the Chairman of PPC, Simon Crowcroft, seems to have realised this, and there was no attempt to vote for a further delay.

It's like one of those open votes in the House of Commons - the kind of vote which doesn't divide up on Party Political Lines. Of course there are no parties in Jersey, but there's a spectrum from left to right, and anyone looking at votes on certain matters can virtually predict the outcome. So it was good to see two establishment figures, along with the Chief Minister, voting in favour:

Senator Paul Francis Routier M.B.E. Pour
Senator Philip Francis Cyril Ozouf Pour

Meanwhile, it wasn't perhaps surprising that Senators Le Marquand and Bailhache voted against. Senator Bailhache came out with a terrible argument - people cannot vote without fear or favour if it is an open ballot. Actually, I think that's precisely what they can do.

Chancellor: Jim, we're on the same side, aren't we?
Jim Hacker: Yes.
Chancellor: Good. I'm going to win and I never forgive people who let me down.
Jim Hacker: I can't make my support too public.
Chancellor: It doesn't have to be public.

It frees them from the underhand, behind the scenes, mixture of cajoling and implied threats - "you'll scratch my back" - that otherwise will take place. Does Senator Bailhache really expect us to believe that it doesn't go on? It stops politicians thinking - "it will be to my advantage to vote for X, and besides - no one will ever know!". Instead, as the voting is in the public gaze, everyone will know, and the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing may still go on, but that kind of lobbying will not have quite the same effect.

Meanwhile, the "old guard" of Constables came out against it, no surprises there:

Connétable John Le Sueur Gallichan Contre
Connétable Leonard Norman Contre
Connétable John Martin Refault Contre
Connétable Juliette Gallichan Contre
Connétable Philip John Rondel Contre

Nor was it surprising that James Baker (fast being seen as a lap-dog of Sir Philip Bailhache) or Kristina Moore or Sean Power came out against it. But what was surprising perhaps was Deputies Jackie Hilton and Deputy Carolyn Labey. What were their reasons? It will be interesting to find out when Hansard is published.

There have been some interesting changes of voting patterns:

The following voted for "Chief Minister: Election by an Open Ballot" but against "Open ballot for Ministers and Chairmen"

Deputy Jacqueline Ann Hilton

The following voted against "Chief Minister: Election by an Open Ballot" but for "Open ballot for Ministers and Chairmen"

Senator Paul Francis Routier M.B.E.
Senator Philip Francis Cyril Ozouf
Senator Sarah Craig Ferguson
Senator Alan John Henry Maclean
Deputy John Alexander Nicholas Le Fondré

Wednesday, 30 May 2012


Here is some more English work from Annie Parmeter, written when she was 12 at Moorestown College, St Peter.  Here is her retelling of a Japanese folk tale. There are many tellings of this story, often with different endings. Folktales keep a basic form, but often change over time in the way they are told, depending on who tells them, and what the speaker intends to convey.  It is interesting that the form of the Shiro tale remains very constant - except for the ending, which changes. In some versions, the greedy neighbour and his wife end up in prison, and don't repent. In one version, the trees are cherry trees, and their blossoming is the end of the story.   Here are a few of the different endings.

(1) The greedy man asked the important man to forgive him for what he had done. They slowly changed their ways. They became gentle and good friends. On every festival all four went to the place where Shiro was buried. They prayed and offered mochi-cakes, so that he should live on in peace. For the rest of their days, they were very kind to each other and to the people of the village. All ended well.

(2) The ashes were blown into the Daimio's eyes. This made him very angry, and he ordered his retainers to arrest the false Hana-Saka-Jijii at once and put him in prison for an impostor. From this imprisonment the wicked old man was never freed. Thus did he meet with punishment at last for all his evil doings.

(3) The old man climbed up a dead tree and flung a handful of ashes at a branch. There was not a single blossom, though. Instead the ashes went straight into the eyes of the lord and his retainers, which produced tears instead of petals. The Lord was extremely angry. His men pulled the old man from the tree, and scolded him severely. The greedy old man apologized over and over again, and finally they let him go home.

(4) The cherry tree was instantly covered in blossoms. With the thought of his beloved Shiro in his heart, he climbed another dead tree and scattered ash. As it too bloomed he felt his sadness lift.  The miracle of the man who made dead trees bloom soon became known all across Japan. The kind old man was named "Grandfather Cherry-Blossom" and given great honor throughout the country.

It is interesting to see how the story changes - is it a story which ends with punishment and retribution, or rehabilitation and penitence? The existence of a version which just ends with the blossoming caused by the ash suggests that the story originally ended there, and that it was extended in two different ways by later tellers of the tale who wanted to elaborate on what happened to the greedy neighbour. 

Shiro, by the way, means white - the colour of the dog.

Shiro: A Folk Tale retold by Annie Parmeter

A farmer found a thin white dog and he took it home and cared for it. One day, when the old man was digging in the field, the dog, named Shiro, suddenly began to dig, and after a short while a fountain of gold coins poured out of the hole.
The greedy next-door neighbour saw this, and asked if he could borrow the dog for a day. As soon as the old man was out of sight, the neighbour started to be cruel to the dog because it was too frightened to show him where the gold was. The greedy man was waving his spade about; he struck something hard in the soil and dug it up, but it was only rags, logs and broken tiles. The man was furious and hit Shiro with the spade. His master heard his whine and took him home, but Shiro died that evening.
The old couple planted a pine tree by Shiro's grave. The tree grew to 100 feet in a month because Shiro's spirit had entered the tree and made it grow. The old man chopped down the tree and made a beautiful wooden mortar out of part of it. When the old man and his wife used it, the rice grains turned to gold.
Again the neighbour asked the couple to lend him something. This time it was the mortar. But the rice did not turn into gold, so the neighbour threw it in the fire; when the old man came to collect it, he was told that it had fallen apart and been burned on the fire, but the ashes were still there. So the old man took home the ashes and, on the way home, some of the ash was caught by the wind and it settled on the trees and turned into flowers and leaves.
Just then the Lord of the Province happened to be coming down the road, and saw what had happened. He gave the old man a huge sack of gold. The greedy neighbour had seen this and collected the remaining ashes taken from the fire and came up to the Lord and said that he, too, could make the trees bloom even though it was winter; and began to throw the ash about. But it went into the eyes of the Lord and his servants and the Lord was livid and made the greedy man confess to all he had done, and he was penitent.
Every festival or anniversary, the reformed neighbour and his wife went with the old couple to the temple where they offered prays and offerings for the everlasting peace of Shiro's spirit.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Arise Jim Hacker

Looking at the questions asked in the States today, I see that Jeremy Macon asked a question about the terms of reference for the committee of Inquiry into the historic child abuse. As is now known, especially from leaked segments online, this has been completed by VERITAS for some time, and nothing has yet been done about it:

Will the Chief Minister advise when the Terms of Reference of the Committee of Inquiry into historic child abuse will be lodged for consideration by the Assembly and advise what impediments, if any, there have been?  Can the Chief Minister explain what consultation, if any, there has been with interested groups, such as the Jersey Care Leavers Association, regarding the formulation of the Terms of Reference of the Committee of Inquiry into Historic Child Abuse?

The reply by Chief Minister Ian Gorst was vague in the extreme:

I have undertaken to submit the Terms of Reference for the Committee of Inquiry into the Historic Childcare Abuse to the States. There is a clear commitment for a Committee of Inquiry to provide help with closure of this difficult and long- running period in the Island's history. It has been important to develop clear terms of reference that will be effective and provide help with closure, but not subjecting witnesses to the potential of undue cross examination in a Committee of Inquiry which would result in all parties having to receive legal representation. This has required careful consideration of the original terms of reference before being submitted to the States for approval.

In the light of requests I will be arranging to brief the Jersey Careleavers' Association and other interested parties on the final terms of reference and I will consider any feedback from those groups before submitting them to the Assembly for approval. This consultation will inevitably delay the date of a States debate.

In other words, the Terms of Reference submitted by VERITAS don't quite meet what is required, so more "expert advice" is required to tweak those, and I believe that Andrew Williamson has been brought on board to do this. No consultation is being made with the Jersey Careleavers Association during the formulation of the final terms of reference, but "feedback" will be "considered" after they are complete.

I'm afraid I don't have any confidence that the final terms of reference will actually do any good, once they have been altered in this way. It seems to be the old story of Yes Minister again. In the episode "The Greasy Pole", there is a section on "How to discredit an unwelcome report" which says "You are waiting for the results of a wider and more detailed report which is still in preparation. (If there isn't one, commission it; this gives you even more time)." This is obviously what is really meant by "careful consideration". Senator Gorst is obviously finding it a slippery business at the top of the Greasy Pole.

Much the same comes with the question about the "restructuring of the public sector". Remember that mantra that Ministerial government would lead to larger and more "joined up" departments, something that has been singularly lacking. Gerard Baudains has asked: "Further to the answer given to my written question of 15th May 2012 regarding the restructuring of the public sector, could the Chief Minister further advise who is presently carrying out this work and give details of progress to date?"

