Friday, 16 October 2015

Brothers in Faith

Reflecting on the conflict between Deputy Montfort Tadier, and the Bailiff, William Bailhache, it is worth reflecting on an earlier exchange in 2008:

Deputy G.P. Southern Here we are today debating that very thing. We are told there is no alternative. “Thank God there was an alternative last week” some people are saying. So we could safely…

The Bailiff: Deputy, I am not sure the expression “Thank God” in that context is an appropriate parliamentary expression.

Deputy G.P. Southern: Can I use the expression “Thank heaven,” Sir?

The Bailiff: You are invoking the deity.

Deputy G.P. Southern: May I use the expression “Thank heavens”?

The Bailiff: “Thank goodness.”

Deputy G.P. Southern: “Goodness,” all right. Thank goodness it was there a week ago

The Bailiff in question was Sir Philip Bailhache, brother of William. And we see here the same strange and almost puritanical religious belief which cannot even allow idioms such as “Thank God” to be used in a States Debate.

It is even more notable because the idiom was never taken as unacceptable when others were sitting in the chair, such as the Deputy Bailiff, Michael Birt, or the Greffier, Michael De La Haye:

In 2006, Senator Terry Le Main said: “When the Housing Committee met in the past it was nothing to sit all morning listening to hardship cases and every politician in this Assembly was involved in many of these cases. Thank God that has now past.”

The Deputy Bailiff did not call him up for inappropriate language.

Again in 2008, the Deputy Bailiff did not prevent Terry Le Main for saying: “Quite honestly, I have got my lovely house at home and most of you have got your lovely homes and thank God I can leave here at night and go in my home and close my door and live in decent comfort.”

In 2007, the Greffier did not bat an eyelid when Deputy Paul le Claire said: “Thank God, the Housing Minister does not close his doors at 5.30 p.m. because this was about 8.00 p.m. You will remember it well when I brought the lady down with me. She was crying her eyes out.”

And in 2009, the Greffier did not correct Deputy Southern for his language when he said: “Member of the States reason to think: “Well, could that happen to me, and if so, how would have I reacted?” or even to say: “Well, thank God it happened to him and not to me” in some cases.”

It is only Sir Philip Bailhache who reacted with extreme sensitivity to what is now just an expression of relief, which the dictionary will tell you is now as devoid of religious connotations as saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes, and has been for many years. Even when Shakespeare uses it in Much Ado About Nothing - "Yes I thank God, I am as honest as any man living, that is an old man, and no honester then I", it has little religious meaning.

The Deputy Bailiff of the time, Michael Birt, and the Greffier, Michael De La Haye did not take issue at all..

So perhaps it is not surprising that Sir Philip should not only take issue with “Thank God”, but on another occasion, reject the use of the word “Godforsaken”, again from Geoff Southern. Again, the word has become idiomatic, the the dictionary tells us that it was "Originally: (chiefly of a person) abandoned by God; consigned to evil ways, depraved, profligate. Subsequently: (esp. of a place) lacking any merit or attraction; desolate, dismal, dreary."

Sir Phillip's attitude, like that of his brother recently, seems curiously like that of the Puritans of the 17th century or, more locally, in Jersey, that of the severe Calvinists who took control after the Reformation; for they too had a very acute sensitivity to such phrases. Of course, back in the 17th century such idioms still had religious connotations which they have lost today.

Incidentally, such language as "Thank God" has become a commonplace in the House of Commons for many years, long predating even Sir Philip Bailhache.

Here are a few examples:

Examples of “Thank God”

HC Deb 14 May 1835 vol 27 cc1071-112

Dr. Lushington And I am speaking on that same subject. On this point, thank God, there can be no misunderstanding between us.

HC Deb 20 July 1914 vol 65 cc173-93

Mr. T. M. HEALY Thank God we have a House of Lords.

HC Deb 04 April 1913 vol 51 cc708-81

Mr. BURNS: The next point is the finance. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury) is a financial expert and authority. Thank God, I am not.

HC Deb 10 February 1914 vol 58 cc53-152


The Angel of Death has, thank God, not been yet abroad in this dear land of ours.

HC Deb 13 April 1927 vol 205 cc385-517


We have still the Road Fund, thank God, intact, but he has gone very near doing away with it. Although the Chancellor of the Exchequer is capable of standing up, I think he is getting very wobbly on this particular point, urged on, no doubt, by the Treasury.

