Sunday, 31 March 2013


Off in 30 minutes to the very early Easter service in the Rectory field. A bonfire is lit, and the Easter candle lit from that and taken to the Fisherman's Chapel. This poem is about Easter there...
Emptiness, bare altars, a sense of loss
A cold wind across a bleak landscape
So heavy laden, our heartfelt cross
But something new is taking shape
Gathering in the field, come to pray
And shivering through the icy start
Mary in despair, came along this way
Weeping, crying, of broken heart
The bonfire lit, the slightest flame
But soon the fire begins to burn
And there is gladness that we came
And every year we will return
The breaking dawn, the bread and wine
And once again, see the glory shine

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Void

While Good Friday sees Lent Lunches, and the final services before Easter, the Saturday before Easter day is a void. It is like treading water, with nothing happening, being in limbo, as in a vast echoing void. That's something of what I try to capture in this poem.

The Void
Emptiness, bare altars, a sense of loss
Yesterday, Good Friday, words to part
But now, blooded and empty cross
The abyss opening at the heart
Lives of quiet despair, lives of fear
A void opening up, a time to fall
When will it end? Time draws near
And silence reigns, no word or call
The bitter cold of the tomb today
Freezing winds across the land
The stone heavy, a guarded way
Only memory of the nailed hand
In between the dark and the light
This is Holy Saturday, our plight

Friday, 29 March 2013

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns are now sold almost since Christmas ends, which I think is a shame, but traditionally Good Friday was  the day to bake and eat them. They were reminders of Christ's death upon the Cross, and an ending of Lent.

The traditional rhyme goes:

One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If your daughters do not like them
Give them to your sons;
But if you haven't any of these pretty little elves
You cannot do better than eat them yourselves.

The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes notes that:

This was formerly a street cry, as mentioned, for instance, in Poor Robin'sAlmanack for 1733:

Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs
With one or two a penny hot cross buns.

Hence it became a calendar folk-chant, customarily sung by children on Good Friday, when the hot cross buns are eaten for breakfast. The song is now remembered in the nursery throughout the year, and often accompanies the game in which the hands are placed flat in a pile, and the lowest removed and placed on the top, and so on.

Here is a recipe from San Francisco Baker Fran Gage, for hot cross buns with fresh orange fragrance and spice overtones. You'll need to prepare the fresh candied orange a few days before baking.

Hot Cross Buns

3/4 cup candied orange (recipe follows)
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 110 |degrees~)
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and cloves
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1/3 cup dried currants or raisins

Cross toppings

Prepare candied orange 24 hours to 2 weeks ahead according to recipe instructions, following.

In large bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment, or in another bowl, sprinkle yeast over water; let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.

In another bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg, and cloves; set aside.

To yeast mixture, add milk, egg, and butter. Gradually add 2 cups of the flour mixture. Beat with a mixer until stretchy, or by hand with a heavy spoon until dough is thoroughly moistened and stretchy, about 5 minutes.

To knead with a dough hook. Add 1 more cup of the flour mixture, and mix on low speed until incorporated; then beat on high speed about 5 minutes. Add remainin flour mixture, candied orange, and currants. Mix on low speed until fruits are worked into dough, about 2 minutes (use a rubber spatula to mix fruit into doug if necessary). Remove hook; leave dough in bowl.

To knead by hand. Before kneading, add remaining flour mixture, candied orange, and currants to bowl; stir until dough is evenly moistened. Scrape dough onto a floured board; coat lightly with flour. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding just enough flour to prevent sticking, about 8 minutes. Return dough to bowl.

After kneading, cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled about 2 hours.

Punch down dough; spoon onto a floured board. Add flour as needed to knead doug into a soft rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut each rectangle into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, pulling dough to bottom to form a smooth top. Place on 2 lightly oiled baking sheets (each 12-by 15-in.). Loosely cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until puffy, about 30 minutes.

Bake in a 400 |degrees~ oven until buns are browned and hollow-sounding when tapped on bottom, about 20 minutes (switch pan positions halfway through baking). Cool on a wire rack. When just warm to touch, cross each bun with desired topping (directions follow). Serve warm or cool.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Blissful ignorance

I am still awaiting the A-Team's detailed study of how the Constables fit into their system. Sam Mezec seems to think that they will have a purely honorary capacity. Simon Crowcroft, who is after all in a better position to know, says that in that case they would certainly need to fund a Chief Executive for St Helier if they did not want to pay the Constable - in other words, there will be a cost element to ratepayers.

I do wonder how blissfully ignorant most people in the A-Team are in relation to Parish affairs; perhaps some more blog posting from Simon could help. He may even decide to retract what he told me at the Town Hall about the need for a paid position; after all, he has changed his mind once. To change it twice, however, reminds me of something Oscar Wilde once said.

In the A team scenario several assumptions have been made, all of which are false; based more on perception than fact. In 2010, Senator Sarah Ferguson did an analysis of the St. Brelade Parish Accounts. Given that the parish is the fourth largest, the figures are quite modest relative to the services and functions the Parish affords to its parishioners.

This analysis was published in La Baguette, and here is an extract:

"Former St. Brelade Deputy, and Public Accounts Committee Chairman Senator Sarah Ferguson explains. There is a considerable amount of detail in the accounts but they are clear and enable all rate payers to understand exactly where their money is spent. They are prepared on a very straightforward basis. Income is mainly recorded when it is actually received - in other words when cheques or cash are in the hands of the Parish Secretary. There are a few exceptions where money owing is recognised as income."

"Expenditure on the other hand is on the accruals basis. This means that all money owed by the Parish is always included in the accounts whether it has been paid or whether it is still owed by the Parish. Because of this the accounts always show the pure unvarnished truth of the state of the affairs of the Parish. In fact the balances in the accounts represent money in the bank."

"The main source of income for the Parish is the rates. The two crucial parts of the rates meeting are the estimates of the expenses for the following year and the decision on the Parish rates. If the forecasts of expenses are too low then the rates could be too low and the Parish would have to levy an additional rate, which would not go down well with Parishioners. If however the expenses are set too high then the Parish would have to set too high a rate which would also upset the Parishioners. Fortunately the Parish has an experienced team who make sensible forecasts."

It is notable too in that article there was mentioned just one dissenter to the rate proposed. That was Deputy Montford Tadier who wanted to increase the rate from 0.87p per quarter to 0.90p per quarter. And he is an A-Team supporter.

While it may be argued that there were (and still are) items seeking funding, it also needs to be remembered that the rates have a direct impact on all households. The prudent stance is therefore to raise the rates as little as possible and look toward other funding sources for non-urgent projects. It needs noting too that Maison St. Brelade as a singular and most urgent expense, had been financed from various sources - not just the Parish.

Income for that year [2010] totalled just under £1.3m, the majority of which was derived from rates. Of that the bulk of expenditure was spent on two items, services and administration. The running of the Parish Hall plus staff wages amounted £469,850  - or roughly one-third of total income.

It can be clearly seen therefore that that if the cost through salary to a Constable at the same level they enjoy by being a States member were part of the St. Brelade equation, the impact on expenditure would be significant - approximately 10% rise. Alternatively, if a Chief Executive was appointed, that would also cost at least the same.

There would also be several hidden costs too.

At times of deputation (such as illness, holiday, funerals etc) whereas at present the Procurer(s) or Chef de Police might temporarily fulfil some of the functions of Connétable. It is clearly far less acceptable that these be provided on a honorary basis if the Connétable himself were drawing a salary from the parish.

It could be further argued that anyone currently deployed in a honorary position may equally take the view that they should also be paid. As it stands, honorary police officers do get a small honorarium but that forms part of the overall policing budget (a separate item) not an administration cost.

The Connétable is not an administrator like the Parish Secretary, but option A pre-supposes that they are and to some extent seeks to re-define their role. They also suggest that there are many people who would 'like' to be Connétable but don't stand because it brings with it a seat in the House with which of course comes a £40k+ per annum salary which presumably they would be happy to give up!

Even supposing that were true, the 'post' of Connétable would only be open to those who could afford to take this philanthropic view - and if anything the incidence of contested elections would be even less than at present, as the workload would undoubtedly mean that it was only open to people with independent means of income, and that it also did not take them away from time spent on that; in other words, it would mean the Constable would be elected on the same kind of basis as States members were before they were being paid. That seems a very retrogressive step, and one which would almost certainly ensure many worthy candidates would simply not stand. It would be reserved to people of substantial means.

The whole purpose of remuneration for States members was that lack of means would not prove a barrier to standing for election. Under the Option A proposals, if the Constable's remuneration is not funded from the ratepayers, then it would mean turning back the clock to the days before remuneration.

I bumped into a curmudgeonly old boy today when conducting a random survey, and he told me that he wished it was still "the good old days when States members didn't get paid". I don't think that was a particularly healthy position; apparently, the A-Team think otherwise with regards to Constables. Do they want to be in that kind of company?

Quite how that position of an honorary Constable is supposed to improve democracy and revitalise the Parish is questionable. I think the trouble is that the A-team have repeated their same mantra so often they have begun to believe it without spelling out in practical terms of costs. "Vote for A - it means a renewed Parish", is just so much flim-flam unless it is costed out thoroughly. Let's have some flesh on the bones, please. Some solid accounting, based on Parish accounts, as has been done in the case of St Brelade.