The Chief Minister seems to have been briefed by Sir Humphrey Appleby on this one:

The work on Public Sector Reform is being led jointly by the Council of Ministers and Corporate Management Board and is being resourced within the Chief Ministers department. It is still early in the programme but, to date, some high level scoping work has been developed and an engagement programme drafted for approval by the Council of Ministers with the aim of starting a dialogue with all interested parties but especially our staff, States Members and the Public.

Just look at the vague terms - "still early in the programme", but we do have "high level scoping work" (what in heaven's name does that mean?) and an "engagement programme" (another piece of nonsense which tells us absolutely nothing). Unhappily this is just "with the aim of starting a dialogue".

George Orwell wrote on bad political language, and what he says can be seen extremely clearly in the reply given by Senator Gorst:

Two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing

What we can expect from Senator Gorst is that "it is intended that a States Members briefing will take place in the next two months." - note the phrase "it is intended". I'm surprised he didn't come out with "Government is a complex business. So many people have to have their say. These things take time. Rome wasn't built in a day.".

Clearly, the Spirit of Jim Hacker from Yes Prime Minister is alive and well - and has possessed our Chief Minister. Perhaps the Dean can perform an exorcism?

It is not surprising then, that Senator Gorst is becoming as wishy-washy as his predecessor Terry le Sueur. He is supporting Senator Philip Ozouf - "everyone makes mistakes. I want to end the blame culture that exists" but also wants to have it both ways: "I do not condone bullying'. Training will be given to avoid ministers putting officers under undue pressure."

Haven't we been here before? I have a feeling of extreme déjà vue? Wasn't it Terry Le Sueur who did something like that to try and rescue Terry Le Main? As Ben Queree memorably wrote in the JEP:

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.

This could be brought up to date with just a few changes:

"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'. Exactly what kind of 'training and education' Chief Minister Ian Gorst has in mind for his erstwhile Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf was left tantalisingly hanging in the air."

I can see a polarised States developing, just as it did under Terry Le Sueur, because it is clear that alignments are slotting into place once more between "us" and "them". The rot set in with the electoral commission, which was fatally compromised by putting it in the hands of States members who then decided who would be the non-States members.

And finally, Philip Ozouf has just tweeted "Powerful maiden speech by Deputy James Baker on what we should be focusing on in the States: economy, jobs & efficiency".

Now we know why Deputy Baker has had such long periods of absence from the States Chamber; he's been busy working on his speech. It's a hard life, being a politician!

Monday, 28 May 2012

An Eye on the States

More Hansard is now online, and this gives me the opportunity to look at the Draft Connétable (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Jersey) Law.

What this law set out to do was to repeal the policing functions of the Connétables, and to empower a Procureur du Bien Public to deputise for a Connétable in certain circumstances, such as if the Connétable was incapacitated with a long term illness (as happened in Grouville), "to remove certain other functions from the Connétables and to make ancillary and consequential amendments"

It's curious that apart from the Constable of St John, the only other members to vote against it were the left-leaning members of the Chamber, the very people one might expect to welcome a reduction in the powers of the Constable. Those voting against the motion were:

Connétable of St. John
Deputy G.P. Southern (H)
Deputy M. Tadier (B)
Deputy T.M. Pitman (H)
Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

The Constable of Trinity, John Gallichan, who is also Chairman, Comité des Connétables, brought the proposition. He noted that in 1998, the Defence Committee (now incorporated in Home Affairs) brought a proposition which approved the following proposition arising from a working party report made in 1996:

- Establishing by law the office of Chef de Police for each Parish to have charge of Honorary Police within the Parish
- The Connétables ceasing cease to fulfil an operational policing role but retain overall responsibility for the effective and efficient policing of their Parish
- the merging of the Centeniers Association and the Association of Vingteniers and Constables Officers
-  that the senior Procureur du Bien Public in the Parish should be empowered by law to deputise for the Connétable in the event of the latter's
incapacity or absence from the Island.

But while the proposition was made, no legislation has taken place. In the meantime, the Constables have deliberately chosen not to undertake any actual operational policing, in line with the spirit of the proposition.

The Comité des Connétables has repeatedly inquired when legislation could be approved to complete the States decision, for example, to empower the senior Procureur du Bien Public to act in the Connétables' absence. But this can only be done if the Connétables operational policing powers are removed.

He noted that this was also tied in with the position of the Constables in the States:

Meanwhile we have continued to debate the composition of this Assembly and whether the Connétables should remain in the States. The rationale which came out of Clothier 1 for the Connétables to relinquish operational policing is to remove the political policemen so that the States is a true democracy. Thus, if the States decide that the Connétables should no longer be Members of the Assembly then there is no reason to remove the operational policing powers.

In the debate which followed, some pertinent points were raised, as well as some extraordinary ones. I am not going to look at every speech, but I'm going to pick a few of the highlights which bear consideration.

The Constable of St John, Phil Rondel, said that "my biggest concern is that we are seeing the creep from the Parishes to the centre. I will name just a few, not in any particular order...     We have seen a big move to the Island-wide rating system plus the electoral system and obviously welfare having now been administered by the centre from Social Security. The latter is not working as well as it is supposed to and I have seen people in St. John's sleeping rough in the bus shelter through lack of support from Social Security and that really worries me."

I did wonder why, if he is a Constable, who is also a States Member, he didn't tell us what he had done about this - whom he had contacted. Had he been in touch with Social Security? Had he spoken to Senator Le Gresley, the Minister? It seems curious to highlight a deficiency of income support, and get be an elected States member and do nothing about it. Or perhaps he did, and is too modest to mention that? And if he did, what was the result? This does seem to be raising an issue along the way which is important, but should have been dealt with elsewhere, perhaps raising the matter in question time, not as an example of "creep from Parishes to the centre".

He sees the removal of the Policing powers as one step closer to removing the Constables from the States, but he is pretty well the only one who views it that way:

There is little left under direct Parish control; probably dog licences and Parish Rates Committee and several other small areas which at the moment do not come under the centre. To go down the road of removing further powers of the Constable will open the door for the Parish system to be moved to the centre at the stroke of a pen or more likely the press of a button. At a time when some Members in this Chamber would like to see the Constables out of the States, this law and adopting it today is playing straight into their hands.

Sarah Ferguson seems to have been the only member who has consulted with Parishioners on the matter, and thought this was appropriate to voice their concerns. She did vote for the proposition, nevertheless, with regard to consultation, perhaps this should have been wider. I can remember one occasion only when a former Constable asked me for an opinion in response to a question, because - as he said - Constables should consult Parishioners on matters like that. The fact of an election in the offing may well have meant that "consultation" suddenly went down well with the electorate!

I have received a number of representations from the public regarding this proposition. I quote from the messages I have received. "Given that the office of Chef de Police is now firmly established and it is proposed that the Chef relinquishes certain duties, will the Connétables be allocating part of their salaries to the Chefs in light of their reduced responsibilities?" "Have the Connétables consulted with their parishioners regarding this proposition?" This particular individual says that: "My understanding is that the Chefs and Procureurs have been consulted but not the Parish". There was a duty of Connétables - I do not know whether it was ever written and it has been neglected of late - but they have the power to call Parish Assemblies to discuss significant matters so that they know the thoughts of their parishioners when they come in to the States and why have they not been doing this?

Montfort Tadier gave a very rambling speech, which digressed onto all kinds of subject which where nothing to do with subject to hand. He should perhaps try honing his skills by listening to "Just A Minute", where deviation from the subject matter loses you points. He made a couple of interesting points though. Firstly, he wondered if it was just Phil Rondel among the Constables who disagreed with the  Comité des Connétables on this, and thought it would be useful to know "how many of the Constables support this proposition?" He did also address the parishioner whose concerns were raised by Sarah Ferguson:

The point, of course, about salaries is a spurious one because the Connétables are not remunerated for their Parish duties. It is an honorary position; they get remunerated for their position in the States which is quite right. Any States Member should be paid for their job as a States Member; that is my opinion. I do not think we are delegating any of the States duties to a Chef de Police or to a Procureur du Bien Public and I would be very surprised in fact if those in those positions were asking to be remunerated. Certainly that would be a departure from Parish traditions.

And thirdly, he asked a question about something which did not seem explicit in the legislation:

My question is will it still be possible for a Constable to carry a warrant card if we are removing the notional powers? This is where I disagree in principle with 1.3. The Constable of St. Mary is grimacing but yesterday one of the Articles that was passed was to do with impersonating a police officer. Now, if one is not a police officer, one has had all one's power removed, what possible use can one have for carrying a warrant card which identifies one as an Honorary Police Officer?

But along the way, there seemed a misunderstanding of the training received by Honorary Police, and a diversion into how long one might expect to wait at a Parish Hall inquiry - he suggested it could often be as much as three hours, and whether on the spot fines might be better; none of that had much relevance to the subject under debate. When he did return to that, he thought it should be rejected because it didn't go far enough - the Constables should not be members of the States, so there is no need for them to lose policing powers:

The reason I am saying this is because one of the reasons one might want to reject this proposition is that it does not go far enough. My point is that at the moment I am hesitating because I am thinking, is it worth supporting this proposition on the basis that it is a step in the right direction, it is some kind of slow evolution or is it worth rejecting because it does not do the whole job?

