Thursday, 28 February 2013

Incident in Parish Website

I've no problem with Simon Crowcroft using his personal blog to state his views.

That's at   

But should he be stating them on "Your Parish Online" website? The official website for the Parish of St Helier? Should an Official Parish Website endorse Option A?

In my opinion he should not be using the Parish website to progress personal opinions on the referendum. That is an abuse of the website which is essentially a tool of the municipality to provide information and deliver certain services - not a political forum or to publish personal opinions.   

That does seem to be using a Parish facility which should be neutral, to promote a viewpoint. Should the Procureurs or Deputies also have a say? I would have thought the Parish site should be non-partisan, and personal views kept to a private blog, not one which appears to be an integral part of the website, as this does. This seems to say "The Parish says...". If you look at the other blog postings by Simon, they are regarding general matters, mostly relating to the Parish, not political propaganda.

The St. Helier website ( is the Parish's own, not part of intranet which provides the 'official site'. But I think it is still wrong for the Constable to apparently 'hijack' it for personal purposes.

I wouldn't agree with Constable Dan Murphy who Tweeted "Surely in order to preserve his integrity Crowcroft must resign as a constable now". After all, Constable Len Norman is on record - a video still exists online - in 2012 of saying the Constables should not sit in the States. That's personal opinion. It's on a private blog. It is not part of an official Parish website of St Clement. But the St Helier site has a tab marked "Blog", that fits seamlessly into the website; it's part of the website, not a private and separate blog.

Is the Town Crier also going to become a mouthpiece for the Constable's message about Option A? The last election in 2011 saw what I think was a very detrimental effect of Parish magazines being use as election platforms. St Saviour's magazine, La Cloche, did have a pull out where all the candidates could have a photo and brief resume (and it mistakenly put Rob Duhamel's twice, one under Roy le Herrisier's photo) and it also had paid advertising at special rates for those who wanted extra coverage. Grouville had an option to have a flier, which happened to go out with just one of the candidates for Deputy by an oversight.

I think these approaches are mistaken in their use of a Parish Magazine. A Parish magazine should inform people where to vote, how to vote (pre-voting, postal voting), and when to vote. But they shouldn't become political platforms or take sides; neither should the Parish website. St Brelade's Parish magazine was completely neutral, even to the extent of having the Chef de Police give the Constable's message (as it was a contested election for Constable), and having a guest editor to ensure independence (as the editor was standing for election). And believe me, that guest editor did not stand for any politician trying to sneak in a political advantage by way of a news story.

And even more so, I think that using a Parish website to effectively support Option A is not right, any more than using one for Option B or C would be. If the Parish website has any information, it should be to outline the Referendum options, give details of districts and times for voting, give information on pre-voting or postal voting. It should not be used as a platform for the Constable's own views.

I think he should be respectfully asked to remove it.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The General Condition of the Island

Unlike G.R. Balleine's History of Jersey, the earlier series of books on the history of Jersey by A.C. Saunders have a much sharper focus on social history; that's not to say they don't mention the significant political events of the day, but Arthur Charles Saunders writes much more passionately about social conditions of the day.

In this extract from "Jersey in the 15th and 16th centuries" (1931), he is looking at how the common man or woman fared in that period, and how they lived their lives. There is an undercurrent of righteous indignation about those conditions in his prose, and it is hardly surprising when you read of the burden of time and taxes that the great majority of the population had to suffer. It is something that Balleine skims rather more lightly over.

It is also notable that unlike Balleine, Saunder's interpretation of witchcraft is very different. Balleine largely bought into the model proposed by Margaret Murray (Witch Cult in Western Europe, 1921), of an underground pagan society of devil worshippers, which has long been discredited by the evidence unearthed by modern academic historians such as Norman Cohn, Owen Davies, Keith Thomas, Ronald Hutton, Brian Levack, to name but a few. Saunders sees witchcraft as an outcome of the general ignorance and bad fortune which beset the poorer people, and places accusations in the context of the jealous neighbour; in that respect, he is closer to the modern approach by, for example, Robin Briggs in "Witches and Neighbours" (1996) and has not dated as badly in his interpretation as Balleine.

The General Condition of the Island
by A.C. Saunders

We know that St. Helier was the principal "town in the island, and was then called a bourg, and consisted of but few houses grouped together around the church. Mr. Nicolle, the late Viscount and Historian of Jersey, has written a very delightful book, " St. Helier " which has recently been published by the Société Jersiaise, and he therein describes the town as it was at this period.

The bourg was absolutely unprotected from the sea and was liable to attacks from the many pirates who infested the neighbouring waters, and, at one time it was proposed to remove the town to the Mont de la Ville, where, at any rate, the people would have been better able to defend themselves against such disagreeable visitors.
There were many quaint customs and laws in the Island which had been imposed upon the inhabitants by those in power.
All householders had to give one day's labour each year in helping to keep the old castle in proper repair, and if they failed to appear to do such work, on the day appointed by the Crown officers, they had to pay three and a half sous for the day's work thus avoided.
The several parishes had to provide labour for the conveyance of stores, provisions, wines, hay and other things for the use of the officers and soldiers at Mont Orgueil Castle, and butchers and fishermen had to call twice a week with their goods to supply the needs of the Governor and garrison there. Then the King's tenants in the Vingtaine la Rocque had to find two boats at all times of need, and after reason-able and lawful warning, to pass on messages and carry letters to Guernsey. Farmers could only brew their malt in the King's brew houses and grind their corn in the King's mills, and at the King's mill at Grand Vaux those who had no corn but had land, must come three times a year-viz.:-
"At ye feast of All Saints, at Christmas and at Easter with two bushels of corn," and for every default they incurred the penalty of " ye fourth part of a cabotel of common come accustomly called a Carehonmon of Mouture," otherwise they were liable to severe punishment. Timber had to be carted for the use of the mill free of charge, each man "according to ye proportion of his tenement if he holdeth it of the King." There were other King's mills at Gigoulands, in St. Mary's parish, and the mill at Milender. Then all goods belonging to strangers had to be weighed by the officer appointed to keep the King's weights. Then there were rent wheats due to the Crown payable at " Ye feast of ye Nativity of our Saviour, called Christmas, or within any of ye twenty-one days next before ye said feast after proclamation made in ye market place in this behalf and if not paid then it shall be lawful to the King's Receiver to distrain or imprison at his pleasure."
Then there were the Poulages and Pains payable at Christmas; and the Dismes or Tythings due to the King's Majesty, viz., half a sheaf of corn or flax ; the Verpes, viz., fees due for damage done by beasts and cattle trespassing on lands planted with corn and grass ; Essiages, paid by those engaged in fishing for conger payable at " Ye feast of ye Exaltation of the Cross," otherwise Holy Rood Day, the 7th September ; Amerciements and Casualties owing by reason of Amends, defaults and disobedience of the King's Court ; Moneage or Fouage levied every three years at 12d. from every householder except the priest and clergy, gentlemen, and such as be free holders, and their servants, and every widow woman having an annual value of forty shillings in goods besides her clothes and apparel ; Tavernage payable at Michaelmas, paid by all who sell " Ale, biere or Syder over and above ye Tavernage of wine " . Estrants or Wrecks of ye Sea belonged to the King's Majesty, who had the only prerogative as Customary of Normandy, and he claimed all pieces of gold and silver above twenty franks, all great horses, Spanish hawkes, precious stones, all scarlet cloth, packs of old clothes packed together, all whole pieces of silk, and all kinds of poles, " ye cometh to ye land of himself or taken upon ye dry ground."
And then we have some among others of the many laws which regulated the lives of the people, who were always liable to the tyranny of those in power, and were little better than beasts of burden. They lived under the most unhealthy conditions in hovels hardly wind and rain proof, with clay floors and small openings in the walls, often not glazed, without any system of drainage, dung heaped against the walls and with shallow stagnant pools at their doors.
No wonder we often come across records of plague and pestilence, and yet it was not until the middle of the sixteenth century that Solomon Journeaux, son of Jurat Journeaux, the first medical man, was allowed to practise in the Island after having duly sworn obedience to the Court.
No wonder the people discovered their own weird remedies for their many ailments, with the result that it was an age of the survival of the fittest. Sorcery and witchcraft were feared yet sought after, and it was no difficult matter to have an unpopular woman condemned as a witch, who had worked for the illness or misfortune of some neighbour. Toil and sleep sufficient to keep up the daily routine did not allow much time for the cultivation of intelligence, and those who suggested in any way that they were the subjects of injustice, only opened the way for the more brutal treatment of themselves. We hear of the good old days, but they were good only for the very few, and the great majority were subjected to a slavery which we can little understand at the present day.
Those in power had little hesitation in using the authority they possessed, and for those whose dawning intelligence suggested unjust treatment there was very little scope, for punishments were severe and there were prisons, mutilations, whippings and the gallows always ready for the agitator. And thus we find a cowed people, and at nightfall when the farm gates were shut, we can imagine how, as they sat in their dimly lit living room, the mysteries of life lent themselves to the superstitions of the age.
Their outlook was limited to their immediate neighbourhood and the petty affairs of their neighbours, the sickness of a child or grown-up person, the death of a cow, a bad crop, and we can well imagine how some unfortunate woman, probably unpopular because of her greater intelligence and bitter tongue, gradually getting ostracised and accused of witchcraft and bringing disaster upon those who had offended her. Had not someone seen her running in the shape of a hare, from a field where a sick cow had been found ? And one rumour followed another until she was credited with supernatural powers. At first, probably, she may have been flattered by the fear she managed to instil among her neighbours, and gradually, as her loneliness increased, her mind became warped, she came to believe that she had really the powers with which her neighbours credited her.
And then there were those mysterious stones, dolmen and menhir, which were to be found in all parts of the Island, and tradition had handed down how, by carrying out certain rites at certain hours, certain benefits might be obtained by those who dared.
Thus as evening drew near and the people gathered together round their fires in their dimly lit living rooms we can imagine that, after the conversation had passed outside the ordinary routine of the day and the discussion of their neighbours' affairs, it was carried on in whispers and with much fear and trembling about the many mysterious things around them which they could not understand.
And their pleasures were few and far between. They had the feast and fast days, when they met at certain parts of the Island, where they practised archery, danced and made merry. Archery was encouraged so that they might be of use in case of invasion, And as the day passed by they, with the aid of cider and other drinks, became merrier, noisier and sometimes quarrelsome, until such time when they had to return to their hovels to sleep off their dissipation and prepare themselves for the next day's toil.
There was little scope for social improvement. Wages were hardly earned and barely sufficient to provide necessary food, and those in authority saw that the scale of wages was regulated by law under severe penalties. Even skilled artisans could not earn more than sixpence a day, and later on Sir Thomas More, the Chancellor, and author of " Utopia," tells us that the condition of the labouring beast in his days was better than that of the labouring man.
But with the dawn of education, people were gradually beginning to recognise that the social condition of the people was not as it should be, and, although ignorance and superstition, supported by charms, spells, curses, ghosts, witchcraft, and other sorceries, still remained, the gradually increasing power of the common people in England and France was beginning to be felt even in the little Island of Jersey, and a silver lining was showing through the dark clouds of ignorance and despotism which had, for the greater number, killed the joys of life in the past.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Politicians Twitter On

