Saturday, 28 February 2015

Spock Remembered

Today's poem is an acrostic, written in memory of Spock, and the man who brought him to life, and imbued him with wonderful touches - the Vulcan neck pinch, the mind meld, and the Vulcan salute, and turned what could have just been any old alien into a real person. RIP Leonard Nimoy.

Spock Remembered

Live long and prosper, you used to say
In Star Trek, as through the milky way
Vulcan wisdom, imparted with a hand
Ever boldly going, towards a promised land
Looking back at your Jewish past, you said
Only Vulcans live long, but you are dead
Now we mourn your passing, Vulcan lore
Going where no one has ever gone before
And you will be remembered, the pointy ears
Never seeming to age, even in the Deadly Years
Dead, but not forgotten, in memory yet alive
Perhaps that is all we can every wish to strive
Reaching with a mind meld, enter another place
On the good ship Enterprise, trekking into space
Spock, a work of art, an acting masterpiece
Producer, director, actor, poet, you never cease
Easily as Spock though, that you stood so tall
RIP Leonard Nimoy, remembered by us all

Friday, 27 February 2015

Look A Like

Constable Nick Hewer of St Clement

Len Norman, Alan Sugar's right hand man on "The Apprentice".

Is it my imagination or does Constable Len Norman look like Nick Hewer?

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Wolf Hall: TV Review

“Wolf Hall” is a very dark drama, not least because it makes no concessions to modern lighting, and uses tallow candles to light buildings as much as it would have been done. The half glimpsed silhouettes show us a world full of flickering shadows and light.

The core performance has to be Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell. Very much a man of the world, he builds spiders webs by his network of spies to entrap the unwary, and is first and foremost, set to do his master’s bidding – that is, the wishes of Henry VIII.

There’s a certain motivation in him for revenge on those who brought about the fall and destruction of his former master, Cardinal Wolsey, and it is interesting that it is Anne Boleyn, not Cromwell, who seeks to put Thomas More’s name on the list of those who supported Elizabeth Barton in her prophecy against the King. Cromwell knows More is innocent of this, and contrives a way around Anne’s wishes in the matter.

Cromwell has for so long been portrayed as the schemer, the nasty piece of work, the henchman doing Henry VIII’s bidding. Having Leo McKern play Cromwell in “A Man for All Seasons”, and Donald Pleasance play him in “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” make him very much a villain, and in the case of Pleasance’s performance, almost a cardboard villain.

Rylance’s Cromwell is an altogether more subtle character, with feeling and religious sensibilities. He won’t put Thomas More on a list, because he knows that More is innocent of that crime. And yet he still frames legislation that needs an oath of loyalty to the King, which traps all those who have integrity and doubts, including More. He doesn’t like torture, and prefers his network of informers, but he’s still prepared to let More be executed, partly at his contrivance.

One of the best scenes was after Henry had fallen from his horse, and just recovered – Cromwell hitting him in the chest to get his heart beating is effective, but probably fictitious – and Cromwell discusses how things might have been with Master Treasurer Fitzwilliam. It’s the lull after the storm, a reflective two-hander that is a delight to watch, as each displays scepticism about the other’s views.

It appears that Henry did suffer some kind of brain damage as a result of the fall, when he was unconscious for nearly two hours. As Michael McMarthy notes, “the king, once sporty and generous, became cruel, vicious and paranoid”.

This slightly unhinged King was well brought out by Damian Lewis, who suddenly turns on Anne, when she calls upon the King to give up jousting for the sake of the Kingdom, and he says “Do you wish to geld me too, Madam”.

Throughout the series, the shadows are lengthening, and in the final episode we saw Cromwell acting against Anne Boleyn, on behalf of the King. He threatens violence, but doesn’t use it, but the threat itself of violence, unrecorded, and the dark cells of the Tower are enough to get enough confessions.

The King needs guilty people, and Cromwell is not fussy about the truth of the accusations. It is enough that those accused are guilty men, guilty of past crimes, although, as Cromwell states, not necessarily those crimes they are accused of. He needed to find enough guilty men to satisfy Henry.  It is also a chance for him to settle old scores against those who brought down and mocked Wolsey.

Claire Foy as Anne gives a brilliant performance, haughty and often cruel as the Queen, but suddenly aware of how vulnerable she is, and taken to the tower. Her trial, when she answers “No” to all the questions, goes well until she is forced to say “Yes” to giving money to one of her alleged suitors. She realises in an instance that answer will seal her fate.

Her speech and trembling final prayers were extremely fraught, and we saw the executioner swing the sword, and heard the thump as it severed the head, but rightly this was more effective in not showing it. We are shown the reaction of the spectators, and we should not forget that executions were very much a spectator sport. Would people watch today if there was still public hanging?

I think the culture has shifted from the 1960s when the death penalty was removed from the statute books as a mark of a civilised society, and today’s population, brought on a diet of visual atrocities from war zones, coupled with the desensitising effects of sadistic shows like “I’m a celebrity” would probably pay to watch. Our world has become crueller than it was; closer to the Tudors.

Was she guilty? What mattered to the Henry and Cromwell was that she should be found to be guilty. Executions had to be conducted by due process of law, and Cromwell showed himself adept at manipulating events within the limits of the law. And yet even there is a touch of compassion: he knows that Anne is beyond saving, but he asks her to be contrite and confess so that he can try to safeguard her daughter Elizabeth.

Archbishop Cramner does not come out of this well. He finds it incredible that the accusations should be true, yet as it is the King accusing Anne, he says that it must be true because Henry would not act if there was not sufficient evidence to prove Anne unfaithful. Under Edward VI, of course, he was in his element pushing forward the Reformation agenda, but under Queen Mary, he recanted of his past.

Cramner only seems to have finally found a courage that eluded him when he realised that his recantation was not going to save him from burning, and then he retracted his confession, and thrust the hand which had signed the document into the flames. History is full of “what ifs”, and I cannot help wondering what might have happened if he had been quietly pensioned off after a very public retraction rather than sentenced to death.

Cromwell, in the end, is greeted by Henry, his master for doing his bidding. But he knows he is caught in a trap from which he cannot extricate himself, and sooner or later, the same fate which others suffered may well be his too. And he has changed, in this telling of the story, from one who sought to support the King but act, according to his lights, justly, to someone who will use any legal means to achieve his ends, whether they are, in fact, just or not. Legally, everything is done with due process, but morally, he has been in the process of selling his soul to the devil.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

TV Review: Call the Midwife

“Call the Midwife” still keeps up very high standards, and some wonderful touching moments – the birth at the gypsy camp, the diabetic and her lover. This series has been perhaps more thematic than past ones, but that has worked very well producing strong drama.

I was not sure how Linda Bassett as Phyllis Crane would fit in; at first she seemed something of a stereotype – someone who was something of a fusspot, but her character, and the way it is played by Linda Bassett has made for some very powerful drama indeed.

Vaughan Sellars is the local boy who has been at Borstal, but is trying to put his life right, but she understands that. He asks her how she knows. "Do you know someone who went wrong?" “I was the wrong ‘un, Vaughan”, she replies. This strand of the story is about acceptance. The pregnant diabetic girl Paulette Roland loves him, but her mother can, initially, only see Vaughan through the eyes of prejudice. But by saving Paulette, at the cost of going back to the Courts, she comes to see that he loves her daughter as much as she does.

Sister Mary Cynthia is goodness personified, slight, seemingly timid, kind and caring, and you would have thought it was difficult to believe a story with such a sweet character, but again the story works well. We see how she cares for the gypsy about to give birth, and the gypsy’s slowly dying mother, who wants to remain in the camp until she dies. After the grandmother’s death, in traditional fashion, the Vardo, or gypsy caravan, is set alight, a wonderful sight.