On the other hand, if A-Team agree that the Constables were to be paid, St. Brelade would face a 10% increase in administration costs just to keep par with current salary, but the lesser populated and largely country parishes would be facing huge increases to match par. It may be the case that smaller Parishes could manage with an honorary position, but an investigation of their finances and workloads would also be needed to provide facts and figures by someone with the requisite accounting skills, like Senator Sarah Ferguson.

Rhetorical flourishes do not constitute sound accounting, and quite honestly the same phrases are about "strengthening the Parish" (coupled with a lack of a detailed accounting and administrative study) is beginning to sound like a record that has got stuck. The devil is very carefully avoiding the details, one might say!

Of course St. Helier would have a far less of a problem - but they would also be seeking to engage a CEO if they didn't pay the Constable - again the impact on the rates would not be insignificant. A CEO for St Helier might actually end up being paid more than the Constable is at present. Simon Crowcroft hinted as much to me.

In summary: A Parish is de facto a business, one that needs to balance to books and deliver dividends to its shareholders (me and you) by way of services which they do more efficiently than the spendthrift States members (or would-be members) who don't appear to understand even the basic principles of running a business - let alone the municipality (of which they don't seem to understand its function) or even the role of the Connétable. Either the rates of the larger Parishes will need to increase for a paid position - CEO / Constable - or it is back to the bad old days when gentlemen of private means could aspire to that office, but ordinary people could not.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Running Scared

There is an interesting report on Referenda in Europe by Pierre Garrone, Head of the Division of Elections and Referenda Secretariat of the Venice Commission (Council of Europe).

A distinction is made between what Garrone calls a "quorum of participation" or a "quorum of approval".

"The quorum of participation (minimum turnout) means that the vote is valid only if a certain percentage of registered voters take part in the vote. The quorum of approval makes the validity of the results dependent on the approval, or perhaps rejection, of a certain percentage of the electorate."

He then lists those countries which have these limits:

"A quorum of participation of the majority of the electorate is required in the following states: Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy and Malta (abrogative referendum), Lithuania, Russia and "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (decision-making referendum). In Latvia, the quorum is half the voters who participated in the last Parliamentary election (except for constitutional revisions, see below), and, in Azerbaijan, it is only 25% of the registered voters. In Poland and Portugal, if the turnout is lower than 50%, the referendum is consultative and non-binding."

"A quorum of approval is laid down in Hungary (a quarter of the electorate); in Albania and Armenia (one-third). In Denmark, a constitutional amendment must be approved by 40% of the electorate; in other cases, the text put to the vote is rejected only if not simply the majority of voters vote against it, but also 30% of the registered electorate."

"Moreover, a particularly high quorum is sometimes required for fundamental decisions. In Latvia, when a constitutional amendment is submitted to referendum, it must be approved by more than 50% of registered voters. In Lithuania, certain particularly important rules relating to sovereignty can only be decided by a majority of three-quarters of the electorate. In Croatia, a "yes" vote by the majority of the electorate is required in the case of an association with other states."

To summarise, in a participation quorum, also known as a minimum turn-out quorum, there is a predetermined turnout threshold of registered voters which must be reached in order to validate the result. With an approval quorum, the validity of the vote depends on the approval of a certain predetermined percentage of the electorate. So the turnout is not important, what does matter is that the choice made gets above a certain threshold.

So there is a wide diversity of thresholds in use, but what is clear is that there are a number of democratic countries in which thresholds are in use, especially if there is a constitutional amendment.

The Venice Commission doesn't really like thresholds, but they have no substantive arguments against thresholds, except that they can make it difficult for change to come about. The Referendum in Sudan for independence for Southern Sudan had a threshold of 60% and was easily exceeded.

Jeremy Macon's proposition is one relating to voter turnout. He has put it at 40%, which is a turnout of voters needed for approval. Obviously there is a degree of commonsense in this. A voter turnout of around 15 - 20% of the electorate might well indicate that 80-85% of the voting public did not want the choices on offer.

One argument against this is the "activist" one - "they had their chance, they could have voted". It seems particularly perverse when it comes to a major constitutional change to make that argument, as part of democracy is to involve all the people, not just those who live and breathe politics. If they have failed to get enough people out to vote, should they be rewarded for this failure? It will not do to say "They had their chance, and they didn't take it." That is an expression of contempt for ordinary people.

The point of democracy is to bring people in, to get them to participate, and to ensure that those ordinary people who often have no voice have a chance to have their voice heard. It is not for activists to drown out that silent voice because they did not participate but to try and listen and make sure that voice is heard. Unfortunately, the activist often speaks a lot but does not listen. To listen, you have to shut up and be quiet, and that is very hard for the political activist.

As a guide to Buddhism notes: "Some people combine their rhetorical skills with clever arguments and a loud voice to dominate every conversation and stifle every point of view but their own." That's not going to draw people in to participate; it is going to send them away.

Another argument is being made that Deputies may well have been elected on a lower threshold. True, but this is an Island wide referendum. The fair comparison, which Jeremy Macon makes - and why he chose 40% - is to look at the overall turnout Islandwide on the Senatorial elections. So we can forget the cheap shots against Jeremy Macon on the basis of his own turnout.

Why is there so much fear about a threshold? Might it be because it means that change can only come about not through the activists mustering their supporters out there, but because those who are politically active will have to change their game; and get people to participate.

Instead of appealing to arguments, and browbeating the ordinary person, they'll have to listen before they speak, and then may have earned the right to be heard. But that must be genuine, and not just political politeness. Here is some Buddhist wisdom on the subject:

"For communication to take place it is not just enough to let others talk, we have to genuinely listen to them when they do. Sometimes, when others are talking, we affect an expression of interest although we are not really listening to them but only waiting for an opportunity to interrupt them so we can say what we want. To genuinely listen, we have to close our mouths and open our minds so that the other person's words are not just heard but comprehended." (Bhante Dhammika)

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Monday in Tweets

I've been looking out and about on Twitter, looking for memorable tweets. I rather like this one from Richard Coles (and I know just how he feels when ours jams):

"While my theology will not admit an eternal battle between the forces of light and darkness this photocopier's an irredeemably evil bastard"

On a philosophical note, Richard Dawkin's tweets that  "The world is divided into those who take words to mean what they clearly say, and those who ignore meaning and go for the emotional jugular".

This is from the man who also tweets "With respect to those meanings of 'human' that are relevant to the morality of abortion, any fetus is less human than an adult pig" Clearly he goes for the emotional jugular, because common sense suggests that a fetus develops into a fully formed human being, while an adult pig does not. Aristotle makes more sense than Dawkins.

Another of Dawkin's Tweets: "I compared the speaking style of a self-promoting rabbi to Hitlerian shrieks. Made it clear there was NO other similarity. But oh, the fuss!" This is from the man who tells us that some people ignore meaning and go for the emotional jugular. Maybe he should look in a mirror sometimes!

BBC News Tweets that "Banks in Cyprus will not open on Tuesday as planned. Closed until at least Wednesday, news agencies report." This is a very worrying situation, and it must be incredibly difficult and stressful for the people of Cyprus. Perhaps rather than Europe suggesting and failing options, the IMF could intervene?

In Saudi Arabia, Tom Holland tweets "Seems the Saudis want 2 execute 1 of their own citizens 4 apostasy. Probably won't help much, but there's a petition" (

Apostacy still carries a death sentence in many Islamic countries, something that tends to be played down. "There is no compulsion in religion" means that you can't be forced to become a Muslim, but once inside, the gate is barred and padlocked, and there is no easy escape.

In Guernsey a Tweet notes that "Data commissioner quits after inquiry is dropped". This looks like a story that won't go away, especially as the Assistant Data Commissioner had been building up a case which she was apparently told to drop; and she is subject to a gagging order. Stuart Syvret gleefully comments on the resignation: "This is going to be splendidly entertaining."

An article I was reading said this kind of deal scuppered NHS whistleblowing, the rise of a kind of severance deal called "compromise agreements", which had inbuilt gagging orders, beloved by lawyers and employers, as it avoids messy and public tribunals.

Former Doctor Who Colin Baker has become embroiled in a particularly thoughtless piece of journalism. An article about producer John Nathan-Turner as a "sexual predator" uses a picture of Colin Baker with John Nathan Turner. What idiot used that picture?

The article has nothing to do with Baker, and it is clear that he has nothing to do with the allegations against Nathan-Turner, but just was Dr Who during that period, hence the picture. Colin Baker tweets: "Was it naive of me to think that things might be different after Leveson? Thank goodness my family are finding it funny - but they know me."

But the press are still not behaving well. Graham Jones MP tweets "Just raised the death of #lucymeadows in the House of Commons. Universal sympathy. Speaker described such journalist actions as despicable."

Locally, Russell Labey tweets "shifted a lot, a lot of horse manure in the last two days". Can this be a veiled reference to his intervention for Option C in the Referendum against the other Options A and B?