There have been some interesting tweets recently on Jersey matters. While Rob Duhamel was on air defending his tenure as Minister, there was some criticism about planning for historical buildings on Twitter:

LPerchard @bbcjersey The Historic Building section at Planning are unrealistic. Madness saving all old buildings & features simply because they R old

jimrondel @JLPerchard @bbcjersey Totally right Jim. The perfect example is Zion Temple. When are we going to get on do something? #politicshour

This reminded me of the story in September 2012, when the Methodist Chapel at St Martin was refused a door, ramp and handrail for disabled access by the Planning Department. In the end, the decision was overturned by the Planning Applications Panel, who felt that disabled access should take priority over the historic aspect of the building.

This wasn't the case, of course, with the St Helier Methodist Centre, where any ramps outside were forbidden by Planning some years before. In the end, a solution was found inside, with internal ramps and a lift, preserving the outside look of the building.

It is a planning policy that reminds me of the way Georgian buildings were constructed. The stucco-fronted neoclassicism of the Regency often disguised cheap materials used inside; there would be good quality hard bricks for outer walls, while poorly made "place" bricks which were cheap, including as much ash as clay, were used for the unseen work of walls and partitions within. The facade was what counted.

So too, the Odeon Cinema, probably the ugliest building of its kind (compared to the Art Deco frontage of Wests Cinema, or the fine entrance to the Forum Cinema) has had the insides ripped over and reshaped; it once had one screen alone and a circle and stalls, but all that changed when it became multiplex. But that doesn't matter; what matters is that it looks fine from the outside. As the book of Proverbs says, "Like a coating of glaze over earthenware."

Meanwhile, with the Nurses march over pay, Deputy Tadier suggested that Jersey Finance should come along and do something to support them:

DeputyTadier @jerseyfinance Will Jersey Finance be supporting the nurses at their rally today for fair pay? After all, they take care of your workers

This prompted the fair reply that on the basis of that logic, every industry in the island, from tourism and hospitality to the motor trade should also be supporting the rally:

jerseyrobins @deputytadier Will you be asking the same question of other industry bodies? Or are you just having a pop? @jerseyfinance

GollopGuern @DeputyTadier @jerseyfinance might argue they support CI economy and tax take significantly!

In fact, I suspect a lot of people do support the nurses, even if they couldn't attend the rally. It is difficult to understand really why Deputy Tadier was singling out finance. But it led onto an interesting exchange with BaldTruth - alias Deputy Trevor Pitman and EvilC59 - alias Clive Tomes:

EvilC59:  But are any politicians identifying the funding to pay for a decent rise? Priorities - walk, but do nothing?

BaldTruthJersey: Could start by getting the T&R Minister to keep his word and get some tax from 'foreign' companies.

The main rejoinder of Clive Tomes (alias EvilC59), was not that States members should be critical of Philip Ozouf for not coming up with a solution, but that they should take responsibility themselves for coming up with a viable plan:

EvilC59:  Interesting response as local companies pay no tax! What will YOU do, not who do you blame?

BaldTruthJersey: I'm surprised if you do not conclude the whole zero/ten fiasco to play a part in all of this. It does.

BaldTruthJersey: The Establishment way is to tag any differing as 'blaming' ; as 'wreckers' etc We need to get past that.

This is, of course, coming from someone who virtually compares Sir Philip Bailhache with Joseph Goebbels, in a recent blog posting. Perhaps he needs to get past some of the invective too!

But Clive was back on the case, noting that Trevor Pitman, rather like Michael Howard, was carefully avoiding the question:

EvilC59: Another interesting response, avoiding the challenge (and economic reality) completely. Shame.

EvilC59: Perhaps if you come forward with positive, economically realistic alternatives, who knows?

BaldTruthJersey: I hope you are not going to say we mustn't tax 1 (1) Ks and Finance fairly because 'they'll all leave?'

And again Trevor Pitman says various things, but avoids answering the question. Instead he asks rhetorical questions of Clive, which is another way of evading the question:

EvilC59: I don't believe I've said anything - I've just asked you, and up to now, you haven't answered

And now we have some comments on a Casino, but again Trevor doesn't say clearly that is something he is going to bring as a proposal to the States. His replies are so oblique that it is hard to know what propositions he is going to bring regarding identifying funding to pay for a decent rise for the nurses. He might be bringing a proposal to the States, but there again, he might not.

BaldTruthJersey:  Gambling interesting example. COM want 'on line' but not a casino Why? 4+ mill tax. 30+tourism knock on.

EvilC59: So be positive, gather support and bring forward your proposal - far better than the blame game

BaldTruthJersey:  Agree Which is what I do. I leave the blame/smearing to Bailhache & co. All my propositions 'positive'.

EvilC59:  So do it

To be fair to Trevor Pitman, he is not the only politician to do this. One has only to read the Question Time in Hansard to see how Ministers ramble on and avoid giving answers. Here's an example by the Deputy of Trinity, Anne Pryke. Notice how she avoids any reply to the question about the population figure used for the proposed new hospital. Now that's something pretty obvious; as with for example data storage, it is prudent to plan for future capacity, and in this case, with a hospital, to plan for a future population figure. Instead, we get told what percentage of current hospital is occupied by inpatient numbers. It shows us that a bigger hospital is needed with greater capacity, but gives no information about the population size planned.

Deputy M.R. Higgins: Can the Minister tell us what population figure was used to determine the size of the hospital?  Was it based on the existing 97,000?  Was it based on some projection forward when our population policy fails and we get up to 110,000, or what figure was used to calculate the size of the hospital?

The Deputy of Trinity: As I said, on our 3-year recent data because that is an important figure because we know that there is an increased number - and I will get the inpatient numbers to you - but the present capacity of inpatient numbers is running at 95 to 98 per cent. Sometimes it goes over the 100 per cent which is not right in this day and age because it raises the risk of infection control, and also we know that the hospital with 6 bays to a ward, does not allow the flexibility.  But as I said, I will get that information.

Deputy M.R. Higgins: With respect, the Minister waffled on about something that was not even related to the question.  The question was quite specifically what population figure for the Island did the Minister base the size of the hospital on?

I could help being reminded of Yes Minister by these exchange sin which no direct answers were being given:

"Take Refuge In a Long Pointless Narrative. If you can ramble on for long enough, no one will remember the question and therefore no one can tell if you answered it or not. ...I summed it up...: if you have nothing to say, say nothing. But better, have something to say and say it, no matter what they ask. Pay no attention to the question, make your own statement. If they ask you the same question again, you just say, 'That's not the question' or 'I think the more important question is this:' Then you make another statement of your own. Easy-peasy." (1)

(1)  Yes Prime Minister II, pp. 67-8

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Party System

I've just been re-reading "The Party System" by Hilaire Belloc and Cecil Chesterton. It's an interesting book to read. They make the point that the ideal democracy, which is difficult, would be along the lines of Athenian democracy. Representative democracy is a fudge, a way of trying to match together an ideal about the popular will, and the fact that Mr Jones, MP, may represent thousands of constituents. The votes, elections, assemblies, are mechanisms to try and carry that out, but they are not perfect by any means:

It may, however, be worth while to define exactly what democracy is. Votes and elections and representative assemblies are not democracy ; they are at best machinery for carrying out democracy. (1)

What happens with political parties is that each party sets out its own agenda, and there is commonly, in the UK, as in Belloc's time, pretty much a choice between two or possibly three parties. The voter is presented with a "set menu" of choices, but they are not necessarily the matters he or she would choose. And this leads to all kinds of anomalies. In "The Party System", they discuss the different reasons why people vote for a party, and one is the "enthusiast" who chooses a party because it is strongly in favour of one enthusiasm they have:
There is another kind of enthusiast who helps to keep the Party System going. This is the man who earnestly desires some particular measure which one of the two parties has espoused, or (what comes to much the same thing) has an intense repugnance to some measure which the other party has espoused. (1)

The agenda for the party, the manifesto, does not come from popular will; it is set by the Party machinery, by the people who control the Party, and while they have to offer something for the voter to choose them, all they have to do is to offer enough to have an edge. But people support a Party, and vote for a Party regardless of whether that Party really has their best interests at hand. This was common enough in the UK in Belloc's time; some people think it is as true today in the UK.

