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.


James said...

The industry I come from had a simple pneumonic device

Is this genuinely the way the States Hansard has rendered it?

If so, they need a new stenographer (PS, I'm not local but I can spell "mnemonic"!). Oh, and by the way it's Rod Bryans, not Rob.

TonyTheProf said...

Thanks - yes that is how Hansard renders it! And what we pay them for.

Mind you, I'm not sure that what Deputy Bryans states could be termed a mnemonic.

Ex-Senator Stuart Syvret said...

Bryans' speech - an exercise in self-parody, surely?

The phrase "empty rhetoric" just doesn't get close to capturing it.


James said...


Merriam-Webster has the adjective defined simply as "assisting or intended to assist memory", and defines the noun as "a mnemonic device or code".

I suspect you and I think of it in terms of "Richard of York gave battle in vain" for colours of the rainbow, but strictly speaking Deputy Bryans' usage is correct.