The goodness of Sister Mary is in contrast to the town people, who see the gypsies as rogues and vagabonds, who imagine the young girl with child is underage and unmarried. The viewer is meant to see that is wrong, and that the Council, evicting the gypsies, is pandering to those prejudices. Unfortunately, those attitudes have not gone away, even today, and there are still as many prejudices, often ill-founded, against those who have chosen a nomadic existence on the road.

Part of the joy of “Call the Midwife” is its depiction of the 1950s Poplar, bringing back a lost time within living memory, and showing both the light and the dark.

We have moved on in some ways – homosexuals – as in a recent episode – are no longer sentenced, as Alan Turing was, to a medical treatment with side effects, supposedly for their own good. But other attitudes are still as much present today as they were then. In that respect, it becomes a period mirror, reflecting our own times back in its own stories, and showing us how we can face and overcome our own hidden prejudices.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Centralisation of Power in Jersey Today

I’m reprinting today a letter to the JEP from former Deputy John Young, as it highlights some worrying trends. I would add to that the following:

- The increasing use of Ministerial decisions to avoid the States debate, not on routine matters, but on important matters which have in the past been taken before the house.

- The absence of any Ministerial decision with regard to the latest missive from the Social Security Minister on long term incapacity. Is this the start of a new trend?

On the Waterfront, which forms part of the substance of John Young's letter,  I was also very disappointed by the argument of Ian Gorst. He implied again and again that the lawyers Crill Collas were biased with their criticism of the legality of the destruction of the car park. Their statement was flawed because they were acting for a rival organisation who wanted their own office complex to be the one of choice. But what matters is the legal case, and if it stands up, not whether it is put by lawyers acting on behalf of little green men from Mars.

As C.S. Lewis noted, “The motive game is so uninteresting. Each side can go on playing ad nauseam, but when all the mud has been flung every man’s views still remain to be considered on their merits.”

Lewis termed the approach that Ian Gorst took on BBC Radio Jersey, “Bulverism”, and argued that it is a logical fallacy (it is also called the genetic fallacy):

“You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became to be so silly.”

That is almost exactly what Ian Gorst did on BBC Radio Jersey, distracting attention from the arguments presented by Collas Crill by diverting attention to who funds them. We really deserve better than that.

Letter from former Deputy John Young.

Urban trees are scarce and lift the spirits nowhere more so than in St Helier. Those in the Esplanade car park were a delight until our SOJDC decided the trees had to make way for our office development. Those who mourn their loss are seen as standing in the way of progress.

Is this a clash of alternative visions for St Helier,. whether our capital becomes a good place to live. or an overcrowded economic powerhouse? Is there a bigger underlying message of the power exercised by our government?

The way the trees'- removal was carried out with no advance warning despite a States scrutiny inquiry into the development shows just how powerful our government has become. The dismissive remarks of the chairman of SOJDC about the scrutiny review show that the executive is under instructions to press ahead with the Esplanade development, regardless.

There are other worrying signs, the support of the Council of Ministers for the proposed high-density development of the Gas Works site against the views of residents. They supported the Port Galots development which would have removed the last remaining open view of the Harbour and Elizabeth Castle from the residents of St Helier. It has taken a public outcry to put a`stop to it. We as taxpayers are left with the loss of £400,000.

How do such things happen? Our Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, imposes collective responsibility on all his ministers. SOJDC and States Property Holdings take, their instructions from our Treasury Minister, Senator Alan Maclean. He is directed by the Council of Ministers and our Chief ' Minister, independent thinking will lose him his job. The safeguard is our Planning Minister, but he is also under direction from Senator Gorst. Next week in the States, powers of the Planning Minister are to be transferred to unaccountable civil servants who in turn are under direction by the States chief executive. Such centralisation of power is without precedent in Jersey.

Senator Gorst won a huge mandate at our election, yet how democratic is his government? His ministerial nominations were made on the basis of personal acceptability, leaving out Senator Zoe Cameron.

Two of his ministers and five assistants were elected unopposed. Senator Gorst's government has an inbuilt majority in the States, supported by the majority of Constables and those Members who are ambitious for future advancement.

Efficient, yes. But where are the checks and balances on government power? We have a reform party of three members who seek to form an opposition, we rely entirely on the minority of States Members who maintain their independence and exercise their own judgment. We have a scrutiny system, which does not have the power of UK Parliamentary Select Committees, is under-resourced and largely disregarded by ministers.

The reality is we now have a one-party political system in Jersey. Democracy requires we need stronger scrutiny, greater safeguards and public scrutiny of our government by all possible means, using social, conventional media, parish, public meetings and petitions.

In our next elections we will all need to become more open to political organisation and alliances and ultimately to political parties.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Long term incapacity: A Singular Lack of Transparency

On Monday more islanders who are on long-term incapacity allowance will be required to look for work. This is an allowance paid weekly to those whose lives are impaired by a physical or mental condition.

Currently, anyone having “30 per cent or below loss of capacity” is designated as suitable to work, but on Monday the level will be raised to include those having “35 percent or below loss of capacity”. The aim is to encourage more Islanders into work, particularly those also on Income Support.

The press release, entitled “New rule for long term incapacity allowance” is published on the States website. It notes that:

“LTIA is a health-related benefit which is based on the individual’s mental or physical condition. It does not assess their ability to work and many people receiving this benefit are already working.”

“The proportion of people who only receive LTIA, but who still work, is three times greater than the proportion of people who are working and receiving both that allowance and Income Support.”

“The people who are affected by the change are being contacted by Back to Work and will be offered appropriate training and support to look for work.”

But there are unanswered questions about this change. For instance, who decided it? Was it the Social Security Minister herself? Did she consult those who assess long term incapacity allowance, such as doctors? How did they respond? Was it more of a political decision than a medical one?

A sample of the form is available on the department website, and covers a wide range of medical conditions, some physical, some mental. I notice that one of the physical ones – “I cannot stand for more than 30 minutes without the support of another person” would almost apply to me! Although I would phrase it differently - I cannot stand for more than 30 minutes without having to sit down or suffer increasingly acute back pain. Fortunately my work is sedentary. But it illustrates a matter I will return to: the kind of work you can do depends upon your capacity.

The mental incapacity part of the form does say “complete this form yourself or with help from someone who knows you, such as a family member, carer or support worker” which I think should in fact say “or with help or by someone who knows you” as the person concerned may not be in a state to complete any form with help, only for another person to complete it on their behalf.

Somehow or other these details, and an assessment by a doctor, goes into a black box, and out of it emerges, among other things, a percentage relating to the loss capacity for work. There is no detail of how this rather occult process works.

This contrasts, for instance, with California, which has guidelines on assessing this in detail. In the preamble, it notes that:

“In determining the percentage of permanent disability, account shall be taken of the nature of the physical injury or disfigurement, the occupation of the injured employee, and his age at the time of such injury, consideration being given to the diminished ability of such injured employee to compete in an open labor market.”

“A rating can range from 0% to 100%. Zero percent signifies no reduction of ability to compete in an open labor market while 100% represents legal total disability. Total disability does not mean that the employee cannot work, but rather represents a level of disability at which an employee would not normally be expected to be able to successfully compete in an open labor market. Permanent partial disability is represented by ratings between 0% and 100%.”

It also explains that:

“Two distinct systems are used to describe a disabling condition - the objective/subjective index and the work capacity index. Either or both indexes may be used to describe a particular condition, and each, when used, yields its own disability rating . When both are used, the index producing the higher rating is used.”

“The objective/subjective index is a composite of objective and subjective factors. Objective factors are physical losses or losses in function that are directly measurable. Typical examples would be amputations or reduced range of motion of a joint. The Schedule provides standard ratings for many impairments, frequently at their most disabling extremes. Subjective factors are those which are not directly observable or measurable, the most common being the disabling effects of pain. Pain is characterized in terms of body part affected, intensity, frequency, and activity giving rise to the pain. Typical examples are constant slight pain in the back or moderate pain in the elbow on heavy lifting.”