Finally, there is the mass of ordinary voters, largely indifferent to political problems, yet at times keenly interested in politics. How shall we define their state of mind ?  Perhaps the best parallel to the attitude of the general public towards politics is to be found in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. Of the crowds that line the towing path every year from Putney to Mortlake there are few that have ever been to either University, have ever known anyone who has been to either, have even the remotest or most shadowy connection with either. Yet they take sides enthusiastically, and would almost be prepared to shed blood for their " fancy." Note that this is not a mere question of backing your judgment on the merits of the two crews. Not one man in ten knows anything about that, and many are proud of always sticking to the same side year after year, of being always " Oxford " or " Cambridge," whether their favourite colour wins or loses. And just as they vehemently take sides with a University to which they have never been, so they take sides as vehemently with a party which they do not control and from which they can never hope for the smallest benefit. (1)

I've spoken to people who come from England, and of course many of them want a Party System in Jersey, but that is not because it is necessarily good; it is simply because it is something they understand, like the Boat Race. There's a failure to engage with a different culture at work, and often a kind of cultural imperialism that wants the UK model because of familiarity, and an intellectual laziness that doesn't want to look at the Jersey system. The same people commonly tell me that if Jersey was in the UK, it would have one MP, and - this is in all seriousness - could be run by 10 States members. What they haven't understood is the cube rule which generally applies to how representation works with population figures, so instead they try and fit a square peg into a round hole, and hope that bashing it with a mallet will work.

The Party System, as Belloc saw, was not something that universal franchise can overcome, and he notes the widening of the franchise to more people:

Step by step since 1832, more and more citizens have been admitted to vote for members of Parliament. First the clerk or shopkeeper, then the urban workman, and finally the agricultural labourer became an elector. This process should clearly have meant an increase in the power of democracy, and it has been practically universally assumed that it did mean this. But in fact it is extremely dubious whether the mass of the people have as much political power to-day as they had before the process began. Had the enfranchisement of  the people come suddenly there is little doubt that something like real democracy would have been achieved. But it came by slow degrees, and there was time for another process to go on side by side with the widening of the franchise.

That process was the transfer of effective power from the House of Commons to the Ministry, or, to speak more accurately, to the two Front Benches, Government and " Opposition." There was no definite moment at which you could say that this was done, but it has been done very thoroughly by now. Anyone who doubts this will find it easy to convince himself of it by glancing at the relations of the House and the Executive at the beginning of the process and at the end. At the beginning the Government was dependent on the House ; now the House is in a state of abject dependence on the Ministers and ex-Ministers, who arrange between them details of all policies. (1)

This then is the "Party System", which Belloc observed when he was an MP, and found just how impotent a private member could be. It is, after all, the leaders of the Parties who decide on patronage, on who shall rise, and who shall fall.

Belloc was elected to Parliament by South Salford in 1906 as a Liberal. In Parliament he proposed a measure for the publication of the names of subscribers to the Party funds. The proposal got nowhere, and as might be expected, the Party funds were not available to support him at the next election, in 1910, which he won as an Independent.

G.K. Chesterton himself weighed in with the following letter to "The Nation" in 1911, making the following points:

1. I say a democracy means a State where the citizens first desire something and then get it. That is surely simple.
2. I say that where this is deflected by the disadvantage of representation, it means that the citizens desire a thing and tell the representatives to get it. I trust I make myself clear.
3. The representatives, in order to get it at all, must have some control over detail; but the design must come from popular desire. Have we got that down?
4. You, I understand, hold that English M.P.s today do thus obey the public in design, varying only in detail. That is a quite clear contention.
5. I say they don't. Tell me if I am getting too abstruse.
6. I say our representatives accept designs and desires almost entirely from the Cabinet class above them; and practically not at all from the constituents below them. I say the people does not wield a Parliament which wields a Cabinet. I say the Cabinet bullies a timid Parliament which bullies a bewildered people. Is that plain?
7. If you ask why the people endure and play this game, I say they play it as they would play the official games of any despotism or aristocracy. The average Englishman puts his cross on a ballot paper as he takes off. his hat to the King--and would take it off if here were no ballot-papers. There is no democracy in the business. Is that definite?
8. If you ask why we have thus lost democracy, I say from two causes; (a) The omnipotence of an unelected body, the Cabinet; (b) the Party system, which turns all politics into a game like the Boat Race. Is that all right?

This is not unlike the criticism given by Tony Benn, the well known former Labour MP:

Parliamentary democracy is, in truth, little more than a means of securing a periodical change in the management team, which is then allowed to preside over a system that remains in essence intact. If the British people were ever to ask themselves what power they truly enjoyed under our political system they would be amazed to discover how little it is, and some new Chartist agitation might be born and might quickly gather momentum. (2)

The power of patronage comes with pay differentials, as well, for office holders, and means that far from a people electing a party, the power and patronage comes from the leader of that party:

The power of patronage assists the PM in the dominance of the Executive as appointing ministers allows the PM the opportunity to reward loyal supporters and to punish critics in their party. It is the PM who decides the members of the Cabinet, therefore the PM will appoint a cabinet of people who can be relied upon to endorse their policy proposals and preferences.  (3)

It's worth remembering that there are extensive costs involved. Hilaire Belloc and Cecil Chesterton (The Party System, 1911) estimated it would cost one million pounds to launch a political party back then; it pushes out the independent player.

There is a good deal of criticism from some quarters that Jersey does not have a party system, but is dominated by certain vested interests. That may be the case, but in seeing how "The Party System" has worked in the UK, it seems most unlikely that it could in any way provide a panacea for that kind of problem. Sometimes, as in the post-War, Attlee Government, or the Thatcher regime, there is significant change, but for the most part, it hardly matters who is in charge, and as Belloc observed then, "no social lines of cleavage distinguished one party from another."  Wilson and Heath, Major and Blair were virtually indistinguishable in how they ran the country.

And yet it is constantly held up as the model way to go in Jersey by some, as if it was the only option available; there seems a dearth of imagination, and an inability to see that a small jurisdiction could enjoy better representation without a Party.

In fact, Jersey, because of the small size of the States, no post-war Party system along the same lines as the UK has managed to be successful, but there have been successful independent members who have brought significant change to the Island. They are the kind of people whom a Party system would squeeze out, because that demands an ideological commitment rather than independent thinking. It is a delusion to think otherwise. As Belloc notes, "the price which has to be paid for admission is, of course, a complete surrender of independence, and absolute submission to the will of the body as a whole."

In fact, the one recent Jersey Party, the JDA, cracked open precisely because members in the States would not submit to one particular policy, and hence it soon became a single person party; it shows just how submission to ideology fits badly with independence, even on the political left.

We may not have a perfect system over here, and I'd be the first to criticise some aspects of the first two Chief Ministers, and indeed have done so. But at least we have something which has the opportunity to be, as Jules Lemaitre wrote in 1899, to have "a republic that belongs to everybody and is no longer the plaything of a party".

(1) The Party System, 1911, Hilaire Belloc, Cecil Chesterton

Sunday, 24 February 2013

On Wilderness

Not long afterward Jesus came from Nazareth in the province of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, he saw heaven opening and the Spirit coming down on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you." At once the Spirit made him go into the desert, where he stayed forty days, being tempted by Satan. Wild animals were there also, but angels came and helped him. (Mark 1:9-13)
There was an interesting programme on television a few years ago, presented by Peter Owen-Jones, entitled "Around the World in Eighty Faiths". I watched it with my partner Annie, and one thing we both agreed on was that there was a dividing line between those religious practices that were very commercialised, very much in tune with modern capitalism, and those which sought a detachment, of separation, of being apart from the urban world, and out in the wilderness.
It didn't matter whether it was Christian or Hindu, or African Voodoo, as in all those there was a form very much about results. The Pentecostals in a large church, with huge numbers swelling their congregation, preached about a prosperity gospel, one that gave both spirituality and material wealth. The Hindu roadside sellers at shines were marketing spirituality. The African Voodoo priests would cheerfully cut the throat of a cat or dog and just casually toss it to one side, the power released would bring good fortune to those paying for it.
And in contrast to that were those seeking something simpler. It wasn't a retreat from the world, it was a disengagement from the world so that they could find renewal, so that they could return from that experience better able to face the world. There is that element of wilderness that it casts you back on yourself, that makes you confront who you are. It is something that is lost in the bustle of the everyday.
But it is not "back to nature", in some kind of nature worship. In the ancient pagan traditions, the wilderness is a conduit, a channel to the divine. There are healing springs, or healing waters at Bath, but people didn't go there to worship the waters, but to be touched by the healing power of Minerva-Sulis. And the wilderness is not to be worshipped, unless we close our eyes to the savagery in the natural world, because it is not all sweetness and light. The ancients knew that the sun could blind; Apollo could be a cruel god.
The modern wilderness is a managed wilderness, pleasant to wander, with pathways cut back, otherwise how can it be enjoyed? But that's not a real wilderness, only a space where we can approach the wilderness. It provides as opportunity to let go of the self, to smell the wild heather, to hear the waves crashing on the rocks. It can become an opportunity for renewal, but not always if we only enjoy the pleasant aspects of it. Sometimes the cold wind blowing, the rain beating down, and the way apart from the track would be a less managed wilderness, where we perceive our own transience.
And sometimes the wilderness is within. Those who suffer from depression cross the desert lands, they face the wild beasts, the mocking voices, and the bleak rocky mountains where cold and ice seem perpetual. We don't have to go far to find that kind of wilderness, but the noise of a busy life can drown it out; yet it may remain there, waiting for us. This is the truly demonic; our own self, our self-doubt and even self-loathing; the dark mirror of our sunnier disposition. It is not without good reason that the fairy tales have dragons and desolation together.
But we need not go out and seek the wilderness. We draw nearer as we get older. As age and infirmity creep up on us, as we perceive our own mortality, our own weakness and failing strengths, we can be sure that, avoid it as we might, the wilderness will always be there, waiting. There is a final journey into the unknown, the wild places where no traveller returns, the heart of darkness, through the mountains of pain into the land of the dead.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Winter Spells Over Narnia

For the cold weather, an icy poem, about Narnia, forever winter under the spell of the White Witch...