On the matter of the warrant card, Tim Le Cocq, the Attorney General, gave this legal advice in reply to Deputy Tadier:

In my view, the existence of a warrant card, as opposed to some other form of identification, is a document which is capable of saying that the person holding it is able to exercise policing powers. If this legislation is passed, in my view, there should be no warrant cards held by Connétables.

Gerard Baudains raised the point about who would watch the Procureur if the Procureur deputised for the Constable:

I will not go over the meaning of life and the various other. [Laughter] just heard recently. I am generally relaxed about this law. I do, however, have one small concern and that is traditionally the Procureur du Bien Public keeps a watching eye over the Connétables, especially in financial matters. Now if a Connétable was to be indisposed for some time and the senior Procureur was taking over his duties for a considerable period of time, who would be watching the watcher?

In an extraordinary speech, Deputy Mike Higgins argued that he would not vote for the proposition because it was in French and he didn't understand French.  It's amazing he didn't ask Deputy Tadier to translate for him; after all, there is expertise there in the House, and he had ample time to get a translation, if he doesn't trust the notes setting out what the law intends, which are in any case in English. This must be the oddest reason for voting against a proposition that I have seen for a long time.

Not only do we not have marked-up copies of the legislation that is being amended, a number of the laws being amended are written in French; the law of the 1853, 1797, 1864 and so on. I have had a look at these on the Legal Information Board. I have not got a clue what they say. As someone who does not speak French or read French, I have no idea of the consequences of the amendments that we are making and I think it is bad law if States Members are sitting here going through debating things for which they have not got a clue about possible unintended consequences, to quote the Constable of St. Peter. Therefore, I will not be supporting this legislation. If I do not understand its context and what it is about I will not support it.

Geoff Southern thought that the Constables needed more reform, and it didn't go far enough. Quite how some change along the right lines can be "ducking the issue" is another matter. I suspect that Geoff's first suggestion is the real reason, and he also seems unaware of how much reform has taken place behind the scenes.

Given that choice, I am looking at this proposition saying: "Right, I think I will vote against this, because I do not want them to give up their police powers; they can have it as long as they get out of this Chamber." [Laughter] But no, that is not my real reasoning. My real reasoning is that yesterday we wasted an opportunity to have proper reform of the 13 police forces on the Island. Today, equally, we are passing up that chance. This is ducking the issue, I think, and so I will be voting against this the way I voted against the previous proposition because the 2 go together and I cannot support either of them.

Deputy Jackie Hilton of St. Helier asked a very pertinent question about criminal checks. After all, if the Proceurer is able to deputise for the Constable, they should have the same degree of scrutiny applied to their past:

I believe the Constables, when they stand for election, do have a criminal record check. I would like clarification whether that process will continue in the future. I know that they are going to be removed from their policing role but will the criminal record check still take place? Also, in view of the enhanced role of the Senior Procureur, could I know whether the Procureurs at the moment who are in very important public positions - and I think it is important for the public that they know exactly who they are voting into these roles - currently have criminal record checks and if they do not, would the Comité des Connétables or the Parishes consider making this mandatory in the future?

Steve Pallett, Constable of St Brelade thought the time was right to clear a few misconceptions that had been aired about the lack of professionalism of the honorary police. It's not directly relevant to the debate, but worth stating, as I suspect that quite a few people's views (and States members, judging by this debate) are stuck in the past, where an Honorary Police was elected at a Parish Hall, and picked up things as they went along. That is no longer the case.

I have heard a lot mentioned in the last couple of days about the professionalism of the Honorary Police and I have shaken my head time and time again. The fact is all of the Honorary Police are trained. They carry out a foundation course and it is carried out to a high standard. Only one out of I think the last 230 or 240 officers that have come into the Honorary Police Force have not been trained in the foundation course, which is the basic course. I have done it myself. It is a perfect sounding board to get a start in the Honorary Police and to learn how to carry out your duties. That again comes down to what the Honorary Police do. We are not a play police, we are not front line police officers, we carry out more often than not community duties but, yes, we do carry out some duties sometimes in St. Helier and St. Brelade on a Friday night that are a little bit nearer to what the States Police do, but generally speaking we are not front line police. We are not trained to the level that they are and I do not think anybody expects us to be trained to that level. We have a role to play in this Island and I think we carry it out to what I would consider to be a very professional standard.

Senator Ian Le Marquand wanted to just highlight that one over role was removed from the Constable by this proposition:

What Article 1 does is twofold. It firstly removes the operational policing functions as many other Members have said but it does something else; it also removes the role of prosecutor which technically could still remain with the Connétable. What remains is the supervisory role and that is expressly set out in the law. I believe that this creates a situation which parallels the current relationship of the Minister for Home Affairs to the States of Jersey Police and of the Minister for Home Affairs, in particular, to the Chief Officer of Police.

Constable Deidre Mezbourian of St. Lawrence highlighted the operational policing functions, and why they should be removed from the Constables:

I would like to refer Members to is what those powers and duties are. They are listed on page 5 of the proposition and they are keeping the peace; powers of search, examination and investigation; arrest and granting of bail; conducting Parish Hall Inquiries and charging suspected offenders and presenting accused persons before the criminal courts. Clearly, it is inappropriate for a Connétable, as a Member of the States, to have those policing powers. I urge Members to support the proposition to remove those powers today.

Constable Simon Crowcroft of St. Helier rather neatly took Philip Rondels argument - it has worked well for hundreds of years so why change the position of Constables - and inverted it - the role has survived because it has evolved and adapted:

The Constable of St. John said that the Parish system has worked well for hundreds of years and we should not change it and I would simply argue that the reason it has worked well for hundreds of years is because it has changed regularly

He also addressed Sarah Ferguson's concerns, and in doing so, gave an insight into when Parishioners tend to be consulted on these kinds of matters; apparently, it's up to the Constable.

[Senator Ferguson] did make a couple of interesting points. She asked why the Constables had not consulted the parishioners on this matter. It is something which comes up from time to time in the Assembly. The Constables are asked why they have not taken a matter to a Parish Assembly and it is a judgment call for the Constables about whether they feel a matter has generated sufficient concern out there in the public mind to be brought to an Assembly. Perhaps this is something that should have been taken to an Assembly. I hold my hand up on that one because I did not think of doing it.

Meanwhile Deputy Trevor Pitman decided that this was being done just to smooth the way for the Electoral Commission to come up with proposals that retain the Constables in the States, and he voted against it on those grounds. Actually, I think he may be partly right. Both the change in the main Police Law, and the possible changes in the position of Constable may have focused the minds of the Constables that this was something which really could not be left on the shelf for much longer - especially when you consider the delay from 1998 to get anything done! But I don't agree with him that's grounds for not making the change; after all, the reasons in 1998 as as valid as today.

I think the one problem with what is being done, the one real reason this has been brought forward now, is to try and cement the Constables' place in the States before we have the Electoral Commission. That is the real reason that it is being done. So I think Members should probably vote accordingly to that reality.

In summing up, the Constable of Trinity addressed some of the points raised:

Deputy Baudains, on the Procureur du Bien Public: obviously it would then go down to the junior Procureur who would keep an eye on financial matters but I think I should bring this forward.

Deputy Hilton: yes, certainly as Connétables, we would have police checks done and now that the Procureur is an elected position, I would expect that also to be carried out but I will make sure that that does get put into statute, that all Procureurs . it is essential, if you think about it, the Procureur is looking after the finances of the Parish so why should you not have a C.R.O. (Criminal Records Office) check done on the Procureur?

And finally, a wry comment for Deputy Higgins:

For Deputy Higgins, I am sorry he cannot speak French. Maybe he can go to the Alliance Français. They do lessons every Thursday morning.

There's a nice codicil in the statement made by Constable John Gallichan just before the final vote which links it a bit of history - not many speeches go back to June 1495!:

Just before we take the vote, Sir, it seems a lot of work has been done. Could I just thank the Law Officers and the Attorney General for his support throughout and also to say that the Charter of Henry VII in June 1495 reflects the pivotal part played by the Connétables in the Island's democratic institutions for over 500 years. The role has included policing of the Parishes but since the States decision of 1998, the Connétables have not performed this operational and policing role. This is another milestone in the evolution of the honorary service and the role of Connétable and it gives me great pleasure to propose it in Third Reading.

And finally, on another matter - the vote also went through on the non-States members in the Electoral Commission.  The States members are Senator Sir Philip Bailhache, Deputy James Baker and Constable Juliette Gallichan.

Deputy Tadier was told off for saying "we have 3 very strong-willed, strong-minded people ...certainly 2 strong-minded people and one person who, when he does come to work, will do what he is told anyway." Trevor Pitman mentioned the same person: "It has to be seen as an absolute nonsense because, with the best will in the world, we have now got 3 members who... well, I do not know one of the members, because again he is not here and he rarely is here, and that is a fact, and yet he is going to sit on an Electoral Commission."