And goes on to explain the other index:

“The work capacity index characterizes limitation in relative rather than absolute terms. That is, the disabling condition is described in terms of a percentage loss of pre-injury capacity for the specific individual. A typical example of work capacity limitation would be a "loss of approximately one-quarter of (the injured worker's) pre-injury capacity for lifting."

And there are detailed guidelines for determining his, with a summary as follows:

“Two different sets of work capacity guidelines have been devised to correspond with large functional systems of the body. The Spine and Torso Guidelines apply to injuries of the neck, back, pelvis, abdomen, heart, chest, and lungs. The Lower Extremity Guidelines apply to hip, leg and foot injuries”

“After the occupational variant is found, the standard rating is modified for occupation by reference to tables found in Section 5 of the Schedule. Find the standard rating in the column entitled "Standard Rating Percent" and read across the table to the column with the letter reflecting the appropriate occupational variant.”

So there are a lot of factors involved in these assessments, and the one advantage the California system has over the Jersey one is that it is not occult, in the meaning of the word as “hidden”. It is transparent, and explains exactly how it works, how doctors and other professionals assess a condition. Jersey is completely lacking in transparency. California, for example, notes that:

“The Schedule creates an arrangement of disabilities and values which stand in relationship to one another. It provides the structure necessary to assign a standard to a non-scheduled disability according to its seriousness. For example, "a leg disability requiring the injured worker to sit for approximately 3 hours of the work day" would be a disability that falls midway between two scheduled disabilities, "Disability Precluding Prolonged Weight-bearing" (20%) and "Disability Resulting in a Limitation of Weight-bearing to Half Time" (40%) and would be assigned a 30% standard.

In fact, although it is detailed in schedules and guidelines to follow, it also gives examples of injury which cause incapacity, for example:

“A 43 year old grocery checker sustains an injury to the major elbow resulting in inability to do repetitive gripping with the hand.”

Repetitive strain injuries can impact on the ability of an individual to use a keyboard efficiently, for instance with touch-typing, and I know of an individual who in fact suffered from this severely. That may also impact on grip, as with the grocery worker shown, which in turn restricts the capability of the individual to undertake many kinds of work, even if they do not suffer other forms of disability.

Now what work someone can do will be restricted by their incapacity. A British Columbia report from 2013 gives an example:

“An orthopedic unit nurse and a nurse case manager both suffer a spine injury that limits their lifting to no more than 25 pounds. The impact on each of these nurses would be significantly different. The orthopedic nurse would be unable to perform her pre-injury occupation because her work demands are very physical in nature including heavy lifting related to patient handling. On the other hand, the Case Manager work is sedentary in terms of physical demands so likely she would be able to perform her pre-injury occupation".

If the kind of work the individual is capable of is not taken into account then the percentage incapacity on a purely medical basis will vary, and of course, the incapacity, while not restricting an individual from working, may well limit the employment opportunities available to them.

What really would be helpful, but what we probably won’t get, is the types of incapacity in that 5% gap between 30 per cent or below loss of capacity and 35 per cent or below loss of capacity. We have no examples of the kind of people whom this will effect, or the kinds of work they will now be expected to look for. Will “appropriate training and support to look for work” also take into account appropriate work?

What it appears from the terse press release is that a number of individuals will receive communications telling them to contact the department, to look about finding employment.

And we are not told how tactful that communication may be, and how much the entire press release is trading on the idea that the Minister is targeting those lazy work-shy people who claim incapacity but would be perfectly capable of working.

A tactless communication could cause considerable stress, and a sample of the kind of letter sent would at least be reassuring. Letters sent by social security in the past have not always been models of tact and diplomacy, and seem to have been penned by people who have lost sight of the fact that there are human beings at the other end of their sometimes threatening missives.

The impression coming forward in the media it that this more an exercise to save money than to benefit those people who might like to work, but can’t. The 2% blanket cuts requited from departments may well have prompted this sudden change more than any medical consultations.

If it was genuine, then surely it should be brought in tandem with the disability components of the discrimination law. That this is preceding that, and unconnected with it, suggests budgets rather than welfare are the driving force, as with proposed prescription charges.

Faced with saving money, the Minister decides that a change in percentage incapacity can claw back some funds. There has not, as far as I am aware, been any public consultation, because that would cause delay, take time, and the Medium Term Financial Plan is pressing.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Rehabilitation and Forgiveness - Part 1

Rehabilitation and Forgiveness - Part 1

For Lent, I have been reading a biography of John Newton. Newton joined the Navy but then became a Captain of slave ships. After a very stormy sea in 1748, his ship almost sank off Ireland, and he awoke in the night and called out to God, as the ship filled with water. The cargo sifted and blocked the hole, and they were able to make it safely to port.

That was the start of his conversion to Christianity, but he continued to ply the slave trade, although he took more care of the slaves themselves. By this time, he had stopped himself swearing, and given up gambling and drinking, and was reading the bible.

After suffering a stroke in 1754, he gave up the sea, but continued investing in the slave trade. He became tide surveyor at Liverpool in 1755, studying in his spare time Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. He applied to be ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 1757, but it was to be seven years before this was accepted. He received Deacon’s orders in 1764 and was appointed curate of Olney. He became well known for his friendships with non-conformists, and for his pastoral care as much as his beliefs.

In 1788, 34 years after he had retired from the slave trade, Newton broke a long silence on the subject with the publication of a forceful pamphlet “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade”. He was now a confirmed abolitionist and lent his support to William Wilberforce. In his book, Newton speaks of “a confession, which ... comes too late ... It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”. He had copies of the book sent to every member of parliament.

The story of John Newton is a story of change, of how a man so steeped in such an evil trade, can come to see the error of his ways, and can even fight against what he had done in the past. It is a story of redemption, and shows us how people can change for the better, whatever their past mistakes.

Newton went blind, but he penned these verses:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

There is a blindness that is to do with how we judge people, and how the burden of their past can affect how we treat them in the present. It assumes people cannot change – you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, a leopard doesn’t change its spots – these maxims reflect what we so often think.

In a time of Lent, what better to give up than old grudges and let eyes be opened to change that can happen? It is not so much for their sake, as for ours. People to change for the better. Let's not be blind to that.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Angels with Dirty Faces

For today's poem, I took theme of angels, which is currently that in a poetry group I belong to.

The title of course, is pinched from the James Cagney film of the same name. I watched a lot of old black and white films when I was young and that was a very good one.

I wanted to get away from the Angels of "Touched by an Angel", the TV show, all sweetness and light, and go back to the letter to the Hebrews - "Do not neglect hospitality, because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it."

Angels with Dirty Faces

Touched by an Angel, so joyful and sweet
But is that really how it is? Such a dream
That they should be perfect, so very neat
Or is it rather things not as they seem?

Did you see that beggar, asking for aid?
And did you turn away, go swiftly by?
He looks dirty, smelly. Don't be afraid
He was an angel. And that's not a lie.

And the old woman, says funny things
Do you turn away, leave her outcast?
And did you expect angels with wings?
Don't be afraid, and see truth at last

Angels with dirty faces, found all around
Love knows the way, love there is found

Friday, 20 February 2015

Cinderella is Bankrupt

Cinderella is Bankrupt

Channel Television had this report:

"Reacting to the news that the vegetable grower, Amal-Grow, will pack up production, Jersey's Environment Minister Steve Luce said it will be a real blow to the local market and consumers.”

“Amal-Grow supply fresh vegetables - and salad crops when in season - for shoppers in both Jersey and Guernsey through Channel Island Co-Operative Society, Waitrose and Sandpiper Food Hall stores.”

“The Co-op's Operations Manager Mark Cox said he is disappointed that Amal-Grow are looking to close their business as the Co-op spend £1 Million each year on their produce. He said his customers prefer local produce but the supermarket might now be forced to import vegetables from the UK.”