Trevor Pitman has finally given in to my portrayal of him as a kind of political Brian Blessed - very loud, no volume control. He tweets: "Thought I should tell you I am now following Brian Blessed. Thought I could use some of his drama in a speech sometime!" Try shouting "Gorst is alive", Trevor. If you have ever watched Brian Blessed's performance in the movie "Flash", you'll know what I mean.

Sam Mézec shows how blissfully ignorant he is of the need for a Parish to balance the books "Parish rates will only rise under #OptionA if you vote for a Constable who says they'll raise them. Solution? Don't vote for one that will." Heaven help him if he ever tries to run a business!

My own tweet on the Referendum: "Electoral Commission / Vote.JE website. Should there be text in Portuguese / Polish?" That has been rather overlooked, I think. Are the supporters of the different options also going to address this on their websites? I think they should.

Channel TV tweets that "Jsy - Suspension takes toll on Dean". I'm not surprised. It is being stuck in a kind of limbo, and not knowing what is happening that must be bad. I hope the investigation does not drag out endlessly. Justice delayed is justice denied, and whatever the outcome, it is still better than just waiting in limbo.

BBC News notes that "Jersey to recruit five new midwives after rise in births". I am amazed they resisted the temptation to tweet "Call the Midwife"! I wonder if any of them are called "Chummy"?

Guernsey Donkey notes that: "Rather ironically "hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia" is the fear of long words.
(That's just cruel )"

Meanwhile Richard Coles is still dishing up some amusing tweets:

"Controversy over the proper components of a Lancashire hot pot thunders round Twitter like the many hooved ingredients of a Findus lasagne."

And I'll finish with one of my favourite Tweets from the C.S. Lewis followers: "When I was 10 I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am 50 I read them openly.". And quite right too!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Dean and Bishop of Winchester under Lancelot Andrewes

On the subject of Dean and Bishop of Winchester, it is interesting to note that a dispute over authority is nothing new. While safeguarding is the context of the withdrawal of the present Dean's commission, there is also the issue of authority; that's what makes the current business so very messy. Is it just about safeguarding, or is there also a hidden agenda of the new Bishop of Winchester using the problems over safeguarding to strengthen control over Jersey, and in particular, to revive an old dispute from the 17th century?

Now I'm not saying that the matter of safeguarding is not important or that an inquiry should not take place (and on this matter, see my blog posting, but what I am suggesting is that there may be more than one issue on hand, and the very public use of a document by a newly installed Bishop of Winchester may have political overtones. Matters may be more complex than they seem on the surface, just as almost certainly was the case with Graham Power and his suspension.

This extract comes from a book called "Lancelot Andrewes, 1555-1626." by Paul Welsby and details the last time the Bishop of Winchester tried to assert his primacy over the Crown appointment of the Dean:

The Bishop of Winchester and the Dean of Jersey
by Paul Welsby

After the accession of James I it became evident that the government was determined to introduce the Anglican system of Church government into Jersey. After an inquiry into the ecclesiastical affairs of Jersey, with particular reference to the appointment, jurisdiction, and revenues of a Dean, and to the provision of the Book of Common Prayer.

Ordinances were issued to the States in June 1618 to nominate three ministers from whom the King would choose a Dean.2 Sir Edward Conway, Secretary of State, endeavoured to have David Bardinell, a Jersey minister, nominated to the deanery, and in February 1619 the King established the ancient ecclesiastical authority, at the same time requesting that Bardinell should be preferred to the office of Dean, who was to be the ecclesiastical superior of the Island.

It was, however, a year before the actual appointment was made and the reason for the delay was that Bishop Andrewes made a stand for the rights of his See in the matter. The original idea had been that the appointment of Dean should be made by Royal Letters Patent, in virtue of an Ordinance of Henry VII, but Andrewes had discovered a record showing that after this Ordinance, Henry had followed the procedure of presenting a Dean to the Bishop of Coutances to be admitted by him.

The consequence of Andrewes's stand over this was that in 1620 James wrote to Andrewes, and also to the governor, bailiffs, Jurats, and people of Jersey, recalling that he had commanded that the Deans of Jersey should be made by Royal Letters Patent, but, as a doubt had arisen that such a course might be derogatory to the Bishops of Winchester, he reaffirmed his previous command and asserted that the right of nomination fell to the Crown, although he conceded that admission to office lay with the Bishop of Winchester.

Accordingly Bandinell was formally presented to Andrewes, from whom he received Institution and a Commission for the exercise of jurisdiction in the Island. "Poor Bardinell", wrote Sir William Bird, "has almost as many seals and instruments for his poor deanery as any bishop for a good bishopric in England." He was also given a letter from Andrewes and the Archbishop, in the King's name, to the Governor for such allowances as had hitherto belonged to his office, and on 15 April 1620 he was sworn in at an acrimonious meeting of the States of the Island.

The Dean proceeded to his two-fold task of reforming the ecclesiastical government of the Island and of inducing the ministers to use the Book of Common Prayer, both of which were disliked by the Islanders. Canons were prepared by the Dean and ministers and were presented to the Council, but they were opposed by the bailiff and jurats. The case was argued before Bishop Andrewes, together with the Bishop of Lincoln (Williams) and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Revision was made of the draft Canons and the King ratified them under Sign Manual on 30 June 1623.7 These Canons regulated divine worship, the sacraments, the Dean, ministers, churchwardens, and clerks, the Church Courts, appeals and revenues, and they were uncompromisingly Anglican in substance. Two points are to be noted. All persons were required to accept the Prayer Book Service, and all ministers must receive episcopal ordination before they could be admitted to a benefice.

There is little doubt that Andrewes would have been a strong advocate of these Canons which aimed at approximating church order and worship in Jersey to that which prevailed in the rest of his diocese. Such documents as are available, however, do not give the impression that he was in any sense a driving force behind the measures or the events which led up to them.

H. B. Wilson went too far when he suggested that Andrewes "rested not till he procured the revival of the deanery in Jersey, and recovered that island to an entire conformity with the Church of England". On the contrary, he appears to have been content merely to look on with approval at what others were doing. But perhaps his approval was not altogether unqualified, for the Canons left the Bishop of Winchester, though nominally the Ordinary, with nothing but an appellate jurisdiction over cases heard in the Court of the Dean, who for all disciplinary purposes exercised the power of a bishop.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Thoughts on Truth