So who is the guilty party who has stepped into the hallowed shoes of Ben Shenton as the individual who vanishes from the States most often? It must surely be Deputy James Baker by a simple process of elimination - "he" rules out Juliette Gallichan, and "will do what he is told anyway" could never by the wildest stretch of the imagination ever refer to Sir Philip Bailhache.

Reg Langlois is always going on to me about whether States members are worth a salary of over £40,000. Certainly for absentee members, I would have to say that he has a point. Perhaps Sir Philip Bailhache could have a quiet but firm word with the errant member in question and the responsibilities of States members.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Theory of Magic in Harry Potter

A friend of mine suggested to me in a conversation this weekend that part of his trouble with the Harry Potter books was that there was no "theory of magic" in Harry Potter. No one, he argued, could construct a general theory of how the magic worked; it appeared to him to be a purely ad hoc mechanism.

I think he is mistaken, and there are definite rules and fact appertaining to magic in Harry Potter, and what is more, those are the keys to understanding some of the major themes in the books.

I will admit that it is true that not all the magical methods are introduced at once. There is a degree in which it is true that elements of magic are introduced as required. For example, the Portkey, a charmed device used to transmit wizards from one location to another, first makes an appearance in The Goblet of Fire. But there we are told how it works, introduced to it at the start of that book, and like the proverbial shotgun mounted on the wall, it makes a crucial re-appearance at the end of the book. But the core of Voldemort's quest for immortality is there throughout the books, even before the Horcrux is given a name.

The key to understanding magic in Harry Potter is that it is genetic. The magical ability is transmitted through wizarding families. Parseltongue, the ability to speak the language of snakes, is also passed down the family line by inheritance. But there are exceptions - there are rare mutations, where the magical ability emerges from non-wizard families, and it is clear that wizarding may have come about from these kinds of mutations, with selective breeding amongst those with magical abilities, thereby breeding for the magical genetic inheritance. On the opposite kind of this are "squibs", those born to magical parents but who do not possess magical ability. They are part of the magical world, because their parents are, but while they can understand how spells are cast, they cannot perform magic, because that requires the inherited ability.

So this is a very Darwinian framework, and within that framework, racism rears its ugly head. There are wizards who pride themselves on their pure blooded ancestry, and who look down on the mutants (those born to "Muggle", non-magical parents) as "mudbloods". The theme of racial purity drives the narrative, with Lord Voldemort pushing for the extermination of the impure "mudbloods", as well as the eventual enslavement or extermination of the non-magical peoples. The Nazi extermination of the Jews for racial reasons, ethnic cleansing, and all these aspects of racism come into the struggle between the two sides in the Harry Potter books, because of the Darwinian framework.

But there is one more aspect to magic. Magical ability for wizards depends upon wands; without a wand, magic can be performed, but none of the really powerful magic. That depends upon a wand, which is used to cast a spell by an incantation. That can be spoken out loud, or it can be internal speech, where the words are thought, not spoken; the latter is more difficult. All use of spells requires practice, it is a skill, which has to be honed to be automatic. It is possible to create new spells, but the suggestion in the books is that this is rare - spells come and go as fashions. Nevertheless, like experimental scientists, new spells can be created.

Wandlore has it that "the wand chooses the wizard", and not actually vice versa. The wand then acts in a symbiotic relationship with the wizard, empowering the magic if it is a wand that has chosen the wizard, or transferring allegiance if the wizard overpowers another. But a wand that has one owner that has not transferred allegiance in this way will not perform as well as it should; the wizard knows that there is something deficient in their ability to cast spells. Drawing on biology, we can say that wands are non-sentient symbiots, which a wizard needs to be a full wizard.

Magic does obey certain rules. It is possible, for example, to prevent apparating or disapparating from a location - as with Hogwarts, or the cellar prison at Malfoy Manor. But that is wizarding magic, and it is established that house-elf magic works on different premises. House elfs do not need wands to perform powerful magic, and they can perform apparating or disapparating  from locations where spells prevent wizards from doing so. House elfs are magical creatures, there are no non-magical house elves, and no non-magical mutations, and they are a different species from human beings. But they can be killed by non-magical means, such as a dagger, so are not invincible. Magic is different with different biological species.

The use of magic creates a kind of disturbance which can be tracked, regardless of whether it is wizard magic or elf magic. This is used primarily to detect use of underage magic, but can also detect unauthorised magic against non-magical people (ordinary humans), or if refined, even the use of Lord Voldemort's name.

One thing magical cannot do, and that is to bring back the dead. This is established very strongly throughout the series, and the fear of death is the driving force behind Lord Voldemort's bid for immortality, to safeguard himself from death. The acceptance of death is part of the reason why Dumbledore's scheme triumphs in the end, when Harry sacrifices his own life.

Sacrificial love also has a great magical power, and this ability to lay down your life to protect another's life is something which enchants the blood of the one so protected. Here we see a very Christian theme in Harry Potter, where sacrifice is linked magically to blood. Just as the Horcrux is an object which holds a portion of the soul of someone, and keeps them from death while it exists, Harry's blood protects Harry's life from Voldemort's attempts to kill him. One kind of magic - the Horcrux - is created by murder - the other kind, the enchanted blood - is created by sacrificial love. There is a mirroring here of the kinds of magic at its extremes - hate and love. These are the most powerful kinds of magic, and their magic is based upon motivation. But this also exists to a lesser kind. Harry is told that for the forbidden curses to be effective, "you must really mean them". So magic is not just incantation and innate ability, there is also an effort of will involved.

In conclusion, magic in Harry Potter does have a logic to it; for wizards, it is rooted in a Darwinian framework of selective breeding and mutation, and it is that which determines whether an individual can perform magic or not, and also (as one might expect in an evolutionary framework) why some wizards are more powerful than others; difference exists with magic, just as it does with sporting prowess, because it is part skill but also partly the cards that biology deals the individual.

Friday, 25 May 2012

It's a Funny Old Week

A bad week for Blue Peter, with the news that the long running show - once essential family viewing - is being relegated from BBC1 to a digital channel, along with all other children's programmes.

While a majority of about 55% of respondents accepted, "Yes - there's nothing wrong with popping kids' shows on a children's channel," some 45% still felt, "No - Blue Peter is an iconic programme that deserves to be on a major channel."

"It is not being axed," said a spokesman. "It is being moved to CBBC where it already premiers. The version on BBC One is a repeat. Or as they say - "one I prepared earlier"!

There's some strange stuff in the USA! Texans who feel the need to vent their rage are being invited to take it out on specially designed "anger rooms". For $25, they can spend 5 minutes tearing apart a room furnished with old TV sets, sofas, and other furniture otherwise destined for landfill. For legal reasons, only one angry person is allowed in each room at a time, and pregnant women are banned.

I've been reading some wonderful competition pieces in the New Statesmen where readers have to write in with something appropriate to the theme, and try to win first prize. The competition is set by Leonora Casement.

One was to come up with Clerihews, the short whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley [1875-1956], one of G.K. Chesterton's friends. Probably the best known of Bentley's is:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, "I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul's."

One readers of the New Statesman came up with:

Vladimir Putin
Enjoys putting the boot in,
A habitual caprice
Of the secret police.

and another

Nick Clegg
Recalled the words curate and egg.
When asked how his manifesto promises could be credible
He replied: "Parts of them are edible!"

Meanwhile, limerick's brought forth the following gems:

From the farm they banished the people.
"Hurrah!" cried the beasts. "We're all equal!"
But superior plotters
With trotters, the rotters,
Took over.
The End. (There's no sequel.)


While waiting for Godot, two bums
Play word games and twiddle their thumbs;
It's doubtless symbolic
And dead allegoric
That Godot, alas, never comes.

And finally, there was one competition to come up with new illnesses, which had these wonderful ones:

Amazon compulsive disorder--the inability to stop buying books, DVDs and US pharmaceutical goods online. Begins with wishful thinking and leads, if untreated, to severe conditions such as listmania. In extreme conditions, sufferers can end up a basket case. Cure: postal strike.

Organic chicken pox--like the Black Death, but with a conscience. Cure: The arrest and incarceration of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Lib-dementia--amnesia triggered by sudden unexpected exposure to chauffeured limos, fawning officials and photo ops with once-despised opponents. Deeply held principles are erased from memory. Cure: regular doses of Vince's emulsion, but don't discard the bottle before treatment is complete.

Summer affective disorder--increasingly prevalent in Britain, it's a depressive state caused by irrational belief that summer must involve sunshine.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Baillif's Veto

Deputy M.R. Higgins: Can I just interrupt before we go through public business? I would like to raise a matter of privilege.

The Deputy Bailiff [William Bailhache]: What is the matter of privilege that you wish to raise?

Deputy M.R. Higgins: It is the fact that I have put a proposition to you seeking to have the release of the transcripts of the 2nd December 2008 in camera debate, or part of it, to be released to the public. I have asked for this proposition to be put forward to the States because I believe the States were misled by the former Minister for Home Affairs at the time. My matter of privilege is that you have denied me the opportunity to bring this proposition, which I think needs to be heard by the House and the decisions need to be made by the House, and I believe the public must be assured that information that was put out at the time is correct.

The Deputy Bailiff: The matter of privilege must relate to something which you, as a Member, have a right to do. Under Standing Orders ...