Below I print the reaction of one of my correspondents. I should mention that I agree with it in places, but do not wholly endorse it regarding food quality. I do buy local produce, and although it may be more expensive, I do find the quality and taste is usually better than imported, refrigerated, and often tasteless produce.

I think we do need local produce, for a number of reasons:

Food security – while we have not got enough land area to wholly sustain the local population, it is important to keep at least a toe-hold in local produce. The island is dependent on imports, and it is not sufficiently realised that food chain is like a delicate jugular vein, easily ruptured. At present fuel costs have gone down, but as they go up, food prices will rise commensurately.

Education – not enough has been done to educate people about the wasteful nature of our food chain. Food is sourced from many miles away to ensure the same produce is available all the year round. The ethical concerns about this are kept very low key. For a start, long-distance food hauling releases harmful greenhouse gases. It is also incredibly wasteful of fossil fuels to transport food long distances. But while it is cheap to do so, and people buy it, the market trumps ethics.

Seasonality – the local market is seasonal, and seasonality, because of the year round nature of sourced long distance produce, means that nothing much is seasonal – there are strawberries on the shelf as I write. The loss of the rhythms of the year is something which we badly need. It teaches us that we can’t just have what we want when we want it, like a spoilt child.

But I agree totally with Adam Gardiner over the States. Since Agriculture and Fisheries became part of Economic Development, it has become the Cinderella of Jersey. Finance has top priority, and tourism moved up with the Visit Jersey initiative. But when he was talking about the future to the Chamber of Commerce, Ian Gorst not once mentioned agriculture.

That shows just how low a priority it has been given by the Chief Minister, and the last Minister for Economic Development, Alan Maclean was also focused on the other island industries to almost the complete exclusion of agriculture.

This Cinderella has been neglected by the States, and won’t be going to the ball because her two sisters, Finance and Tourism, have taken the lion’s share of the funding. And don’t expect a fairy godmother to supply a solution. This is the real world, not a fairy tale.

When asked a question about agriculture at the Chamber Lunch, Ian Gorst replied that he wanted to see funds directed to where they would do most good, and not necessarily the larger conglomerates. If ever there was a message that was sent out that Jersey was closed for overseas businesses coming here, that was it. If anyone from Amal-Grow heard that, how do you think they would react?

But perhaps other questions need to be asked. How did they fail to make a profit when the previous owner did? Or is it perhaps that they did not make enough of a profit for their shareholders? I’m not wholly convinced we are getting the whole picture here.

The net result, if they retain the Jersey Royal part of the business, will be an asset stripping exercise, and it perhaps should also be asked how committed they were to the whole business, and not just that bit they wanted.

Adam Gardiner’s Comment on the Amal-Grow news

Inevitable . The economies of scale are just not there as we export very little of that same produce that proudly displays ‘Genuine Jersey’ in the supermarket shelves. We have moved from extensive commercial growing to what in the UK is often termed as market gardening - although there is precious little of that.

The supermarkets have needed to react and have been forced to import supplementary stocks to satisfy demand. The reality is (and this comes direct from the horse’s mouth - if a well known supermarket chief will forgive that expression) that imported produce, where there is a choice, outsells local produce 6:1. That statistic has very little to do with price but everything to with quality - the local produce is (sorry to say) inferior in many respects, and continuity of supply has also become a serious issue.

Who should we blame?

Well, quite a few actually

The growers and marketing groups want the big one-off profits that can get from the Jersey Royal and shun the harder to make profits in growing other crops for local consumption. At the same time the growers have protected their land rights so that no other enterprise has been able to establish an alternative supply. The Thorpe Report determined that an average family of 6 people (as it was then) needed around 146sq.yds of land to be self sufficient year round. The rough extrapolation of that says that for Jersey to be self sufficient just 240 hectares need be in cultivation. Jersey is roughly 12,000 hectares. To put into perspective, St. Mary measures 650 hectares - so just less than half of that Parish in area.

The public as said earlier are NOT buying local produce despite what many people say to contrary. The public are simply not telling the truth. We are kidding ourselves.

However, the largest proportion of the blame must lie with the States who have simply not invested time and energy into agriculture or have passed legislation that would allow young entrepreneurs to enter the industry by compelling landowners to release land. If, for example, a field that remained uncultivated were to be ‘surtaxed’ in some way, that may provide the necessary incentive to either bring it into production or for the owner to give a long-term lease to an independent tenant grower

Also, the States are forever re-zoning land. Land prices in Jersey are such that a field of around 5 verges has a value of over £3m if it can be re-zoned for building. When farm buildings (house, attendant barns, hard standing etc) themselves occupy at least 2 verges you can see why growers are reluctant to continue in growing when they could pocket at least £1.5m, buy a comfortable flat at Castle Quay, and remain substantial landowners into the bargain. No incentive to stay in growing and the States have done nothing to address that.

If nothing else, this must be fantastic news for Lucas Bros and Holmegrown - the last two independent growers of any size.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Some Recent Ministerial Decisions

Musical Teams

According to the Ministerial decision, the “Tax IS Team” will be moving from Treasury to the Chief Ministers department. But only virtually, not physically.

“The Tax IS Team will remain physically located within the Tax Office and continue to provide dedicated support to the Tax Office. However, operational, HR and financial management will be administered by CMD.”. It appears this team is IT related, and I assume IS is "information support" in this context. Really, the States website could do with an acronym finder.

The part of the team being moved includes a Director, Deputy Director, Assistant Director, Implementation Manager, three Implementation Analysts, a Technical Support Analyst and last and probably least, a Data centre Officer PEST, who no doubt says "Please Excuse Slow Typing". Some fancy titles there, and it would be nice to know exactly what they all do.

So it appears they stay where they are, but their personnel, budget, and assets (ITAX computer system, Server, Disaster recovery site server) will move to the Chief Minister’s Department.

The reason given for the move is as follows:

“With the increasing complexity of the technology infrastructure and the applications it supports, the organisation needs to combine its skills and capacity in information services; rather than continue with isolated teams expected to keep current with ever expanding technology trends.”

I am at a loss to see how a transfer on paper will do this, especially as they continue to stay exactly where they are, but just report upwards to the Chief Minister’s Department rather than the Treasury. It seems rather like saying of a small shop – you will be staying where you are, but instead of reporting to the head of grocery, you will now report to the head of retail. Managerial responsibility has changed, but the team remains where they are. Quite how changing managers helps isolation is not stated.

Also included in the transfer is £1,468,517 near-cash.

What precisely is “near cash”, you may ask? My jargon buster tells me that “Near cash" is a term used to describe assets that are not currently in the form of spendable cash, but could be converted into cash within a short period of time. Or if this involves IT people, they can cash in their silicon chips.

Emerging Emergencies

"Chief Minister to approve the transfer of the Emergency Planning function from the Chief Minister’s Department (CMD) to the Home Affairs Department (HA). Following a discussion between the Chief Executive, Emergency Planning Officer and the Chief Fire Officer in 2014 it was agreed that it would be more efficient for the Chief Fire Officer to line manage the Emergency Planning role and budget, if it were transferred to the Home Affairs Department."

Yes, another move of management from one area to another. Interesting, we learn along the way that Emergency Planning budget amounts to £150,031. It would be interesting to know how much of that is the salary of the Emergency Planning Officer, who I believe is still Mike Long.

He is supposed to plan for contingencies, but as you may remember, was caught out in March 2013 when the siren at La Collette started sounding out across the Island, leading to a veritable Twitter storm. Social media sites complained that there was no warning about the scare, and Mike Long said that methods for informing Islanders about what to do in an emergency would to be reviewed.

I haven’t heard anything more about what to do in an emergency, so presumably this is an ongoing review. Will two years be enough, do you think? Or did it get forgotten?

Crown Advocates (Jersey) Law 1987: Amendment

This is an interesting one for anyone who has made submissions to the Carswell review or looked at the separation of powers.