HC Deb 24 February 1927 vol 202 cc1965-2012


People may scoff, the Sassenach may scoff, but it still, thank God itI remains true that the dearest thing to the heart of a Scotsman or a Scotswoman is independence. There is nothing they cherish more.

HC Deb 01 June 1927 vol 207 cc403-517

Sir ELLIS HUME-WILLIAMS: I often observe in this House that, when an hon. Member has forgotten what he is going to say, or cannot think of anything else, or wishes to rouse a little enthusiasm, he generally says, "Thank God, I am not a lawyer!" I have not heard the expression as yet during this Debate, but I confess there have been occasions when I have felt inclined to join in the thank-offering.

HC Deb 18 February 1927 vol 202 cc1275-361


Mr. Cook, in a speech on 3rd June, said: "Thank God for Russia," and he added that there was a cheque for £270,000 received last week, that the Central Co-operative Societies in Russia had sent £40,000, that the Central Russian Union had sent £70,000, and so on.

HC Deb 17 March 1977 vol 928 cc635-766

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I pay the hon. Gentleman the compliment of saying that I followed his argument right through. I thought he was very clear. I disagreed with every word of it.

Mr. Kinnock Thank God for that.

HC Deb 02 December 1975 vol 901 cc1609-45

Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton)

I can only say that their policies have pretty well laid waste the whole of the industrial Midlands since they have been in Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Thank God they have not been in Government.

Mr. Spriggs Do not thank God. Thank the electors.

HC Deb 27 July 1977 vol 936 cc647-67

Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)

However, time is a great healer and after a suitable interval for consideration the Liberals have got together somewhere in the Central Lobby, where I understand that there is adequate room for them to do so and, indeed, on neutral ground.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight) Thank God there are only two days left.

Examples: Godforsaken


HL Deb 16 July 1901 vol 97 cc551-69

I refer to the Admiralty because that is one of the most deplorable buildings ever seen in this country, and you have thrown away one of the best sites. You had, opposite, the Treasury building, that beautiful pedimented building; all you had to do was to put up a similar building on the other side. Instead of that you put this God-forsaken, nondescript thing, which is a disgrace to London.

HL Deb 26 June 1973 vol 343 cc1840-969


I know that Maplin—or Foulness, to give it its more properly descriptive title—is a God-forsaken place as it stands; beautiful in its loneliness would grant, but not a good place for contractual development, and we shall find that the ten-year period needed before it is anywhere near completion will soon be exhausted.

HC Deb 28 March 1901 vol 92 cc95-163


If the French were to vanquish us, and if we were to be told, after being harried and having our houses all burned down, that we were to receive a little sum of money out of the French Treasury, and that we must thank God that we were going to have occasion to cease to be Englishmen to become Frenchmen, we would not consider the terms liberal.

In order to meet that, what does the Colonial Secretary propose to do? He sent out a Commission to discover whether South Africa was a fitting place for English colonists. Probably anybody on this side of the House could have told, him that a more God-forsaken place for English colonists did not exist

HC Deb 13 July 1978 vol 953 cc1895-906

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire) There is one point that I want to make, Mr. Deputy Speaker upon the Bill. The national debt, as I understand it, was created in the year 1694. Two hundred and eighty years later, in 1974, after two and a half centuries of war and two world wars, it had reached £40,000 million. But it took only four years of this god-forsaken, dreadful Government to double it. It is now £80,000 million.

Mr. Fairbairn But I also happen to represent those who live in an area of 8,000 square miles, which is one and a half times the size of Northern Ireland. Before Labour Members make silly remarks let them reflect on that. But thank God that I represent those people. I represent one-thousandth of the people of this country.

HC Deb 05 May 1978 vol 949 cc715-24

Mr. Fairbairn

The Bill is saying that the Minister shall have, by arbitrary decision—or on advice, if he cares to put it that way, by some Godforsaken tribunal of his creation—the power to say that the conduct or behaviour of a person on one occasion is a 723 reason for him to declare that that person shall no longer be entitled to do his job

HC Deb 11 July 1978 vol 953 cc1445-67

Mr. Pardoe

Why have the Government suddenly changed their mind? We shall want some firm comment about that from the Chief Secretary, because he is supposed to be in charge of the Inland Revenue—though it is a God-forsaken job to have, I must say.

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