IN YOUR INTERESTS?
What links economic melt-down
With child-protection failures?
The average Jersey politician.
When I sat down to prepare this entry, it was my intention to publish the Order of Justice – the legal document – I have recently had served on a number of Jersey authorities in respect of the criminal and civil wrongs they engaged in, in 2007 when they were attempting to illegally conceal child abuse.
The defendants I cite in the action are the Chief Minister, the States Employment Board, the States itself, and the Jersey Attorney General.
But – as terrible and reprehensible as the child abuse cover-ups are – they are, tragically, a symptom of a profoundly broken, corrupted and incompetent body-politic.
Readers in Jersey may be disgusted at the child protection failures – but otherwise be labouring under the delusion that – broadly speaking – the Jersey establishment is reasonably successful in other policy areas.
If only that were so.
I’ll publish the Order of Justice in my next posting – having described here the decayed governance out of which the legal action has arisen. This posting – and the next – will take us from the general – to the specific.
When a government – no, an entire political culture, fails catastrophically to deal with a specific issue of fundamental public importance – the great likelihood is that it is failing to deal responsibly and competently with all areas of public policy.
Sure enough – upon close examination, the Jersey establishment is responsible for a mind-numbing roll of failure – in virtually every single area of its responsibilities.
Only the determinedly un-intelligent could fail to draw the obvious conclusion.
That when we see hopeless inadequacy on the part of Jersey’s public administration – the real problem is not the particular policy failure that may have caught our eye – but rather the underlying chaos and dysfunction of the entire system – and the overt inadequacy of 90% of your elected representatives.
People will, obviously, have differing priorities as to what they expect of their government. Many will look for a high level of economic competence and financial efficiency; others may be more concerned with environmental policy; others still might regard social policy or education to be the priority.
And when observing the performance of the States of Jersey in those policy areas that may concern us, we may well – with justification – be frequently appalled. But do we look closely enough – if at all – at those parts of government activity that we wouldn’t usually be interested in?
Do we dare?
During the last few years, my overriding concern has been the tragic and wretched history of child protection failure in Jersey; the ‘Culture of Concealment’ – that permitted decades of abuse to take place – and which prevented the guilty from being punished.
Perhaps understandably, such concerns may have been secondary to people leading happy family lives, immediately concerned as many will be, with paying the mortgage and providing for their own children.
But all people should pause to think – and ask themselves a fundamental question: ‘if our government cannot get right something as fundamental as child protection – what else are they getting wrong?’
We are in the year 2010 – this is not the 1970s; good standards of child protection, and proper scrutiny and accountability of our child protection apparatus must be a litmus-test for any respectable administration. Does the Jersey establishment pass that test?
And if it doesn’t – do we then find the inevitable examples of other public policy failures which we must, sadly, expect, if our government can’t get right something as rudimentary as protecting vulnerable children in its care?
The Jersey oligarchy fails virtually every test we might reasonably expect of a modern, Western democracy.
The failure of the polity is endemic.
Jersey’s public administration is a chaos of unscrutinised incompetence and of toxic, fin-de-siècle decadence like unto ancient Rome.
Too concerned with compartmentalised areas of public policy failure, we’ve failed to see the big picture; we have failed to see that the unlawful concealment of child abuse – and taxation policy failures – and environmental destruction – and social policy inadequacy – and public finance chaos – and economic incompetence – are all disastrous symptoms of the same stagnant, intellectually bankrupt, rotten, system.
That failure of public perception may be about to change.
Change – when the full, awful reality of the magnitude of the collapse of the economic and fiscal policies of the Jersey establishment strikes home – as it soon will.
But it isn’t as though the failures themselves were the end of it.
Every bit as bad – and in many ways more breath-taking, is the absolute and rigid refusal of the Jersey establishment to ever acknowledge its failures – learn from them – and put right the mistakes.
