Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Rogue Politician

After the publishing of Sir Philip Bailhache's statement, the story went fairly widespread across the UK:

Jersey calls for 'independence' - ITV News
Jersey 'independence' call over tax - Belfast News
Jersey threatens to break with UK over tax backlash
Jersey 'independence' call over tax - Braintree and Witham Times
Jersey 'independence' call over tax (From York Press)
Jersey 'independence' call over tax (From Wiltshire Business Online)

This is what the Guardian said:

A barrage of regulatory clampdowns and political attacks on the Channel Islands' controversial financial industry has prompted one of Jersey's most senior politicians to call for preparations to be made to break the "thrall of Whitehall" and declare independence from the UK. Sir Philip Bailhache, the island's assistant chief minister, said: "I feel that we get a raw deal. I feel it's not fair . I think that the duty of Jersey politicians now is to try to explain what the island is doing and not to take things lying down. The island should be prepared to stand up for itself and should be ready to become independent if it were necessary in Jersey's interest to do so."

In a Guardian interview, he said strained relations with the UK over the past five years had made it "very plain" that Jersey's interests were not
always aligned with those of Britain. "I hope that the constitutional relationship with the UK will continue. But if it becomes plain that our
interests in fact lie in being independent it doesn't seem to be that we should bury our head in the sand and say we're not going to do that." (1)

This is the same Sir Philip Bailhache who just before the election last year said that: "I do not advocate, and have never in fact advocated independence. What I have suggested is that the Island should be prepared for independence if that were the best way of preserving our autonomy and way of life." That remark has been described by one of my correspondence is Clintonesque; it is so beset with qualifications that no one really knew what Sir Philip thought then - which clearly was a good strategy for election, as it might have lost him votes. Now that it doesn't matter, he has decided that enough is enough, and sounded off on the public stage. The time for slippery words is over.

Now I'm sure that Sir Philip's statement will be very popular among Jersey people, who often are ordinary people working far away from the convoluted tax schemes such as K2. But does this really go down well in the UK? If I was hearing this in England, having heard about Jimmy Carr, and Geoff Cook popping up with the well worn cliché - "well regulated finance industry" - the message I would be hearing is that if the UK tries to interfere with tax arrangements like K2, then we won't play that game. We'll take our ball and play elsewhere where K2 can continue. I know Sir Philip hasn't said that - but that is, I fear, how my UK friends will perceive his outburst. It's the voice of a small child trying to sound big, and throwing a tantrum because other people have been saying nasty things about him. As Business Insider puts it:

Sir Bailhache's anger seems to come from the recent furore in the UK about the role the isle played in a prominent British comedian's tax avoidance scheme that was later branded "morally wrong" by British Prime Minister David Cameron. (4)

I would also note the following statement before the last election:

When ministerial government was introduced a number of mistakes were made. The Chief Minister should be allowed to choose his ministers so that they can work together as a team.

And also from Sir Philip, this statement:

In 2005 we changed to a system of ministerial government, but when that was done I think that a number of mistakes were made. People were understandably anxious about putting too much power in the hands of individual ministers, but what we have done is to create a system where no one is really in charge.

So the message from this is that the statesman is or should be a team player, who doesn't go off and do his own thing without the courtesy of consulting other members of the team. The flaw in the first phase of Ministerial government was that - according to Sir Philip - Ministers could go their own way, do their own thing. I know that Sir Philip mentioned on BBC Radio Jersey that other members of the Council of Ministers agreed with his line, but that is not the same as a proper consultation before sounding off.