Richard Dawkins was in a very smug mood yesterday. He has decided that a good way to take a snipe at religious beliefs was to Tweet the following:
The question is not "Is your belief entitled to respect?" but "Is it TRUE?"
The question is not "How many millions believe it?" Nor "Did Isaac Newton believe it?" But "Is it TRUE?"
The question is not "Does it give people a sense of belonging?" Nor "Has it inspired great art and music?" But "Is it TRUE?"
I can see where he is coming from. Some apologists for religious faith do often point to how much good their faith may do, even if it is not true. But that's hardly the whole story. C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, for example, argued precisely along the lines that Dawkin's laid out - what matters is truth, and that is what should bother us. Chesterton, in a dispute with Mr Blatchford, noted:
"The Blatchfordian position really amounts to this--that because a certain thing has impressed millions of different people as likely or necessary therefore it cannot be true."
Isn't there a hint of that lurking in Dawkin's position, that because millions believe something, but he thinks it is not true, that it cannot be true? He assumes that his own beliefs are, of course, beyond any dispute. He knows for certain; other people, the millions in his tweet, do not.
There's a false dichotomy here, of course. Millions may believe something and it may be true. Something may give a sense of belonging, and it may be true. The tweets almost set up a deliberate contrast, as if something that millions believe, or inspired great art and music cannot be true. And it leaves out agnosticism completely. The position that says: this is beyond the scope of truth and falsity.
It must be wonderful for Richard Dawkins to have such an omniscient sense of self-assuredness. Thomas Huxley, who coined the word "agnostic", and Stephen Jay Gould, who also professed agnosticism, had their own sceptical beliefs, but were careful not to elevate them to a kind of scientific infallibility; on the contrary, they were aware of the dangers of such a position. And of course it goes back to the ancient Greeks. Xenophanes professed doubt as to whether anyone could know what is really true, rather than "a woven web of guesses".
But the notion of truth itself can be a limiting concept in the Dawkin's scheme of rationality. Here is a parable.
"Listen! Once there was a man who went out to sow grain. As he scattered the seed in the field, some of it fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some of it fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. The seeds soon sprouted, because the soil wasn't deep. Then, when the sun came up, it burned the young plants; and because the roots had not grown deep enough, the plants soon dried up. Some of the seed fell among thorn bushes, which grew up and choked the plants, and they didn't bear grain. But some seeds fell in good soil, and the plants sprouted, grew, and bore grain: some had thirty grains, others sixty, and others one hundred." (Mark 4:3-8)
Now a parable is a fiction, it is most decidedly something that has not happened. And most people, I suspect, when asked, will agree that it conveys something that is in some sense true. It is not scientific truth, a truth that can be measured in a test-tube or on a voltmeter, but it is true, nonetheless. There never was a Good Samaritan, but we know the type, as we know the types who just pass by on the other side and make excuses for not helping the suffering of a fellow human being.
And fiction does that as well; it illuminates the human condition.
Most people, even young children, have come across that slight masterpiece by Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol". It is not true. Like a parable, it is a fiction.
In fact, Dickens was going to write a much drier factual tract about the hardship that the poor faced. Instead he wrote a "Christmas Carol". But I think many people would say that it illuminates the human condition. It shines some light into darker corners, and it shows us how we ought to behave, and how we ought not to behave. But it is not a sermon; it does that by telling a story.
We are story-telling animals. The oldest written story in the world is the Epic of Gilgamesh, but cave paintings show storyboards, as it were, showing that even before writing came to be, we told stories.
These early stories we call myths. At the time they were written, no one made a sharp distinction between fact and fiction, between history and legend. We make that now, but we would live in a much poorer world if we dismissed the legendary or mythical because it told us nothing.
There is a story told Theseus, one of the Heroes of Greek Mythology. He comes across a servant girl who warns him of her master:
"Men call him Procrustes, or the Stretcher," said the girl-and she talked low and fast. "He is a robber. He brings hither all the strangers that he finds travelling through the mountains. He puts them on his iron bed. He robs them of all they have. No one who comes into his house ever goes out again."
"Why do they call him the Stretcher? And what is that iron bed of his?" asked Theseus, in no wise alarmed.
"Did he not tell you that it fits all guests?" said the girl; "and most truly it does fit them. For if a traveller is too long, Procrustes hews off his legs until he is of the right length; but if he is too short, as is the case with most guests, then he stretches his limbs and body with ropes until he is long enough. It is for this reason that men call him the Stretcher."
That's a legendary story. It is not a real story, and can be found with other stories, some about Medusa, or the Minotaur and the Labyrinth. It is more realistic in some ways, but that's not what the story is about. It is all about making things fit.
We can take the odd things that don't fit into our picture of the world, and dismiss them. We lay them on Procrustes bed, and stretch them to fit, or hack them off. It's a story about how not to look at the world. We should take the world as it is, and not try to squeeze it into our own narrow views, be they religious or scientific.
For it is not just religious faith that does this. The kind of scientism that Richard Dawkins peddles does just the same. Anything that doesn't fit into his concept of rational, and scientific explanation is chopped away so that what is left fits.
Truth in story is something that Dawkin's just can't fit into his scheme of things. It is a form of non-rational truth. That story and myth can explore the human condition, and show us things that are true about ourselves, like a mirror, is a concept outside the scope of his scientific rationalism.
The teacher Mr Gradgrind in Dickens's Hard Times is committed to one narrow vision of truth. He is described as "a man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over."
"Now, what I want is, Facts. . . . Facts alone are wanted in life."
I suspect that in our somewhat secular world, a lot of people don't spend a lot of time considering religious matters, any more than they consider politics as a prime motivator in their lives; they have other interests.
But they keep, I venture to say, a certain folk-belief, which can be regarded on the one hand as superstition, or on the other as an open attitude to the mysterious, to what we don't know, and to the notion that the world might conceivably not be as simple as some rationalists make out.
It's very much as Chesterton put it, that there is a kind of simplicity in Dawkin's rationality, but it is a simplicity which really leaves out most of what people find important about the world. It can only address one kind of truth, and doesn't know any kind of truth apart from that, and would cheerfully place those ideas on its bed of Procrustes and chop them away.
"As an explanation of the world, materialism has a sort of insane simplicity. It has just the quality of the madman's argument; we have at once the sense of it covering everything and the sense of it leaving everything out.  Contemplate some able and sincere materialist, as, for instance, Mr. McCabe, and you will have exactly this unique sensation.  He understands everything, and everything  does not seem worth understanding.  His cosmos may be complete in every rivet and cogwheel, but still his cosmos is smaller than our world.  Somehow his scheme, like the lucid scheme of the madman, seems unconscious of the alien energies and the large indifference of the earth; it is not thinking of the real things of the earth, of fighting peoples or proud mothers, or first love or fear upon the sea.  The earth is so very large, and the cosmos is so very small.  The cosmos is about the smallest hole that a man can hide his head in."

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Siren Call

My Saturday poem this week is about the warning siren which suddenly went of in St Helier, and the memories it brings to mind...

Siren Call
I can hear again the siren call
The rising, falling, warbling note
Times like this, we feel so small
Fear reaches out to grab by throat
I can hear again the siren call
Memory flooding back from past
The searchlights, bombs that fall
The loud crash, explosive blast
I can hear again the siren call
Decades of fear, atomic war
Iron curtain, barbed wire wall
Waves upon a ruined shore
Sounds of memory come this night
But this time, we will be alright

Friday, 22 March 2013

Funny Old World

Important Notice: in case it is not patently obvious, this is a tongue in cheek and light hearted satirical piece.
People who are eligible to eat in Jersey are being urged to check they are on the electoral register before a referendum menu is launched next month. Islanders will be asked to give their views on how to reform Jersey's national dishes.
The referendum menu will have three options covering the number of different foods and the quantity available to eat. Quality is not assured.
The menu is a set menu, with three choices of main course. It was devised by the Electoral Gourmet Commission, after consultation with well-known chefs everywhere on the right wording. "We have decided to have the menu in English," said the Chairman, Sir Philip Bailhache, "even though the official language of menus is French". And he explains that the Commission cogitated, deliberated and digested lots of submissions.
The Greffier of the States, Michael de la Haye, said it was important to get a good turn out. "This could be one of the most significant meals served up for 60 years", he said.
The choices include two options for change and one to maintain the status quo.
Option A will see 42 Ormers cooked in six large stewing pots, in a communal kitchen. They will be left to simmer away gently until they are softened up. There are concerns that so many might mean some Ormers will be rather rubbery, with the consistency of shoe leather, while some might just come to pieces. It is rumoured that Trevor Pitman will do his Brian Blessed impersonation and shout when everything has been well and truly stewed.
Arguments for: The Gastronomic Deficit. People in St Helier don't usually get as much food as in the country parishes. "For years they've been rationed, ever since 1940", said Reformed Diet supporter Sam Mezec, "and now it is time to give them more food. It will all be the same. Why should some people enjoy a hotpot while others have to make do with cheese and crackers? Democracy means crackers for everyone alike."
Option B will have 30 Ormers cooked in six large stewing pots at the Communal kitchens, but Parishioners will also be able to enjoy 12 traditional Jersey Bean Crocks at each Parish Hall. Former Senator Terry le Main is fully supportive of old crocks, and will be lending his weight to this.
Arguments for: Jersey Bean Crock is a nourishing traditional dish, and the secret recipe is only known to the Parishes. A tradition will be lost if it goes. "We can't live exclusively on a diet of Ormers", said spokesman Ben Shenton. "Bean crock is nourishing, and is both meaty and full of beans. It touches the taste buds."
Option C will maintain the status quo of eight Jersey Wonders, 29 Stewed Ormers and 12 Jersey Bean Crocks. Spokesman for this group, Senator Lyndon Farnham says that the general public all like the taste of Jersey Wonders, and a diet of stewed Ormers would be very boring.
Arguments for: Variety is the spice of life. Something for everyone, even vegetarians. Some newer Jersey Wonders are gluten free. "The public like Jersey Wonders.  They are all well baked on the same night," said Lyndon Farnham.
Deputy Jeremy Macon wants the States to decide whether the meal should go ahead if not enough people turn up. "There'll be a lot of wasted food if only 10% turn up", he said.
But Deputy Montfort Tadier disagrees: "It would be a missed opportunity if the menu was rejected because only 35% of the electorate turned up to sample the culinary delights of Ormers", he said, "and they will also be entertained by my singing in Jerriais a mournful protest song about a fisherman who falls in love with an Mermaid until an Ormer muscles in on their rather fishy affair."
Some people just don't like any of the options. Blogger Rico Sorda says "It has been rushed, and it is a mess. I'd like a full English breakfast, but there is no provision for that. I don't know if I'll bother to turn out. I may stay at home and cook for myself. What is on offer looks pretty indigestible."
Also in the news:
"Masterchef the Movie". Senator Alan MacLean confirms that £300,000 has been given to the late Alfred Hitchcock to make a movie of the Referendum. The working title of the film is "The 39 Soups", and it will be a romance, "strictly for the Birds", according to Mr Hitchcock. 
"Night of the Living Wage". Deputy Geoff Southern fails in his bid to make a movie about working people who have to take on extra night shifts. Several States members and former States members were lined up as extras to bulk out the zombies required for the movie.
"The Taxman Rings Twice". A film written by George Osborne which needs to raise £1 billion to be made. At the moment, its just a dream, and may never be made at that price. Richard Murphy dons a spandex costume to take on the villains as the Avenging Accountant of the Tax Justice League.
Breaking News last night:
Siren in St Helier a false alarm? The siren which resounded over St Helier for more than half an hour this evening is believed to have been a false alarm. For around two hours, residents could hear the strains of "Beautiful Jersey" booming across from La Collette in the dulcet tones of Constable Sadie Rennard. It turns out that it was a software glitch on her karaoke machine, piped by gigabyte broadband to loud speakers at La Collette.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Investigating the Deportation

The Independent Review of a Safeguarding Complaint for the Diocese of Winchester doesn't just deal with the Dean and Church matters; there's also a brief mention of the Magistrate's Court, but I think an important one.