"The Legislation Advisory Panel has recommended that the Law should be amended in accordance with advice received from H.M. Attorney General, and further to the recommendations contained in the “Carswell Review” namely that the Chief Justice would not ordinarily expect to have any say in the appointment of a prosecutor which the Review regarded as inappropriate. The Chief Minister noted that the Bailiff and Deputy Bailiff had been consulted on the proposition and had agreed to the proposed amendment."

Or to put it in a nutshell, as it stands, the Bailiff’s consent is needed for the appointment of a Crown Advocate – he has a veto over the appointment. That is being removed.

The Bailiff also has a veto over which propositions can go before the States, which as a non-elected member, he should not have. Indeed, the current Bailiff, when Deputy Bailiff, appeared to use it to block a proposition by Deputy Mike Higgins, and the Carswell review also notes other cases where former Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache blocked propositions from States members. In a democracy, a non-elected speaker should not have that right. It would be nice to see that consent removed as well.

Taxing Business

"The Chief Minister approved a request to be made to the Law Draftsman for further amendment of the Foundations (Jersey) Law 2009, which it was noted is already proposed to be amended by Regulations in respect of a record keeping requirement under the Financial Action Task Force (“FATF”) Recommendations."

This is actually deserving of higher prominence. I know it sounds dull, but stick with me. FATF is the Inter-governmental body developing and promoting policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing

FATF published in 2013 a “Progress report and written analysis by the Secretariat of Core Recommendations”, and one of the recommendations was:

“Clarify the identification measures to be taken to satisfy a requirement in the Money Laundering Order to apply CDD measures (including enhanced measures) in a case where there is no face to face contact between the relevant person and the individuals who are concerned with a trust or foundation, or individuals who are the beneficial owners or controllers of a legal body – where the arrangement or legal body which is to be the customer is administered by a regulated trust and company services provider”

So there is a general tightening up of measures for due diligence according to International standards to ensure that clients can be properly identified, and not a fake identity for the purpose of money laundering. The JFSC also published sanctions lists of known individuals for companies to check their databases against.

In short, the work of regulation goes on in the fight against money laundering, but it can be incremental and low key, and hence gets overlooked by those people who make sweeping and often ill-informed generalisations about Jersey’s finance industry.

The Shipping News

Shipping (Fishing Vessels Safety Codes of Practice) (Jersey) Regulations 201-

"The current Shipping (Fishing Vessels Safety Provisions) (Jersey) Order 2004 replaced and slightly updated an old regime of triennial Regulations."

"It is now ten years out of date. Fishing boat accidents, sometimes leading to the tragic loss of life, continue to occur and the need for good safety awareness, modern equipment, good training and drills remains paramount in what is traditionally a dangerous industry. In the meantime, design, training and safety equipment standards have changed and the United Kingdom have introduced and continue to evolve modern Codes of Practice underpinned by law."

Perhaps prompted to finally get something changed by the accident when the Condor vessel struck and destroyed a fishing vessel, and one man died, Jersey is finally getting its act together. Apparently this has been a long time in consultation, but now is ready to go before the States. Much needed, I think.

The sea is treacherous enough, the Grey widow maker, as she is often called, and for once it is not health and safety gone mad, but very sensible regulations needed to keep crews safe. I remember in 1996 when the a Jersey boat developed a fire in the engine room, and the captain evacuated the crew, but tragically died himself. Could better regulations have prevented this tragedy? Possibly not, but everything that can be done should be done to ensure safety at sea.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A Property Guide from 1968

[Above a corner of Miladi Farm Estate mentioned below]

From the Jersey Topic 1968, I present a property guide. Now property guides may seem a dull affair, but it is interesting to look at the situation back in 1968, and see how similar and how different were problems that beset the estate agents of that era. This was a time when there was property price controls on the sale price of properties. It shows, I think, how price controls just don't work - all they encourage are ingenious ways to circumvent them! At the same time that clever ways of circumventing them were being used, the estate agents themselves were forming, for the first time in Jersey, professional bodies to raise standards. Ironically, of course, standards did not include legitimate devices to get around price control

The prices themselves are extraordinary - to see affordable housing at £5,000! Of course, the galloping inflation of the 1970s made a difference, but even so, possibly would not have been quite as high as today. In 2011, £5,000 would have been the same as £173,000.00 in 2011.

What is also interesting is that the estate agents, as with Mr Langlois in yesterday's post, did not want complete abolition of price control, but a protective limit retained for making sure there was still affordable housing at the lower end of the market.

From Jersey Topic, 1968

Topic Property Guide: Supply and Demand

October is here bringing with it the usual boom for local estate agents and the ever-increasing influx of would-be residents escaping from the Labour Government and death duties.

This is a particularly tricky time for estate agents for it is now so difficult to know just what is in the minds of the Housing Committee and it is taking so long to find out whether or not an application has been accepted. They have instituted a new, delaying tactic now in that when an estate agent telephones to find out if a particular application has been agreed or not he is told that such information will not be given over the telephone. How on earth are estate agents expected to operate under these circumstances-and how do they explain to irate would-be purchasers that it is the island's government that is to blame?

It is difficult to understand what goes on in the Housing Committee's mind. They are trying to regulate the law of supply and demand to keep the price of property down so that local people can buy. This they can never hope to achieve for there are so many ways around this law. Companies are formed and the house made part of the assets of the Company and then the company is sold, taking with it the assets, i.e. the house. These deals never go through the Housing Committee. Purchasers who find that the Housing Committee has put a price on a property which is too cheap for the man who is selling agrees to buy at the price set by the Committee and then makes the price up by buying the garden roller at a cost of £3,000. No one can alter the law of supply and demand and Jersey has to face this fact.

All over the world property prices are increasing at a considerable rate. London prices are probably higher now than in Jersey and these have rocketed by over 100% in the last five years.

The time has come for Jersey to use a much clearer form of control if it is felt that controls are necessary. This should have clearly defined lines so that estate agents know exactly where they are and can advise their clients, As the aim is to ensure that the Jerseyman in the lower price range is protected against rocketing prices then a limit of, say, £10,000 should be set. Anything under this should go before the Housing Committee-over and above, the market should be quite open. There can be no reason why the Jerseyman should be cosseted in the expensive price range.

This would stop cases like the one I heard of this month. A man who is an expert in agricultural machinery offered £11,500 for a house which had been on a number of estate agents books for over six months and which was heavily advertised. This application was dismissed-even though the agents had never had an enquiry for it.

Lower Price Range

In the last year there has been a great deal of movement in the lower price range (which hardly affects the outside purchaser, They are not very interested in the £6,000 properties). A number of firms have realised that if they can build these types of houses and still show a reasonable return on their capital then they must sell well.

A typical example of this are the lovely town houses built in Grosvenor Street, about which I wrote a few months ago. Nelson & Co. handled the sale of these and they tell me that the four of them sold quite quickly. They proved so popular that the company who built them are planning to build more in other parts of the town. This type of development should be welcomed for they replace old and unproductive buildings with new and modern homes that are realistically priced.

Also due to get under way very shortly is a big project at Miladi Farm, Longueville, where about 135 fully centrally heated houses with garages in the £5,000 range are to be built by H. P. Davies. It is to be hoped that these properties will come under the States Loan Scheme for there is bound to be a big rush on them by Jersey people aiming to get what most people want - a house of one's own.


Two final notes on the sale of Temperley, St. Lawrence to Mr. Paul Lee, for £65,000. This was the second largest house sale for a number of years, the other one being Lady Trent's, house almost next door. The Temperley sale was handled by de Gruchy, in conjunction with Langlois' Estate Department. Mr. Lee is keeping his present home, Whispering Pines above Bel Royal for use by Mrs. Lee's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Dick Parker,

Professional News

The number of agents belonging to the Jersey Auctioneers and Estate Agents Association is still increasing and four more have recently joined. This now gives the Association a very strong membership in the island. Jersey's branch of the Valuer's Institute welcomed four members from Guernsey recently and planned to hold a meeting in Guernsey later in October to encourage membership there.

