Sunday, 31 August 2014

Some thoughts on Racial Discrimination

The Rotherham scandal is high in the newspapers at the time being, and one of the depressing things is the way the threat of race discrimination was used by gang members on occasion to deter action on the streets by the police.
In fact, the whole fear of racial discrimination seriously undermined the decisions to take any action against those sexually exploiting young girls, because the majority of those involved were Asian.
The men themselves held an attitude of those perpetrators was that the girls, white, and not with the dress codes and subservient attitudes they expected of women. We can see exactly many places in the world where this is the case today - the Islamic State, areas controlled or terrorised by the Taliban around Afghanistan.
Just as witch trials - "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" were a perversion of Christianity, so this attitude to women is a perversion of Islam, but the trouble is that - like the witch craze - it has become widespread because any attack on the misogyny is seen as an attack on Islam.
There is a widespread fear from those in authority of anything which could be deemed racial discrimination. And the attitude even spread to the top echelons of the civil servants involved, where the attitude became one that these girls were in care already, and were the type of girl who would be provocative sexually, almost "asking for it".
Morality was jettisoned in favour of value judgements on people, on how much they were worth. It seems that some girls were judged not by what had happened to them, but on the basis of how they were perceived by the prejudiced eyes of those in charge. The fact that the grooming and sexual abuse would have been wrong as such, whatever the background of the girls, was ignored.
Racial discrimination is now prohibited by law in Jersey (the law comes into force next week), and it is important to understand that the law is there to prevent people being targeted because of their race. As far as behaviour towards others goes, it is to ensure that there is not a specific kind of bullying based on race, although it should be noted that all kinds of bullying are reprehensible.
The term "race" in this context is a legal, not a biological one. There is no biological definition of race, nor can there be, as biology knows only of continuums within a species, and not discrete items which can be placed into non-overlapping sets. The law defines "race" in terms of "protected characteristics" - colour, nationality, nation of birth, and ethnicity. None of these can be defined precisely in terms of biology, and nationality actually has nothing to do with biological race at all. It is a complete accident of history, and nation states are subject to change all the time.
In a recent seminar I attended on the law, the presenter suggested that one of the protected characteristics, colour, was able to be defined precisely. The speaker self-identified themselves as "white". In fact, as what we may term "coloured " and "white" people can, and do, quite happily interbreed, the genetic coding for darker skin can lead to a whole spectrum of differing skin tones. Colour of skin is not nearly as discrete as we imagine it to be, because we tend to think in terms of contrast, not those populations which are hard to place on into our little boxes.
What racial discrimination legislation is about is not discriminating against anyone because of the colour of their skin, or making comments about skin colour which would be offensive. Whether metacomments, comments about comments that are offensive, are acceptable, is more problematic. I would imagine a lot depends upon context. It would be entirely legitimate for a television series like "Roots", or more recently the movie "Ten years a Slave", to portray the prejudices of the slave owners because that is not glamorising or promoting those attitudes as acceptable.
Racial attitudes can be more subtle. Notions that the Germans have no sense of humour are common, and there is a basis in fact. The fact, however, is not that Germans have no sense of humour, but that some of their humour is different from ours. This is because of linguistic reasons, as their language is constructed differently, and relies more on humorous ideas than wordplay in English language humour.
But to say "Of course you wouldn't find that funny. Germans have no sense of humour" could be deemed offensive, because this is a statement designed to ridicule and embarrass someone because of their nationality. It is a question of good manners, as much as anything.
There is one area where matters clash, and that is humour, which operates in part, on the basis of stereotypes.  I have heard it suggested that humour based on national stereotypes will gradually fall out of favour, and will be culturally unacceptable. I do not think this is likely. Humour always as a subversive element, to upset the status quo, and that will not go away. But it will change.
"Love Thy Neighbour" (which was always a rather appalling comedy anyway) will not be coming back. Citizen Khan, on the other hand, is a self-reflecting comedy from within a community, and invites outsiders to share the joke, and understand some of the sensibilities and absurdities of different cultures.
Once a society loses the ability to laugh at itself, it loses a valuable self-critical element. As Orwell noted, Oswald Mosley  rapidly became the butt of jokes, and lost credibility. But who in Germany or Russia would dare to mock Hitler or Stalin openly, and hope they could get away with it.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

In Praise of Autumn

As the leaves begin to drop, here's a poem all about autumn, with thanks to Matthias Claudius, Lutheran pastor at Reinfeld in Holstein, who penned "We Plough the Fields and Scatter", which formed the rhyming scheme for my poem.

In Praise of Autumn
The winds come, and far scatter
Gold falling leaves on land
Rainfall comes, so watered
The child's outstretched hand
The portents come of winter
As harvest time for grain
Cool breezes and last sunshine,
Between the heavy rain
In kitchen, the jam maker
Who walked the fields far
Blackberries, wayside flower
Light bottled from a star
Of winds and waves , a hymn
Symphony of sounds unsaid
And conkers, laugh of children,
And harvest grain for bread.
The birds migrating farther
Such sights, such joy, so good,
The seed time and the harvest
For the poet, this is food.
And to the gods we offer
And sweetest praise imparts,
The season most desired
Warm soup, grateful hearts

Friday, 29 August 2014

Philip Ozouf: Into the Black Hole

The States Remuneration Body, mindful of the black hole in States finances, has recommended a "pay freeze" for States members for the next 3 ½ years. Julian Rogers, the chairman of the States Members' Remuneration Review Body has said:

"Having taken everything into account we concluded that the current total remuneration figure of £46,600 remains appropriate for the next three and a half years although we will nevertheless continue to undertake annual reviews to check that this remains the case."

That's a rather nuanced statement, and it does not mean that States pay could not rise, because next year, the board could decide differently. What it does mean however, is that there is not likely to be criticism over the pay rise made this year, or over the body being out of touch with the ordinary people of Jersey where salaries for States members are concerned. In other words, it ensures pay is not a hot election issue this year, while providing scope for it to be reviewed again next year.

I still feel that States remuneration and the Public sector pay should be linked in terms of percentages, so that the limited pay rises of the Public sector should be reflected in the States. That way, they would be share in the general cuts on a fair basis.

Public sector pay is not usually so high on the coalface, but a recent report on salaries shows that the upper echelons receive very large sums indeed, well about £100,000 per annum.

Quite a few years ago, in 2010, when Terry Le Sueur was Chief Minister, the Treasury Minister, Philip Ozouf mentioned a fundamental review of States pay - and salary differentials - cutting down on the number of different grades. That never seems to have happened.

In fact, February 2010 saw some sunny optimism by Senator Ozouf:

Deputy G.P. Southern: The Minister refused to be drawn earlier on to figures for the structural deficit for 2013, nonetheless does he not accept that large scale cuts in public spending and services, and their associated redundancies, will only ensure increased recession and worsen the deficit if he performs them before 2013?

Senator P.F.C. Ozouf: I very much hope that the economy will have returned to growth by 2013 and 2014, and therefore any necessary changes in terms of public expenditure will be able to be absorbed within the economy.

As we now know, Senator Ozouf's hopes have proved rather unfounded, and a black hole emerged, which he is rapidly trying to talk his way out of before the next elections. And another States Treasurer has just departed "for personal reasons", coincidentally at this time. The budget, coming as it does while the old States is sitting for the last time, is usually a good election boost - "safe pair of hands" etc, but this year, he is "all thumbs".

His turnaround, which will probably be at the Chamber of Commerce Lunch talk (conveniently before the budget debate and the election!) will be to present the PwC report on reform of the property taxes and rates. I wonder if anyone will ask how much that report has cost the taxpayer? This is, however, a deflection from asking the question: how come the UK has managed to emerge with small but steady growth, while the Jersey economy is still very much in the doldrums?

Expect the lunatic suggestion of charging GST on all imports to also be made. This sounds good on paper, and of course a retail outlet, acting as a collection point, can charge GST on everything from a 20p bar of chocolate upwards, because the 1p collected on that goes into the general till receipts.

To apply it to goods coming into the Island, however, is a logistical nightmare. If I buy sometime (a computer cable, perhaps, which I did earlier this year) costing £1, I will need to pay 5p on that. Where on earth do I pay the 5p and how?

Online payment of GST by credit card, as happens now, would be absurd, as the card processing charges would far outweigh the 5p concerned. Should I post it? Or receive the goods with a demand to pay 5p to the Treasury at Cyril Le Marquand House, where more civil servants will be needed to cope with the vast number of items of low value.

It reminds me most of Tony Blair's "on the spot fine" idea whereby police would take a drunk to the nearest cash machine, and get them to pay the fine there and then. That was another piece of spin, which rapidly was retracted as the unmanageable nature of the suggestion became clear.