How this came about was that the young woman in question seems to have been both distressed and threatening to lash out against the Bishop of Winchester when he was in Jersey:

"Safeguarding Advisor J.F. reported several texts and answerphone messages from her threatening violence against him and intimating plans to disrupt the service he was due to attend. The Bishop of Winchester was staying with Dean R.K. and the Dean, on hearing of these messages, felt them to be of a sufficiently serious nature that they should be reported to the police. A statement was made at the deanery by the Bishop of Winchester on the 26th September 2010. On interview he said that his expectation was that this would enable the police to keep H.G. from disrupting the service that day."

The Bishop had simply the idea that they would monitor the young woman, and make sure she could not disrupt the service. Instead, the situation was dealt with in a very heavy handed way, seen by the Safeguarding Advisor and the writer of the report as "extreme measures".

"Following this H.G. was arrested for breaking a harassment order, brought before the magistrate and as she had no money, was at that time of no fixed abode and appeared mentally distressed, she was remanded in custody. Safeguarding Advisor J.F. records her concern at these extreme measures and worked at setting up care for her with the prison chaplain."

Unfortunately, the situation escalated. The destitute, penniless woman who was mentally distressed, was just shipped out of the Island, apparently being treated without a shred of compassion.

"She is shocked when on 11th October H.G. was bound over and summarily deported from the Island for three years and put on a plane with no-one to meet her, no planned accommodation and no money. J.F. wrote to Bishop Michael, 'Whilst I don't think this is our responsibility in that the court decision and action was not of our making, I do feel we have a basic responsibility, as we would have for anyone, to do all we can to ensure her wellbeing'."

There are two forms of ordering a person to leave the Island - as a condition of a binding over order, and a deportation order - a binding over order is usually recommended by the Magistrate's Court and is an alternative to a prison sentence for someone who may have recently arrived in the Island and has no ties such as a home, family or job.

In this case, the case came up under the Acting Magistrate, Richard Falle. As the public record mentions - "Bound Over: XXX of XXX, was bound over to leave the Island for three years after she admitted harassing a person between 1 June and 25 September".

The writer of the report has this to say on the deportation:

"The decision and manner of H.G.'s deportation requires further investigation. It is clearly a matter of concern that a vulnerable adult in such a distressed state could be removed from Jersey with no thought to her imminent care needs."

"It seems surprising that the complainant against H.G., in this case the Dean of Jersey on behalf of the Church, was not consulted or informed about the decisions taken, or action planned, concerning H.G.'s future. There are no records of communication from R.K. with the Diocese at this time and Bishop Michael later expressed shock and distress that the deportation had occurred."

The former Bishop of Chelmsford, John Gladwin, will lead the forthcoming safeguarding inquiries in Jersey. Let us hope this paragraph is not overlooked, and some consideration is given as to the actions of the Magistrate. We know from the report that the consequences of being shipped off to England meant that the young woman's life increasingly spiraled out of control. In Jersey, at least there were people whom she knew and could trust, like Philip Le Claire of Autism Jersey.

It's not primarily a church matter, but as a matter of social justice, it should not be left out of any investigations. Do we really want a society in which this can happen? Do we just deport people who are a nuisance regardless of how vulnerable they are? It may have been legal to treat her this way, but it does that make it right. It does Jersey no credit at all.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Shadows of Night: A Meditation for the Spring Equinox

Today is the spring equinox, and as usual, I have penned a short meditative piece. It is a journey structured in three parts. Part 1 is the night, and you'll see a lot of the bad weather we have been having of late. It is shelter in the storm, and the journey is into the night, into the storm. Part 2 is an urban piece in the middle, and it takes us to the peak of the night. Part 3 brings us through the night to dawn with signs of hope and joy. It is structured as a journey, where the weather takes us through an emotional journey as well, first the descent, and then the ascent.  Come and journey with me, gentle reader...

Shadows of Night
The Night
This is a time of division, of night and day divided into two, side by side, in harmony. The candlelight casts a shadow. And in the shadow lies the darkness.
We meet at night, beneath the stars, in the sacred grove. In the centre is a small cist in circle, an ancient tomb. Above the stars glitter and sparkle in the night sky, shining down on us, for we are the dust of stars, scattered on across the earth.
And since ancient times, our ancestors have gathered here. The still centre in the forest, while about the trees shake in the wind. Snow is falling heavily, and branches break and fall. With a creak, and a snapping sound, some trees topple, their roots weakened by the storm.
But the priestess holds the sacred torch alight. We have marked out the compass points, and charged the grove with words of power. Outside, the storm rages in the night, but we remain here, protected, in the calm. This is the still centre, the peace within, and here is not the breath of wind. Our white robes are still; no whisper of wind touches them.
The skies here are clear, and the stars shine down, glittering in a clear sky, but beyond the confines of the grove, the sky is black with snow clouds, a swirling vortex around the stillness at its heart, where we stand.
It is midnight, and the priestess raises the torch, and we begin to circle around the Neolithic tomb.
Marching, marching, marching in the night
Round and round, march by firelight
Marching, marching, marching in the night
Here is darkness, cloaking world from sight
Marching, marching, marching in the night
And then we kneel around the tomb, waiting quietly, calmly, for the passage of time, praying for the ending of the night, and the restoration of the balance of night and day.
Midnight's Hour
The streets of the old town are quiet. The weather has driven people inside, and the market closed early. The gas lamps are flickering in the wind, and snow covers the streets. Only the occasional sound of horse's hooves breaks the silence, from a lone hansom cab in a distant street.
The candle is flickering on the wooden desk in the study. A book is open, and the scholar is reading thoughtfully, translating the ancient Latin into English. He turns the Tarot cards, and there is the falling tower, struck by lightning, and death, a knight in black armour, slowly riding a horse.
He jots down calculations, and turns to the book of meanings, taking verses, and translating them to English. And then he reads what he was written:
Snow swiftly falls across the land
Cold has come to chill the bones
Darkness stretches out an icy hand
Outside, the blizzard howls and moans
The mighty oak has fallen down
Skies are thick with dark grey cloud
Fields are clothed in whitest gown
As snow descending, like a shroud
Fear walks along this frosty world
And brings despair, prepares the way
As riding in with banner unfurled
Death, the horseman, here today
The bells have rung, the hour is late
And all are gripped in frozen fate
The scholar sighs, and shakes his head with weariness. It has been many nights since he had slept well. He thinks to himself "How long must I endure trouble? How long will sorrow fill my heart day and night?"
And he consoles himself with a saying he once read "Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning".
The Dawning of Light
The sun has risen upon a frozen land. The snowfall has ended. Now the fields are white with snow, and the odd gust of wind brings snow cascading across the fields and hedgerows. But the sun is rising, and with it will come the thaw.
We gather round the entrance to the dolmen. The passage to the dolmen is in darkness, and as the sun comes up, we see the light move, like a straight golden beam, down the floor and to the back chamber.
The priestess stands there, and she is lit up in its radiance, holding aloft a golden casket. And we watch, patiently, as she brings it out along the passage, and places it on the ground. Then she opens it, and there are the treasures of the tribe, a golden torque gleaming in the sun. This is our sun's gold, our sign of light. And she places it on her arm, and raises it high, and we shout with joy and thank the gods for their blessing upon our land.
And we celebrate the new birth of the sun, holding hands, dancing slowly round the dolmen.
Dancing, dancing, dancing in the light
Round and round, dawning of the light
Dancing, dancing, dancing in the light
Here is daylight, golden rays delight
Dancing, dancing, dancing in the light
We turn and close the compass points, releasing our barrier against the storm. Suddenly, we feel the rays of the sun on our face, the warming breath of wind across the land, and hear the trickling waters of a nearby stream, and hear the distant crowing of a rooster.
The sun is rising higher, the wind is now a warm breeze, and the darkness has ended. In the meadow, the snow is thawing, and yellow daffodils are gently swaying. The shadows of night have passed, and hope has been born anew.
And over across the downs, where the snow has now melted, we see the white horse on the hillside. She has returned to us.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A Cloud of Witnesses or a Fog?

How accurate can witnesses be, and how can we be sure they are telling the truth? Are reports to be taken at face value, or do they present any bias, implicit or explicit? This is the problem we face with the recent "Independent Review of a Safeguarding Complaint for the Diocese of Winchester".

For the most part, we have accusations made against the Dean by a distressed woman, whose mental state is, however, very volatile, and whose perspective of the church seems to verge towards a state of mind in which the church was conspiring against her. But her state of mind could not be verified, only surmised, because no one knows her present whereabouts. This is problematic.

The writer of the review acknowledges an escalating problem, in which the young woman hit out at various people, including at Autism Support worker, declined to be helped by Social Workers, and whose complaints escalated against many island clergy, diocesan staff, and the former Bishop of Winchester himself, whom she took to ringing up at all hours, and stalking his home even after he had retired.

This is almost certainly the reason for delays in addressing complaints; the complaint against the Dean was buried like a needle in a haystack against other complaints. As presented in the report, it does stand out, because it is made the focus of the report, but as complaints had been made, some withdrawn, some against the former Bishop himself, it certainly cannot have been easy to determine which had merit, and which did not. I note that no review is being made of her complaints against the former Bishop, for example.