Winter Spells Over Narnia

Words of power, where she stands
The sky, so clear, is now cloud white
And snows are falling over lands
Dawn breaks upon the coldest light

Words of power, they turn to stone
Frozen agony, their face is still
As petrified where once was bone
This is her might, this is her will

Words of power, her might is great
Makes a time of ice, a time of cold
And yet her powers may abate
When Aslan comes, so very bold

The Empress Jadis ruled this land
But now her time runs out like sand

Friday, 22 February 2013

On Nurses Pay

Letter to JEP from Ray McCredie.

It is a sad situation when our nurses are forced to demonstrate in an attempt to obtain a decent wage in keeping with the cost of living in Jersey.

It is no secret that the States of Jersey have been unable to attract nursing staff to work in Jersey on account of the fact that the wages offered do not equate to the expensive costs of living in Jersey. This should actually be a major embarrassment to our government. However, it does not affect them in the least, even though this is in fact a very wealthy Island.

Senator Philip Ozouf was willing to provide millions of pounds to purchase Pontins holiday camp to appease a handful of dog-walkers, money was available to give our politicians an £800 wage increase, leading to a weekly wage of over £900 - although some did not accept this rise, many did. One in particular  said 'he was worth it.' Oh yeah. That, I think, is a matter of conjecture.

Thousands of pounds were paid to a disgraced Magistrate after his suspension, even since his imprisonment. On retirement, many of our overpaid civil servants are gifted life-changing sums of money, exactly what for is a mystery.

I could go on, but the point has been made. I would respectfully suggest to our paymasters that those who deserve a proper wage in balance with their skills actually receive it. Who could argue that there is no one more deserving than a trained nurse.

I think this was a good letter regarding nurses pay. It is shocking that nurses pay has not kept up with inflation, and there is in fact a recruitment problem at the moment.

I was chatting to someone the other day, and they were telling me that Steven Izatt, the former MD of the Waterfront Enterprise Board was "very able", and you had to offer high salaries to get the best people for the top jobs - Chief Officers, that is. But if there is a shortage of nursing staff - as appears to be the case, shouldn't the same logic apply there? Of course, it never does, because it is in fact not logic, but a rationalisation of the status quo.

Was Steven Izzat that "able", given his record for never making any returns to the States from WEB? This was despite the fact that the States were paying Connex for the lease on Liberation Station, which went to WEB and from then was consumed by overheads, including Mr Izzat's salary. Then there was the abortive La Folie Inn proposals, and the idea of moving the main harbour to the reclamation site, past the fuel farm. Mr Izzat gave the impression of someone chasing desperately around for schemes to justify his enormous salary. But at that price, if you wanted someone "able", you would have been better off with Barack Obama.

It is a wonderful word - "able" - and conjures up for me the Duke of Chester in G.K. Chesterton's short story "The Queer Feet", where the Duke is described as follows: "When he thought of a joke he made it, and was called brilliant. When he could not think of a joke he said that this was no time for trifling, and was called able." It rather sums up the grandiose Masterplans of the Izzat era.

I was also told that Bill Ogley was not to blame for taking what he was legally entitled to in terms of a golden handshake. And that is true, but it is not the whole story.

There's a strange area where legal entitlement is assumed to be the same as morally justified. It seems to be quite a widespread assumption, brought out to excuse this kind of practice. Former Acting Magistrate Ian Christmas was legally entitled to his pay. And of course, notably, the same kind of argument came up when Fred Goodwin departed with a huge pension pot.

It is perhaps worth restating a few home truths, of the kind that we were taught in the nursery. Just because it is legal doesn't mean that it is right. When Shylock demands his pound of flesh, he isn't doing anything illegal. But of course Shakespeare was well aware of the distinction between the legal and the moral, and how they could drift apart. We are not meant to admire Shylock; we are meant to despise him. And yet there I was, listening to someone telling me that not only had Mr Ogley only taken what he was legally entitled to, he was to be praised for securing such a clause in his contract! What a clever man he was!

I could not help thinking that if they had written "The Merchant of Venice", then it would have ended with the death of Antonio, and a speech where Shylock proclaimed: "Hath not a Jew eyes to see his best advantage? Have not a Jew hands to sign and seal the deed whereby they receive their legal recompense? The villainy you speak of me, forsooth it is not villainy at all, but in truth mine legal right; I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction and walk away with my rightful prize."

And when the mother of the two ugly sisters has Cinderella working her fingers to the bone in the kitchen, while she and her daughters are enjoying the good life, they are also not doing anything illegal. And that's the nursery tale here, isn't it? The States members have a pay rise, and Chief Officers and higher levels of management can probably manage very nicely on £80,000 or higher even without an increase in wages. They can enjoy the good life. But nursing is the Cinderella profession, hard work, and wholly inadequate remuneration. It is still seen too often as a low-status, "doctor's little helper" job, with the added disadvantage of antisocial hours.

To paraphrase a recent quote from Radio 4: my image of an administrator is an overweight man behind a desk. My image of a nurse is an overworked woman who works night shifts and is constantly on her feet. And the responsibility of a nurse - human life - seems to be given less value than that of an administrator in terms of remuneration. That caricature is not wholly true; there are hardworking administrators. But should they really be paid so much more for their rather lesser expertise than the nurses in their charge?

According to a Royal College of Nursing report, "it takes approximately four years between the decision being made to fund a place for a student nurse and that nurse being eligible to register and practise". It involves considerable training in the sort of skills that an administrator would probably be particularly inept.

And to be honest, unless they have a special golden handshake like Bill Ogley, most upper and middle management administrators are not fleeing from the States, where they have pretty good job security, and a rather nice final salary pension. It may not be quite as much pay as the private sector, but against that are those often overlooked factors. I have known some of the middle management in the past, and they mostly clocked off around 5 pm, unlike some of those under them, and were completely inaccessible to the general public after they had gone home.

Nurses, on the other hand, are leaving the profession, and replacements are hard to come by. And they are certainly very "able", more able than the average middle manager. They have to be - as with doctors, a wrong decision could have life threatening consequences. That element of responsibility just does not seem to factor into the equation of pay. We need to look again at intrinsic worth, not just market value.

I'm pleased to see the Chief Minister is going to look at nurses pay again. Perhaps that wonderful contingency fund (that magically appeared for Plemont) of Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf can be used in these circumstances. Let's hope that this time Cinderella can afford to go to the ball.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Lord Dorwin Speaks

I attended the Chamber of Commerce lunch yesterday when the guest speaker was Deputy Robert Duhamel, Minister for Planning and Environment and the title of his presentation was "Balancing the Environmental, Social and Economic Needs of the Island."

But there wasn't a lot of balance there. He spent about 5 minutes of a 20 minute talk going over fishing, and whether Jersey should accede to EU rules on fish stocks or manage our own, and then a number of other environmental issues cropped up, including, not surprisingly, wind farms, and green weed, and the possibility of recycling it.

There was a very sustained diversion about Malmö and its waste management system, doing away with dustcart collection and making use of refuse chutes from houses for waste disposal. (In fact, these have now been closed and today all inhabitants leave their waste for recycling at the recycling houses instead). In other words, all the environmental enthusiasms and wide reading of Deputy Duhamel on environmental matters were showcased whether or not they had much immediate relevance to Jersey. It was an environmentalist version of "Tomorrow's World",  but without the fun gadgets.

However, there was little on the economic needs of the Island and planning matter, and the hoops that people have to jump through with an ever expanding number of planning protocols. One questioner said that it was now expanding well past a single IXL ring binder, where the trend in other countries had been to reduce the paperwork and simplify forms. Deputy Duhamel simply countered this by giving examples of other countries where there are even more forms to fill in. In fact there was very little about planning in his talk, or indeed little evidence that his talk had been planned, although he did mention a Green paper due out on appeals, which presumably is the same one mentioned in June 2012, and again in September 2012.

Even in replying to questions, Deputy Duhamel was far from succinct, and we were subjected to the kind of meandering reply that Minister Jim Hacker used to give when questioned by Ludovic Kennedy. It was no wonder that Senator Philip Ozouf, who was sitting a few seats away from me, was almost continually shaking his head while Deputy Duhamel replied. At one point, he actually buried his head in his hands, a gesture that spoke volumes. Deputy Andrew Green, who was sitting next to Senator Ozouf, also began to shaking his head in despair.

It didn't help, perhaps, that Deputy Duhamel is not the most charismatic of speakers. Despite several people asking him to speak up, his voice became lower in a very short space of time. I wished in vain for a speaker like Deputy Roy Le Hérissier, described recently as "the only States member who is quieter WITH his microphone on".

And the presentation ran to a mere three PowerPoint slides. This wasn't death by PowerPoint; it was dearth of PowerPoint, just when a few pictures would have at least enlivened his presentation a bit more.

One slide was the headline of his talk. One slide was Archirondel, and there was some joke about "Archie Rondel" which I didn't quite hear, which was probably fortunate. And the final slide showed some sea, an aerial view of Jersey, and a picture of the Weighbridge, which if you looked at it (and there was plenty of time to do so) turned out not only to have buses parked where they were before Liberation Station, but also the old harbour, before the underpass and land reclamation in that area, and the old Tourism Office. Deputy Duhamel has been in the States for a long time, perhaps too long, for he has evidently forgotten that the Weighbridge has altered out of all recognition since that photo was taken. He didn't refer to the photo during the course of his talk either; it just sat there, a gratuitous anachronism.

