Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Tony's Newsround

Jersey Action Group

The Jersey Waterfront Action Group has changed its name to the Jersey Action Group, and has said it wants to become a "political force" in Jersey to address wider issues such as tax and discontent with the current government. A number of those involved are previous States members and say they are going to help people stand in the May 2018 elections.

Chairman Sean Power says “We are more like a political pressure group, a political forum or even a coalition of like minded people who feel they want to do something about what's happening in Jersey right now."

With the advent of larger constituencies, if that is passed by the States, there will certainly be room for change. Of course, while the States have approved the change, when the actual law comes before them, there is still room for a degree of perversity, the States Chamber being a fickle lot.

I remember when the Chief Minister was changed from a secret vote to an open vote, despite the States having voted to approve the change, there was still a rearguard action against any the change when it came to the enabling law. In the end it was passed, which was a good thing, as it removed at a stroke all the backdoor hidden horse-trading which went on, so that the public could see how the representatives they had voted for had voted.

But now everything is set to change in 2018 in one of the largest shake-ups since 1948. In many of the larger constituencies, 5 States members will be chasing 4 seats, and there will be losers despite the advantage of sitting candidates over new ones. I am sure there will be no "safe" Deputy seats without some election taking place, as has sadly happened in the past.

After the debacle of the last election, where two Deputies tried and failed to make Senator, one of whom was Sean Power, it is unlikely that many will be so tempted again. But not all the Senators will be standing, so change will occur. The Senatorials are heavily weighted towards a rural constituency, so it is unlikely that much change will occur there, despite discontent with the current government.

Reform have made little headway out of St Brelade, and two seats in St Helier. Whether more seats in St Helier will open greater opportunities is another matter.

But it will be interesting to see how the new pressure group, and its support for prospective candidates changes the political landscape. Current levels of apathy at elections indicate a culture in which democracy is in danger of being eroded. New groups and new electoral boundaries might just revitalise Jersey politics.

Is banging heads the best approach?

The BBC reported that

“At a protest on Sunday, Assistant Chief Minister Paul Routier, representing Senator Ian Gorst, came out in support of the local crew who resigned after their coxswain Andy Hibbs was sacked. Senator Routier said he hoped the RNLI would ‘see sense’.”

Paul Routier apparently told reporters that “It's a matter of banging people's heads together, hopefully the RNLI will see the sense of ensuring that we get our local crew, who have all the expertise of the knowledge of our island waters. We can't do away with that expertise on a whim."

In the meantime, a petition set up to reinstate Andy Hibbs, who was the coxswain of the St Helier RNLI lifeboat, has gained nearly 1,800 signatures in 18 hours.

I’m not sure that banging heads is the best approach. Any dispute tends to polarise sides, and what we manifestly do not want is anything resembling a Dreyfus Affair. What are needed are people who are expert at conciliation, at pouring oil on troubled waters, and making sure that rather than barrages of emails and press statements, that talks take place with all the principals involved.

The more time goes on, and the more divided things become, the smaller the chance of reconciliation between the parties involved.

We have only to look at the dispute between the former Dean Bob Key and Bishop of Winchester Tim Dakin to see how not to proceed. Instead of seeking some kind of rapprochement, some Jersey “pillars of the church”, such as Sir Philip Bailhache and Bruce Willing, and the former Vicar of Gouray Gavin Ashenden appeared to make it into a simplistic black and white issue in which Bob Key was right, and Tim Dakin wrong.

As a result there was the bizarre situation in which Bob Key peculiarly apologised for his actions, then received an apology from the Archbishop of Canterbury for his treatment. The dispute so split Jersey and Winchester than oversight was transferred to Dover over what was essentially a clash of personalities. That is what happens when intervention by an independent peacemaker is ruled out: all kinds of mess.

It is notable that when a strike is now planned, Unions have to allow a cooling off period. This doesn’t always work, but it does give an opportunity for talks to take place. It is still not impossible for a resolution to be found, but it needs a troubleshooter with a particular set of diplomatic skills to engage with all parties.

Incendiary language like "banging heads" does not really help a peace process.

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