The Jersey branch has a membership of fourteen. Both of these bodies are going to ensure that the public gets a fair crack of the whip and that the handling and management of real estate is given professional status. This can only be good.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Interview with Mr A.G. Langlois

From the Jersey Topic, 1965, an interview which gives an interesting slant on how different the Island was back then. I'm not sure when housing price control ceased, and I was not even aware it existed until I read this article.

After the abolition of price control, the market was not tightly regulated, but there was still an economic constraint. Affordable homes remained pegged to some degree by the States Loan system. As the loans increased, the bottom rung of the ladder increased in price. I remember when it went up from around £30,000 to around £75,000 and the price charged by developers jumped by the same amount overnight; from struggling to realise a profit, they could now take a pretty high return.

After the States Loan was abolished, the affordable homes at the bottom of the market went up very rapidly, no longer having any economic constraints, so much that the term "affordable" certainly means something very different from what it did back in the 1980s and early 1990s. I think that is regrettable, and an example of the States being unaware of the unintended consequences of their actions: while trying to free the market for affordable homes, "affordability" became something out of many more people's range. I think that was a wrong direction to have taken.

Interview with Mr A.G. Langlois
Governing Director of Langlois Limited

He sat in an office surrounded by busts. And he apologised for them. "I don't normally have my office decorated like this, but we've been renovating and at the moment we have nowhere else to put them. Anyway I think they give the place some character".

"That one there" he told me, pointing to a lovely bronze Siamese woman, "is a beautiful piece of work. I discovered it in a warehouse in London where it was part of Mrs. McClean's collection. It had been listed as a metal bust and no value was attached to it. In fact it is Epstein's Rani Rama and is worth about £1,000."

Mr. A. G. Langlois shares his expansive office with his two sons, Tony, who is 24 and John who is 22. Both of them have studied at the London College of Distributive Trades and both are beginning to play an important part in running one of the largest businesses in the Channel Islands.

,lust how large is this business? "We have a staff of over 100 in Jersey and about 35 in Guernsey. Our business started in 1936 when I setup as an estate agent and auctioneer. As the years went by we went into the furniture business and then removals, Now we have over 35,000 square feet of showrooms, large depositories and considerable property in both islands. The side of the business in which I am most actively engaged is valuation and auctions. I especially enjoy, of course, the antiques".

I asked him what he considered to be the island's most pressing problem. "Undoubtedly housing" he replied quickly.

"It has been a problem for as many years as I care to remember, and it will go on being a problem. Somehow we never seem to be able to keep pace with the demand. I think that the Housing Committee these last three years are really getting to grips with the problem after being in the doldrums for so long not seeming to know which way they were going, but it is still terribly difficult for young people to find living accommodation".

As President of the Jersey Association of Auctioneers and Estate Agents I expected him to have some strong views about the current controls being exercised over the sale of property by the Housing Committee. I was not disappointed.

"The present position is far from satisfactory. Estate agents have no idea where they stand. A person comes to see us to buy a property and we may spend a lot of time with them. A deal is agreed and then that person has to go to the Housing Committee, who can veto the sale on the grounds that the price is too high. This is surely ridiculous".

Did he not think that controls were necessary? "Indeed I do. In times of land famine I think that controls are essential but they must be sensible. Surely the idea of controls is to make sure that the Jerseyman is not priced out of the market when it comes to buying a house. I think Guernsey has a much more sensible method of control in that property over and above a certain rateable value becomes de-controlled. We could institute a system in Jersey based on price. Property under £10,000 should be controlled but over that they should be allowed to be sold on the open market".

He was, he said, delighted that local estate agents had decided to form a solid and professional body for the protection of the public against unscrupulous operators. "I first mooted this idea over 20 years ago, but we could never get all of the agents to agree to come in. Now the association has been formed and this can only be for the common good of all concerned. It will give the public some form of redress against members who break the code of conduct and act unethically. Any association that protects the public is good".

I then asked him why he had never stood as a member of the States, "After the war I was a member of the Jersey Progressive Party and we actively campaigned for a re-constitution of the Jersey States. What we set out to do was to bring some system of democracy into a system of government that was frankly feudal. We put up twelve members and it was agreed that I should be one of them. But the business was growing all the time and I found I just could not spare the time to do it".

Was he happy about the present governmental set-up which the Progressive Party had helped to create? "Yes, I think it works well.What is beginning to worry me though is that more and more of the important work is being left to a smaller number of members and what is going to happen when these members retire from public life. There are so few young men coming through with an interest in politics".

He would not, he said, support the payment for members. "I believe stoutly in the honorary system and would not like to see this go. However should a wage earner be elected to the States some means should be found to compensate his loss of earnings while serving his constituents".

As a yachtsman and a former Commodore of St. Helier Yacht Club his efforts to promote good relations between Jersey and France are very well known in the island. "I think it is important that we have good relations with them," he said. "After all they are our next-door neighbours". He was, he said, shocked to hear a St. Helier Centenier make a public statement that French yachtsmen came to Jersey to steal.

"This was a disgraceful and irresponsible statement" he said. "I have no doubt that the Committees of both yacht clubs will take this matter further".

I left this enthusiastic, likeable man preparing for the biggest series of antique sales that he has ever conducted.

And I could not help feeling that it was a pity his business had claimed so much of his time. He would have made a colourful and responsible politician.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Pastoral Care and Church Politics in Jersey

“The findings of an inquiry into the handling of an abuse allegation should be made public, Jersey's dean has said. The inquiry into the handling of the complaint recommended no disciplinary action should be taken against any Jersey Anglican clergy member. The report has been kept confidential on legal advice and HG said its publication could cause her harm. The Very Reverend Bob Key said closure was now needed.” (1)

Now that gives the impression that no mistakes were made. But back at the time, the Dean said “

"I regret mistakes that I made in the safeguarding processes”. Clearly those mistakes were not enough to warrant disciplinary action, but mistakes they were.

There is also a focus on “no disciplinary action should be taken against any Jersey Anglican clergy member”. But the complaint originally was not about the Anglican clergy at all, it was about a churchwarden.

This was the churchwarden, of whom the Korris reported noted:”He is too tactile, stands too close to women, touches too much/inappropriately. His manner was deemed to be inappropriate to such an extent that he was chaperoned within the church when in close proximity to women.”

No action was taken against the churchwarden, but clearly it was inappropriate for him to be in such a position of trust within the church. How safeguarding policy has changed and improved is something we are still waiting to find out. That is local to Jersey. That could be made public now if the Dean and Jersey Synod so wished.

Korris also noted 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."

This is mentioned in the Dean’s apology for mistakes he made – “I understand that, upon reflection, it would have been more helpful if I had co-operated more fully with the Korris [safeguarding} Review.”

In an email to the Bishop of Winchester in January, HG said that the Steel Report would be “a whitewash, lacked independence and its publication could cause her serious harm.”

It is an attested fact that Dame Heather Steel has not met HG and interviewed her, so that important testimony would be missing from the report. It is hard to see how a report can be wholly complete without a principal witness participating.

From a pastoral point of view, the possible publication of the report is like a sword of Damocles, hanging over the future of HG, threatening stress and trauma. It can be almost guaranteed that its publication would be used as a stick to discredit her by some of the “leading Anglicans” in Jersey who have already attempted various forms of character assassination.

The best form of closure for her, then, would be a cast-iron guarantee that it would not be published.

The question is what does the greater harm? Publication or not? The Dean has the support of a strong local Anglican contingent, and has been reinstated. HG was summarily arrested and pushed off the Island, going from employment and flat to destitution and poverty, and has had to rebuild her life as best she can.

What we have is a conflict within the Jersey church between the demands of church politics, and the considerations of pastoral care, and the latter seems to be placed very low on the agenda.