"Because of the lack of Jersey recording available this Review relies solely on documentation held by the Diocese. In the course of her complaint H.G. copied to the Diocese a substantial volume of communications made and received by her and this material forms a valuable part of the records available for consideration."

There is clearly a failure on the part of Jersey, including the Dean, to document what was going on, but on the other hand, to rely on one side alone as representing the truth of the matter without independent verification is also problematic.

That is not to say that there were not issues in need of resolution regarding the churchwarden, but in the absence of documentation, it is difficult to know how much of the way in which the Dean's action was perceived was coloured by her mental state. We do not have multiple attestation, and that makes matters difficult, as does the lack of documentation. But it is not clear how much other documentation was kept when for instance, the Bishop's wife talked to the young woman on the telephone.

The report also states that there was considerable resistance on the part of the Dean to take part in the review. This comes up both in an early review which says "the Chief Executive, who was by this point back in post and chair of the Panel, wrote to all involved to invite them to take part in a review the terms of which are stated above."

But in fact there are no precise terms of review in this report; it is simply described as an investigation into events. Until we have the document in front of us, with detailed terms of reference, we don't know exactly how it was presented to the Dean, and the tone in which it was made.

Later, part of the letter of communication by the writer of the report is given as a quotation, but the whole request is not. We do not know how it was phrased. The author of the report gives an indication that it was a simple request, but we don't know. All we have is a quote from the "letter of invitation to interviewees". It seems innocuous, and the Dean's refusal to co-operate seems perverse, but we don't have either the communication sent to the Dean or his reply.

We are told that the Dean was not co-operative, and then it is stated that "I must assume therefore that references made to the 'distress of the alleged abuser', and the 'danger of defamation', were true." This again is problematic; we are relying on one witnesses account. We don't know the precise words in which the accusations were framed. The report takes this as a sharp rebuke by the Dean to the young woman; it could equally be a mild caution against making statements which could be defamatory.

I'm not exonerating the actions of the Dean; I'm certainly not condoning the conduct of the churchwarden which seems wholly reprehensible. All I am doing is pointing out that any report is drawing upon sources, and we can't see all the sources ourselves, nor can we judge how reliable all the accounts by the young woman are, although I have no doubt that there is substance to her initial complaint about the churchwarden.

What is not so clear is how much substance there is against her complaint against the Dean. It seems that he may have wanted the complaint against the churchwarden formalised, and subject to the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical court. At times, the report takes this as a serious option; at other times it dismisses it as a spurious excuse. An independent witness to events would help, perhaps the Vice-Dean in this case, who may have been privy to discussions.

There's also an interesting mention in the review that "There seems to be no spirit of willingness or inquiry in this matter. I found that some of the Island clergy had been actively discouraged by the Dean of Jersey from fully engaging with me and therefore complying with the Bishop's request."

That is interesting because I have been told on good authority that following his meeting with the clergy, they have effectively been "gagged", prohibited from making any comment on matters while a new investigation takes place. The Bishop, however, has the freedom to make such statements as he will. That, of course, has not leaked out in any report.

Whatever is going on at a surface level about a churchwarden, and a complaint made by the Dean over safeguarding suggests that there may be a strong undercurrent below the surface about the measure of the Bishop of Winchester's jurisdiction over the Dean of Jersey. That is not to say that the Dean can act as he likes, but part of his authority derives from the Queen (and her representative the Lieutenant-Governor), and part from the Bishop of Winchester.

In other words, regardless of any mistakes made by the Dean in his actions, it may be that they are a suitable pretext for asserting the primacy of authority from Winchester over that of the Queen. For a full explanation of the complex lines of authority, see the excellent analysis at:

in which he states:

So we come back to the fundamental question - who is the Dean of Jersey's boss? The two positions being argued can broadly be summarised as follows.
- The position of the Diocese of Winchester is that the Bishop, by virtue of the Commission that he gives the Dean after being informed of the Letters Patent from the Crown is the Dean's boss in all matters ecclesiastical. This means that the Bishop has the right to suspend the Dean in matters like safeguarding issues.
- The position of many in Jersey is that whilst the Bishop issues a Commission to the Dean to act on his behalf in Jersey, ultimately the line of authority is through the Letters Patent to the Crown. In practice this would be to the Lieutenant Governor who is the Queen's representative on the island.

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Absentee Votes: An Addendum

Bob Hill has a good blog posting on

In it he describes how the "unanimous" vote came about because those States members who had been critical of the historical child abuse enquiry were simply not present for the vote; in his words, they had "deserted" their post.

"11 members of various ranks jumped ship and retreated no doubt to the safety of the Members' tea room."

"Fortunately following several broadsides from the lower ranks both Messrs Gorst and Le Gresley remembered that they were supposed to be at the helm and agreed to provide the musket balls. However it was apparent that neither could persuade the 11 deserters to return to their posts."

"What is known is that 4 of the absentees were also among the 6 absent when the vote was taken on the proposition as amended. The 4 were Senator's Bailhache and Ozouf along with Connétable Rondel and Deputy Rondel. No doubt each will have their own reasons for not being present but given the importance of the vote one would have expected each to have given reasons for their absence, particularly as they could have been valid."

Well, I've been following this up, and two of the members who were not present - both coincidentally with the surname Rondel - both had valid reasons for not being present at the vote. I'm not sure why they should necessarily give reasons for their absence; it would be more important for them to give reasons if asked why they were not there.

In the case of Constable Phil Rondel, I've been reliably informed that it was a sudden personal family matter which occasioned his absence from the States; these kind of emergencies do happen from time to time, and that couldn't be helped. He probably didn't feel the need as the decision was unanimous to explain his absence, which, after all, was a private matter. I've been given a few extra details, but a blog is certainly not the place to write them; suffice it to say that I am wholly convinced his absence was both unplanned and necessary.

In the case of Deputy Richard Rondel, I was told by Carrie Modral (of Jersey Care Leavers) that he had missed the vote by minutes, and was dashing back, just too late. He was out at another meeting. Remember that the debate on the inquiry had already been delayed and postponed, so when it moved to its current position, it was not wholly surprising that it clashed with other appointments. Those already had other people committed to them, and couldn't all easily be moved; this was one of those.

Deputy Rondel was gracious enough to reply to my query about his absence, and allow this to be made public:

"Hi Tony - thanks for that -  I was in the States for most of it but had to leave to attend a Bailiffs Panel meeting where I was presenting details of the Fete de St Helier Street Party which I am organising. When I got there they were running 20 minutes late - after the meeting I rushed back as fast as I could but missed the vote by a few minutes - yes I was gutted that I missed it but I fully supported and always have supported the enquiry - I have hardly missed a vote and commit myself totally to my role! Tony if you would be willing to post I would appreciate it and/or if anyone would like to contact me I would be more than happy to explain!"

So there we have it - two entirely legitimate reasons for absent votes on that day. This is not to criticise Bob, who is probably right in his surmise about some of the other absentees, especially Sir Philip Bailhache - a Senator who does not strike me as especially keen on the inquiry.

It would be interesting to know the reasons for the other absentees. Perhaps as a follow up, Bob Hill could ask them why they were not present, and also let us know if they decline to reply, which I suspect might well be the case.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