In this case, it may take a little longer, but the notion of having no "de minimis" limit is just as nonsensical a piece of spin, an economic sound-bite which looks wonderful - we could raise millions - until the practicalities are considered. Do we really want to keep a Treasury Minister who can make such daft suggestions?

One question which remains unanswered, and which the former Treasurer could answer: was he aware of the looming budget deficit when the Plemont debate took place? He must have been well aware of the deficit before the publication of the budget, and the Plemont debate was only a month before it was present to the States. Did he keep back the knowledge of the black hole during that debate?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

More Disruption to Business from TTS

The following is a letter to the JEP from Clive Broadhead:
From Clive Broadhead.
The closure of St John's main road could be a potential disaster for businesses at the northern side of the work being carried out. The finishing date of 28 November is almost four months away.
My company is La Casa Room Interiors, the old B&Q shop at Les Ruettes, St John. This is a very large shop and as you can imagine has very large overheads.
Since the road started closing during the day, the shop has been like a ghost town during road-closed periods. This has not been a very good year as it is, and the road closure could potentially cripple
It is my opinion that the work should have been carried out during the night where possible. By this I mean where the road is just next to fields, not houses.
Transport  and Technical Services have advised me that they cannot work on half of the road at one time and allow one lane open; as the road is not wide enough.
Another solution would be to make small detours around the work by making the country lanes closest to the working area one way for south bound vehicles and the other side of the road one way for northbound vehicles. Again TTS have. advised that this is not possible.
We do not know how much business we have lost, but an estimate would be around 40% down.
My Comments:
If we look at the resurfacing work done back in 2006 for a huge stretch of road as far as the Union Inn -  Queen's Road and sections of La Grande Route de St Jean were resurfaced from mid-2006 to early 2007 by Brenwal Ltd and A. Le Sech (Asphalt) Ltd -the information from TTS at the time said:
"Transport and Technical Services would like to remind road users that the Queen's Road resurfacing works starts on Tuesday 11 July. There will be restricted traffic flows Monday to Friday from 9am until 4pm and from 6.30pm until 9pm , and on Saturday from 8am until 1pm . Normal two way traffic will be maintained during weekday peak hours (7.30 to 9am and 4 to 6:30pm) so as not to disrupt the morning and evening rush hour traffic, at all other times diversion routes will be signed. Customer access to businesses will be maintained."
"The first phase of the works lasting 3 weeks is in Queens Road from Pen Y Craig Avenue to the junction with New St John's Road and is part of an eleven week programme to resurface the stretch of road right through to the Union Inn, most of which was last resurfaced some 20 years ago"
Notice how the work was done outside of peak hours, so that motorists could use the road, and any businesses would get the benefit of the passing trade, and there was restricted traffic flow. More extensive hours of access were available on Saturday to help businesses.
In May 2012, a road near the airport was closed for resurfacing, and again we note the careful hours to disrupt businesses the least:
The main resurfacing work was carried out at night-time from 7.30pm to 2am so that airline passengers and commuters were not delayed. For some sections where there were no houses in close proximity, the working hours were extended to 4am
What has happened since then? When the lower part of Queen's road was closed, most of the work was done at night. In 2012, on a separate project, most of the work was done at night. So what has changed?
Despite the "technical" reasons given to Mr Broadhead, I think that the major change has been cost. TTS has had to make significant savings under the Medium Term Plan, and one area where costs can be cut is to remove night time working.
That makes everything a lot cheaper, no lighting required, no overtime costs - but there is a cost none the less to all the businesses, and it is they who have to pay the price for these economies. It is a triumph of narrow accounting over strategic planning.
How different things were back in 2006:
Transport and Technical Services (TTS) and their contractor, Brenwal, have worked hard to do all they can to complete the Queen's Road / La Grande Route de St Jean road resurfacing project in as quick a time as possible and they are pleased to be able to open to traffic 2 weeks early, just in time for the busy start of the school term on 11th September.
Time has been saved laying the new road surface through the development of innovative new methods of working by the contractor Brenwal and TTS's Highway Engineers, allowing up to 150 tons of asphalt to be laid per day. Detailed early planning by TTS's Engineers in close liaison with Brenwal has allowed major works to be completed with the minimum of disruption to traffic.
The current work is being done by TTS Contractor Pallot Tarmac and not by the same contractor Brenwal who did the earlier part. It would be interesting to know how (adjusting for cost of living), the hourly costs of this daytime contract compare with the day and night work done by Brenwal, and the amount of asphalt laid per day.
Last time, there was minimum disruption because of "detailed early planning" which caused "the minimum disruption to traffic". I wonder if the same level of early planning took place this time?
The Minister for TTS has overall responsibility for the Department and its operations. Looking at this fiasco, and the missed completion target for St Aubin's development, I would say he is not doing terribly well. As a Deputy in St Saviour, he probably will get re-elected, but if he really wanted the Island to judge his record, he should eschew his safe seat and try for Senator. Somehow, I doubt if he will.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

St Aubin: Time Tables and Falsehoods

The following is taken from a BBC News story from 21 August 2014:
Traders in a Jersey village say they have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds because of summer roadworks. A group of them are now considering withholding a portion of parish rates in protest.
David Pallot from Portside studio in St Aubin said takings were 50% down and other shopkeepers in the area had suffered the same problem. Mr Pallot said villagers were originally told the work would be finished by Easter, but says its now not due to be done until November.
He is part of the St Aubin Traders Action Group, which has been formed in protest at the damage to business they claim the work has caused. He said some members may seek compensation for the disruption and loss of business they claim has been caused by improvement works in the area.
Chris Sampson, of the Transport and Technical Services department, which is carrying out the work, said there was never any discussion of the work being finished as early as Easter. He said traders were given the option for the work to stop during the summer months, but opted not to take it. However, the traders dispute this.
Now I'd like the reader to note the phrase "there was never any discussion of the work being finished as early as Easter". This is manifestly false.
The Transport and Technical Services Business Plan for 2014, signed by the Minister, Kevin Lewis, gives a strict timetable. Kevin Lewis says in his introduction:
"The first of the Village Improvement Schemes will be started in early 2014. Following extensive consultation and working in liaison with the Parish of St Brelade, significant improvements will be made to the centre of St Aubin"
When you read through the document, you find
"St Aubin's village improvement scheme"
And this is given "Target Q2 2014", which means the 2nd quarter of 2014 for completion, at the very latest, June 2014.
But further down the document, the dating is even more precise:
"Construct St Aubin's village improvement Scheme"
"Key Performance Indicators: Works completed"
"Target: April 2014"
"There was never any discussion of the work being finished as early as Easter" says Chris Sampson, but there it is, in black and white, in the document drawn up by TTS itself for 2014. Target: April 2014.
Indeed, when the December edition of the Parish Magazine La Baguette came out in 2013, the Constable was well aware of this, and this is reflected in his message to Parishioners:
"Some minor works have now begun in St. Aubin as part of the overall improvement scheme for the area. The proposals offer all who live, work and visit, the opportunity to finally deal with many of the concerns over safety in the village with the implementation of a 20mph speed limit coupled with traffic calming measures. During the period of works, which I expect to be complete by Easter 2014, I would ask all who use St. Aubin to be patient as there will, at times, be some disruption to both the traffic and more generally in the area."
So why has there been a delay from April to September? Have the original plans (and timetable) been changed? Why is this not reflected in a new "key performance indicator" from TTS, and from Mr Sampson? While there is clear evidence that a date was set, (to paraphrase Mr Sampson) there was never any public discussion of the work being finished as late as September!
Will the Minister, Kevin Lewis, actually speak out and issue a statement explaining why there has been a delay of around 4-5 months?
As it stands, the target has been well and truly missed, and as for "key performance indicators", what is the point of setting a target date of April 2014, when it is missed by 4 months? Is this purely cosmetic? Does anyone ever revisit these targets, or are they just put in a report to look as if the department is efficient?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A Walk to the Pinnacle Rock

Although I’d first visited the site with the Junior Société, I visited the Pinnacle by myself most recently in 2004, when looking for photos to illustrate my “Jersey Wonders”. Then I returned a few years later with Kris Hughes, an Anglesey Druid, when he was temporarily working in Jersey and wanted to see the Neolithic sites in Jersey. But I had not been back for around 8 years.

So this August, Katalin and I went for a walk to the Pinnacle rock. For her it was a first time, an adventure, and for me, it was a welcome return to one of the great sacred sites in Jersey’s prehistory.

There is a good car park at Les Landes, and in August, the headland is full of sweet smelling heather. The dry weather meant the scent was not quite as strong. It was a hot sunny day, but there was quite a good breeze blowing, so we didn’t get either too hot or cold.