In summation, there was also an incredible amount of waffle, and a lack of focus. It reminded me of the Imperial Functionary, Lord Dorwin, in Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series, where all the utterances by Lord Dorwin are subjected to logical analysis to ensure that they can eliminate "meaningless statements, vague gibberish, and useless qualifications - in short, all the goo and dribble". The result is that  "in five days of discussion, [Lord Dorwin] didn't say one damned thing, and said it so that you didn't notice."

Deputy Duhamel wasn't quite as bad as Lord Dorwin; he did have something to say, but he just didn't really know how to say it well. "Be clear, be concise" would be a good maxim for him to learn. It's a good job no one raised the subject of bore holes.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Bumpy Road Ahead

Listening to the States question time, one of the interesting questions that came up was about road repairs. Apparently, according to Minister Kevin Lewis, the utility companies have to guarantee their work for six months, after which time it becomes the responsibility of TTS, and hence the taxpayer.

Apparently, the roads are inspected by TTS, but given the bumpy nature of the repairs, and the patchwork quality, I wonder just what standards apply. If a trench has been dug up, and a patch is put back, it only takes some contraction and expansion before it is starting to have cracks where it meets the main road surface; patches are often uneven as well, you can easily feel them as you drive over them.

It's not something that Jersey alone is facing

"When Surrey County Council tested a sample of utility company road repairs it found half of them were of poor quality and many needed to be redone.....John Furey, Surrey County Council's Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, said: "It's incredibly disheartening to see a smooth stretch of newly resurfaced road dug up just weeks after we've finished laying it. We want to work more closely with everyone involved to improve the situation." (1)

"Round my way almost all the "potholes" are actually failed road repairs from when utility companies have patched the road surface. Which makes me wonder why the local authorities don't go after them for the costs." (2)

The relevant UK Statute law is summarised in the report "Roads: maintenance, repairs and street works"

"The 1991 Act and associated regulations and codes of practice introduced new standards for the reinstatement of the road surface with utility companies being fully responsible for reinstatement following their street works. This was to end the previous confused divisions of responsibility between street authorities and utilities. Both interim and permanent reinstatements must conform to the statutory specification and undertakers executing road works must to comply with prescribed material specifications and standards of workmanship when reinstating a road or footway and to guarantee the performance of the reinstatement for a minimum period of two years. Street authorities can carry out inspections of utilities' works, at their expense. All cases of defective reinstatement identified by the local authority may be rectified at the undertaker's expense. The undertaker must also, for each proven defect, bear the cost of the initial investigation and three further follow up inspections." (3)

This is an exceptionally good idea - a two year guarantee on workmanship when reinstating a road after digging up a trench. However, it doesn't seem to be implemented terribly well. A Department for Transport report noted the kinds of problems occurring:

"Other significant concerns include poor quality patching and utility reinstatements, unevenness and raised or lowered ironwork, especially at the edge of the road or in cycle lanes." (4)

It notes that the RAC Report on Motoring 2011, as well as mentioning potholes, also said that a serious issue was "patched repairs and poorly reinstated utility trenches."

The problem is worldwide, and there are all kinds of ways to attempt to prevent the deteriorating surfaces caused by utility trenches being resurfaced. In Malaysia, for example:

Most councils require a deposit from companies before they are allowed to carry out any roadwork. If the council finds the resurfacing job has not been done properly, resulting in sedimentation on the road, the deposit is then forfeited. (5)

But the problem remains there because there is not enough enforcement to check on the quality of roadworks.

And six months, the Jersey situation, is simply not enough time because it fails to take account of changes in temperature. As Chris Peck notes in relation to UK roads:

"Repairs on minor roads are often literally slapdash. Uneven hand-laid reinstatements following utility works not only lead to potholes forming in the weakened road, but also bumpy, uncomfortable and dangerous surfaces for cycling. Incorrect laying of materials at the wrong time of year or at the wrong temperature can result in premature failure of the surface." (6)

The opening of the road weakens the structure, and the failure of the links to the old road surface leads to potholes forming. To be reliable, any repair to a trench needs to have at least one year to test it under all weather conditions.

Where statistics have been kept, it appears that, on average, when a trench is dug by a utility company, it has been found to reduce the life of the road surface by 17 per cent, even if it has been inspected and passed.

The utility companies are in a rush, they know they are preventing traffic flow, and their aim is to be finished and the road ready for use as soon as possible. A new practice in Jersey is to do a good deal of the work at night and rush to get it done by morning, so it is questionable whether there is time to do a thorough job. In the meantime, as in the UK, the taxpayer is picking up the tab:

"Contractors digging up roads on behalf of utility companies are failing to properly patch them up and leaving councils to pick up the bill, the LGA says." (7)

So what can be done to spread the load and perhaps make utility companies think more about digging up roads? An Asphalt Industry Alliance report in 2009 highlighted that highways departments across England and Wales have to cope with the intrusion of nearly two million deep trenches into roads for utility and other service provision works.

Transport for London's Director of Road Network Performance, Nick Morris, said: "This report recognises that, no matter how well utility works are patched, they result in long term deterioration of the carriageway surface and the need for extra or premature maintenance works paid for by the public purse from highway authority budgets that are already stretched to capacity.

''The report's suggestion of a charge structure to cover the cost of such long term damage by private utility companies is an equitable proposal and we would encourage Government to progress this under legislation it has already enacted for the purpose.''

"The CSS recommends that charges should in future be levied on those who trench the highways and is calling for the Government to step in and help sort out Britain's "patchwork" roads. Charges would vary according to the previous condition of the road and the volume of usage. Prices could range between £28 for lightly trafficked roads and £45 for those carrying most vehicles. Footways would be similarly charged between £11 and £23 per square metre." (8)

Some cost would, of course, probably be passed to the consumer, but at least the funds received by the States would be quantifiable and would lower the burden of total resurfacing. Moreover, work is sometimes done to connect new properties to utilities, and it is surely fairer that they should pay a bit more than the taxpayer essentially subsidise that work.

However, any timetable for changes to be made regarding road repairs is in the distant future. The Transport Minister refused to be drawn on when any changes and review of existing practice would be made. Given that he has spoken of a need for a total of £3.2 million to be spent resurfacing roads which have deteriorated, a good time to review the current situation, and perhaps lessen future costs, would be now.

I would also like to know what standards are for checking the road repairs. According to one writer:

"TTS do not use the same standards as the UK full stop. They have a different road standard classification, and different construction specifications. The UK uses either Local Authority standards, or the specification for Highway Works published by the Dtp. Jerseys roads are not subject to the same traffic loadings as UK roads, are not subject to as much freeze thaw degradation, and are generally surfaced in accordance with TTS's own hybrid specifications." (9)

Could it be that these lower standards are resulting in a greater number of deteriorating road surfaces after utility companies have been at work?


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The JEP and Electoral Reform

What's happened at the Jersey Evening Post? The leader writer seems to have decided that the Electoral Commission has failed, even ahead of any proposed Referendum. He asks:

"Has the Electoral Commission become so entangled in the complexities and nuances of governmental reform that it has lost sight of what it set out to achieve, the enhancement of Island democracy?  A case can certainly be made for asserting that the commission and Privileges and Procedures, which will next week present a referendum proposal on behalf of the commission, are locked on a course which is likely merely to bemuse and even confuse too many of Islanders." (1)

And then it makes a basic assumption, which although Geoff Southern also argues for it, is in fact historically false:

"A basic principle of referenda is that they should offer a simple and straightforward choice, ideally with either a single proposition, coupled with 'yes' and 'no' boxes to tick, or with only two divergent options. "(1)

In fact, this is very far from being the case. While most Referenda have been yes/no questions, there is nothing intrinsic about the notion of a Referendum which makes the choice a simply binary one. For example:

"In Switzerland, for example, multiple choice referendums are common; two multiple choice referendums held in Sweden, in 1957 and 1980, offered voters a choice of three options; and in 1977 a referendum held in Australia to determine a new national anthem was held in which voters were presented with four choices." (3)

And a multiple choice referendum was also proposed in Kenya in 2010, Lafayette in 2011, and of course in Scotland recently. And further in the past, New Zealand experienced a multiple choice referendum on 19 September 1992, when the voters were asked which of four different voting systems they preferred; furthermore, the national liquor licensing polls asked the voters to decide between "national continuance", "state control" or "national prohibition"

So to say that there is "essentially binary instrument of a referendum" is a mistake.

There may be very good reasons for preferring a binary yes / no choice in a Referendum, but the principle of a Referendum is to give the people choices to vote directly; the binary choice is not an essential part of that.

A common argument is that of "simplicity" - hence a yes/no vote, but simplicity, while it can have advantages may not give the voters the degree of choice that they want. In particular, it may not do justice to the complexity of the issues involved, like a a reductionist scientism often fails to do justice to how human beings behave and think.

An example of how simplicity can cause problems is that with a simple yes/no question, it can be hard to ensure a neutral wording, they can often be couched in a way that anticipates an answer.

Voters then feel compelled by the formulation of the question to answer yes or at least find it hard to say no (for example "Should there be less crime on the streets?"). The same issue can be formulated so differently that both questions, although exactly opposite, would almost certainly produce an overwhelming answer in the opposite direction. (3)

Andrew Geddis points out another problem with simple questions. There is an aim to ensure the questions are  as neutrally phrased and unambiguous as possible, but in order to get a good turnout, the question asked must evoke some passion. This is especially the case in New Zealand where the public can initiate Referenda.

"Simply put, can you get 300,000 interested in the question 'Should Parliament have enacted The Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007?', as opposed to 'Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?'" (4)

He notes that referenda are "blunt and crude devices" for addressing public policy matters, and in fact the outcome goes to the government to decide anyway, so that it can well be rejected, as the "answer carries no more weight with government than a (very expensive) public opinion survey." Much the same could be said of the Jersey one, a criticism which I have already levied in my submission to the Commission. A non-binding Referendum gives a lot of wriggle room for excuses to dismiss its results.