A Meditation on Night

As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no one can work. (John 9:4)
There are a number of verses in the Hebrew Scriptures (The Old Testament) about night, and some are purely descriptive, as for example this saying:
As long as the world exists, there will be a time for planting and a time for harvest. There will always be cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night." (Genesis 8:22)
But there are a number which explore the pain and depression that people face, how they despair, the raw, naked emotions. How someone who is depressed can be unable to sleep properly, how the whole world is hard for them to face. It is a matter of perspective, but these are surprising modern perspectives.
That shouldn't perhaps surprise us; the human condition has not really changed much for thousands of years. But it is still striking how they capture it. There is a degree of poetic analogy, as for instance in this description of insomnia brought about by despair:
Human life is like forced army service, like a life of hard manual labour, like a slave longing for cool shade; like a worker waiting to be paid. Month after month I have nothing to live for; night after night brings me grief. When I lie down to sleep, the hours drag; I toss all night and long for dawn. (Job 7:1-4)
And grief can also provide a night that is without sufficient sleep. Anyone who has been bereaved, and lost someone very close knows the way in which grief takes over. These are cries from the heart, cries of despair:
I am worn out, O LORD; have pity on me! Give me strength; I am completely exhausted and my whole being is deeply troubled. How long, O LORD, will you wait to help me? Come and save me, LORD; in your mercy rescue me from death. In the world of the dead you are not remembered; no one can praise you there. I am worn out with grief; every night my bed is damp from my weeping; my pillow is soaked with tears. (Psalms 6:2-6)
And through it is a current of calling to God, and God not answering. There is a silence. This is very much what C.S. Lewis experienced on the death of his wife, Joy Davidman, the feeling of being abandoned, of doors closed and shuttered and bolted from the inside against entry:
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? I have cried desperately for help, but still it does not come. During the day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer; I call at night, but get no rest. (Psalms 22:1-2)
There is also the crisis of belief. The routine, the rituals, carry on, but they seem empty, devoid of meaning. Doubt creeps in. Is God there? Is he, after all, too weak to act?
I cry aloud to God; I cry aloud, and he hears me. In times of trouble I pray to the Lord; all night long I lift my hands in prayer, but I cannot find comfort. When I think of God, I sigh; when I meditate, I feel discouraged. He keeps me awake all night; I am so worried that I cannot speak. I think of days gone by and remember years of long ago. I spend the night in deep thought; I meditate, and this is what I ask myself: "Will the Lord always reject us? Will he never again be pleased with us? Has he stopped loving us? Does his promise no longer stand? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has anger taken the place of his compassion?" Then I said, "What hurts me most is this--- that God is no longer powerful." (Psalms 77:1-10)
And probably the most nihilistic book of the bible, that of Ecclesiastes mentions night again, the sleepless racing engine of the mind, unable to do anything, unable to sleep:
You work for something with all your wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and then you have to leave it all to someone who hasn't had to work for it. It is useless, and it isn't right! You work and worry your way through life, and what do you have to show for it? As long as you live, everything you do brings nothing but worry and heartache. Even at night your mind can't rest. It is all useless. (Ecclesiastes 2:21-23)
This is not, of course, the whole story. The last note is not one of despair, because meaning, and colour and light can and do come back into the world; the writers often end with a hymn of praise.
They have been stripped bare emotionally, and the house built on poor foundations has been swept away, but it is because of that they find themselves, not where they were, but building anew, and differently.
But there is no clear explanation of how this happens, how the shift comes from lamentations and despair and sleepless nights, to praise and joy. I think the secret is that it is not something intellection. There is no rational way out of despair and depression. Sometimes, tragically, there is no way out, and people kill themselves; they can't go on.
Here, the writers keep faith despite the despair, despite the loss of meaning, the empty rituals, the meaningless work, and at some point, the experience of doubt is passed, and meaning comes back. The world slowly changes from a drab black and white photo to a bright colour one.
But it is not a question of faith bringing them out of it, but of clinging to the wreckage of a shipwreck, until they are washed up. Psychotherapy may help, but it's not the cure. The human mind has to find its own way out of that dark place, in its own time. The one ray of comfort in reading these verses is that it has happened to other people. Across the millennia, there is the same existential angst, and they did come through it in the end. The last word is not the darkness of the cross, but the dawn of the new day in the garden.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Ice Age

After a week in which I was snowbound, a pessimistic poem about the weather...

The Ice Age

Snow swiftly falls across the land
Cold has come to chill the bones
Darkness stretches out an icy hand
Outside, the blizzard howls and moans

The mighty oak has fallen down
Skies are thick with dark grey cloud
It is like Miss Haversham's gown
As snow descending, like a shroud

Fear walks along this frosty world
And brings despair, prepares the way
As riding in with banner unfurled
Death, the horseman, here today

The bells have rung, the hour is late
And all are gripped in frozen fate

Friday, 15 March 2013

The Referendum and Daniel Wimberley

Next month's referendum on States reform in Jersey won't be democratic - These are fears former Deputy Daniel Wimberley, who, while a politician had proposed the establishment of an Electoral Commission. Mr Wimberley is concerned that no campaign spending limits have been set and that there is no funding for campaign groups.

"It is absolutely essential that PPC do whatever it takes to ensure that neither side can buy the result by massively out-spending the other side. The Referendum Law is silent on this matter, but recently the States rightly took action on the level of expenses allowed in election campaigns, so that there was a more or less level playing field.

"I assume that PPC wishes to see a vigorous, exciting campaign. That is why I am asking PPC to use some of the under spend of the Electoral Commission to fund the campaign groups which will be set up. Then these groups can focus entirely on putting across their views instead of being diverted into fund-raising."

"This Referendum should not be decided by which side has friends with the deepest pockets, but by what is best for Jersey," said Wimberley. (1)

The Scottish referendum has spending limits, albeit very high ones. But is it possible to fix limits to people who are campaigning in independent groups? It is difficult, because it means the groups will have to work together as regards how they go around their campaign, and they may not wish to do so. There seems to be just one Option A group, but I suspect there are several different groups pulling both towards Option B and Option C. What resources do they have, and how that can be costed is difficult.

The Scottish Referendum gives also spending limits based on the percentage of votes the main parties won at the 2011 general election. The exception is the Greens who get a higher limit based on the £150,000 ceiling available to all registered campaigners. Outside bodies like Trades Unions also have spending limits. But it is very difficult to know how any limits could be set when we don't have a party system - the total for each side in Scotland is split between sides and parties.

Privileges and Procedures Chairman Constable Simon Crowcroft said the committee had no power in law to control spending: ""I sympathise with Mr Wimberley's concerns, however, PPC can only act within the law and there is currently no legislation in place to control spending in a referendum."

But is there really going to be an all out blaze of spending and publicity? Perhaps, but I would say that unfortunately, unlike Plemont, the Referendum is not really engaging with the public at all. What I worry about is a 15-20% turnout, and how that is taken on board. Certainly as far as the online campaign has gone, on Facebook, and Deputy Tadier's blog, the results are pitiful. Compare that with the passion aroused by Plemont, or the "STOP the demolition of the historic buildings in Pitt Street and Dumaresq Street" - that, which is not nearly as high profile as Plemont, has garnered 671 votes!

As it stands, around 70 people have taken part in the latest online poll on the Referendum. Now there are massively more people online than that, so why haven't they decided to vote. Either they haven't seen the poll, or they are just not bothered. Option D - don't vote, is becoming the spectre at the feast.

What about expenses and Daniel Wimberley's concerns. Printed media is one thing, but online resources, such as websites and blogs are more difficult to cost, especially as a blog may not be 100% devoted to the campaign, and is generally free of charge. But suppose I want to produce a leaflet to take around estates in St Brelade or St Helier, or even randomly. Where in the law does it determine that I have to link up and aggregate costs with others also campaigning? Unlike elections of politicians, there are no provisions in the Referendum law on this, and it is far too late to bring them in at the 11th hour.

Daniel Wimberley is also worried about what role the media will play in the lead-up to polling day. That's an interesting one. The JEP has published a variety of letters on both sides, and also published responses to a license application regarding a public house in which two writers virtually called the Honorary Police "Dad's Army", painting a picture of geriatric defenders of the law, ill equipped to deal with violence. That certainly supports Nick Le Cornu's plans under Option A for the removal of the Constables from the States, and the Honorary Police from the Island.

So far the media seem fairly balanced on Options, and not deserving of the title given by one politician of "Jersey's Pravda". Daniel wants implement the idea to "insist that the media give the referendum sufficient prominence and cover it in a fair and balanced way." It's very unclear how much this is dictating to the media what news stories are worthy of covering, and that's surely an editorial decision, not one that should be forced upon them.

And how easy is it to check on column inches on each Option, or minutes in news stories on BBC and CTV? If a letter is in favour of the Constables, do we split that between Option B and Option C? If in favour of Clothier (and Deputy Tadier had a letter in the JEP about that), how do we "balance" that? Deputy Tadier favours Option A, but that letter was harking back to Clothier as an alternative possibility for keeping Parish links.

So while there are concerns, I'm not sure that they can realistically be addressed.


Thursday, 14 March 2013

Looking from a Distance

There's been a certain degree of sensationalism in the press about the "suspension" (as the most understandable term) of the Dean of Jersey, the Very Reverend Robert Key, and both local and national papers haven't deal with the legal background much.

One thing that I suspect will come to the forefront at some time is the action of the Magistrate who according to the report dispensed what appears to be an atrocious case of summary justice (if justice is the appropriate word, which I doubt):

"Following this H.G. was arrested for breaking a harassment order, brought before the magistrate and as she had no money, was at that time of no fixed abode and appeared mentally distressed, she was remanded in custody. Safeguarding Advisor J.F. records her concern at these extreme measures and worked at setting up care for her with the prison chaplain. She is shocked when on 11th October 2010,  H.G. was bound over and summarily deported from the Island for three years and put on a plane with no-one to meet her, no planned accommodation and no money."

Something clearly went seriously wrong with the justice meted out, and it should be looked into. The Dean may be accused of failing the act, but he Magistrate seems to have done more damage by his calculated action.

That action of the Magistrate reminds me of G.K. Chesterton who, speaking of another official acting in a similar manner, who said: "It calls up the mental picture of some archaic and changeless Eastern Court, in which men with dried faces and stiff ceremonial costumes perform some atrocious cruelty to the accompaniment of formal proverbs and sentences of which the very meaning has been forgotten."

One blogger who has looked at the ecclesiastical laws is the Reverend Peter Ould. He is a non-stipendiary Church of England priest. He writes on issues around the Church, Christianity and Ethics at and is also responsible for the Twurch of England project at  

He has been following the situation in Jersey from a distanced and I would say objective point of view. He's not giving criticism of the Dean's actions; he's simply giving commentary, and sometimes that can as helpful and just as important, especially when the popular media are already going all out as judge and jury. It is helpful to stand back, and see the situation looking from a distance.

Peter Ould also seems to have some very good local sources, although he was a little misleading when he said "There was apparently an emergency Jersey government meeting on this matter on Friday" which suggested a sitting of the States. He clarified this later: "The States did not meet. However the were emergency meetings of senior members of the Jersey government."