Along the coastal paths are various gun emplacements, with guns mounted on them, a legacy of the German Occupation of Jersey in the Second World War. The one close to the car park and the nearby guard hut have both been painted in camouflage colours, which actually seemed rather bright and showy, although perhaps not to the air. They are rather a contrast to the usual dull black or gun metal colours, and come out very well in photographs.

It is a fairly good walk to the top of the Pinnacle rock, and the descent has to be taken slowly, as the track is at places a little steep, with small stones on the path easily giving way underfoot. As I understand it, the Pinnacle itself is a sea stack, an outcrop of rock which was originally cut off from the coast by the sea. Similar stacks can be seen around the headland at La Cotte de St Brelade.

But at the Pinnacle, a rubble of surface rock and ground has at sometime in the distant past filled in that gap, so that the stack became reconnected to the mainland. Wild grasses have grown on top, so that it looks as if it has always been connected, but the tide is eroding the rubble infill away, and there is a cave leading through beneath the site. It can be traversed at lowest tides, but any climb down is only for the experienced, or those with a sure guide.

In recent years, a tourist and their young child, looking over the edge, perhaps to see the cave mouth, tragically fell to their deaths, so it is certainly best not to go too near the edge of the site.

Once down there, the stones of a Neolithic and Bronze age settlement can be seen close up. The Pinnacle itself is a natural menhir, which is probably how it came to be settled, probably at a time when Jersey was cut off from France, but when there was still extensive land across much of St Ouen’s Bay.

There is a vein of dolerite, and archaeologist Mark Patton comments: “Recent research has demonstrated the existence of an axe production centre at Le Pinacle, Jersey, and ‘Type P’ dolerite axes produced at Le Pinacle have been identified in assemblages from Guernsey, Sark and Alderney as well as Jersey. Axes of Type P dolerite, however, seem not to be found on the Armorican mainland. “

The Romans came here too, and there was once a Gallo-Roman temple on this site. It seems to have been very much a sacred magnet, and Katalin and I certainly found it imposing when we had scrambled down the dust track to the very base of the Pinnacle Rock. Ahead, tall and imposing, is the rock itself, like a Menhir (Neolithic standing stone) set down by a giant or a god, and where we were was the ancient stones, some probably at least dating to around 4,500 BC. Look up and inwards, and the curve of the rocks has the effect of a natural amphitheatre.

There are some wild flowers, and I saw a blue butterfly flutter over the stones, perhaps like a spirit of the place, welcoming strangers to respect the fact that this is a sacred shrine.

We climbed up, and it is a steep climb, not for the unfit, until we reached the top, and then gazed back down, and caught our breath back. Nearby, there was a cluster of ragwort growing, blowing in the breeze.

And we made our way back along the coast, until we neared the car park, and could see the wonderful sweep of St Ouen’s Bay from the headland of L’Etacq to Corbière Lighthouse in the distance. It is a wonderful coastline, and I hope it never gets spoilt with developments.

Monday, 25 August 2014


Mainly because it is a bank holiday, and raining, and the poetry group challenge was something with the world "Think" in it, which as "Thinks!" (near enough, I think), made me think of Bluebottle, and the Goon Show. The Goon show had actually finished (in 1960) when I was too young to really appreciate it, but thanks to cassette recordings I came to discover it in the late 1970s at University.

That is probably the best age to discover the Goons and their surrealist brand of comedy, and of course, Monty Python and Spike Milligan's own TV shows had been around earlier in the 1970s. A group of us used to prepare posters for visiting speakers, and at the same time, we listened to the Goon show while we worked. Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, and even the narrator Wallace Greenslade are an unforgettable memory from those days.

There is something about radio which really lends itself to surrealist comedy in a way that television just can't do. Television has to show, whereas radio, like books, expand the imagination, and no more brilliantly than in the Goon show. Now the days of cassettes and cassette players have more or less gone, but CDs of the Goons are still available, and every week, Radio 4 Extra still broadcasts the shows. Goon forever? I think not.

(with apologies to Spike Milligan, and the Goon show)

Thinks! What does I thinks, I ask?
I am a Bluebottle with a task
Which Neddie Seagoon gave little me
For a nice pineapple, almost for free
Go to a Bonded Warehouse in Bond Street
And take the juice pineapple just to eat

My name, dear listener, is Grytpype-Thynne
Count Moriarty and I always like to win
Have a gorilla. You silly, twisted boy, you.
I have a cunning plan. Needle nardle noo!
An exploding pineapple, no more, no less
Oh, Neddie. My a steamroller will make a mess
And diplomatic plates mean I am free
Hidden in a Bond Street, you cannot see

Hello folks! Eccles here! Needle-nardle-noo!
Thought I'd pop up just to surprise you
Major Bloodnok here: gad, it is all lies!
Throwing batter puddings at German spies
Making Elephant soup with squodge spuds
And shooting it, with bangs and thuds
Now Neddie, pull up a chair and sit down
Take off that silly grin, glue on this frown

Thinks! Bluebottle here again. New thinks!
Hand written in my bestest pen and inks
Which Eccles keeps in his spare socks
My pineapple was ticking, now no tocks
Exploded with a bang! You deaded me
Thinks! What dirty rotten swine you be!
High up in the highest air I go
Ying tong iddle I po!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Chain Mail on Social Media

The following text is posted frequently on Facebook, and it is a form of social engineering, very much of the same kind that is used to trick people to send chain emails about viruses, or to worry people about security and get them to click on an email link.
For all my friends, whether close or casual, just because, One of the longest posts I will ever do.. and the most real, too. Everyone will go through some hard times at some point. Life isn't easy. Just something to think about...did you know the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive? Did you know the people who exhibit the most kindness are the first to get mistreated? Did you know the ones who take care of others all the time are ...usually the ones who need it the most? Did you know the three hardest things to say are I love you, I'm sorry, and Help me? Sometimes just because a person looks happy, you have to look past their smile and see how much pain they may be in. To all my friends who are going through some issues right now--let's start an intention avalanche. We all need positive intentions right now. If I don't see your name, I'll understand. May I ask my friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support. I know some will!! I did it for a friend and you can to. You have to COPY & PASTE this one, NO Sharing.
It is a form of chain mail, made up of the kind of platitudes that you might also find from a Fairground Fortune Teller. Who among us, after all, has not had "family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind"? Its is designed to tug the heartstrings, and get people to repost it, rather than just share it. It makes out that anyone who fails to do so is somehow heartless. Is it good to manipulate people's emotions in this way? Isn't this a kind of emotional blackmail?
By way of a satire, here is my alternative version of this chain mail, which takes some of the phrases and uses them to are rather more surreal and comic effect:
For all my friends, whether close or casual, just because. One of the longest posts I will ever do, and the most real too. Sherbert lemons are delightful to suck and even crunch, although your dentist bills may increase. Life isn't easy. Just something to think about. Did you know that Boris Karloff's real name was William Henry Pratt. Sometimes just because a person looks like a monster and has a scar and bolts through their neck and hurl people from windmills, they may actually be very sweet. Did you know the three hardest things to say are: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, antidisestablishmentarianism, and triskaidekaphobia. If I don't see your name, I'll understand. I may even sue. Messrs Soo, Grabbitt and Runne are my solicitors. May I ask my friends, wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to show that you think I really should be carted off to the funny farm by men in white coats.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Sea Sights

Today's poem is in the style of Haiku, and is about the sea and summer.

Sea Sights
Summer ice cream
Sticky fingers
Sea gulls cry
Scavenge food
Waves rush in
Splashing high

Friday, 22 August 2014

Press Release from Murray Norton

I learned last night that Murray Norton is standing in the forthcoming elections for Deputy in St Brelade, Number 1. Today's guest posting is therefore a press release which I received from Murray, and which I am sharing with my readers.
Press Release from Murray Norton
Embargoed until 00.01 22nd August 2014
Following many requests, having sought advice from family, friends and those with extensive political experience and after careful consideration, I am delighted to declare my intention to stand for election as Deputy in the Parish of St Brelade, District No.1.
St.Aubin is not only where I live, but also where my wife and I run two successful restaurants. This is clearly the right district for me to represent.
As many will know, my background has been in the media, with both BBC Radio Jersey & Channel 103fm and on stage in the world of entertainment. In business I have worked within the hospitality industry with restaurants and previously in retail. I have throughout this time committed more than the past thirty years to charitable fundraising for local charities and those in need. I am positive that the skills learnt during these times will enable me to represent the wishes of the people of this district.
I have, as of this week retired from presenting radio programmes after thirty years to focus on listening to the issues and concerns of those I hope to represent and to prepare for the forthcoming election campaign.
My manifesto will be published on the 17th September 2014 for the nominations meeting.
Thank you
Murray Norton

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Philip Ozouf’s Twist on the Poll Tax

Do you remember Margaret Thatcher’s massive shake-up of the rates system in Scotland and the UK? This was change to a property tax based on people living in a property rather than the property itself. It lost the Conservatives all their Scottish MPs, and was a disaster which brought down Mrs Thatcher.