Simple questions can also omit relevant facts which should be incorporated in the decision making process. This again is a problem of the kind of reduction which looks at one preference and cannot take account of the complex interrelations between choice and outcome, especially with regard to funding. As Geddis points out:

"The proposition 'Should all New Zealanders have access to comprehensive health services which are fully government funded and without user charges?' would certainly have provoked a different result than if the promoters had proposed a tax increase to finance the health services. "(3)

Simplicity may be one of the main planks for a Referendum - "a question should be clear and simple" - but that may have problems associated with it, just as much as "neutrality" does. What you may think as "simple" or "neutral" may not appear so to another person.

To use simplicity as a guiding principle can be valuable, like the use of Occam's Razor or its variants, for instance,  "We consider it a good principle to explain the phenomena by the simplest hypothesis possible." But there can be cases where the good principle does not do justice to the complexity of the phenomena. As the philosopher Mary Midgley writes:

"Oversimple intellectual systems are welcome because they contrast with the practical chaos around us, and we do not criticise them sharply when the particular short-cut that they offer suggests a world view that we like. They extend patterns that already suit us over areas we would otherwise find awkward. They express visions that attract us, and they obscure alternative possibilities." (5)

What has happened with the Jersey Referendum is that it has been criticised on an axiomatic basis that simplicity must be preferable to all other considerations, hence the Jersey Evening Post and Deputy Geoff Southern are both singing from the same hymn sheet:

"Merely describing the proposed structure of the referendum ought to be enough to confirm that those closest to visions of reform have become hopelessly entangled in a web of their own making."(6)

The Jersey Evening Post argues that a referendum should be a binary instrument, which is not in fact essential for it to function, a neat sleight of hand in the phrase "essentially binary instrument of a referendum" which is a loaded sentence, prejudging matters. And coupled with this is an implicit argument about simplicity - you cannot use a binary system to "assess the popularity of a range of possibilities - in this case the appropriate number of States Members, the length of term they should serve, the nature of the constituencies they should represent, and the future role of the Constables."

Their conclusion is that the Commission has failed - "they should be thanked for many months of complex deliberation but advised that nothing that they are currently offering is likely to improve the quality of Island democracy and that, all in all, it would be better to go back to the drawing board."

It does make you wonder whether Daniel Wimberley's independent Electoral Commission would have been a better choice, always depending on the outcome of any proposals, if accepted by the States and going to a Referendum, being binding on the States. When the UK government had a Referendum on whether or not to stay in the EEC (as it then was) back in the 1970s, the result was binding.

But the one difference between Geoff Southern's proposition, which may have its faults (as I have highlighted), and the JEP's position, is that Geoff Southern, like Trevor Pitman, is trying to make the best of what they see as a bad job. The JEP is simply arguing for the "drawing board", in other words, as no other review can possibly now be complete in time for the next election, for the status quo.

What is interesting in their critique is how they mention Deputy Southern's amendment, and make what is probably a fair assessment - "it fails to acknowledge that many Islanders still believe that Senators and Constables have legitimate roles to play in government". Having heard people who want to keep the Senators as well as the Constables, this is fair comment. But implicit in this is their vision of a States which still has Senators.

This is also notable - the JEP criticises "the broad plan of the Electoral Commission, which appears to be preoccupied with the questionable goal of reducing the number of States Members".

But there's a dog which doesn't bark in the night time. Nowhere is there any mention of the architect of the Electoral Commission who said "there are now too many members of the States. Constitutional reform is urgent. The number of members should be reduced to 42"  in his election manifesto. This is the individual whose name is unspoken throughout this JEP leader article. It's almost reminiscent of Harry Potter - "he who must not be named"!

Why is the JEP so coy about mentioning Sir Philip Bailhache, the Senator who grabbed the Electoral Commission out of independent hands, and who was even when standing for the States, "preoccupied with the questionable goal of reducing the number of States Members"? Let's face it, if the work of the Commission, and all the fact finding missions abroad, have turned out to be an expensive waste of time, shouldn't Sir Philip shoulder some of the responsibility for this state of affairs?

(3) You're the Voice, Try and Understand it, Ben Goschik, 2003
(5) The Myths We Live by, Mary Midgley, 2003

Monday, 18 February 2013

RIP: Stephen Lucas

"Stephen, passed away peacefully at the Jersey General Hospital on Saturday 26th January 2013, brother of Anthony and Judith. Funeral Service to be held in Jersey. All enquiries to De Gruchy's Funeral Care" (The Times, Obituary Page)
I owe a great debt Stephen Lucas ("Spike"), who was my first history teacher at Victoria College, because he was one of the formative influences in nurturing my love of local history.
Local history had not been on the school agenda, but Charles Green ("Gloop"), the Head of Mathematics, used to do the odd outing on a Saturday morning for boys who were interesting in learning more about the history of the island. He was also at the time the head of the Archaeology Section of the Société Jersiaise.
After he left, it looked as if there would be no more opportunities, but Stephen Lucas (whose nickname was "Spike") decided that Friday afternoons would be a good opportunity to do something like that.
Friday afternoons after leaving the first few years behind (the "Junior School") were devoted to what were called "Activities", which were non-academic pursuits such as drama, or botany (with Frances Le Sueur), art, and of course the CCF, the Combined Cadet Force. It had been compulsory for all boys to do one year, but the new headmaster, Martyn Devenport dropped this requirement, so that it became optional. I was very glad; I was never very keen on anything that smacked of the military, and I have about as much ability to keep time as Corporal Jones in Dad's Army.
Most of my choices had fallen by the wayside, and my final choice of activity was the somewhat dismally named "Museum Studies", which carried overtones of boredom. There were older pupils there who had taken it as an easy option; one had a bottle of coca-cola, laced with rum, which he would swig from time to time on outings.
And outings there were - the structure of the activity was to look at three aspects of the Island. For the winter term, the geology of Jersey, aided by Dr John Renouf. The spring term would look at the archaeology, and the summer term at Jersey history, and historical sites, such as castles, railways, etc.  It was a carefully structured course; well thought out by Stephen Lucas.
Having enjoyed the first year, I decided to return to the same activity, and now the course had been renamed "Island Field Studies", which was far more in keeping with what it covered. I was typing up notes, with photographs I had taken, and Steven Lucas suggested that if I put it together as a project, it would be suitable for the Ralph Mollet prize for local history; one of a number of prizes that had been moribund for some years.
He also allowed me to borrow the school copy of Jacquetta Hawkes Archaeology of the Channel Islands, so that I could take notes and trace the maps of the dolmens; it was, he told me, the "archaeologist's bible for Jersey". Indeed while later excavations have revealed more about Jersey's archaeology, in particular Mark Patton on Hougue Bie, this is still one of the best books, with maps, engraved sketches, and details of finds, as well as contextual setting.
By this time, members at school of the thriving Junior Société, of which I was a member, had taken an interest, and his course had a massive surge in popularity. I did another activity for a couple of years, then returned, and by now I was preparing questions for students to answer on weekly hand out sheets; no doubt it meant less work for him, but it was also a measure of his judgement that he felt I could do a good job on that.
Once every term there was a day long activity, and invariably we would end up near a pub. I was 17 at this time, so he and the other master would kindly fetch out a half pint of shandy for me. Of course nowadays that would probably be a disciplinary offense, but I've often thought that perhaps we are too rigid today.

He had a wicked sense of humour, and I can still picture Philip Sinel, then a young boy, swinging from a branch of a tree near Le Couperon dolmen, with spindly arms, looking very like a monkey. "There's Sinel the Simian", he chortled.
After leaving school, I saw him on stage only once, in a JADC production of Carmen, where he played the Inn Keeper to great comic effect, and later, when he was researching his book "The Devenport Years". I was at the same time working on a chronology of events and people at Victoria College for the period Victoria College 1972-1990 (which I later published as a booklet), so there was an overlap in our period of study. We met at the Arts Centre for a much overdue chat, discussing how much change had taken place since those days. He very kindly gave my own slight work acknowledgement in his list of sources for his book.
"The Devenport Years" is a fine epitaph to his career as a history teacher. There had been an earlier book - Derek Cottrill's "Victoria College: 1852-1972", but it is a very dry book, whereas Stephen Lucas, while detailing the period 1967-1991, and the changes taking place, is also full of lively anecdotes which bring the history and the personalities to life. The other book is one to read and file away for reference, but Stephen Lucas is one to enjoy. And that I think is a fitting legacy to remember him by.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Are you going to church today?

Are you going to church today? I've been  reading "Jersey in the 17th Century" by A.C. Saunders, who was librarian at the Societe Jersiaise; the book was published in 1931. It is fascinating to see how different matters were then.

Remember how people used to grumble a lot over Sunday trading rules, when you couldn't buy flowers - or a bible, on a Sunday, and how they grumbled recently about having one day in the year - Christmas day - when all shops had to remain shut. Such small matters as these pall in comparison with the rigor and rules of the 17th Century.

Restoration England had brought a relaxation in attitudes after the Puritan era, but the reign of William III and Mary saw a revived Protestantism which didn't go quite as far as the Puritans, but reigned in some of what they considered excesses in lewd and immoral behaviour. Read this, and be very thankful that you are not living in the 17th Century.

Are you going to church today? It's your choice. But it wasn't always like that!