Past blogs that are informative in understanding the situation, rather than slinging mud, are:

This admirably clarifies the problematic nature of the legality of the Bishop to effectively "suspend" the Dean, and it is a lot more complex than might be thought.

There is also:
which again looks at the legal background

Law and Religion UK also has a very comprehensive summary of the issues involved at:

and it notes that "although there are legal issues arising from the relationship between Jersey and the United Kingdom, the main issue remains the Independent Report and the subsequent investigation."

And lastly, Peter Ould also has this recent report on his blog:

Statement from the Chief Minister of Jersey, Senator Ian Gorst

We are saddened to learn that a vulnerable woman who came to Jersey suffered while living here and we very much regret that she was adversely affected by events during her time here. This is a matter that should be resolved by the Church, and we understand there will now be an investigation into the findings of the independent review. Jersey officials will be meeting the Bishop of Winchester when he visits the island and providing whatever cooperation is needed.

We note the Bishop's affirmation that his action in removing the Dean of Jersey's commission is a neutral measure which implies no judgement and is necessary while matters are investigated, in accordance with best practice.

We welcome the commitment of the Diocese of Winchester to enhancing safeguarding procedures and policies. Jersey's recently formed Vulnerable Adults Protection Committee, announced in October 2012, will help to safeguard vulnerable adults in our community. Islanders will know that the Dean is held in high regard by Jersey's faith community and is highly respected for his dedicated work and contribution to island life since he came here in 2005.

Response from the Right Reverend Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester

I very much welcome the full support of the Jersey authorities in this sensitive and difficult matter.  In recent days I have had productive conversations with the Chief Minister amongst others and have been grateful for his assistance in particular.

Together we are committed to investigating fully the findings of last week's independent report and to enhancing safeguarding polices in Jersey and across the Diocese.  I will shortly be announcing full details of the investigation.

18:15 GMT 13th March - Press release coming from Jersey shortly. Sources indicate it will clarify position of Jersey Government on legal issues involved.

22:00 GMT 12th March- Jersey airport is shut till 14:00 Wednesday so little chance of +Winchester arriving on island tomorrow to meet Chapter. Very likely to be next week. Sources indicate next Episcopal visitor to Jersey may be Bishop of Southampton to deliver temporary Commission to Vice-Dean whilst Bob Key suspended. Although the States will accept this appointment as commisary, sources indicate that the States are still prepared to back the current Dean as Dean in the medium term.

16:45 GMT 12th March - My sources in Jersey confirm that there is major disagreement with the Diocese of Winchester's legal opinion on his right to suspend the Dean. This disagreement extends beyond the clergy chapter to the Executive of the Jersey State

16:30 GMT 12th March - Bishop Tim Dakin will attempt to visit Jersey tomorrow (Wednesday) to meet with the clergy chapter, but this is weather dependent. Jersey is still under a large amount of snow and it is not certain the airport will be open.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Option A: Modernise or Die

This is one of Nick Le Cornu's observations on Option A (which he is supporting) and the Status of the Constables, with some of my comments:

"There is no doubt that Option A will change the status of the Constable and of the Parish. Whether that is to the detriment of those institutions depends on their ability to modernise and democratise. Meager attendance at parish meetings and the absence of contested Constables elections in 9 of the 12 parishes in 2011, are indicative the system is moribund. It is part of the malaise that sees 60% voter abstention at elections."

"To date, the Constable in the States, has been the political veto to alteration in the power balance. Structures and institutions have been protected that would otherwise have been reformed and possibly abolished long ago. The Honorary Police have survived against the logic of an island wide Paid Police force."

Nick sees the Parishes as moribund, and a reactionary force in the States, and most of the Parish structures are ones that "would otherwise have been reformed and possibly abolished long ago." As for the honorary police, they have "survived against the logic of an Island wide Paid Police force", which is what he wants.

Simon Crowcroft was one of the Constables returned in the last election unopposed. Presumably he is therefore an example of the moribund system, or just perhaps he was doing a good job as Constable so that an election would have been more or less a foregone conclusion. That of course, is an option that Mr Le Cornu doesn't seem to see.

This also rather goes against what other supporters of Option A are saying, that they want to strengthen the Parish system. Mr Le Cornu doesn't - he wants an end to the honorary system, and a weaker Parish system, and sees Option A as a step in that direction. It's a sharp contrast to Simon Crowcroft's comment on a "unique living tradition of Honorary Police".

"Parishes and Constables will not disappear overnight were Option A to be implemented. Constables will undoubtedly stand and be elected as New Deputies, but their role will change. They will be expected to commit fully to their work in the States. In a reduced Assembly that will be even more vital if the legislature is to function. Scrutiny risks marginalisation to Executive fiat."

"The larger electoral Districts are in effect creating miniature Senatorial elections. Senators have in the past been the more strategic thinkers and policy makers; an altogether higher caliber of individual capable of representing the interests of the political class. It has been possible for them to control and win Senatorial elections through the strategic use of the media."

I'm sure the Deputies in the States enjoy being told that they are less strategic thinkers and policy makers. Still, I'm sure Sir Philip Bailhache, and Senator Philip Ozouf and Senator Alan Maclean will like hearing that they are an "altogether higher calibre of individual" than the likes of Deputy Trevor Pitman and Geoff Southern, for example. I didn't really know Nick was so right wing!

"Parish elections have too often been subject to local issues and personalities. This is the favoured option of the political class, but for reasons of real politique and the balance of forces, they know they cannot exclude Constables. They may not pull their weight, but they vote loyally for the Executive."

I'd like to see some statistics to back this up. An equally good case can be made for the Senators largely voting loyally for the executive, or a particular cluster of Deputies. I did some work on this in 2008, after that election, and there were actually a group of Deputies who tended to vote for the Executive more than the Constables did. Of course, as the Constables are a different class of States member, their voting pattern tends to stand out more, but that's a false perception. The pattern is about the same as that of the Senators, but that isn't so noticeable, in voting the same way as the Chief Minister. There is a greater spread of votes for Deputies, but of course, there are more Deputies.

More analysis can be seen at:

And really have Senatorial elections never been subject to personality matters? I think Nick would like political parties, but without them, of course, you are going to get personalities in the Senatorial elections. The giant cardboard cutout of Chris Whitworth that appeared at a few of the last hustings rather demonstrates that. But also Senators are selling trust in themselves, and their vision of Jersey. It's very much a personality matter.

"The real advantage of Option A is that through one category of States Member, it will create an individual who will be dedicated to doing that job exclusively. This, hopefully, will diminish the silo mentality and blinkered vision that limits horizons to the parish boundary and issue of yellow lines and speed limits."

Again, according to Nick, the Parish Deputies and Constables tend to limit their horizons to "yellow lines and speed limits". In that case, the Constables should be very silent when it comes to debates about any other issues, but they are not. It also suggests that the one category of States member won't be bothered about what Nick calls the limited horizons of Parish matters.

"What may emerge are individuals capable of dealing with island and international issues. It has to be said, that Finance has tolerated the absurdities in government structure and expense, because it has delivered political stability for decades. Now it is seen as an obstacle to good government, as they would perceive it. An electoral system that returns large numbers of backwoodsmen to the Assembly is regarded as detrimental to modern conceptions of business friendly government."

So here is Nick's idea of the current Parish system, one that "returns large numbers of backwoodsmen" who are rural yokels who cannot understand business friendly government and international issues. Obviously if you think that, you don't want to strengthen the Parish system, you want to take power away from it. And this is confirmed when he says:

"What we see is a cultural battle, but it is not a new one. Today is a repetition of the battles of the 19th century, of Liberals against Conservatives, of the Town against the Country, of the Manichean struggle of Jersey nationalism against the incursions of modernity in the guise of Englishness. Yes, the Jersey Beans, love their quaint institutions, and some Englishmen even go native and join the Honorary Police, but it's on its last legs. Like the Jersey herd, it only takes an outbreak of foot and mouth for it to disappear entirely."

Nick's idea is that the Parish will become more like a County Council, with lesser powers, delivering "a lower tier of quality public services", and if it doesn't, those will be taken over by central government. He doesn't use the word "feudal legacy", but he might have done with his invective about "quaintness". He sees the Constables as a "quirky detail of provincial identity".

"The Parish is not going to disappear, provided it continues to provide a lower tier of quality public services. Constables will just have to up their game if they are to survive. No more special pleading will be tolerated."

Nick is a supporter of Option A. His vision is to remove a lot of what the Parishes do and centralise it, and remove the honorary police, and he sees Option A as a good step in that direction; clearly he would like rubbish collections to be collected by the States and not the Parish, and taken away from the Parish:

"So many of the island's institutions remain only partially modernised and democratised. It explains why we have two Police forces, a Paid Police and an Honorary Police; twelve rubbish collection services all ending up in one incinerator in St Helier"

That's not to say that all Option A supporters think that; clearly they don't. Sam Mezec says "Having a local administration is an effective and cost efficient way of delivering services at the lowest level possible to the people." So who is right?

Nick has stood for election under a banner of "Time for Change", and has a blogsite in which his opinions are noted. He's quite a prominent political campaigner.

So it would be interesting to the general public, I think, to know how representative his options are within the Option A camp, or whether he is very much out on a limb. Or is it about evenly divided?