Deputy M.R. Higgins: I think it is a matter of privilege.

The Deputy Bailiff: Can I please finish? Under Standing Orders the arrangements are that when a Member wishes to lodge a proposition he or she needs to have the consent of the Bailiff before it is an option. It seems to me that it is impossible to say that an issue of privilege arises. Unless there is any other point you wish to raise I would make a ruling here and now that no issue of privilege arises.

Deputy M.R. Higgins: I would make a point on that. I believe that, as I have stated to you in our correspondence, the proposition itself meets the 3 tests laid down by the Bailiff, as I have indicated in the letter. It is lawful, it corresponds with Standing Orders and it is not anything detrimental to States business.

The Deputy Bailiff: Deputy, I am sorry, this is not an issue of privilege. I might also add that you have asked me to reconsider the decision, which I am in the course of doing, and in those circumstances it seems that this is a premature matter in any event. It certainly is not an issue of privilege.

Deputy M.R. Higgins: If I can respectfully disagree and I will state why I believe it is a question of privilege. This House is a sovereign parliament and it should be for Members of this House to decide if a proposition is in accordance with Standing Orders and the Bailiff's 3 tests it should be decided upon by Members of this House who have the ultimate authority in these matters.

The Deputy Bailiff: Very well, I rule against you. It is not a matter of privilege because the Standing Orders make it plain that a Member has no right to lodge a proposition without the leave of the Bailiff. That leave has not yet been given and therefore no issue of privilege currently arises.

There is an interesting piece from last Hansard which shows an often overlooked power of the the Bailiff or Deputy Bailiff - the ability to use his power to block propositions again - this relates to Haut de La Garenne and the Historical Child Abuse Enquiry. Mike Higgins wants to open up a short piece of the transcript of an "in camera" debate on the suspension of Graham Power to the public gaze.

I have been reliably informed that this allegedly relates to the statements made in the course of the debate by a member of the States which apparently contradicts what they stated in public later on. They were allegedly being "economical with the truth", but this cannot be revealed because the States debate was held in secret. Effectively, they could have been accused of misleading the House, but they cannot be, because the debate was "in camera"! This is past history, so why should it matter? It matters, because the States were given information which swayed their decisions - apparently contradicted by information later given in public, and where that situation arises, there seems to have no means of accountability. That could well arise again.

But more importantly, it shows that there is a power to veto propositions held by the Bailiff (and by virtue of that office, devolving to the Deputy Bailiff). Note the way in which the Deputy Bailiff suggests that it is just a matter of form - "a Member has no right to lodge a proposition without the leave of the Bailiff. That leave has not yet been given.".

What is clear is that he has in fact blocked the proposition from Deputy Higgins, and if Deputy Higgins had not raised the matter, no one in the States would know. I'm not objecting to his power to veto a proposition; the States must make their own mind on the powers of the office. But it cannot be good for open and transparent government if the Bailiff or Deputy Bailiff can veto a proposition, and that the grounds for that are not made public - or even the fact that he has done so.

This is something which is perhaps an overlooked section in the Carswell report on the role of the Crown Officers in the States. The report notes that:

Outside the Chamber, the Bailiff has to consider draft propositions and draft questions, which he must admit unless they contravene Standing Orders. The Bailiff may on occasion discuss these matters with individual members of the States. If questions are not properly framed, the Greffier or the Bailiff will regularly suggest amendments to address the defect and allow the questions to proceed.

It was represented to us by a number of respondents that although the Bailiff must apply Standing Orders in all decisions which he makes and is bound to give all members an opportunity to speak when they express a wish to do so, he nevertheless exerts a degree of political influence by the manner in which he carries out his function.

Members of the States may also suppose that the Bailiff has allowed political considerations to affect his application of Standing Orders, particularly when he has ruled against their submissions

Former Deputy Bob Hill made this plain in an interview he had with the Carswell committee:

There are problems where conflicts are clear, and my first conflict came when soon after being elected as a member of the States and we had a big debate on the sixth form college. And I felt really that there was an opportunity here for us to have an overall sixth form college, and I tried to lodge an amendment to include Victoria College as part of the sixth form college system, and it was refused. But, of course, I did argue with the Bailiff [Sir Philip Bailhache] and said, "Well, with respect, sir, you are Chairman of the Governors of Victoria College as well". He said, "Well, that doesn't come into it" and I said, "You allow me to put an amendment in about the ladies' college, but not allow me to put an amendment in". He said, "Well, I make the final decision".

Sir, I learnt at an early stage that there was no right of appeal, because that is the situation. You make your application to the Bailiff, and the Bailiff says you can have something or you cannot. That is the same for amendments and propositions in questions so, if one wants to ask a question, at the end of the day, it is the Bailiff that has the ultimate decision as to whether you can ask it or not.

In his written submission, Bob Hill summarised the lack of appeal against a decision, which might be conflicted:

At present the Bailiff is responsible for approving requests from Members when lodging questions, both oral and written, propositions, amendments and making personal statements. If the Bailiff rejects the requests there is no ability to appeal against that decision. I have personal experience and the current arrangements should not continue.

The lack of accountability, and the way in which the Bailiff could and did block questions and propositions came up in the public meeting that was held by Lord Carswell:

Deputy Le Claire stated that it could be difficult to separate the personalities from the offices they inhabited. He advised that he too had often been to see the Bailiff [Sir Philip Bailhache] in the Bailiff's Chambers en masse with other elected Members. He had personal experience of bringing propositions which had ultimately been refused. Deputy Le Claire admired the Bailiff; however, it was time for his role to be put to rest as the question continued to tear at the community. He hoped that the Panel could untangle the situation through its Review.

Mrs Corbett highlighted that the pertinent issue was the Bailiff's discretion in relation to decisions regarding questions et al. There would always be some form of discretion; however, it was not possible to subject these decisions to judicial review (as might otherwise be expected) given the Bailiff's judicial functions. Advocate Sinel advised that the Royal Court had no jurisdiction over the procedures of the States.

Former Deputy Paul Le Claire expanded on this in his written submission:

Censorship of Propositions: There have been occasions when States members, including me, have put forward propositions, only to have these amended, censored or ruled out of order by the Bailiff in his role as President or speaker of the States. This has happened in the context of matters which were potentially critical of the Courts and the judiciary, ultimately only being permitted without further delay by the Bailiff [Sir Philip Bailhache] in an amended proposition P62/20093. (That proposition related to my involvement in respect of a children case. My criticisms of the Court were vindicated in the Serious Case Review in respect of those children at paragraphs 8.14-8.18, 9.3 and 10 of the recommendations. Further concerns are highlighted subsequently in my submission).

States members (who have been duly elected by the people of Jersey) have consequently felt frustration when thus denied the right to debate an issue by virtue of a decision of an un-elected Crown appointee.

As former Senator Ted Vibert highlighted some 5 years ago that "The right to approve the content of questions and personal statements is a subtle power that controls a certain amount of what a member can say in the House. It will be argued that this vetting process is to ensure that there is no breach of Standing Orders but this power is discretionary and open to question"

I would contend that there have been occasions in my own experience, where this power has been misapplied. Others have made the same point, the other Deputy and three Senators, one being myself when I was the holder of that office some years ago

This was a point also made by Advocate Philip Sinel in his submission to Carswell:

The Bailiff is also President of the States Assembly. That is to say that he convenes all meeting of the States and presides over all sittings. He controls the debates and in particular controls the contents of questions which can be asked of the Government.

In practice the position as President of the States is one of enormous political power. He controls what questions may be asked in the States, he is able to refuse to table questions such as might embarrass the Government, which he heads, himself or his supporters.

Advocate Tim Herbert, in his submission to the Carswell Review, stated that

The title "President of the States" is just that. It does not connote political power.

But Advocate Herbert is mistaken. Clearly, the ability to rule a proposition out, and not allow the States to vote on it, as appears to be the case with Deputy Higgins, does connote political power. But it is a subtle form of power behind the scenes, which is not usually in display, for which there is no means of appeal, and no way to call the Bailiff to account for using his powers to veto any question or proposition. That's probably why Deputy Higgins wished to raise the matter in the States, to call to account that this was happening.

Obviously, there may be occasions where such a veto is justified under the Standing Orders of the States, but as Deputy Higgins states, there are no reasons that he can see why his proposition has been rejected. It is currently being reconsidered, but will if it is rejected, will the reasons be made public? They have not in the past, and this is a serious lack of transparency at the heart of the Bailiff's power. By all means he should be able to veto propositions, as it is within his powers, but he should also make available to public scrutiny the reasons for this, if this is requested.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Eye on the States

Just perusing the last States sitting on Hansard, and there are some choice nuggets to digest.

Questioned by Sarah Ferguson about the fiscal stimulus supporting imported building labour, Senator Ozouf said:

I think that the Senator will be aware in her position as Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel Chairman that the rules surrounding fiscal stimulus were only "local employment" and I have said before on my feet in this Assembly that I myself went in the middle of the night to check on projects such as at Victoria Avenue to ensure that it was local labour together and I saw myself that that was the case. We delivered local labour for those projects and it was the right thing to do.