Sunday Laws in the 17th Century by A.C. Saunders

The States evidently were endeavouring to look after the interests of the Islanders, especially in connection with their morality, and good conduct, in the position which it had pleased God to call them. Evidently the people were spending the Sunday as a holiday and turning it into a day of " debaucheries and profanities." Possibly the Rectors were finding that their congregations were falling off.
The influence of these twelve members of the States may be seen in the Act passed on the 7th November, 1681, which compelled all heads of families, their children, and servants, no matter of what rank, to attend public worship.
The Constable of each parish, and his officers, were directed to watch those who attended at Divine Service, and take the names of those who waited outside the church, sat gossiping outside their houses, and walked in public roads during church service, so that the offenders could be fined for their bad behaviour.
It was also directed that no mills should grind on the Sabbath and no Taverner sell drink, and any person found under the influence of drink on the Sabbath day shall be very heavily punished. The Constable had the power to seize sufficient goods belonging to the offenders to cover the penalty.
Sunday in Jersey in the 17th century was very different from the way it is kept at the present time, and was much more strictly observed than in England, where the "Book of Sports" allowed people to enjoy themselves in dancing and other pleasures, after attending Divine Service.
Towards the end of the century, a change took place in England, and strict regulations were issued that on the Sabbath all persons were directed to publicly and privately apply themselves by exercising themselves in the duties of piety and true religion ; that no tradesmen, artificer, workman or labourer or any other person shall do any work, except works of charity on that day on a penalty of five shillings.
No wares shall be exhibited for sale on the penalty of forfeiture of such wares ; no tradesman shall travel on that day on a penalty of twenty shillings and no person shall travel on a Sunday except in a case of emergency, certified by the Justice of the Peace, on the penalty of five shillings, and that any person committing any offence against such Acts shall be seized and set publicly in the stocks for two hours, and the fines and penalties are to go to the poor of the parish.
And there was one special clause in the Act which directed that any person travelling on the Lord's day who shall be robbed shall be debarred from bringing an action against the said robber.
And then we have the Act of William, dated the 24th February, 1697, against Immorality and Profaneness. " We do expect that all persons of honour or in place of authority will, to their utmost, contribute to the discountenancing men of dissolute and debauched lives, that they being reduced to shame and contempt may be enforced the sooner to reform their idle habits and practices."
This Act was directed to be read from all pulpits four times each year.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


My poem today is about anticipation...

I'm at the airport, early, and the flight is late,
But I'm in no hurry, I'm happy to just wait;
A moment planned weeks ago, to meet again,
And remembering the love, and parting pain;
Now time to meet again, in the arrivals hall,
I feel like an actor, waiting for curtain call,
Sitting in a chair, watching the double door;
And it slides open. People from flight before
Coming in, looking around for friendly face;
There's one couple, smile, reach out, embrace;
Children laughing, run in, pause, look about,
And see their grandmother, with joy they shout;
All the while, I wait, patiently, still looking on:
Businessmen in shiny suits, rush past, are gone;
And then the stragglers, tired, pulling heavy case,
They come wearily, step by step, at slower pace;
And all are through, and no one else is there;
My heartbeat quickens, excitement feels like fear,
And here comes my lady, with a stylish hat, a smile:
All the waiting, anticipation over weeks worthwhile;
And I see you there, coming to me, with jaunty walk;
I call out, and greet you, but later is the time to talk:
Now is time to embrace, to kiss, to hold once more;
Lovers meeting again by the arrival's opening door.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Funny Old World

Jersey's first public electric charging bay has gone live in a St Helier's car park. The two charging points at Sand Street car park allow motorists to electrocute themselves when they come to go shopping. It is part of a pledge by Jersey's government to "significantly" reduce carbon emissions, and cut down on the traffic congestion in St Helier.

Deputy Lewis said this would be the first of a network of electrocution charging points in the island. He said there would be two bays in each of five St Helier multi-storey car parks. Parking in the electric bay is half the cost of parking in a normal bay, but the funeral costs have to be born by the estate of the deceased motorists themselves.

Jersey police have increased patrols in a town shopping area in response to concerns about anti-social behaviour. The increased presence in St Helier's Wests Centre came about after shopkeepers voiced their concerns. Businesses owners said teenagers were gathering in alleyways and doorways, putting people off shopping, although they weren't actually doing anything illegal. "There's nothing worse than a hoodie standing in a doorway out of the rain to keep dry," said 90 year old local retailer Irma Fessputt, "and it should be stopped. Bring back National Service, that's what I say. And flog them."

A Jersey caterer said there was no horsemeat in its school meals after checking its supplies. He did not believe the meals had been affected by the scandal that has seen horsemeat passed as beef. "This is a story that's just galloping away", he said, "but rest assured, for us, it is definitely not horses for courses."

The government minister in charge of Jersey's bus service is due for a good grilling next week. The Transport and Technical Services minister is facing a panel of politicians who want to know the latest on how new bus operator LibertyBus is getting on. After his grilling, he may turn up as part of the Grouville Grilled Gourmet range of local foods in a supermarket near you.

A planned referendum on electoral reform in Jersey is attracting criticism from backbench politicians. There are calls to simplify the question that will be put to the public. Deputy Geoff Southern wants a simple yes or no question, rather like "Should I keep my pay rise?". It is widely rumoured that the Deputy wants to be the new "Face of L'Oréal" in Jersey, as his reply to that question was "Yes. Because I'm worth it."

The new bus operator LibertyBus is putting forward alterations to bus timetables from March. It is the second stage in a series of proposed changes towards a vision of a better bus service that meets the needs of Jersey. The first stage was bus delays, buses travelling off on quite different routes, buses failing to pick up people, and electronic notice boards at Liberation Station showing no times or the wrong times.

Changes include - Services 1 and 9: Revised timetables incorporating additional journeys and hourly Sunday services. Anglican Sunday services will be taken by the Reverend Adam Smallbone, who will be seconded to Jersey from St Saviour in the Marshes in East London. Catholic services will be taken by Father Ted Crilly.

Restrictions on how much Channel Island postal companies can charge for stamps and other services will be removed under plans by the regulator. "They can charge more," said the regulator, "and it will be my job to just instead focus on 'quality of service through measuring performance'. And I have as much idea what that phrase means as you do."

And finally, journalist Leah Mcgraph Goodman will be returning to Jersey. She had been refused entry to the Island after her exposé that some books in the Island had banned from sale after it was found they contained up to 60% horsemeat.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Late Lodgements in Timetable

I've been waiting to see whether any lodgements would be proposed regarding the Referendum, and just when I'm about to give up, five of them turn up almost at once.

It's rather like the Liberty Bus timetable, which is described by Deputy Kevin Lewis "it is a work in progress. The service is still being tweaked to iron out all the gremlins." Now there's an idea for a film - Gremlins 4: On the Buses, starring the Kevin Lewis in the role made famous by the late Reg Varney. Mike Higgins comment in the States showed how the gremlins are working:

"I think the bus company are now on their third set of timetables or schedules? Drivers are given a sheet every day and their timetables differ to what is published to the public. Does he think that is a satisfactory situation because people are waiting for buses which are coming to a different schedule than the published one?"

So are the public still getting the old original paper timetables, or have they been withdrawn? Is there going to be a reprint? Who will pay for that? Can they get anything back on the old ones, paper for recycling perhaps?

A look at the tweets on their Twitter feed shows that the Gremlins are out in force:

"I waited half an hour this morning for the 15 after the mysterious 06.41 never came"

"I was at the station waiting for the 18.01 #15 at stand N. when it didn't arrive the desk said the board wasn't right"

"Bus service is a joke! 13 bus due 10:45 Five oaks- doesn't get there till 11:00- so I'm late for work. Sort your drivers out!"

"We have revised Route 4 and Route 20 first inbound journey times from Monday 18 February"

"Liberty Bus testing timing points of all routes ' and are committed to providing the 'reliable bus service this island deserves".

But returning to the matter at hand - the proposed amendments to the Referendum:

Geoff Southern wants to make the Referendum a simple option. Scrap Option B, and make it a yes or no answer for Option A or no change. His main arguments are twofold: (a) that the existing arrangement is not "clear and simple", and (b) that by having two votes, those who want the Constables to stay in the States can vote for B or C.

Regarding (a), there is a move afoot, which I support, for a reform of the voting system with single transferable votes, which is much better than first past the post. The structure of choices with numbering in the Referendum is bringing that logic to the Referendum. If that is too complicated for the public to understand, how will they manage with anything except first past the post?

Regarding (b), it is assumed that the main object of someone voting may be to retain the Constables. But what if it is to have reform, with the Constables if possible, but without them otherwise. It could be argued that by selection Option B, and second choice Option A, that they have two votes on change. That doesn't seem to have been considered, possibly because it doesn't figure in his cynical distrust of the average voter.

Trevor Pitman's first amendment looks at what the options are trying to do, and suggests that it would be better to replace Option C with the far more sensible 'Neither of the above options'; he also wants to remove the transferrable vote.

"This would leave a straight choice between 2 clear options of reform within a reduced Assembly; or simply leaving matters as they are, with none of the murky machinations thrown into the mix by the current Option C and 'transferable vote' process. After all, if my proposed new Option C was to come out on top, then it simply sends us the message that we really need to go away and come up with something better"

Back in 2006, I did a blog on the requirement for a "None of the above" vote in elections, and it makes perfect sense here too.

Whether it should be an addition option - which is what Lyndon Farnham wants in his amendment, or to replace Option C is debatable. It assumes that if people don't like Option A or B, they'll settle for the status quo rather than an Option D - None of the Above. I can't really see that makes sense. If people turn out to vote, they want change. If they don't like A or B, will they really want Option C? If there is a "none of the above" vote, that's more likely to be what they will go for. So I'd favour Trevor Pitman's option above Lyndon Farnhams.