Let’s remember just a few:
St. Helier’s land-reclaimed Waterfront; supposedly a “world-class” property development opportunity, the site is, in fact, a giant toxic-waste dump. The evidenced truth never officially acknowledged by the States – and to this day, an absolute refusal to conduct an inquiry into how such an unlawful disaster was able to occur.
I attempted to establish such a public inquiry – and wrote in detail about the subject here:
Naturally, the States refused to even investigate the matter.
In that blog posting, I asked the question:
“Just how the hell our government landed us with a Waterfront contaminated with about 400,000 tonnes of teratogenic, carcinogenic and mutagenic toxic waste?”
It’s a question that still needs answering.
Consider another disaster:
The persistent absence of any kind of strategic planning for the community’s health and social care services.
I noted recent reports that Jersey’s Health & Social Services department were spending – in this time of austerity – a further £760,000 of tax-payers’ money on commissioning UK “experts” to carry out a review of care provision.
In around 2003, the old Health & Social Services Committee, of which I was President, required of the immensely expensive civil servants that they develop just such an all-encompassing strategy for health and social care provision in the island.
Notwithstanding repeated demands that the strategic document be produced – several years later, the by now mythical “New Directions” report was buried under a mountain of excuses.
Eventually, years later, I was finally handed the first draft of the New Directions strategy.
I was rendered speechless at the inadequacy of the document.
In response, I wrote a detailed, ten-page critique, dated 6th March 2007 – in which all of the obvious issues – and the startling defects in the Jersey civil service document, were pointed out.
My critique can be read here:
And here are the population of Jersey – nearly four years later – still, with no competent draft strategy even published – let alone agreed by the States.
And to add insult to injury – Jersey tax-payers now have to spend an additional £760,000 – employing more UK experts – because the recently employed UK experts in the management of H & SS “don’t have time” to produce the strategy – because they are too busy managing the services – that the existing senior management were too incompetent and defective to manage – but who haven’t been sacked – because your average States member is too terrified of the civil service to ever hold anyone to account.
Thus the response of the States to one gross management failure, has been to pile on top of it, not one – but now two – additional layers of very expensive “expert management” – and still, all these years on – no competent strategic plan for health and social care in Jersey yet exists.
The issues that confront health and social care provision in the island are blindingly obvious; I wrote about them in the critique I produced in March 2007.
But yet your politicians are quite happy to spend £760,000 of your money – on an exercise that can only end up stating the obvious.
We have to wonder who is getting the kick-back.
And if people thought they were already angered by the incompetent and unnecessary expenditure of their taxes – they had better brace themselves.
If people feel things are financially tough at present – I can – quite honestly – imagine civil unrest when the brutal truth hits home.
You could be forgiven for not knowing this – if you relied upon Jersey’s media – but the taxation policies of the Jersey government have crashed and burned.
The island faces a period of economic and fiscal upheaval, every bit as dramatic – but different – to the Irish euro bail-out.
That is not an exaggeration.
Do not be surprised if, in the next year or two, Jersey has to turn to the IMF – to seek its own, self-inflicted bail-out.
The very foundation-stone upon which the States of Jersey’s taxation strategy – and thus the island’s economy – was built, has crumbled into sand and dust.
The dramatic upheaval in recent years in Jersey’s tax policy – such as “20% means 20%” – and the Goods and Services Tax, which is even levied on such basics as food and heating costs – that huge transfer of the tax burden away from corporations, and onto the shoulders of ordinary people – has failed in its central purpose.
That purpose was to facilitate the introduction of the so-called “zero/10%” tax policy – the “ingenious” mechanism that was going to – supposedly – satisfy the European Union that we did not harbour “harmful tax practices”, and thus enable the happy continuation of the off-shore finance industry – upon which we are massively dependent.
Zero-10 was never going to work.
And a lot of different people – myself included, said so at the time.
Few things are as important to a successful society as a stable economy. So when the EU pressure began, and the Jersey establishment started panicking, I took the time to research the issues and the alternatives in some depth. I spoke to a lot of people.