The changes suggested by the Treasury Minister, Senator Philip Ozouf, are not quite as radical, but they are a move in the same direction. Instead of the present situation whereby the owner and occupier share the burden of the rates, it is envisaged that the entire burden falls on the occupier, whether owner / occupier or occupier alone.

“Moving to taxing the consumer (i.e. the owner or the occupier) of land/property on its current value.

“Domestic properties – the tax could be based on the current market value of the property – potentially based on either the sale value or annual rental value – and charged to the occupier only.”

“Taxing the occupier of property instead of the owner and occupier as now”

The proposals are made by PWC and we still don’t know how much they were paid to produce this report, and they include

“Building appropriate reliefs into the system to protect those who would struggle to pay.”

Well, we all know what that means – most people will pay more. “Middle Jersey”, those above thresholds, but still paying high rental values, or owners of a single residence, will have to pay considerably more under these proposals. Rents are already very high in Jersey, and the burden on the average resident will increase considerably.

It is not quite a poll tax, but it is a fundamental shake-up which shifts the burden from owners who rent domestic property to the occupiers, the very people who can least afford such changes.

As the elections approach, I wonder if we can we afford Senator Philip Ozouf and his commissioning of reports like this (no doubt at considerable cost)?

James Rondel, at Change.Je, has written a very good piece on the new proposals at:
"Is the new Green Paper on property taxation really all about consultation and efficiency, or is it a centralisation and increase in taxation through the back door?"

And readers might also like to look at my own initial review:


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Andrew Lewis: A Spoiler Candidate?

Today I have a guest posting on Andrew Lewis standing in St Helier by Deputy Sam Mezec.

For Daniel Wimberley’s guest post, see here

And for my posting, see

I’m not wholly convinced by Sam’s argument, as I think a certain amount of political desire has to do simply with what C.S. Lewis called the desire to be part of “The Inner Ring”. Once inside, part of the decision makers, the loss of that is something which I think many politicians find very hard to give up. I suspect the coming election will see a number of former politicians who have failed to be re-elected also return to the fray. Having once been part of the States decision making process, they simply cannot bear to be outside of it. It can be far harder to walk away, as Deputy Wimberley did, than to stand again.

But let the reader decide...

Andrew Lewis: A Spoiler Candidate?
By Deputy Sam Mezec

I completely agree with the former Deputy Daniel Wimberley. He says he is astounded that Mr Lewis is putting himself up for election on this basis.

Here's my theory -

Ordinary Jersey voters in St Helier are primarily concerned about issues that directly affect them like cost of living, employment and improving the quality of life for town dwellers.

On all of those subjects Deputy Mike Higgins will have excellent policies and be able to articulate sensible and captivating ways to solving those issues.

The purpose of Andrew Lewis standing is to try and distract Deputy Higgins from making those arguments and instead focus his campaign on the suspension of Graham Power which, to most voters, is ancient history that they don't care about.

In short - it's an attempt to sabotage Deputy Higgins re-election campaign by dragging him away from a message that connects with voters.

Mike Higgins is one of the hardest working members of the States and a real thorn in the side of the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers clique (Ozouf, Bailhache, Gorst etc) hate St Helier because it is the place where people like Deputies Higgins and Southern get elected. That's why they support a continuation of gerrymandering in our electoral system.

If they can get rid of Higgins, it will be a godsend to them and make their jobs far easier to do without worrying about any meaningful scrutiny.

Throwing Lewis into St Helier 3/4 (he can't stand in St John because Tracey Vallois is going to win by a landslide, I predict) is a typical Establishment Party campaign tactic.

Mike Higgins is not a member of Reform Jersey, but we support all the hard work he does and virtually all of his policies. We are putting a candidate up in district 3/4 and hope that voters will use only two of their votes, one for Mike and the other for our candidate.

Jersey politics needs more people with integrity like Mike, and far fewer people like Lewis with a very questionable history serving the people of Jersey.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Election Information from Privileges and Procedures: A Clarification

Islanders that are interested in standing for this year's elections can now register their details online.

Candidates need to upload their name, contact details and a photograph to

The website will go live with all the candidates' information on the 1st September 2014. The website gives out information on voting and registering to vote in preparation for the October 2014 elections. It has been set up by the Government's Privileges and Procedures Committee. Chairman, Deputy Jeremy Macon said: " is the place where everyone can go to find out about the candidates who are standing for election in their parish or district. "We are giving prospective candidates two weeks to upload their details to the site before publishing their photograph and contact details on 1st September. After the nomination meetings, candidates’ manifestos will also be published on"
(Channel Television)

I see the actual website says

"Use this option to upload your contact details, photo and manifesto. Your contact details and photo will be published on this website from Monday 1 September 2014. Manifestos will be published the day after the nomination meetings which take place on Tuesday 16 September 2014 for Senators and Wednesday 17 September 2014 for Deputies and Connétables. You can upload your manifesto at a later date if you wish using Option 2."

The way the Channel TV report (see below) reads suggests - ‘We are giving prospective candidates two weeks to upload their details to the site before publishing their photograph and contact details on 1st September’. It sounds like Privileges and Procedures are forcing potential candidates to make a declaration of standing before they have to or are required to. What is this all about?

In order to find out, I contacted the Chair of PPC, Deputy Jeremy Macon. He explained that the Channel Television report on their website was misleading.

The aim of PPC is to ensure is a major portal for information on candidates to help voters with their decisions, and also to ensure that a published booklet is delivered to all voters households before pre-polling takes place. That means that if people go to pre-poll their choice, they will have the basic manifesto information about the candidates either Islandwide – as with Senators – or locally – as with Constables and Deputies.

It is, I think, an important consideration. Otherwise, people might pre-poll, and then when they get a leaflet, wish they had voted otherwise. Alternatively, they may defer pre-polling until such time as that information is forthcoming, which would defeat the object of pre-polling.

Because of tight production schedules, this means that candidates and manifestoes will need to be submitted within a 24 hour period after the nomination meetings. As there could be upwards of 100 people’s information involved – after all, this is a general election – this will make matters very tight indeed.

Hence the reason to permit candidates to put forward information in advance. At this stage, they may only have declared, and a complete manifesto is still in the process of being written, but this will enable the Greffier’s department (which is tasked with organising this by PPC) to start getting matters ready.

But for candidates who do not want to either publically declare candidature before (or close to) nomination nights, or who want to reserve the publication of their manifesto until after that date, there is – as Jeremy Macon told me – an alternative route to getting the information to the Greffe.

If you are intending to stand, you can email the Greffe with your name and contact details – email, phone- (so they can confirm you are who you say you are) but tell them this information is to be kept confidential until nomination night.

This will also enable them to supply you with information about the election booklet requirements etc, and any other details that will be useful for making best use of the website.

Likewise, it is possible to email the Greffier (or his Deputy) with a manifesto but to state that its publication is to be confidential and embargoed until after nomination night. After all, some candidates may not wish others to view their manifesto and steal their ideas prior to nomination!

As most candidates will probably have a manifesto in place before nomination night, this will ensure there is less to process in the 24 hour deadline after the nomination meeting – and the candidate can be sure their manifesto details do not get overlooked.

All this seems eminently sensible to me, but it is a shame the public report as presented by the media is misleading in not also adding the confidential route. Hopefully this (and I have the approval of Jeremy Macon to make this public), will set the record straight.


Monday, 18 August 2014

A Local Horror Story

I came across this story from a correspondent of mine, and have since heard of other incidents by the same youths on BBC Radio Jersey:

Welcome to Jersey! Welcome to drunken threatening behaviour.

I was in my car parked in Snow Hill car park at 6pm today. With my kids. Three drunken yobs surrounded the car, one of them jumped on the bonnet twice, despite me hitting the horn constantly.

My daughter (just about 9) was in hysterics. I was expecting the foot coming thought the front window and the car was unlocked. What can I can do in this situation to defend my kids and myself? They were having fun. I was not. Because I knew that the car was unlocked.

And the car is big and tall. Nissan pathfinder. It does take the effort to jump that high. And when you know that there is somebody inside, a female who cannot come outside and smash your face in.

I find this quite horrific. It is to be expected that Friday or Saturday nights that the level of rowdy behaviour increases, especially in St Helier. The Weighbridge and Snow Hill are, as far as I can remember, known trouble spots, best avoided. But at 6 pm on a Saturday evening, one does not expect this kind of behaviour to take place!

What advice would you give? Here are a few suggestions of mine.

First of all, if your car does have remote locking, the key switch will work from inside even when the key is in the ignition. So the car can be locked, which at least prevents someone just opening a door.

