Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Guernsey Watch

Guernsey Watch

I’ve been taking a look at the news in our sister Island.


“The first phase of Environment’s replacement programme will see it replace 12 buses, purchase two minibuses, one of which has already been secured, and refurbish up to 27 of its existing vehicles.”

As well as replacing buses sufficient for the existing capacity, the Department is also looking at smaller vehicles for some roads. A spokesman said they were “retaining the required carrying capacity to meet peak demands while securing vehicles that are smaller than the existing fleet”

It’s an interesting idea. Whether Jersey could benefit from a similar scheme is a moot point, but perhaps a park and ride which used a smaller bus would be useful, or a minibus service, either operated by Liberty Bus or another operator, linking the Island’s more remote sites to main trunk bus routes could be viable.


“The option to introduce same-sex marriage in Guernsey over the controversial union civile reforms could rest with deputies when proposals are debated, one of the politicians behind the recent consultation has indicated…. Deputy Green gave his backing to opting for same-sex marriage legislation over union civile and revealed the ‘high level’ of public support for that option, supported by over 70% of consultation respondents.”

Guernsey has been looking initially more positively at the “Union Civile”, which would remove the religious element from all marriages – including those conducted by the Church of England – a civil ceremony for all sexes (including same sex marriage) would be followed by a religious ceremony, where the church allowed (an opt out for same-sex marriages, but the latter would not be a legal marriage; that would remain with the civil ceremony for a “Union Civile”.

Jersey looked at the option, but rapidly ruled it out, and it looks as if Guernsey has now done the same. It would be easier for Guernsey, as it has no formal Canon Law of its own, but there would still be disquiet that the Established Church, of which the Queen was the Supreme Governor, would not be able to conduct traditional marriages. In a way, the idea of a “Union Civile” was a fudge to avoid a discrepancy between civil marriage and marriage in the church, and avoid controversy over opt outs for religious groups.

It is interesting to see that the same pressures to do something are in place in Guernsey, just as they are in Jersey, and matters are moving in the same kind of direction towards recognition of same sex marriages, at least in the civil sphere.

The language of debate has also moderated from even 2006, when a perusal of Jersey’s Hansard sees such terms as “sodomy” and “buggery” used by some members, without the slightest reprimand from the Bailiff of that time, who nonetheless ruled Geoff Southern’s use of the term “godforsaken” as inadmissible because it was “religious” when the term has patently been denuded of all religious meaning for at least the past 20 years!.

Curiously, a search of the site by the in-house search engine does not turn up those terms anywhere, and yet a perusal of Hansard from 2006 reveals their presence. Is there a selective censorship in the search engine?


“Some of the current female deputies are leading calls to encourage more women candidates in the lead-up to next year’s election. Environment minister Yvonne Burford said there was probably more than 20,000 women eligible to stand as a politician in 2016 and it really should not be too difficult to get 20 of them elected into the States. She said to answer the million dollar question of how to get more women to stand, they first needed to understand what might put women off standing in the first place.”

That is indeed the million dollar question! 

Research from the Brookings Institute suggests it is not family concerns and responsibilities which are the main reason why there are less women in politics. Jennifer Lawless from Brookings noted that "Family roles and responsibilities exert no impact on potential candidates' decisions to run for office -- and that is the case for both women and men" although she does note that younger women have a lot more juggling of responsibilities for home than men. But the real reason is a male bias in those looking to support candidates:

"Political gatekeepers tend to recruit from their own networks, and those are men who tend to operate in pretty male-dominated networks," Lawless said in an interview. "So there's not much evidence to suggest there's any overt bias against potential female candidates. It's just that they are not the ones that the electoral gatekeepers are surrounding themselves with. They're not the immediate names that come to mind."

In other words, the political support network for women is harder to come by than that for men. I wonder if that is the case in Jersey?

The method of election is also important. The late Professor Wilma Rule showed the biggest reason for female candidates’ success in these some democracies and not others is the use of “fair representation” electoral systems, also known as proportional representation. Looking, for example, at Germany and New Zealand, women win a lot more seats chosen by the fair representation method than in those chosen in one-seat districts—twice as many seats in Germany.


