Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Silence and Questions

The photo shows John de Carteret in very 1970s fashion and hair style! He became a St Lawrence Deputy at the age of 28 in 1975, and went on to serve a six year term as a Senator. During that period, he was originally a sharp critic of the States, but gradually as time went on, appeared to move gradually more over to the establishment side, which was probably why he failed to be re-elected as Senator, losing the popular support which propelled him into office. But he retained his interest in politics, tried again in 1999, and returned very much to his more radical roots.

In the States, we read the following notice of his death recently:

"Members will have noticed that Mr. John de Carteret sadly died over the weekend. Mr. de Carteret was elected as a Deputy in St. Lawrence in 1975 and served one term of 3 years, as it then was, in that capacity. He was subsequently elected as a Senator in 1978 when he topped the poll. During his time in the States he was known as a fluent contributor in debates and he served on the establishment of the Gambling Control and Overseas Aid Committees. He retired from the States in 1984, although he obviously did not lose his enthusiasm for politics, standing again, unsuccessfully as it turned out, in the 1990s." (Hansard)

Members approved this, and showed their approval in the customary manner by standing for a minute's silence.

It's s shame that the silence was not filled with this letter from 2008 being read out just after the notice of John de Carteret’s death. It is a letter written by the former Senator, in which he surveys the political landscape of 2008, and notes how little change occurs in Jersey politics. Given the elections of 2014, it is clear that not much has changed since, either:

I have never understood why the Jersey voting public are not actually prepared to vote real change into the States. Over many years between elections the public will whinge and moan but always re-elect the vast majority of States Members back for a further term. We will see two or three new Senators and a few new Deputies who, once elected, forget all the election manifesto promises or even worse (as in most cases) find themselves completely out of their depth or join the establishment.

Politics is the relief of great motivation fused with drive for achievement and the challenge of debate, sometimes against impossible odds or so it seems at the time. The lack of will to change by the public must either be apathy or we must assume that the population by and large are happy with our current States Members and their performance.

Many years ago I spent four months researching and two and a half hours on my feet in the States Chamber as a Senator trying to toughen up States policies in pay and employment in the public sector. I was defeated and soon afterwards met with the then Senator Cyril le Marquand. I asked him how does one get the States to get tough and change unacceptable practices which would not last five minutes in private enterprise? His reply was, ‘When they run out of money, John’.

Now is this what we are heading for because at the moment the practice seems to be tax and spend, but for how long?

That is rather prophetic, as the States is in danger of running out of money, and yet, as Kevin Keen found out, as in Yes Minister, each little empire is jealously guarded by its Sir Humpreys and their silo mentalities, retarding any attempts to work together, and making a mockery of that cliché that Ministerial government was supposed to bring – “joined up government”.

From 1983, Minutes of the States, this is also worth reviewing, as matters have changed little since:

Senator John Philip de Carteret asked Senator John Clark Averty, President of the Establishment Committee, the following questions – “The declared policy of the States carried out through the Establishment Committee has been for many years to appoint local people to top jobs. This has been the policy repeatedly put forward at elections by senior politicians who have been responsible for carrying out this policy as Committee Presidents

Is the President telling the public that there is no-one in Jersey who is capable enough to head his Department?

Excluding the Income Tax Department and States Treasury, could the President tell the House how many local applicants have been appointed Chief Officers since he became President? 

Is the President aware of the disquiet among civil servants about continual outside appointments and what does he intend to do about it?”   

1 comment:

Jonathan Renouf said...

Very interesting, I remember the "buzz" around John when I was growing up. A fascinating character. It would be worth exploring why "radical" politicians fail in Jersey. In John's case it seems to have been partly a case of assimilation. Stuart Syvret is another example of a radical politician who failed, albeit for very different reasons. Perhaps what links them is that they were isolated; they were never part of a large scale movement for change.