Second, make sure the police HQ number is programmed into your mobile. They may not be able to get there at once, but even the act of phoning may cause the troublemakers to run off.

f you have phoned, but can leave the area, do so, and tell the police where you are. Or if you have left without calling the police, phone them as soon as possible to report the incident. They may catch the troublemakers frightening other drivers, but at the very least, the incident will have been logged. They may also be able to take other witness statements, and built up profiles of the miscreants.

That is important – if a pattern emerges of trouble, then the police can target the area. If they receive a number of reports, they may be able to identify the culprits or see if there is any local CCTV which could capture them. But if they receive no information, they will have no pattern, and in fact may be unaware that this kind of problem is arising.

A similar incident happened in Hull earlier this month. Its shows how the police can take action, and while “words of advice” is the lowest level of intervention, if incidents are repeated, stronger action can be taken:

“A GANG of drunken teenagers ‘ambushed’ cars as they passed through East Riding villages, spitting at motorists and hurling beer cans. Some of the louts were spotted laying in the road to bring traffic to a standstill, before others threatened terrified drivers.”

A Humberside Police spokesman said: "We received a call at 9.37am on Friday, August 2, reporting a group of youths causing alarm and disruption to traffic and road users in the Preston area of East Yorkshire.

"A further call was received shortly afterwards, reporting similar behaviour from what appeared to be the same youths on the stretch of road approaching the Sandhill Nursery.

"Police were able to attend and speak to the youths on the basis of reports received, which warranted words of advice.

"Subsequent reports that were made following the original call, which details incidents of a more serious nature, including an allegation of indecent exposure, are now being followed up.

"Police would like to speak to those people who called in anonymously in order to further their enquiries.

"The identity of one of the group has been confirmed and police are additionally appealing for anyone who may be able to assist in identifying other members" 


Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Pernicious Appeal of Religious Crusading

Islamic State militants could grow strong enough to target people on the streets of Britain unless action is taken, David Cameron has warned. The PM, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, said a "humanitarian response" to IS was not enough and a "firm security response" was needed. It comes as Church leaders expressed concern that the UK had no "coherent" approach to tackling Islamic extremism. (BBC News)

I think that for once David Cameron is right. The Islamic State is a brutal regime, which is not merely concerned with territorial disputes, like so many political conflicts, but whose aim is to impose a harsh and dictatorial religious state of affairs across the world.

Much as the crusaders in the Middle Ages were a bloodthirsty perversion of Christianity, the Islamic State is a barbaric perversion of Islam. The Christian soldiers established Christian settlements, the so-called "Crusader States" just as these Islamic soldiers have established their own Islamic state.

Jonathan Philips describes the history of the crusades:

“In November 1095 Pope Urban II called upon the knights of France to journey to the Holy Land and liberate the city of Jerusalem and the Christians of the east from Muslim power. In return they would be granted an unprecedented spiritual reward – the remission of all their sins – and thereby escape the torments of Hell, their likely destination after lives of violence and greed.”

“The response to Urban’s appeal was astounding; over 60,000 people set out to recover the Holy Land and secure this reward and, in some cases, take the chance to set up new territories. Almost four years later, in July 1099, the survivors conquered Jerusalem in an orgy of killing.While most of the knights returned home, the creation of the Crusader States formed a permanent Christian (or ‘Frankish’) presence in the Levant.”

Before Martin Luther, and the advent of Protestantism, it is hard to find any critique from within Christianity of the Crusaders. As Thomas Madden notes:

“For Martin Luther, who had already jettisoned the Christian doctrines of papal authority and indulgences, the Crusades were nothing more than a ploy by a power-hungry papacy. Indeed, he argued that to fight the Muslims was to fight Christ himself, for it was he who had sent the Turks to punish Christendom for its faithlessness. When Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his armies began to invade Austria, Luther changed his mind about the need to fight, but he stuck to his condemnation of the Crusades.”

Matters are, however, better within Islam today, as the Muslim Council of Britain has issued a strong condemnation of the Islamic State:

At an event in London called to promote peace between the world’s religions, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Shia al-Khoei Foundation and other Muslim organisations said that fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isis) were acting “contrary to the values” of their religion. They added that the extremists posed a threat to “Muslims of all demoninations and schools of thought” and expressed their outright opposition to the destruction and killing that the Islamist fighters were inflicting on the Iraqi and Syrian population.

They also appealed to all British Muslims to shun extremist ideology and to resist any attempt by extremists to lure young men and women from this country to join the fighting. The denunciation was delivered during a “Big Iftar” event celebrating Ramadan at the Imam Al Khoei Islamic centre in north London last night and followed a similar joint message at Westminster by Sunni and Shia groups.

Shuja Shafi, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion. It is prohibited for people to present themselves for destruction.”

The joint statement, which is also signed by the British Muslim Forum, the Mosque and Imam National Advisory Board and more than 50 imams nationwide, condemned “the barbaric violence and destruction perpertrated by Isis” and denounces the Sunni group’s threats to destroy Shia holy sites as “contrary to the values of Islam”.

How much effect this will have on young British Muslims who are being seduced by the radical agenda is another matter. And it also seems to me that statements like these do not seem to be getting the prominence they deserve in the media. About 500 are estimated to have joined the conflict so far and posed in propaganda videos.

Much as the religious appeal of the Crusades – with the ideal of a “holy war” – called to so many people, the lure of a fanatical idealism may have more appeal to the idealism of the young that the condemnation of their elders. More initiatives – perhaps a “Young Muslims for Peace” – needs to be given so that the energy and idealism of the young can be more profitably channelled to make the world a better place, where poverty is addressed without recourse to the gun.


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Summer Waves

Katalin and I went down to see the spring tides recently, and this poem is about the sheer joy of watching a high tide in Jersey..

Summer Waves
Splash! Wave breaks over promenade
And we jump back, spray flying high
Before, sunshine, sipping lemonade
The tourists sat, the seagulls fly

Briny days of love, holding hands
Watching a ship sail across the bay
As the waves pound on the sands
We relish on our lips the salty spray

Rising and falling, the sea of love
Where strong undercurrents go
Oceans vast, vistas undreamed of
Up and down, wave forms flow

Summer nights, there is high tide
Such joy, such a wild ride

Friday, 15 August 2014

I'm Driving Backwards for Christmas

There's a Spike Milligan song from the "Goon Show", which is called "I'm walking backwards for Christmas". I thought of this with the new proposals for the Winter bus time table which has the bus go anti-clockwise rather than clockwise around Corbiere.

A bus stop is a sign to the public that a bus is along that route. So if the proposals go ahead, new signage will need to be painted on the road, and the old signage will have to be removed. Any vertical poles (although there are few on this part of the route) will also need to be changed. If the experiment is not a success, the whole process will need to be reversed. And the stop number system will have to be adjusted on the computer systems.

This reminds me of when Liberty Bus arrived and apparently because of the transport Minister's desire for changes, a number 15 went all the way through the Tunnell to part of the East. As the 15 to the airport was often a double-decker, it involved changes for passengers at Liberation station. It also meant more delays for the number 15.

Is this new change electioneering by the Transport Minister? I am sure that would be "officially denied"!

The better solution would be to have "through tickets" for destinations rather than routes. Hence one ticket could have taken you in to town from the West, and on another bus to the East, with appropriate fares. This would improve matters with St Brelade / St Peters, so that residents could visit the St Peter's Garden Centre and the Bowling / Rugby on one ticket, with one fare. UK bus companies have had "through tickets" based on destination rather than route for some time.

Here is a Parishioner's response (which has come my way, and is not mine) on the proposed routes:

Ref. Winter timetable changes. Invitation to comment
As a resident of St. Brelade, I comment only of those routes affecting the Parish

12, 12A, 12X (and 15)

1. I hope it has not escaped the attention of LibertyBus that there are NO bus stops on the anti-clockwise route around Corbiere? Further, if this matter has been considered, I am surprised that there has not been any consultation with the residents prior to your announcement to ascertain their views more directly. I am sure many may prefer that routing, however…

2. With the routes apparently terminating at Corbiere, will this mean that passengers destined for stops between Corbiere and La Rue des Camps have an enforced delay in their journey in addition to an extended journey? How might this also affect fare structures? Could I suggest that it may be better that the route was ascribed as La Moye via Corbiere thus treating the Corbiere stop as a waypoint not a termination point or specific destination.

3. In relation to (2) it is also noted that the X12 travels out from St. Helier in the mornings empty – ‘not in service’. Likewise the return evening service travels back to town empty. This is surely a total waste of resource? Similarly, at other times the 12 often terminates at Corbiere and runs back to St. Helier displaying ‘not in service’. Perhaps if that is to continue the reasoning might be explained?