“WE ARE a small island where we can all contact each other and there is plenty of opportunity to exploit the benefits of flexibility, nimbleness and ‘mucking through’. This is our strength; we need our quirks, ‘Guernsey ways’, traditions and anomalies. If we accept a global ‘one size fits all’ philosophy, we are dead in the water. An analogy: go-karts are quicker up Le Val des Terres than dragsters.”

“Spoonerists will find it appropriate that it is Matt Fallaize who has spearheaded proposals to reduce the number of States departments from nine to six. This will mean having six obese departments. I have seen numerous illustrations that departments are already too large and cumbersome”

“Given the increased size of their departmental mandates, in the long term it’s likely that deputies will become less ‘hands on’ and will increasingly farm out decision-making to consultants and experts largely appointed by committees and sub groups made up of civil servants and consultants appointed by civil servants, etc.”

This letter of the week by Matt Watermann is interesting because that is exactly what one tends to see in Jersey – monster departments that really are too much for any Minister, even when supported by Assistant Ministers. And I rather like his implicit spoonerism at the start! Did you spot it?


“Current Scrutiny and Legislation Committee chair Rob Jones outlined areas including the power to compel witnesses to give evidence, being able to force the release of existing documents and being able to review the extended arms of government, those bodies such as Guernsey Post, the competition regulator or Aurigny, that are in receipt of public funds but because they are non-political cannot be touched, at the moment.”

The States of Guernsey are looking for reforms, and as well as a reduction of departments from nine to six, they are also looking to “beef up” Scrutiny. I bet John Le Fondre would like those powers in relation to the Waterfront development, where crucial documents are permitted to be held back, making Scrutiny into a toothless tiger.


“Whisper it... There are some things that Jersey does better”

And finally, I rather enjoyed reading this story!

“The first notable difference was the ways in which the two ports handle passengers sailing between the islands. In Guernsey, I was required to walk along the quay, walk down the car loading ramp onto the car deck and finally up a flight of stairs to the passenger lounge. Fortunately, the weather was fair but had it been raining I should have been very wet indeed before reaching the lounge. In St Helier harbour, I left from the upper stern deck via a dedicated covered walkway.”

“The second notable difference is the way Jersey manages vehicular and pedestrian traffic and the attitude drivers as a whole seem to have towards pedestrians…. Crossing from the Pomme d’Or Hotel to Liberation Square is easily achieved by using two zebra crossings linked by a traffic island. Drivers were always – or so it seemed to me – prepared to give way at this very busy junction.”

“The third difference I noticed was the Jersey bus service, operated by the same company that runs our bus service….There are frequent services – as often as every 15 minutes at peak times – to the more popular parts of the island with a fare structure which includes a £1.50 for a ‘short’ journey or £2 for a ‘long’ journey. There is also a variety of season tickets – daily, weekly or monthly – to suit both holiday visitors and residents. There are even double decker buses.”

“My final observation relates to the different experiences enjoyed on a visit to Elizabeth Castle compared to a visit to our own Castle Cornet. As the tide was in, my visit to Elizabeth Castle began with a sea crossing aboard a modern-day DUKW-like amphibious vehicle. When the tide is out, it remains possible to use the DUKW in its wheeled format. The return fare is a modest £3. I realise Castle Cornet is never cut off by the tide, but some sort of transport to the castle would be an advantage.”

“Apart from a very interesting talk set in 1781 from an ‘army surgeon’, which is not a daily offering, the ‘noon day gun ceremony’ is a very different experience indeed. In Guernsey, while you can almost set your watch by the firing, the whole thing is over in 10 minutes. In Jersey, the ceremony took over an hour on the day of my visit. It involved visitors being ‘volunteered’ to parade with the gunner and then assisting with the firing when he eventually got around to firing the cannon at approximately 15 minutes past one.”

“However, to end on a positive note, there can be no dispute that St Peter Port harbour beats St Helier harbour hands down”

Nice to see some praise from a Guernseyman, although he was obviously aware that he might stir up and hornets nest with this letter – so name and address withheld!

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