But what is also significant, and unseen, is that Bishop Trevor, the Bishop of Dover with oversight of the Channel Islands, has not lent his weight in public to these demands. Described as a canny political operator within the Church of England, I suspect he is more likely to sit on the fence for a long time.

And at the time of his apology, the Dean said:

"Together, the bishop and I are committed to the importance of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults in Jersey and to working to ensure the safeguarding procedures of the diocese achieve this as part of the whole church's mission."

It would be good to know that vulnerable adults are being treated with respect, and that procedures have been improved so that unreported meetings (without proper minute taking) and bullying no longer takes place. Have lessons really be learned?

The procedures should, of course, also be documented. Unfortunately, a perusal of the Parish of St Helier website has links to documents on the Jersey Canons but none on safeguarding vulnerable adults.

That is the document that is really needed.


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Sir Thomas More and the Christian Conscience

Sir Thomas More and the Christian Conscience

There are clearly inconsistencies in how we view Sir Thomas More. The image that most of us grew up with, although clearly incomplete was the Sir Thomas More of Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons”, where More stubbornly refuses to give consent to an oath making Henry VIII the supreme head of the Church of England. It is, for him, a matter of personal conscience, and to do it would be to betray who he is, his inner core.

But we know that More was not like that. He also terrorised heretics, and thought that if their souls could be saved, they could be burnt. This More just hovers on the margins of Bolt’s play, and is almost unseen.

Alistair Fox tries to reconcile the two by having a kinder, more gentle More, at home with humanists like Erasmus, and the later Lord Chancellor who terrorised the heretics. But that does not fit with Bolt’s play, which has the later More as the urbane, civilised figure.

As we have seen in the adaptation of Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s More is much more unfeeling and fanatical towards heretics.

This duality persists to the present day. As Christopher Daly notes:

“Not long before the current pope, John Paul II, appointed More the patron saint of politicians, a popular biographer (Jasper Ridley) portrayed a gleeful hunter and persecutor of religious dissidents, made gloating and giddy by his own fanaticism” (1)

There is a preface to “A Man for All Seasons”, and Robert Bolt makes it clear how he saw Sir Thomas More. As Terrence Merrigan notes:

“Thomas More became for [him] a man with an adamantine sense of his own self. He knew where he began and left off, what area of himself he could yield to the encroachments of his enemies, and what to the encroachments of those he loved. It was a substantial area in both cases [and] ... he was able to retire from those areas in wonderfully good order, but at length he was asked to retreat from that final area where he located his self. And there this supple, humorous, unassuming and sophisticated person set like metal, was overtaken by an absolutely primitive rigour, and could no more be budged than a cliff. “(2

That primacy of conscience and self is clear when Bolt has More saying the following about the apostolic succession and the primacy of the Pope: "But what matters to me is not whether it's true or not, but that I believe it to be true, or rather, not that I believe it, but that I believe it."

But where More’s stance is actually located is slightly different. It is not just a matter of private conscience. More says:

"If there were no one but my self upon my side and the whole Parliament upon the other, I would be sore afraid.. I am not bounden to change my conscience and conform it to the general council of our realm against the general counsel of Christendom."

As Jack Kenny notes, More was not appealing “to some private soul or self within, but to 'the whole corps of Christendom' without. And what he feared to incur, by taking the oath, was not a metaphysical spilling of self, but the everlasting loss of God." (3)

That is why he could also be fanatical in his pursuit of heretics, and during his two and a half years as Chancellor was ultimately responsible for the execution of five heretics. And that is why he could boast, in a letter of his, that he “was a source of trouble to thieves, murderers, and heretics"

Peter Ackroyd is probably the best historian to tackle this paradox. Ackroyd looks at the exact words that More uses about the general counsel of Christendom, and notes that "conscience was not for More simply or necessarily an individual matter". It was keeping faith with the church.

John Guy notes that much of what comes to us about More comes from later sources, not all of which are without bias. Thomas Stapleton's Life of Thomas More, for example, was written in 1588. More died in 1535. A gap of 53 years divided the two.

Guy also notes, contrary to those who would downplay More and heresy, that he was fanatical:

“There is no dispute over his crusade against heresy. His defence was that heresy was so dangerous, it demanded the `rigour' of the law in every case. His rationale was set out in the Preface to the Confutation of Tyndale's Answer and in his Apology and Debellation of Salem and Bizance. Heresy was a heinous crime. It was treason against God and the Church. It was a crime against the King. It was deserving of capital punishment for the protection of the faithful and the realm.” (4)

As More wrote to Erasmus: “I find that breed of men absolutely loathsome, so much so that, unless they regain their senses, I want to be as hateful to them as anyone can possibly be”. Contrary to More, Erasmus thought it right to suppress books, but that burning people for opinions was wrong. But he also saw that burning books was pointless, it would remove them from libraries, but not from people’s minds.

And More himself constructed some of his own legacy. He wrote letters in 1534 to his favourite daughter Margeret, despite the fact that she visited him as well. Guy suggests that he uses the letters to put his own version of history into the records; it is clear that the letters had more than one audience, and More was thinking of posterity.

“Surely the very existence of these letters is significant, when More was so careful to have his other Tower letters returned or destroyed and when, as in Margaret's case, the correspondents spoke face to face” (4)

The biographers who came after seemed to have sometimes created speeches which they put into More’s mouth. William Roper, his son in law, wrote his memoir about 20 years after More’s death. Roper has More say this to his accusers at his trial at Westminster hall on 1 July 1535, giving what he purports to be More’s exact words:

“Forasmuch as … this indictment is grounded upon an act of Parliament directly repugnant to the laws of God and His Holy Church, the supreme government of which, or of any part whereof, may no temporal prince presume by any law to take upon him, as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual pre-eminence by the mouth of our Saviour himself, personally present upon the earth, only to St Peter and his successors, bishops of the same see, by special prerogative granted, it is therefore in law amongst Christian men insufficient to charge any Christian man.”

The problems with this are manifold. More has been described as a “papal minimalist; he thought that the Pope was not above the General Council of the Church, which could depose an unworthy Pope. That is why he framed his arguments about Christendom, about the church as a whole. It is Bolt, who following Roper, makes More much closer to John Fisher, who really did think the Pope was above the General Council.

As Guy notes, another problem is with multiple attestation. Roper was not present at the trial, “”and yet no one among those who were actually present seemed to notice this section of More's speech”

It reminds me very much of the speech which T.H. Huxley put into his own mouth in the debate over William Wilberforce. The contemporary accounts of the participants were largely replaced by a somewhat embellished version. As Jonathan Smith notes:

“Huxley, the traditional account has it, vanquished Wilberforce by responding to an insulting question about his own ancestry with a masterful rejoinder that exposed the Bishop’s ignorance of science and ungentlemanly behavior. Historians have shown that this traditional account is biased and distorted, a construction many years after the fact “(5)

As Guy notes on Roper’s version of More’s speech:

“Roper's attributed `speech' is almost certainly a `fiction'. It is not what Thomas More said; it is what he ought to have said. Roper's account of More's trial is in the style of a Sun journalist writing for The Times, describing an event that happened 20 years before, which the writer has only heard about from his friends”

And contrary to Robert Bolt’s rendering, More’s attitude to conscience meant conscience should confirm to the the doctrines or traditions which the Catholic Church had established since the time of the Apostles. As Marc Guerra notes in examining More’s letters:

“Nothing underscores the profound differences between More’s and the modernist’s understanding of conscience more than this fact: Whereas modern thought views the individual’s conscience as being above all other authorities, More’s conscience testifies to the superiority of the church’s authority to his king’s. More’s refusal to take Henry’s oath was not an act of civil disobedience but, rather, of obedience to truth and thus, in his view, an act of “genuine liberty.”” (6)

Thomas More who far distant from the rendering by Robert Bolt, who has him say:

“When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their own public duties they lead their country by a short route to chaos.”

