Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Decision Day in the States

Who should be the subject of a vote of no confidence?

This is the day when a debate may start about a vote of no confidence in Chief Minister Ian Gorst, yet in many ways I think it is the wrong vote of no confidence. Let me explain.

It appears that the vote of no confidence was largely triggered by Ian Gorst bringing back Senator Philip Ozouf as an Assistant Minister. This would seem to be confirmed by the rumours that the Council of Ministers was divided on the issue, and the decision whether to bring Senator Ozouf back was in part hampered by Collective Responsibility, suggesting that a joint decision making came out against his re-appointment. Senator Gorst went ahead anyway, but it transpires, asked Senator Ozouf to resign on Friday. He declined.

If Senator Ozouf had resigned or was sacked from his post by Senator Gorst (who after all has a power to fire), then it is clear that the vote of no confidence would be close but most probably lost.

Senator Gorst calls this “a distraction” which seems to be a coded way of saying he would have preferred it if Senator Ozouf had resigned to save his own skin!

Mindful of his political future, Senator Gorst has apparently tried to toss Senator Ozouf to the wolves by asking for his resignation. It reminds me of that quip by Jeremy Thorpe of another politician on dumping friends: "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life."

This means, therefore, that the vote of no confidence is principally about Senator Gorst’s judgement in re-appointing Senator Ozouf. But if it is Senator Ozouf’s record that is on the line, would a vote of no confidence in him as Assistant Minister be more appropriate?

That way he would have the chance to defend his record.

Whether criticisms of him are correct or not, I think that natural justice demands he has a chance to reply to his critics.

Senator Ozouf in the meantime has been frantic in trying to put his case out into the public domain. He writes:

“I have no option but to speak out as it’s clear the CM – who I support – is being pressurised by an unnamed group of people who are demanding my head for allegations that have either been investigated or dealt with and being tried by kangaroo courts with no option to defend myself. I will always put Jersey first. But what has been going on in recent days is beyond the pale.”

Blame on Senator Ozouf, while some may be justified, may also deflect blame from Senators Farnham and Maclean. While it is not clear how much they scrutinised the loan process, they signed off on loans and were responsible for those.

It was certainly also the case that Senator Maclean got the fund passed the States, and then returned to ask for remuneration for the board, without telling the States that he had already advertised the post of Chair as a remunerated position. His specious argument that a “Chair” is not really part of the Board was special pleading and should not be forgotten. It was duplicity of the worst kind.

So to return to my point; why not bring a vote against Senator Ozouf directly?

Now I’m not sure whether a vote of no confidence can be effective against an Assistant Minister, but I think it would be a brave Council of Ministers who supported an Assistant Minister’s retention if the vote went against them. Moreover, an Assistant Minister with integrity would resign.

But I do know that a vote can and was nearly brought against a Minister. Senator Terry le Main, in a situation where he was conflicted as a Housing Minister, wrote to the Courts regarding an infraction of the housing law, when the individual on trial had supplied him with election materials at cost price. Given the threat of a vote of no confidence, he resigned as Housing Minister.

And if a vote of no confidence can be brought against a Minister, why not an Assistant Minister? So it seems to be that Chris Taylor has picked the wrong target.

After all the trigger for the vote was Senator Ian Gorst's decision to re-appoint Senator Philip Ozouf as Assistant Chief Minister. And yet this does not appear in the proposition, despite the fact that everyone knows this is what it is all about!!

To say that the proposition took out the personal equation is like saying we will discuss storage in the room, when the elephant in the room is the real consideration.

As Gary Burgess says:

"On Tuesday, the Chief Minister faces a Vote of No Confidence. It is not in doubt that having Senator Ozouf out of the way will shore up Senator Ian Gorst's position. But is it right that he ousts Ozouf to save himself?"

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