4. While accepting the X12 is primarily a commuter service into St. Helier, it is useful in linking the La Moye and Quennevais areas with the airport and facilities/businesses along the Airport Road and Avenue de la Reine. A similar service outside of normal commuter hours would we useful addition to the services offered. As a La Moye resident, there is no convenient service to the airport without changing buses and a walk between stops nor links to the other widely patronised facilities in St. Peter.

Although not forming part of the revised schedules, the following matters I also bring to your attention:

1. The timings of the 12, 12A and 15 often mean that two or more of these routes run almost in convoy into St. Aubin especially on return journeys to St. Helier. That in turn leaves wide gaps between bus services. As you are do doubt aware, that can be the source of frustration to many passengers, especially those travelling into St. Helier, on a Friday and Saturday night when the village is at its most popular. As a result large numbers of over-exuberant people build up at the St. Aubin N stop in particular regularly resulting in some rowdyism. That often spills onto the buses themselves as I am sure your drivers will confirm.

2. There also occurs a secondary problem insofar that when routes do converge on what is often an extended stop at St. Aubin N, the space available with a single lay-by is insufficient to accommodate two buses. That can lead to traffic congestion and heightens frustrations.

Therefore time-re-scheduling on routes 12, 12A and 15 would, I feel, be beneficial; or alternatively on these busier occasions (or in addition to) a relief service be applied during the hours 10pm – 12.30 am on Fridays and Saturdays such that the frequency is every 15 minutes. At present gaps can be up to twice that, sometimes longer.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Andrew Lewis and the Erosion of Trust

Today I have a guest posting on former Deputy Andrew Lewis concerning the suspension of the Chief of Police, Graham Power. The reasons for his doing so were mentioned in an "in camera" (secret) States debate, the transcript of which later leaked to the public domain, which is mentioned by former Deputy Daniel Wimberly. 

It is worth noting that in the normal course of events, it is impossible to tell whether States members make misleading remarks in these debates, of which Jersey had many during the tenures of Frank Walker and Terry Le Sueur as Chief Ministers. A notable one which still remains secret is the one in which Pierre Horsfall and his position on the Waterfront Enterprise Board was debated, and Mr Horsfall was upset at the lack of transparency involved.

Guernsey has relatively few; in larger Parliaments, of course, it is pretty well impossible for them to occur. There have been few during the tenure of Ian Gorst. Because of their secretive nature, when decisions are made out of the public eye, I think they are an abuse of the Parliamentary process, and are very much to the detriment of democratic accountability. They will remain a blight on local democracy, until they are severely restricted in use.

Guest Posting from Daniel Wimberley

I would advise people to think twice before voting for Andrew Lewis, on the basis of his track record as Minister for Home Affairs for the few brief months during which he suspended Graham Power.

Firstly, Napier found that “the basis on which he (Graham Power) was suspended on 12 November 2008 was in my view inadequate” (Napier report, paragraph 107). And the rest of that paragraph sets out the detail of how utterly inadequate the whole process was.

The Napier report shows that the main decision which Lewis took as Minister was just plain wrong.

Secondly I invite readers to read the following quotes from Lewis, said in the States on 2nd December 2008, when answering two separate questions following his making a statement to the States on suspending Graham Power

"As far as the accusation you raise about the Metropolitan Police, when I saw the preliminary report I was astounded. So much so that my actions, I believe, are fully justified. If the preliminary report is that damning, Lord knows what the main report will reveal. So my successor will have an interesting time. The report that I was shown gave me no doubt at all." (my emphasis)


“I have read an alarming report from the Metropolitan Police which led me to this decision in the first place.”  (my emphasis)

And then to compare the above, with what Napier says about this same report, namely the “interim report” from the Metropolitan Police:

"As previously has been noted, neither Mr Lewis nor Mr Ogley saw the Interim Report. Neither did they seek to see it. The reason given was the nature of the information that was contained therein. It was, said Mr Ogley, a police document and it was inappropriate that he (or anyone else) should have access to it. Mr Ogley says that he was told both by the Attorney General and Mr Warcup that he should not look at the interim report and neither he nor Mr Lewis did so."

Napier report paragraph 101

It appears from the Napier report, carefully compiled some months after the States in camera questions, by a leading QC engaged by the States, that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Andrew Lewis lied to the States.

I invite readers to draw their own conclusions from the above and to think very carefully before voting for Andrew Lewis. In fact I am very surprised that he dares to consider putting his name forward for election to the States.

Maybe there is an innocent explanation for what I have written above – if so, I would like to hear it. I am quite happy to send the original texts in full to anyone asking for them.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Why Andrew Lewis wants to stand in St Helier

Having been trounced by Patrick Ryan, Deputy Andrew Lewis has now turned his sights to the easier pickings of a seat in the States in St Helier. Why wouldn’t they vote for him in St John. Well, a document in 2006 presented by Deputy Andrew Lewis and Constable Graham Butcher may have something to do with it. In that scheme, they looked at replacing St John’s Recreation Centre, which was build in memory and named after Sir Billy Butlin – the Butlin Memorial Hall recreation centre. They suggested using that site for housing.

The document was called “Community facilities for St John, a vision for the future.”

It presented a very heavy loading towards one option, and dressed it up in the most extravagant terms – “little or no cost to rate payers”, funding obtained from the sale of the old site to developers, which is perhaps what you might expect from a Deputy who runs the “Image Group”. It was like a 3 card conjuring trick, where one card is “forced” on the unwitting dupe.

Option 1. Do nothing and continue with the existing facilities with no investment from parishioners.
Option 2. Refurbish the existing facilities (But where does the money come from)?
Option 3. Build new facilities using existing assets to fund such an investment at little or no cost to rate payers.

Lady Sheila Butlin first heard that parish Deputy Andrew Lewis was looking into the future of community facilities in the parish when she turned on her television by chance. As the JEP reported:

She discovered that one of the options being examined was to demolish the centre, named the Butlin Memorial Hall, build houses on the site, and replace it with a new centre beside the parish school.She told the JEP: 'The field was bought by my late husband and was given to St John for the benefit of a sports centre for the St John people.

They could have said, ""Lady Butlin, this is what we are thinking of doing."" This has not been very easy.' The centre opened 23 years ago with the help of donations from the Butlin family and offered sports from squash to snooker.

But Deputy Lewis believes it is out of date, and more modern facilities are needed. At a parish meeting last night he offered parishioners three options: to do nothing; to try to raise funds to refurbish the existing centre; to sell the centre to a developer and build a new one beside the school.

People have long memories in St John, and former Deputy Lewis failed to win at the last election, being comfortably beaten by Patrick Ryan.

Now he has turned his sights to St Helier, and the residents had better watch out for more proposals presented like a conjuring trick


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Voyage of the Damned

Three crew members were injured and 41 cars damaged during strong winds on a ferry crossing from Weymouth to Jersey. The Condor Vitesse sailing had departed Weymouth at about 13:00 BST on Sunday afternoon. One passenger described the sailing as "the voyage from hell".

Captain Fran Collins, from Condor Ferries, said wave heights had stayed within safe limits throughout the journey. However, she said unexpectedly high waves around the Casquets Lighthouse caused problems despite the boat slowing down. (BBC News)

The usual problem for Condor is complaints about cancelations because of high winds. I hesitate to say that on this occasion they threw caution to the winds, but there certainly needs to be a review of what has happened.

Are sea conditions usually bad near the Casquets when there are high winds in the English Channel, and which is the closest measuring station? If the winds and waves increased once the ship was more than half way across, what was it to do?

I’ve been on the old Solidor on a trip to St Malo through force 8 to 9 winds, and that boat tended to sail no matter what the conditions. The captain had to go in a slow zig zag as whenever the winds caught the boat sideways, it tipped alarmingly over. Plates fell and were smashed, and the whole vessel heaved over as if it was going to overturn. The entire voyage took around 4 to 5 hours, and everyone was exhausted, but the cars seemed to have been undamaged.

Here it seems to have been a sudden jump in the ship from a wave which caused them to also jump away from where they were parked, and crash into each other, which is something we did not experience.

There will be a lot of pressure against sailing in strong winds, but no one really knew how these winds were developing. At times, Jersey’s forecast was for much stronger winds from the fading but still strong remains of Hurricane Bertha, and the weather forecasters could not say exactly what would happen until the last minute. Those are exceptional circumstances, and normally a prediction of high waves and strong winds across the Channel can be given in advance, and is fairly accurate.

It may well be that initial conditions were fine, and then deteriorated rapidly around the Casquets. Where does one go then? Back across the Channel to England, or onwards to Jersey? Given that the seas would probably get progressively calmer, going on was probably the best choice, albeit the lesser of two evils.

Kipling’s description of the sea as enticing, but dangerous, the old grey Widow maker, is still something we would do well to remember:

Sicken again for the shouts and the slaughters.
You steal away to the lapping waters,
And look at your ship in her winter-quarters.