More’s understanding of conscience is still one which underpins the Catholic teaching on the subject. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it states:

“While all of us have the right and duty to follow our consciences, it is likewise true that our consciences must be correctly formed, and that is truly a lifelong task.”

And it goes on to say:

“In the formation of conscience, the Word of God is the light for our path we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice (cf. Catechism, no. 1785). Further, in forming our consciences, we must be “guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church” ( cf. Dignitatis Humanae [DH] .”

And it lists ways in which conscience can go astray, among them:

- A rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching
- A mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience

Sir Thomas More would have gladly assented to these propositions, and it is possible to see how this same man who declared the importance of conscience, who would not budge on his beliefs, could at the same time be a hater of the heretics without contradiction.

Wolf Hall may not depict Thomas More in the best of lights, but perhaps that is a much needed corrective to the depiction of Robert Bolt of More as more of a Quaker, which he never was.

If you really want to see a different depiction of conscience, look to the Quakers in the Great War. Their conscious did not permit any endorsement of violence on political or religious grounds. Sir Thomas More’s conscience did.

Of course, centuries separated those periods, but its foundation goes back to the Quakers from the time of their founder, George Fox, where from the start had always rejected violence, while at the same time, seeking to follow their Christian conscience. In 1660, they wrote:

“For this we can say to all the world, we have wronged no man, we have used no force nor violence against any man: we have been found in no plots, nor guilty of sedition. When we have been wronged, we have not sought to revenge ourselves; we have not made resistance against authority; but wherein we could not obey for conscience' sake we have suffered the most of all people in the nation. We have been counted as sheep for the slaughter, persecuted and despised, beaten, stoned, wounded, stocked, whipped, imprisoned, haled out of synagogues, cast into dungeons and noisome vaults, where many have died in bonds , shut up from our friends, denied needful sustenance for many days together, with other the like cruelties.”

(1) The Life of Thomas More, Christopher Daly, Anglican and Episcopal History, 2009

(2) Conscience and Selfhood: Thomas More, John Henry Newman, and the Crisis of the Postmodern Subject, Terrence Merrigan, Theological Studies, 2012

(3) God's Servant First, Jack Kenny, The New American, 2010

(4) The Search for the Historical Thomas More, John Gut, History Review, 2000





Saturday, 14 February 2015

My Valentine

A poem especially for Katalin.

My Valentine

Oh, the sweet playing of the violin
And your music ever in my heart
Of such memories love has been
And pray remain, never to depart

And each day we speak, each night
And talk together, see face to face
Such contact is a gift, and a delight
Your smiling face, so full of grace

Valentine’s day, lovers gaze, adore
And kiss we may, across the miles
And look to walking upon the shore
Such happiness, such joyful smiles

And don’t forget, though we are apart
You are still with me in my heart

Friday, 13 February 2015

An Enterprising Look A Like

Constable Patrick Stewart
of St Ouen (a hamlet)

Star Trek Actor Michael Paddock (in Hamlet)

Is it just my imagination, or does Constable Mike Paddock look like Actor Patrick Stewart?
To boldly goes where no one has gone before - the wilds of St Ouen!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Street Names of St Helier – Part 4

The final section on street names from the Pilot of 1972. As I stated before, the author of this piece is not named, but I suspect on stylistic grounds, it was probably unpublished writings left by G.R. Balleine who had died some years before.

The three other parts are here:

Street Names of St Helier – Part 4: Modern Times (continued)

Some streets received the names of big-wigs, whom the town desired to honour.

First the Royalties: King Street and Queen Street from George III and Queen Charlotte, and Regent Road from the Prince of Wales, the future George IV, who acted as Regent during his father's madness.

In 1817 the Duke of Gloucester, nephew of George III, visited Jersey, the first Royalty to do so since Charles 11, and the Rue de l'Hopital (Hospital Street), was renamed Gloucester Street in his honour. Clarence Road got its name from the Duke of Clarence, who became William IV; and the old Rue de la Planque Billot became York Street as a compliment to his brother, the Duke of York.

When the young Queen Victoria came to the Island with Prince Albert in 1849, the memory of that visit was enshrined in Victoria College, the Victoria and Albert Piers, Victoria Street, Albert Street, and Queen's Road. The Victoria Avenue was given its name at the time of the old Queen's Jubilee.

Other streets bear the names of popular Governors or Lieutenant-Governors. Don Road, which is part of the new road from St Helier's to Gorey, was named by a special Act of the States in 1806, "seeing that this improvement is the first of its kind to be carried out in the Island, and that its utility is recognized by all, the States desire Posterity as well as our Contemporaries to know to whom it is due. It is therefore ordered that this road be called Don Road' . Don Street was part of another suggestion made by General Don to cut a direct road from the town to the Town Mill. It was begun in 1812, but never carried further than Vauxhall; and eventually New Street and Val Plaisant became the desired thoroughfare.

Halkett Place was a road made when the New Markets were built. At first it was called the Rue du Nouveau Marche. When General Gordon, the Lieut.-Governor, left in 18211, it was proposed to call it Gordon Street. But his successor, :Sir Colin Halkett, became so popular that his friends urged that it should be called by his name. It is mentioned in advertisements as "Gordon Street or Halkett Place" or the Rue du Marche, "which some individuals have recently named Halkett Place". An attempt was made to buy off the Halkett supporters by giving them Halkett Street, but this did not content them, and eventually they captured Halkett Place also.

Lord Beresford, the Governor (Halkett was only his Lieutenant), visited Jersey in 1821, and the newly-built Beresford Street was given his name. Conway Street bears the name of General Conway, the builder of our Martello towers; Norcott Road of Sir William Norcott, who became Lieut.-Governor in 1873.

The latest road to be named in this way is Mount Bingham. About 1917 Mr E. T. Nicolle propounded a scheme for regarding Grosvenor Street, La Motte Street, Queen Street, and King Street as a single thoroughfare, and calling it after Sir Walter Raleigh, who was Governor in Elizabeth's reign. The parish authorities would not consent to such a drastic alteration. 

But about the same time the property owners of Almorah Road petitioned the Roads Committee to free them from a name that had become associated with funerals. (As a matter of fact, the road had. that name before the cemetery was thoughts of. The builder chose it because his wife had been born in Almorah, a hill town in India.) So, when this petition was read, somebody said "here is one group wanting a road named after Raleigh and another wanting to get rid of the name Almorah. Let us call Almorah Road, Raleigh Avenue. Then everyone should be satisfied."

Other celebrities honoured in this way are Major Peirson (the street where he fell is Peirson Place, and Peirson Road faces Gallows Hill, where he mustered his troops), and Captain Mulcaster, who refused to surrender Elizabeth Castle, though ordered to do so by the Governor.

National leaders receive a tribute of respect in Pitt Street, Nelson Street, Peel Road, and Wellington Road,

But it is strange that this compliment has never been paid to a single Jerseyman- In any French town the street-names provide a list of its eminent citizens, Rue Antoine Quidam and Rue Alphonse Le Tel. But one looks in vain for this in Jersey. Philippe Baudains nearly had his name given to Victoria Avenue, but the Jubilee robbed him of his chance. And Mont Pinel has no connection. It is the name sometimes asserted with the late Judge Pinel. It is the ancient name of the hill, which has recently been revived.

Much more might have been said. Some names have been switched in an odd way from one street to another.

The original Wellington Road lay between the Parade and the sea. The original Oxford Road was what we now call Stopford Road and Victoria Street,

Some queer names have disappeared altogether. No more can you prowl round Tinkers' Court or down Sweeps' Lane. Limpet Lane and Winkle Alley have passed unmourned from the map. No longer do landlords preach to their tenants by making them live in Abstain Cottages or Fay-as-you-go Court

But one curious fact must be noted. St Helier must be almost the only town in Great Britain that does not possess a High Street!