What this is most like is a form of attention seeking behaviour. Raymond Saner notes that this can be disruptive to teams:

Perhaps the most common manifestation in this category is attention-seeking behaviour. The individual is then no longer concerned with the process at hand, but with the need for personal appreciation. The energy this takes up is lost to the problem-solving activities of the team. (2)

and he notes how a team should work well together:

The longer the team works together, the less significant personal power needs become. The team maintains its productivity while consciously
cultivating its smooth functioning. The members' behaviour is oriented above all towards the task at hand, while any socio-emotional problems that may arise are not suppressed or brushed aside as without importance, but are consistently dealt with through group-orientated intervention.(2)

Kelly Blidook also notes this kind of aberrant behaviour where individuals pursue their own agenda without consultation with their team:

It feeds upon attention and attachment. Hence it always seeks attention and is a master in attention seeking behaviour. This can show up in a
million forms from flashy possession to drama-laden behaviour. It also attaches itself to ideas and systems of thought and totally abhors change and alternative viewpoints.

It can be spotted in: Self-centred behaviour, attention-seeking behaviour, the need to be right, showy behaviour, the need to be praised,
gossiping, etc. (3)

I have sympathy with Sir Philip Bailhache's annoyance at the reputation damage Jersey has suffered of late. Ian Gorst, in giving a strong message to the finance industry that they need to consider very carefully the importance of reputation when assessing schemes has made a strong start, and a break from his predecessors, who usually followed the Geoff Cook cliché - "well regulated financial centre", which is now becoming something of a joke, and should have a moratorium placed on it. I would like to see a circular to finance businesses, and a note on any new company forms noting this kind of message very strongly.

But what concerns me is that this intervention by Sir Philip, without consulting either with the Council of Ministers, or seeking advice from the States communications unit, may make matters worse. Jersey will be seen as the naughty kid who says he'll take his ball away when he gets told off - in other words, the tantrum of a spoilt child. That's how I fear it will appear on the world stage. The headline for business insider put it this way:

Jersey Is So Mad About David Cameron Calling Tax Avoidance 'Morally Wrong' That It Might Break Ties With The UK

There's also a matter of courtesy involved. Sir Philip seems to be completely forgetting that Ian Gorst is Chief Minister, and it might be proper to discuss the matter jointly first. It's the behaviour of someone who seems used to getting his own way, and ploughing his own furrow. For someone who said that what is needed is to "work together as a team", there seems to have been precious little formal communication with team members.

Then there is the external relations group set up with Guernsey to examine the whole question of the constitutional arrangements with the UK. The External Relations Group (ERG) was set up so that the Channel Islands can work together. Deputy Roger Perrot said: "It is of fundamental importance that Jersey and Guernsey speak with one voice." And that too means consultation as a matter of respect. There are more people who need to be involved. Sir Philip seems to sometimes forget that "no man is an Island".

(2) The Expert Negotiator: Strategy, Tactics, Motivation, Behaviour, Leadership. by Raymond Saner, 2005
(3) Symbol vs. Substance: Theatre, Political Career Paths, and Parliamentary Behaviour in Canada by Kelly Blidook


Anonymous said...

Superb post !!!! If only he would look in the mirror and not see some sort of ego filled god head ! Jersey would be in a much safer place. So so sad

Anonymous said...

The news went to Europe as well

Daniel said...

I had no idea he was quite so daft. Not consulting on this announcement is quite extraordinary - or maybe he did and this is what Gorst actually thinks as well.

Ah, but there is one explanation of both this and the Electoral Commission saga, and indeed as to why he sought election in the first place.

He is a Finance Industry apologist, and will follow the lead of certain people within that industry, to the letter. This will include battening down on anything that might affect Jersey's "reputation" - such as HdlG, or Bellozanne.

The refusal to investigate properly the Nurse M saga falls into the same camp.

So that is what it is all really about.

I post the above as a hypothesis, what do others think?

Anonymous said...

It's always nice to find people who read my stuff, but those are not my words. You don't have to post this comment, but I would recommend proper attribution of the quote you have.

All the best

Kelly Blidook

TonyTheProf said...

Kelly, the reference is in footnote (3)

Anonymous said...

Yes, but those words are not found in "Symbol vs Substance". They belong to someone else.