You forget our mirth, and talk at the tables,
The kine in the shed and the horse in the stables
To pitch her sides and go over her cables.

Then you drive out where the storm-clouds swallow,
And the sound of your oar-blades, falling hollow,
Is all we have left through the months to follow.

Ah, what is Woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

Monday, 11 August 2014

Eternal Silence all around me

Eternal Silence all around me
Like a dream I hear the water’s rush
Sitting by the ocean
I listen to the waves

Clear is this night of sparkling stars
The golden moon is playing with the rising tide
Come get me, distant loneliness
The world of me around me is at rest

The water murmurs at my homeland
Leads me to my parents’ house
Images of childhood come to shore
Rising from the darkest depths

Silent night, now you have gone
I thank you for your divine power
You engulfed my thoughts
And brought a piece of home to Jersey

Engelbert Hoppe, 1944

Engelbert Hoppe was stationed in Jersey during the German Occupation in charge of the bunker at Corbiere point – this is the M19 automatic fortress mortar bunker (a Type 633) and the interconnected Sechsschartenturm heavy machine gun turret bunker (a Type 634).

He describes when he was posted to Jersey, first seeing the lighthouse, in an interview with Malcolm Amy:

(for the full interview, well worth readying, see

“I got given a small map and was off on my way to the “Kraehennest”, I liked the surroundings, some cows were peacefully grazing tied to pegs. I had never seen this before. When approaching the coast I first saw the Sechsschartenturm (a mistake in the landscape like so many others I saw later). When walking on all of a sudden I was fascinated by a wonderful seascape, “Corbiere Lighthouse”. This wonderful sight made me stop for a while to take a deep breath, smelling and tasting the sea air. Heading down the hill I saw the “Corbiere Teahouse” and a bunker on the left spoiling the view of the lighthouse. Then there were two bunkers on my right, the lower one being my destination. There were two or three soldiers around who seemed to know that I was coming and I was shown in to the M19 mortar bunker. When entering there was a gas lock on the right and further down the stairs was a standby room. There were nine bunk beds suspended by chains in tiers of three, a locker, a round stove, a chest of draws, a rifle rack and some shelves. “

There’s a wonderful story about how they decided food was more important than the weapons in the days after the Normandy invasion:

“One night two of the crew returned with two buckets full of potatoes and a big bag full of tomatoes. Nobody asked where they got them from, the main thing was to make them disappear because the "Chain Dogs" were often around. Karl suggested empting an ammunition box of 5cm mortars, one of those that were sealed and only to be opened with the express orders of higher command. Karl manipulated the lead seal and emptied out the mortars and then filled the box with the potatoes and replaced the seal. However an inspection took place not long after and the Oberst in charge pointed to me and demanded to know, “You, what is in those crates?”. I immediately replied “Ammunition for the Automatic Mortar Herr Oberst”, “Open them!”, “No Herr Oberst, not without an express order”, “Your lucky! That's the answer I wanted to hear” and the potatoes were peacefully sleeping!”

And there is another wonderful story about the end of the war

“I stayed at the La Corbiere bunkers with two of the crew to do some little jobs, then I went to Action Post Height 201 and my shed in the ditch to rest. The next morning I made my way back to La Corbiere to say farewell to the Le Brocqs and the schoolmaster. The last song I shared with him was “Auld Lang Syne!”. Coming down the hill I saw Mr Le Brocq hoisting the Union Jack. On seeing me he hesitated for a moment, but I said “Don’t you stop. I like that flag much better than the bloody swastika”. I left some books and photos with them and collected some items from the M19 bunker as a kind of souvenir (where are those photos now?). Mrs Le Brocq gave me a hug and Mr Le Brocq patted me on my shoulder, and saying I would be back someday I was off, tears in my eyes, waving until I was over the hill.”

The BBC has a report of when Mr Hoppe returned in 2008:

“A former member of the German occupying forces has been speaking to school children about his experiences. Engelbert Hoppe says returning to the island has been a moving experience. He'll be taking part in the Channel Islands Occupation Society's open day at Noirmont. During his visit, he gave a talk at La Moye school. He told us "It was so great and moving and at the end of my talk and giving all the answers the kids ask was that we must strive for peace and understanding.

"They gave me a big hand these kids and I was moved to tears. I'm not ashamed of it." Engelbert told us that Liberation Day means a lot to him. He says he felt he was being Liberated at the same time as Jersey.

Explaining that "because this feeling of being liberated too is still great and overwhelming and this is a decisive experience of my life.

"Having been here during the war, having gone through hardship and sufferings, having seen these Jersey people, innocent people suffering because a tyrant tried to rule the world."

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Empire and Anarchy

When the apostle Paul was writing letters to the Christians in Rome, telling them to obey the lawful authority, where this did not conflict with religious practices, it is clear that what was in his mind was that order was better than chaos.
The Roman Empire could be brutal in its imposition of the Pax Romana, but equally, it acted to keep that same peace, under which many differing peoples with all kinds of beliefs could get along a live side by side with each other. Indeed, many of our own laws derive from Roman law. Even the Emperor was not wholly above the law.
And while this was a society in which slavery existed, Over time, however, slaves gained increased legal protection, including the right to file complaints against their masters. The Stoics and Christians both opposed the ill-treatment of slaves, although members of both movements spoke out against the institution itself.
But Rome could be very brutal against what was perceived to be a threat. When the Jews revolted in AD 70, Jerusalem was taken, and the Romans ran out of wood for the countless crucifixions. This was an orderly society, but the imposition of order could be extremely strong.
The alternative that Paul could see if rulers were not there was a society of anarchy, in which the bullies, the most powerful, ruled, and where the safeguards of law were lost or flouted. While Rome's rule was not good, the collapse of that, and the power vacuum left could be worse.
We see something akin to this in the recent history of the Middle East. Dictators have been toppled, but in their wake, minorities have been left at the mercy of those seizing power, like the religious warlords of the Islamic State.
Forced conversions, brutal executions by beheadings, women taken as "war booty" - this is what is filling the power vacuum. The dictators had to clamp down on sectarian violence, and paradoxically, this meant that all religious groups had more freedom (although not to criticise the regime), and some from minorities could rise into positions of power in government.
The factionalism left by the removal of the dictators left a void into which religious nepotism was rife. Democracy, as one person, one vote, is an ideal which assumes those elected represent a diverse society, and those in power have sufficient checks and balances to accommodate the minorities. Religious and cultural nepotism means that the majority tends not to look after the interests of that minority, breeding disaffection, and a soil ripe for planting the seeds of fanaticism.
But the fanatics can be extremely dangerous. The Mongol hordes swept across the Middle East, and reached the gates of Vienna before an accident of history saved Europe. The Islamic State are like the Mongols - a savage, brutal peoples, who found Islam congenial to their philosophy of conquest, but who thought nothing of taking the Caliph from Baghdad, and putting him in a sack, and having horses trample him to death.
Some action must be taken to protect the innocent, the women and children, caught up in the carnage today from these modern day hordes of the Islamic State.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Maybe World

Perhaps there really was a Father Ted on Craggy Island....
Maybe World
Perhaps in some strange world of mine
There really were three priests divine
And living there on Craggy Isle
Their antics sure did raise a smile
And a housekeeper called Mrs Doyle
Reflected on her life of toil
And when I was working for Father Ted
Sure, I looked to order plenty bread
Another sandwich, Father, d'you see
And that, of course, with cups of tea
The kettle is coming to the boil
And I'm ready, or me name ain't Doyle
Perhaps I'm dreaming, but let me see
That really were those priestly three
Some day I'd visit on me way
Although I fear I'd rue the day
Disasters seemed to follow them
With Bishop Brennan to condemn
Perhaps my name was Father Ted
And I munched the buttered bread
My sad fate, oh, there's the crack
With Father Dougal, Father Jack
This is my maybe world, d'you see
Forever sipping cups of tea

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Plight of the Yazidi

Yazidi Symbol

Up to a quarter of Iraq's Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized the minority group's biggest town. The Islamic State (IS) group captured Qaraqosh overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.

IS has been gaining ground in northern Iraq since June, and also controls some of Syria.

The Yazidi community is another minority group in northern Iraq that has been targeted by IS. About 50,000 Yazidis are thought to have been trapped in the mountains after fleeing the town of Sinjar - although the UN says some of them have now been rescued.

(BBC News)

I had not heard of the Yazidi before these news reports. According to Wikipedia

“The Yazidi (also Yezidi, Êzidî, Yazdani) are a Kurdish ethno-religious community, representing an ancient religion that is linked to Zoroastrianism. They live primarily in the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq.”