How on earth can you check "in the middle of the night" that the labour employed is local? The mind boggles at this kind of statement! Workers probably have a variety of accents, so it is unlikely that he could check whether they were local by accent alone. Did he buttonhole workers and ask to see some form of local ID, a health insurance card? Or did he just ask them outright and trust that they would tell the truth?

Senator Ozouf: Hello, I'm Senator Ozouf. Are you a local resident, or have you come over from the UK?

Or did he simply say: "Do you know who I am?", and if they did, they must be local. It's very unlikely that anyone local hasn't heard of Senator Ozouf, and his broken promise on GST. He's just made another promise - as the JEP noted:

STATES departments are due to meet £65 million cuts targets and no new taxes will be needed over the next three years, says Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf.

Is that a promise? Or an off the cuff, talking optimistically political remark that in no way can be considered a promise? And does that also include "users pays", otherwise known as "stealth taxes"? We shall probably never know, until the Senator has been re-elected, of course.

Meanwhile, Deputy Higgins was on Senator Ozouf's case with regard to employment of States public sector workers, and the effectiveness of the comprehensive spending review:

I wish I could have the same confidence of the Minister in their ability to generate the growth and the prosperity he is talking about, especially bearing in mind the written answer that I received today from the Chief Minister, which shows that on the C.S.R. (Comprehensive Spending Review) policy, which has been lauded by the Minister for Treasury and Resources, a total of 104 jobs were cut as part of the C.S.R. process and yet in the same department, 128 jobs have been created. So if you are going to have that sort of success with our economic policy, I think we are in dire straits.

New jobs created as part of a review to cut jobs? Where have I seen that before? Perhaps this sequence from Yes Minister shows how the trick can be worked:

Ludovick Kennedy: I just wanted to confirm that you are now this country's chief bureaucrat.
Jim Hacker:  That's nonsense. This government believes in reducing bureaucracy.
Ludovick Kennedy: Figures I have here say that your department's staff has risen by 10%.
Jim Hacker:  Certainly not.
Ludovick Kennedy: What figure do you have?
Jim Hacker:  I believe the figure is much more like 9.97.
Ludovick Kennedy: Well, it has been suggested that your department is less interested in reducing bureaucracy than in increasing it.
Jim Hacker:  Well, yes, but that's because we've had to take on more staff in order to reduce staff.
Ludovick Kennedy: I beg your pardon?
It's common sense. We need more doctors to cure more patients, more firemen to extinguish more fires.
Ludovick Kennedy: How will you extinguish local government bureaucracy?
It's a challenge I'm looking forward to.

Another highlight was Rob Bryans, who made his maiden speech in the States. He starts with a very upbeat paragraph about the need to do something:

I preface this by saying in the middle of difficulties lies opportunity. The industry I come from had a simple pneumonic device: plan, do, review. Repeat when necessary. The time for planning is over, now we need to start the doing. Outside these walls people are desperate. Not just to hear what we propose but they want us to act with a sense of purpose, a sense of urgency.

And along the way, we have some wonderful insights into mistakes, and why there are rubbers on pencils:

People make mistakes. It is why they put rubbers on pencils. I was told when you make a mistake you apologise for it, correct it, make sure it does not happen again and move on. As I said, anyone that does not make mistakes has never tried anything new. We need to try new things.

It is perhaps not the best way of dealing with mistakes to use an analogy of rubbers, as it might call to mind "rub them out", which is what Senator Ozouf is alleged to have done with Mr Flower's reputation. Actually if you rub things out with a pencil, do you need to apologise for the mistake? I'm not sure of the coherence of the analogy, but it makes for a wonderful speech!

Later, we are told about Tolstoy and his wax discs - clearly Mr Bryans belongs on QI. This is a nice maiden speech, even though it has a touch of the pulpit about it.

Tolstoy recorded wax discs before he died that have only recently been translated. Asked the question: "What should be our purpose in life?" he replied: "Every day you should make your life better." I would add, I think you should make it better for others too.

And no sermon is complete without an apocalyptic element - here we have what appears to be the kind of remark that caused Captain Mainwaring to tell Corporal Jones, "I think you're straying into the realms of fantasy, Jones".  This is, to recall, the debate on the strategic plan, which Mr Bryans evidently thinks should cope with a tsunami.

If a national disaster, a tsunami, hit this Island all notions of position and titles would be swept away. Doctors, lawyers, politicians, civil servants, et cetera, would just become people who need help. As we have witnessed countless times over the last few years help will be given.

I would have thought that while politicians etc would be people who need help, doctors would probably be helping people from the start. And Philip Sinel would probably pop up on behalf of the legal profession to see if anyone wanted to make a legal claim for compensation.

And now the sermon continues with something profound - to Mr Bryans, it seems. It doesn't seem quite on the level of Martin Luther King, but one must make allowances:

A friend of mine at a great time of stress for him said a profound thing to me the other day. He said: "You and I are different, we think differently. We came to this Island to find a better life or to make one." He is right. That is why immigrants still find themselves on these shores. This Island still has a lot to offer otherwise they would not come. People still expect a better life

And now we come to the full blown purple prose, where a well thumbed book of maxims and metaphors is in use, and one follows the other, in machine gun succession. I'm not sure that these sentences actually make much sense, in terms of a coherent argument - what is "an organic document" - but it sounds wonderful when they are all strung together, one after the other!

The wind of change blows through these corridors. I am sure there will be resistance to some parts of this plan but without resistance you cannot fly. This is an organic document and should change as we change. If there is a gap let us plug it and crack on. I would rather light a candle than curse the darkness.

And finally, Mr Bryans comes to a close, with an upbeat management-speak finale that would not be out of place at one of those Management Training days out.

We need to set an example. Let us get positive, let us seek We need to set an example. Let us get positive, let us seek challenges and meet them head on. Let us get creative; get innovative; and prove that not only can we put it down on paper but we can make it happen. That is the Government I want to be in. That is the Government I believe we have. I support this plan.

It's quite a tour de force. I'm not sure I wholly agree with Mr Bryans, but for States members, sitting in the Chamber, listening to some very long and dull speeches - the ghost of Deputy Wimberley lives on - this must have been quite a refreshing change.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Et Tu, Brute?

The knives are certainly out for Senator Ozouf, but is this of his own making or not?

A letter written by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Chris Swinson, said he thought the treasury minister was attempting to smear his review.

He reviewed the failed attempt to buy the Lime Grove building for the police. The minister, Senator Philip Ozouf, said the accusations were one-sided. He said:

"This is the second time the comptroller and auditor general has effectively published a report with one-sided accusations that somebody being held to account that they in their view are being harassed to do their job."(1)

The other time, of course, was Bill Ogley who accused Senator Ozouf of harassing him, and behaving in a manner ill befitting a politician; this was the cause of Mr Ogley's rapid departure, although the golden handshake itself was a mistake to be laid at the feet of former Senator Frank Walker - another politician who just doesn't seem capable of apologising, or seeing any need to do so.

I wonder if these reports had come out before Senator Ozouf tried and succeeded in keeping his position as Treasury Minister, whether he would have managed to get re-elected to that post. I somehow doubt it.

But this was part of the culture of the States. Senator Frank Walker led the way. First there was his angry "shafted" remark to Senator Stuart Syvret - when he thought the cameras and microphones were safely off, and he could be rude with impunity. Then there was his apparent bulling of Wendy Kinnard at a meeting witnessed by Graham Power, which would also have gone unremarked.

The Health Minister Jim Perchard told Stuart Syvret in a States session to slit his wrists, and denied it, before being forced into an embarrassing admission of guilt, because other States members had overheard. Stuart Syvret probably didn't help, with his tirade of invective that made me wonder if he was trying for the Jeremy Clarkeson award for rudeness, but like Clarkson, one rather expected it of him, and at least he was open and honest about his insults, not sly and underhand.

Meanwhile, Terry Le Main fired off letters as Housing Minister to try and influence a Court case in which the defendant was the man who provided him with election posters and leaflets at cost, and ranted that he had done nothing wrong.

With teachers like Senator Walker, is it any wonder that Senator Ozouf learnt to express himself forcefully, albeit never in the public sphere. The learned behaviour is as follows - don't ever apologise, go on the offensive.

Unfortunately, as we have seen, these things leak out eventually.

The report, published on Tuesday, catalogues accusations of harassment and bullying by Senator Ozouf and an attempt to smear the former chief executive of Jersey Property Holdings, David Flowers. (1)

Senator Ozouf was once the golden boy, the heir apparent of Frank Walker. When Ian Gorst was standing for Chief Minister, there was still a chance for him to challenge him for the post; once Philip Bailhache decided to stand, he must have realised that he would not stand a chance. His natural supporters, like John le Fondré once was, have now seen what he can be like and they wouldn't vote for him to be Treasury Minister. James Reed was effectively stabbed in the back by bringing forward education proposals that appear to have been rubbished by the Treasury Minister.