Mr Pitman's second amendment lurks in his blog amidst the usual rather loud Brian Blessed style rhetoric - and he takes five paragraphs in his lodged amendment before saying "It is nevertheless not my intention to waste Members' time going over all of the many shortcomings of the Commission's proposals at length"! However, it it actually makes a good deal of sense to me:

"It is simply this. Instead of the largely inexplicable call to reduce the Assembly from 51 to 42 modify that figure slightly to 46. Then in line with the true statistics outlined in the table above allocate those 4 extra seats to the the two large St. Helier districts that the Commission currently proposes need to be sold massively short. Not only does such a modest move bring these second class citizens of the island's capital far more into line with the other districts; it actually ensures that two of the biggest related  worries about political reform can be put to bed at a single stroke."

This keeps Option B for those who want it, against those who want to remove the Constables, but makes voting parity more fair. It is, I must confess, an elegant solution, and I really wonder why no one thought of it before. As someone who wants an Option B to keep the Constables to be kept on the table, I think this is a fair adjustment, and my only concern is that because Deputy Pitman has brought it, some members may automatically vote against without looking properly at its merits.

Let's hope he can tone down the Brian Blessed volume, eschew some of the more purple prose, and let the simple fairness of the proposal be the matter on the table. If argued as an improvement to strengthen the case for Option B and voter parity, it could get through; if argued as a remedy for a massive confidence trick perpetrated by Senator Bailhache (as he does on his blog), it will certainly fail. And that would be a great shame because it is a good amendment.

James Reed's proposition is simply to up the number of Deputies by one in each district either under Option A or Option B.

"This amendment gives States members the opportunity to consider whether 48 members rather than 42, is the optimal number of States members necessary to support the government of this Island, before the reform options are put to the electorate in a referendum."

It doesn't address voter parity like Trevor Pitman's and only looks at the "Troy Rule" and whether there will be too large an executive in a reduced States. I don't think it really has a huge amount in its favour. It would, of course, give more safe rural seats for any Senators scrabbling for a relatively cosy berth.

And finally, as mentioned before, Lyndon Farnham's option to add "None of the above" which if ticked rules out Options A, B or C. I'm in favour of this, but think that Trevor Pitman's removal of Option C is the better option. Trevor Pitman's amendment also removes the bogie man of Geoff Southern, who raises the spectre of tactical voting on B and C to keep the Constables.

It's not often I agree with Trevor Pitman, but on this occasion, I do. His solutions are elegant refinements to the choices, have a good rationale, and actually make it better to argue the case for Option B. I hope that personality politics doesn't cause his amendment to fall on deaf ears, because it deserves a good hearing.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Protectionism in the High Street

Retailers in Jersey are calling on landlords to be more reasonable with the rent they charge on the high street. Women's clothing shop 'Esprit' has told Channel Television it is closing its  King Street store because of a 20% hike in rent. The shop owners currently  pay £73,000 per year but the landlord told them they would have to pay £89,000 per year to renew the lease. Electrical retailer Barry Jenkins says he is not surprised to see the shop  pull out of the high street. Mr Jenkins has owned Fotosound in King Street  for 37 years and says business has changed dramatically in that time.

Increased competition from the internet and falling numbers of shoppers have made rent less affordable. He said: "When we entered into these lease agreements many years ago, they could almost be afforded because trading was good. But now it's not so good. Tourist numbers are half what they were, we now have to charge 5% sales tax to the customer and you've got competition from online retailers so actually these rents now, these leases are really not fit for purpose."

Bill Sarre from commercial property consultants CBRE says rents are negotiable and that on the whole landlords are not being greedy. Mr Sarre admits that in the future some landlords will need to live in the 'real world' when it comes to rental prices, or else risk having vacant
properties. (1)

I was looking at a few recent leases, and while Sandpiper had a lease of £161, 580 per annum for Units 3,4 and 5 Liberty Warf, the situation was very different in King Street where Top Man signed a lease for £225,000 per annum. You need a lot of sales to generate that kind of income.

Another pressure on the High Street is the way in which we shop. It is not just the cheaper cost of shopping online; there is also the convenience, and often the greater choice. The High Street has to compete with out of town warehousing, so that even if, as David Warr suggested, GST was imposed, many prices would still be cheaper online. But habits of shopping are changing.

Mothercare has been closing shops since 2011, and adopting a different business model. More than 20% of the sales are generated online, and as leases come up for renewal, the least profitable are not be renewed. As Richard Fletcher notes in The Telegraph:

"The economics of high street shops no longer works for Mothercare, or a host of other retailers. We may still be a nation of shoppers - but how we shop and where we shop is changing rapidly." (2)

Where Mothercare is staying, they are looking towards deals on leases or a switch to switch to turnover-related rents. It is a fact that the economics of smaller shopping centres - and Jersey's is no different - no longer work. Landlords have yet to recognise that and reduce rents. But there is no sign of any major expose of leases in the High Street in Jersey; and even Mr Warr said little about the need to address what is arguably crucial. Any imposition of GST on all incoming goods would effectively help to protect the high rentals paid to the landlords by retail outlets. As any public criticism of landlords will certainly not help private negotiations on leases, it is unlikely that the Chamber of Commerce will be addressing that with statistics any time in the near future. Will there be questions about whether retailers think leases are excessive or have little scope for market downturn in the next Chamber survey? I suspect not, although I would like to be proven wrong.

Another practice which has been increasing is "Showrooming". These are shoppers who visit bookshops and stationers and then decide to compare online costs and make their purchases online. They have seen the product, but they want a better price. The recent comments by correspondence to the JEP on Facebook and their online pages shows that a number of people have found online products to be around a third less than the price in the High Street. This is again not surprising, as the overheads, and in particular the rent, is so much higher, so the charge for goods sold has to recoup that if the shop is to be viable.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, there was an ongoing political debate about whether the import of corn should be protected by tariff barriers, or open to free trade. William Thornton was one of those looking at how the economics of protectionism played out with rentals:

"Thornton proposed that the rent paid for a plot of land was the outcome of a bargain between the landlord and the farmer. He further argued that, in any given season, both will attempt to 'calculate how much the value of the produce of the land is likely to exceed the expenses of cultivation, together with the usual profit on those expenses' . The difference is expressed as rent. The final rental charge that the farmer paid to the landlord was determined by the relative bargaining strength of each party." (3)

He noted that pressure would be put on the local market by the repeal of the Corn Laws, and said that "it is clear that, unless this reduction were counterbalanced by a diminution of the expenses of cultivation, a corresponding reduction would take place in rents generally; and that some poor land, being unable to pay any rent at all, would be thrown out of cultivation."

The empty shops in the high street bear witness to a comparative economic situation. Although we no longer live in a largely rural society, the retail outlets are being "thrown out of cultivation". Protectionist policy protects landlords from market forces, and it is questionable whether that should be government policy. It introduces a dependency on protected markets, and in Jersey would need considerable cost to implement; essentially to charge GST on all imports would not be cost effective.

Abboushi Suhail, looking at protectionist policies, argues that they are ultimately not of benefit to society:

"These efficiency losses are the result of production distortions, reduced consumption, and the many side effects on consumers' purchasing power, industrial customers, and the added bureaucratic and government expenditures to monitor and enforce the policies. It is fair to summarize and say that while protection measures may benefit domestic producers and perhaps some affiliated other parties, in the end, the society pays the price in many ways. Evidence from these and other studies clearly show that the costs of trade protectionism exceed the benefits. While domestic producers and possibly their workers may gain for a while, consumers and society lose. Inefficiencies inflict the entire economy and hamper growth, investment, employment, and ultimately even government revenues. In other words, protectionism produces a dependency effect that the beneficiaries find difficult to dispense with." (4)

And that's precisely what GST on almost all imports - the remedy suggested by local trader David Warr - would cost - in particular the "added bureaucratic and government expenditures to monitor and enforce the policies". That's not what Mr Warr has thought through.

I can see where he is coming from, though. All commercial exports to the UK need VAT, and there is no longer any low value consignment relief. This is expedited by Jersey Post allowing pre-payment of VAT charges on packages to be sent, and that ensures they get there speedily and are not delayed on arrival awaiting collection of VAT. The monies collected by Jersey Post are remitted to UK Customs.

But in Jersey, that's easy to implement. To ensure all suppliers of goods to the Island have GST prepaid on them is manifestly impossible. We are the small minnow in the lake, and the postal services all across the length and breadth of the UK are simply too disparate to accommodate us with a similar scheme; they have a large enough market to not need to concern themselves with the administrative costs of one small Island. So unfair as it may seem, such a mirror scheme is not remotely feasible, and GST is collected on goods as they come into the Island if over the threshold; the administrative burden is and will remain local.

It is also true questionable whether increasing the cost of imported goods below the "de minimis" limit would have an appreciable effect on consumer spending in the high street. As wages are increasing only very slowly, if at all, costs of utilities is rising, the likelihood is simply that rather than spend online, people would simply reduce spending. It is only in a buoyant economy that a protectionist policy would have any chance of success, and that is not the situation in which we find ourselves.

When shops which have closed or are under administration are also considered, recent casualties in Jersey such as Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster are also UK high street chains. Jersey is also vulnerable when UK stores face financial problems, even if the Jersey store is performing well. There is very little that can be done to mitigate this, but including the failing companies in the Jersey high street as part of a move to bring in GST on imports, as if that would benefit those companies, is clearly nonsensical.
And finally, it is a protectionist policy which Mr Warr is advocating with respected to imported goods, seeking to increase the cost to the consumer of buying online as opposed to buying from retail outlets that have also imported the goods. I think can be a case made for protecting a local market where it is manufactured or supplied locally - local milk for example, which protects the Jersey cow. But this is not about protecting a local supply, it is about protecting a different channel for importation of goods, and it is hard to see how any special merit can be placed on that.

(3) William Thomas Thornton's 'The True Consequences of the Repeal of the Corn Laws' with an Introduction and Annotations.  Mark Donoghue,-History of Economics Review, 2010
(4) Protectionism Revisited - Background, Outcomes, and Analysis, Abboushi Suhail, Competition Forum, 2008