Islam tolerates the Abrahamic faiths. There is toleration (in their sacred texts) for Christians and Jews. But the brutality of the Islamic State has meant many Christians have fled the region, as they fear that ancient practice will not be honoured, and they may be right. The snatching of school girls which has occurred in Africa violates that. Brutal Islamic regimes are tribalist and totalitarian, and the evidence to date is that the Islamic State falls into that category. Forget about “there is no compulsion in religion”.

But the plight of the Yazidi is even worse. The Economist notes:

“Yazidis consider themselves a distinct ethnic and religious group from the Kurds with whom they live (and who consider them Kurdish). Their religion, which combines elements of Zoroastrianism with Sufi Islam and beliefs dating back to ancient Mesopotamia, says God and seven angels safeguard the world." 

"One called Malak Tawous, represented on earth in peacock form, was flung out of paradise for refusing to bow down to Adam. While the Yazidis see that as a sign of goodness, many Muslims view the figure as a fallen angel and regard the Yazidis as devil-worshippers. Given the Yazidi belief in reincarnation, even moderate Muslims have a difficult time accepting the faith of their compatriots.”

Now, forced to flee to the mountains, they face starvation, while those trapped are killed and the women taken as “war booty”. As Aljazeera reports:

A Yazidi politician broke down in tears during a parliament session as she urged the government and the international community to save her community from Islamic State fighters who have overrun the region, AFP news agency reported. "Over the past 48 hours, 30,000 families have been besieged in the Sinjar mountains, with no water and no food," Vian Dakhil said. "Seventy children have already died of thirst and 30 elderly people have also died."

Dakhil said 500 Yazidi men had been killed by the fighters since they took over Sinjar and surrounding villages on Sunday. Their women were enslaved as "war booty", she said. "We are being slaughtered, our entire religion is being wiped off the face of the earth. I am begging you, in the name of humanity."

For the soldiers of the Islamic State, these ancient communities are infidels to be slaughtered. Indeed, this is nothing new. In August 2007 jihadists attacked Yazidi villages in Nineveh, killing between 400 and 700 people. But as IS begins to grab territority, the brutality and the killings are not merely sporadic incursions, but a permanent part of their evil regime. 

According to their traditions, in the past, their god Tawsi Melek became manifest to a Muslim Turk, and “bid the bewildered man to go and tell the people that a big war was brewing, but that no harm would come on the heads of his people, the Yezidis, who would emerge from the conflagration unscathed.”

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that many of them will emerge unscathed from this conflagration.

Will the West stand by and watch the slaughter of Yazidis, and cleansing of Christians, in Iraq?

Specific References


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Dial B for Bonus

As a recent survey of mobile phone providers puts JT at the bottom, it is perhaps a good time to look back at the bonus given to the JT Managing Director, and the service in general.

“JT head 'deserved his £118,000 bonus'. A six-figure bonus handed to the boss of publicly owned JT was fair, given the work that he has done, according to the Treasury Minister. Following a question from St John Constable Phil Rondel, Senator Ozouf praised the work Mr Millar was doing and said that the ‘framework’ for the chief executive’s bonus was directly linked to financial results.”

“Earlier this month, JT posted pre-tax profits of more than £33m, prompting Mr Millar to declare that the JT group had had its best ever year.” (JEP)

At least this is reasonably transparent. Pay is linked to profits. But do profits have anything to do with consumer satisfaction? The link seems to be to the return to the shareholder, not to do with how much customers appreciate the good service they are getting. As the BBC news reported:

“More than 50% of customers of telecom company JT said they were not satisfied with the home phone service they receive, a survey has found. The survey was commissioned by the Channel Islands Competition Regulatory Authorities (CICRA).” (BBC News)

And I’ve just received a bill apologising (at least there is that) for the delay but citing problems with the “new” billing system. Constable Phil Rondel has the same problem; it seems widespread:

“My own account, dated 27th January, we are still being told that there are delays on invoice billing for the last couple of months. It is still ongoing so when are we going to see the bills coming out on time, given that this is a States 100 per cent owned company, that we get our money in on time, we are running weeks behind? ”

And here was a posting on Facebook about Gigabit Jersey:

“JT you are useless. After harassing the company for 3 months we finally get the fibre team round to install. The guys arrive, almost immediately say "I don't think we'll be able to get this done today." JT have not sent the surveyors to check that the line can actually get to the house, not a major issue the guys say we'll just try it anyway.”

“However the line goes to the garage then overhead to the house, this is shown on the JT plan. These guys are not the overhead team so can't do it (which JT knew before they sent them) and the duct is blocked so they have to get Brenwall to dig up the road which could take 9 weeks. Then we have to book another appointment.”

Constable Philip Rondel asked Senator Philip Ozouf:

“Can he please explain the time lag in dealing with complaints because I have got papers here that prove, as far back as 1st January this year, a telephone complaint about a broadband charge where there is no broadband on this particular telephone. There was a returned call on 8th January stating that the charge would be removed from the billing and as of last week the billing is still being charged.”

The reply from the Senator noted that there were problems:

“The data that we reviewed last night showed that improvements are now rapidly being made and complaints which are elevated to the Chief Executive himself to personally deal with are now falling rapidly in terms of their number. If there is a particular constituent I will personally pass that on to the Chief Executive who will respond to the issue.”

Clearly the way to get your complaints dealt with is to get a States member to get Senator Ozouf to bring it to the Chief Executive’s door!! The fact that this has not happened lower down the scale, and the fact that it has been going on for months does illustrate, however, that the level of oversight the Chief Executive brings to the table is limited.

What, in fact, does cause a complaint to be “elevated to the Chief Executive himself to personally deal with”, and how many does he deal with. This information was not forthcoming.

Perhaps his pay should be linked to consumer satisfaction rather than company profitability? After all, with a monopoly position on landlines, Jersey Telecoms has something of a captive market with consumers. The incentive may not be as great as when Sure also come onto the market, and people can switch operator.

The real question is: is Jersey Telecoms putting customer needs at the heart of the business, or is it putting profitability as its main measure of performance, and the basis for the Chief Executive’s pay award?

Richard Denny, of Denny’s Training, comments that:

“It is surely in all our best interests, that we allow our customers to act as a barometer in our decision making process, whether that be the products and services we provide, the price points for our goods or the amounts of money we pay our top executives.”

I am at a loss to understand how a bonus of 118,000 to the Chief Executive, in the current global economic climate could ever ensure a sustainable relationship with customers.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Playground or Wasteground?

PARENTS are seemingly unimpressed with the new play park at Les Quennevais playing fields, which was built at a cost of £38,000. (JEP)

Jersey's government is being accused of wasting tens of thousands of pounds on a new children's playground in St Brelade. The new area for youngsters at Les Quennevais cost nearly £40,000. But one parent says that's too much. Mother-of-three Hannah Barrot says the offering is a disappointment. “When I watched the park take shape every morning whilst walking my children to nursery, at not one stage did I think it was finished even when opened to the public. “This park is now a disappointment from what was a wonderful park.” (CTV)

"I've just heard Derek De La Haye from the education, sport and culture speaking on tv, informing us that the park is intended for kids just learning to walk right up to age 11. Does this guy have a clue about kids! how did he get that position." (CTV, Comment)

"From the picture it looks very dull and too "metallic" - how can two toddler rockers and a tiny climbing frame cost that much? Probably the most boring looking playground I've ever seen - why didn't they consult a parents group first? I thought the trend now was to built more natural looking wooden and rope apparatus, like those "pirate ship" wooden playhouses and "dens" you can buy from garden centres, that encourage imaginative play." (CTV, Comment)

I walked past it on Sunday on a walk back from the cemetery, and I was singularly unimpressed as well. I'd love to see the invoices for the building. Most of it is probably ground preparation - health and safety surfaces.But there is no transparency in costs here, just a total lump sum. It is so bare of equipment it is virtually a waste ground rather than a play ground.

I realise that playground equipment is not cheap, but this has virtually none in it!

Springers are about £600 each x 2

A good climbing frame is probably around £13,000

Seating maybe £300-500

Strange Ergonomic Seasaw (my description)
£??? cannot find match

Total equipment cost (not that there is much of it) £15,000-£16,000

One climbing frame with slide, 2 springers and one seasaw - I can see why parents are unhappy!

My correspondent Adam Gardiner writes:

"Yet another example of the hideous costs that States Departments accept. I would suspect that the cost was not just for the playground equipment itself, but also the installation of it to ‘approved standards’, and as you surmise, the substrate and final playground covering which is all obscenely expensive + installation, then the fencing, which again probably has to conform to some standard, then not least the cost of plans and probably planning consent too. Even minor works have a minim charge which off the top of my head I think is circa £300 - money for old rope!"

"More to the point is who was contracted to do this work and did it go out to tender? Yes, extremely poor value for money - austere, uninteresting and very unimpressive! But someone made some money out of it!! I too would like to see the invoices - and who raised them!"