Channel Television kept showing a picture of him looking gaunt and jaundiced, alongside captions like "Bullying". The Jersey Evening Post has the headline "Ozouf 'prepared to ruin civil servant's reputation'" The BBC report is probably the least antagonistic, and does print something of his reply:

Senator Ozouf said: "It's very easy to say when someone is being challenged that that behaviour is too challenging, well we were at risk of purchasing the most expensive piece of property the States would have ever bought - I think the public expect me to ask questions. (1)

On Channel TV, the Senator also said he would be giving a full statement when he returns to Jersey. But the knives are definitely out, and with past allies like Frank Walker and Terry Le Sueur now gone from the scene, it will be interesting to see if there is pressure for him to resign from the Treasury. One thing is certain: he will need a lot of luck to remain in the States next election.

Of course, there are more than one side to a story; it can be told in different ways, and events can be open to different interpretations. Dunkirk, after all, can even be seen with positive spin as a "miracle", even though it was a retreat. When one looks at history, there is always a need to be aware of possible alternative interpretations, and how well they fit the available evidence. But the Auditor General has been doing this. He is an honest man, without an axe to grind.

It is noteworthy that the Auditor-General's report has taken great care to sift the evidence, to test what he is told by witnesses, including Senator Ozouf, and he is very careful not to make any political judgements. That task falls to the States, and in particular, the Council of Ministers. We shall have to wait and see.


Monday, 21 May 2012

May - The Diary of a Country Parson

This year I'm looking at some of the entries in the "The Diary of a Country Parson". This was a diary kept by an English clergyman, James Woodforde (1740-1803). Woodforde lived in Somerset and Norfolk, and kept a diary for 45 years recording all kind of ordinary incidents which paint a picture of the routines and concerns of what Ian Hislop terms "the middling folk" of 18th century rural England.

A few notes on the text:

Woodforde mentions the Treaty of Paris, often called the Peace of Paris, or the Treaty of 1763. This was signed on 10 February 1763, by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement. It ended the "Seven Years War". The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. The Treaty was made possible by the British victory over France and Spain, and marked the beginning of an era of British dominance outside Europe

Woodforde mentions riots in London. These occurred when the radical political reformer John Wilkes returned to England from a period of self-imposed exile (to escape charges of seditious libel) in 1768 and stood as Radical candidate for Middlesex. After being elected Wilkes was arrested. Over the next fortnight a large crowd assembled at St. George's Field, a large open space by King's Bench Prison, where he had been taken. On 10th May, 1768 a crowd of around 15,000 arrived outside the prison. The crowd chanted 'Wilkes and Liberty', 'No Liberty, No King', and 'Damn the King! Damn the Government! Damn the Justices!'. The troops feared an attempt would be made to rescue Wilkes, and opened fire, killing seven people, and leading to disturbances all over London in anger at the military action.
"Surplice Fees" are those fees paid to Clergy in relation to Funerals and Weddings

One thing which is singular is the spellings. Archaic forms such as "plaid" and "crikett" come into his diary, and this was commonplace even before that, for example:
1621   R. Burton Anat. Melancholy ii. iii. vii. 425   He plaid on his drumme, and by that meanes madded her more.

Samuel Johnson began the trend to standardise English with his dictionary in 1755. "One great end of this undertaking," Johnson wrote, "is to fix the English language." Shortly afterwards, Bishop Robert Lowth produced a guide to English Grammar in 1762; the trend towards standardisation had begun:

The principal design of a Grammar of any Language is to teach us to express ourselves with propriety in that Language; and to enable us to judge of every phrase and form of construction, whether it be right or not. The plain way of doing this is, to lay down rules, and to illustrate them by examples. But, beside shewing what is right, the matter may be further explained by pointing out what is wrong. (Robert Lowth, Short Introduction to English Grammar, 1762).

The 18th and 19th centuries saw the advent of the these, large-scale, authoritative English dictionaries, and universal education, leading to the modern standardisation of English that was not the case when James Woodforde was writing.

Johnson himself realised later that his attempt to fix language was in fact doomed to failure, that words would change meanings and spellings, and that it was impossible to "embalm" a living language:

Those who have been persuaded to think well of my design, require that it should fix our language, and put a stop to those alterations which time and chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without opposition. With this consequence I will confess that I flattered myself for a while; but now begin to fear that I have indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience can justify. When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to change sublunary nature, or clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and affectation.

April - The Diary of a Country Parson
MAY 14. Plaid at Crikett in Port Meadow, the Winchester against the Eaton, and we Winton: beat them.
MAY 20. Hooke, Boteler and myself went to Welch's of Wadham College, where we designed to sup and spend the evening, but our entertainment was thus, one Lobster of a Pound, a half-pennyworth of Bread, and the same of Cheese, half of an Old Bottle of Ale, Half a Bottle of Wine, and a Bottle of Lisbon, and then we were desired to retreat, which was immediately obeyed. . . . N.B. A Wadamite.
MAY 2. Sale spoke to me this morning concerning the Curacy of Newton-Purcell, which I have promised him to take and serve the Sunday after Trinity Sunday; it is about 20 miles from Oxford; and I am to receive per annum for serving it, besides Surplice fees £28. 0. 0. I am only to serve it during Mr. Sale's Proctorship.
MAY 5. . . . This is the Thanksgiving day for the late Peace between France, Spain and England.
MAY 11. . . . I was offer'd this afternoon by Fitch of Queen's Coll: a Curacy worth £40 per annum, and to be enterd upon at Michaelmas -- It is in Somersett, near Taunton, the name of the Place is Thurloxton, in the Gift of Fitch's Father. I shall write to my Father concerning it to-morrow morning; I have got to the 20th of this month to consider of it.
MAY 23. . . . I went this afternoon at five o'clock to C.C.C. to Mr. Hewish the Bishop of Oxford's Chaplain, before whom I was examined for deacon's Orders, and I came of very well. I was set over in the middle of the fifth Chapter of St. Paul to the Romans and construed that Chapter quite to the end. I was quite half an hour examining. He asked a good many hard and deep questions. I had not one question that Yes, or No, would answer. . . . Mr. Hewish is a very fair Examiner, and will see whether a Man be read or not soon. . . .
MAY 24. Breakfasted in my own Rooms again. Took a ride this morning towards Elsfield and round by Staunton upon the Grey. For half a pint of ale at Boys Water pd. 0. 0. 1. Gave Jackson's other man for taking care of the Grey and saddle etc. 0. 0. 6. For fruit pd 0. 0. 1. For wine on the green pd 0. 2. 0. The reason of my paying so much was the Impudence of two Gentlemanlike Persons (whose names were Messrs. Mercer and Loyd) pushed themselves into the Temple in our Garden while Hooke and myself were drinking there, and drank two Bottles of Wine with us. Mercer's wife and 2 more Ladies were with us. Mercer (who wore a gold-laced Hat) was very drunk and very abusive to us and Mr. Loyd: Loyd is a Schoolmaster at Abington, and Mercer's son went to School to him. Mercer's son was with us. Mercer went away about ten o'clock this evening, and made a great noise going through College. Mr. Mercer behaved very much unlike a Gentleman. Loyd came into the B.C.R. afterwards with Hooke and myself; Mr. Loydwas drunk. Mercer broke two glasses in the Temple for which Hooke and myself pd. 0. 1. 0. I went to bed at eleven and left Mr. Loyd in the B.C.R. with Hooke and some more Gentlemen. . . .
MAY 27. For an ounce of Green Tea pd 0. 0. 8. For an ounce of Bohea Tea pd. 0. 0. 4d.
MAY 28. Went to Dr. Hunt's of Christ Church, with Nicholls, Geree and Pitters, and subscribed to the 39 Articles before the Bishop. We paid Pope Beaver for our Letters of Orders, which we receive Monday next, in Doctor Hunt's rooms; each of us 0. 10. 0. . . . Oglander Senr. gave a very handsome glazed Lanthorne for the use of the Bowlers to light their Pipes with, this afternoon in the Temple in the Green. . . .
MAY 29. At nine o'clock, this morning went to Christ Church with Hooke, and Pitters, to be ordained Deacon; and was ordained Deacon there by Hume Bishop of Oxford. There were 25 Ordained Deacons and 13 Priests. We all received the Sacrament. . . . We were in C. Church Cathedral from nine o'clock this morning till after twelve. For wine this afternoon in the B.C.R. pd. 0. 0. 6.
MAY 24. . . . We got home to Ansford to dinner, where I dined, supped and laid at my Father's house. Blessed be Almighty God for sending me safe home to my dear Parents again. . . .
On May 26th he begins his curacy at C. Cary, and gets £20. 0. 0 a year from his father for it: this means he can only take one service at Babcary on Sunday.
MAY 27. Breakfasted, dined, and laid at home again. Brother John dined, breakfasted, and laid here again. After dinner Jack went to Wincanton to a Pony Race, and he did not return till after ten this evening. I am greatly afraid Jack is rather wild, but I hope not.
MAY 28. . . . Brother John spent the evening at the Fair [at Castle Cary].
MAY 29. . . . I read Prayers this morning at C. Cary, it being the commemorating the Restoration of King Charles the Second. . .
MAY 9. . . . never saw a Peacock spread his tail before this day at Justice Creeds and most Noble it is. -- How wonderful are Thy Works O God in every Being.
MAY, 13. . . . Terrible Riots in London 1, by the Paper have been and likely to be.
[These were the Wilkes Riots on May 10th in St. George's Fields.]
MAY 29. . . . I read Prayers this morning at C. Cary, being 29 of May the Restoration of King Charles II from Popish Tyranny. . . . Jack brought home with him from Ansford Inn [where there had been 'great cock fighting'], after 10 o'clock this evening. . . . Dr. John Graunt, Mr. James Graunt, Joseph Wilmot, and Janes, all of Ditchet, which supped and stayed till 3 in ye morning, quite low life sort of people, much beneath Jack. I really wonder Jack keeps such mean company. . . .
MAY 18. . . . Mr. Howes and Wife and Mrs. Davy, Mr. Bodham and his Brother, and Mr. du Quesne all dined and spent the afternoon and part of the evening with us to-day. I gave them for dinner a dish of Maccarel, 3 young Chicken boiled and some Bacon, a neck of Pork rosted and a Gooseberry Pye hot. We laughed immoderately after dinner on Mrs. Howes's being sent to Coventry by us for an Hour. What with laughing and eating hot Gooseberry Pye brought on me the Hickupps with a violent pain in my stomach which lasted till I went to bed. At Cards Quadrille this evening -- lost 0. 2. 6.
MAY 2 1. . . . Sent a letter this evening by Cary to Dr. Oglander Warden of New Coll: with a bill of the expenses on the repairing of my Church -- in all 73. 10. 11 ½.
MAY 22. . . . My Boy Jack had another touch of the Ague about noon. I gave him a dram of gin at the beginning of the fit and pushed him headlong into one of my Ponds and ordered him to bed immediately and he was better after it and had nothing of the cold fit after, but was very hot. . .
MAY 27. . . . My Maid Nanny was taken very ill this evening with a dizziness in the Head and a desire to vomit, but could not. Her straining to vomit brought on the Hickups which continued very violent till after he got to bed. I gave her a dose of rhubarb going to bed. Ben was also very ill and in the same complaint about noon, but he vomited and was soon better. I gave Ben a good dose of Rhubarb also going to bed.
MAY 21. . . . Mr. Jeanes made us a short morning Visit. Of John Gooch for Turnips for his Cow almost all the Winter reed. of him 1. 1. 0. but I returned it to him again immediately. Very busy all the morning in cutting the Weeds in my Bason and cleaning the same, and likewise in launching the Ship Anna in the same.
MAY 28. . . . Mr. and Mrs. Jeanes with Miss Short dined and spent the Afternoon with us. We had for Dinner a nice boiled Leg of Lamb, a very nice small rosting Pigg, Apricot and Gooseberry Tarts Oranges and Nutts by way of desert. Soon after Coffee and Tea, They returned for Witchingham and took my Niece with them in their Carriage to spend a few Days with them.
MAY 29. . . . It seemed a little strange to be quite alone not being used to be so -- In the Evening rather dull. Willm. Bidewell (who has taken Collisons Estate that John Pegg had from Michaelmas next, and to which Estate is annexed a publick House where Bens Father at present lives but is going out at the above Time) called on me this morning and another man with him, to ask my consent for the above public House to be continued on, and one Page (lately a Farmer and lived in this Parish, last Year and broke here) to live in it, but I said that I would never consent to it by any Means. The above Phillip Page is an old Man, had a Bastard about 3 Years [ago] by Charlotte Dunnell.
MAY 6, MONDAY. . . . Sold to Mr. Girling, sixteen Hundred of Hay, he being greatly distressed for Food [for] his Sheep and Cattle, the Season continuing on so very cold and wet, that Nothing grows scarce yet. No Hay almost to be got for Love or Money. Mr. Girling is to give me 4s/6d per Hundred so that he owes me for the above Hay 3. 12. 0. Dinner to day, Leg of Mutton boiled & Capers &c. I was finely to day and made an excellent Dinner on the Mutton. Saw the first Swallow.
MAY 26, SUNDAY. We breakfasted, dined, &c. again at home. Mr. Cotman read Prayers & Preached this Afternoon at Weston Church for the last time as he leaves the Curacy this Day of Weston. He called on me (by my desire) this Afternoon and I paid him for his last half Year's Curacy, before Miss Woodforde the sum of 15. 0. 0. in full of every demand from me to him. He drank a Glass of Port Wine and soon left us. Young Mr. Dade (who is to succeed Mr. Cotman in the Curacy of Weston) called on me also this Afternoon, and informed me that he would enter upon the Curacy of Weston by my desire on Sunday next, and therefore will read Prayers and Preach at Weston Church on Sunday morning next -- to begin at a Qr. before Eleven. When Duty in the Afternoon at Qr.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Desert Island Reflections

I was listening to the 70 years tribute to Desert Island discs, and chuckled at Simon Cowell's choice of a luxury - a mirror, so that he could gaze at himself. I never believed that anyone could really be that like Narcissus in real life. He was asked if he really wanted that as his luxury, if people really wanted to know that he liked to look at himself like that. He said yes!

In Greek Mythology, Narcissus was a hunter who was exceptionally renowned for his fine looks. to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died. Here's where he falls in love with his reflection, from the earliest version recorded of the myth, in Ovid's Metamorphoses:

Here the youth, worn by the chase and the heat, lies down, attracted thither by the appearance of the place and by the spring. While he seeks to slake his thirst another thirst springs up, and while he drinks, he is smitten by the sight of the beautiful form he sees. He loves an unsubstantial hope and thinks that substance which is only shadow. He looks in speechless wonder at himself and hangs there motionless in the same expression, like a statue carved from Parian marble.

Prone on the ground, he gazes at his eyes, twin stars, and his locks, worthy of Bacchus, worthy of Apollo; on is smooth cheeks, his ivory neck, the glorious beauty of his face, the blush mingled with snowy white: all things, in short, he admires for which he himself is admired. Unwittingly he desires himself; he praises, and is himself what he praises; and while he seeks, is sought; equally he kindles love and burns with love. How often did he offer vain kisses on the elusive pool? How often did he plunge his arms into the water seeking to clasp the neck he sees there, but did not clasp himself in them! What he sees he knows not; but that which he sees he burns for, and the same delusion mocks and allures his eyes.

O fondly foolish boy, why vainly seek to clasp a fleeting image? What you seek is nowhere; but turn yourself away, and the object of your love will be no more. That which you behold is but the shadow of a reflected form and has no substance of its own. With you it comes, with you it stays, and it will go with you - if you can go. (Metamorphoses, Volume I, Book III, pages 149 - 161, translated from the Latin by Frank Justice Miller)

But on the opposite pole to the extreme narcissism of a Simon Cowell in Desert Island discs was Joss Ackland, and the life he has lived, a life full of tragedy and hope.

Sue Lawley asked him if he could recall the night in which their home went up in flames, and everything that was within it was destroyed.

In 1963, while he was acting in the West End, their house caught fire. His wife, Rosemary who was then five months pregnant with her sixth baby, threw the children from a window. Then she leapt out. With all the smoke and flames, she missed the fireman, and broke her back. Doctors thought she might die, and that the baby would be lost. Yet she gave birth to a healthy daughter, and became the the first person to walk out of Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire after suffering such severe injuries, 18 months later. The daughter is now married with children of her own.

Sue Lawley: So you didn't lose everything in that fire.
Joss Ackland: I lost nothing.

It's true stories like that which move the listener. Hearing that question, and that reply, is something of a challenge to most people; it certainly was to me. Of course, we know that people matter more than possessions, but when you hear the testimony of someone whose family has literally been through the flames, and himself has suffered the trauma of coming back to a street, with a house on fire, and the news that his wife might not walk, their unborn child might not live - it really brings that home to you.

Years later, in the 1985, when he played the part of C.S. Lewis in the BBC Everyman film "Shadowlands", Joss Ackland could draw upon his own grief to act convincingly the part of Lewis, suffering the loss of his wife, Joy Davidman. Or, as he explained on Desert Island discs, that experience of grief never left him, it was always part of him, and he just brought that truth to the film.

It was a vastly superior production to the later cinema film starring Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins is a good actor, but the experience of grief is largely left out of that movie (as well as one of Joy Davidman's sons, present in the BBC film). In the BBC version, a whole section of the script, with Ackland narrating his experience as Lewis, is taken from Lewis' own recollections, in his book "A Grief Observed".

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

Imagine a man in total darkness. He thinks he is in a cellar or dungeon. Then there comes a sound. He thinks it might be a sound from far off-waves or wind-blown trees or cattle half a mile away. And if so, it proves he's not in a cellar, but free, in the open air.

Or perhaps, even, on a lush desert island at night, with the waves lapping at the shore, and the cry of birds in the distance...

For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The King of Wands

The King of Wands

Garbed as a lion, with a decorated cape
Upon his shoulders down does drape
Nobility lies in the office, not the man
Who but lives it out in his lifespan
A wooden wand in flower blooms
Is held by hand, as his heirlooms
Authority is vested in him, not his own
Sitting honestly upon his throne
The King is the title, not the name
As the Coronation does proclaim.