I heard a lot of different things – but one theme was consistent – whether I was speaking to bankers – or to some of the less ideologically crazed members of the Institute of Directors – or to members of the Tax Justice Network.
Not one of them believed, even for one instant, that Zero/10 was going to work.
Sure enough – it hasn’t.
You might expect that when faced with such a serious external threat to the industry from which – regardless of what the “official” figures may say – 80% of our GDP derives, the States would wish to make certain that all of the different possible policy responses were carefully appraised?
But – remember – this is a polity that, even in the year 2010, can’t get something as basic as accountable child protection systems right.
Seeking only a thorough examination of all of the issues, I wrote a detailed report and proposition concerning taxation policies, and took it before the States for debate.
That document – P.41/2004 – was recently published in full by Rico Sorda on his blog, and can be found here:
Obviously, the proposition that we should pause and properly plan our new fiscal and economic policies was thrown out – so the work was never undertaken.
Instead the States chose to put their faith in Phil Ozouf – a vacuous nincompoop who has inherited everything, never had to do a day’s real work in his life – and who thus possesses all of the consequent economic “skill”.
The result has been six years of mind-boggling economic and financial incompetence – the full horror of which is being carefully massaged away from public recognition in Jersey.
Today sees a perfect example of the spin.
It has been drawn to my attention that today’s leader comment in what passes for a “newspaper” in Jersey, concerns the Goods and Services Tax. Under the heading “Exemptions now will ease the pain later”, it says this:
“The truth, of course, is that budgeting is not really like that. As in warfare, the first thing to be destroyed by unpredictable events in the spheres of public and private planning is the plan.”
It goes on to conclude:
“Against this background, it could be preferable if the principle is accepted sooner rather than later that, at higher rates, GST exemptions are not merely permissible but essential.”
Remarkable – isn’t it – how in such a simple, low-key manner, the Jersey oligarchy and its house-journal can introduce their support – for the very policy they have rabidly opposed hitherto?
The fact is the events challenging Jersey’s economy and taxation policies – were not “unpredictable”. They were predicted. By lots of different people. Myself included – not least in the report and proposition I referred to above.
I campaigned – from the outset – for exemptions to GST – because only an utter fool could ever have imagined the tax would stay low.
The Jersey establishment is in a state of febrile panic; they know their economic and taxation policies have failed; they know all of those who said they would fail, have been proved right; they know that to now be supporting exemptions to GST represents nothing less than acknowledgment of their failure and shows the Jersey government to be thrashing around in naked panic.
They’re just hoping the population of Jersey doesn’t notice.
And – really, although I’ve written often enough about the spin-doctoring of the Jersey oligarchy – and just how passive and tame the local media usually is – even I’m impressed – if that is the right word – that such a seismic occurrence as the failure of zero/10 can have been so air-brushed from news reports and analyses.
Here is what the Guernsey government have said:
“November, 23rd, 2010, The Policy Council confirms that it has received confirmation that, at its most recent meeting (19th November, 2010), the EU Code of Conduct on Business Taxation (‘Code Group’) agreed with unanimity that the zero/10 corporate tax regimes have harmful effects. It is understood that, whilst the formal assessment process has not technically been concluded, the expectation is that the Crown Dependencies will be required to introduce revised corporate tax regimes.”
“Although Guernsey’s zero/10 regime has not been subject to review by the Code of Conduct Group the implications of last Friday’s conclusion by the Code Group will need to be thoroughly reviewed and assessed.”
Translated into plain English – a frank admission that Zero-10 is dead in the water.
Here – by way of contrast – is what Jersey’s government have said:
“The Group considered a paper prepared by Commission officials that was concerned solely with whether the deemed distribution provision and the combined effect of taxation at company and shareholder levels came within the scope of the Code as business taxation.”
“With the exception of that provision, the 0/10 tax structure has not been formally addressed by the Commission or the Code Group. Therefore, with the exception of this anti-avoidance measure, nothing has been conveyed to the Island authorities that would indicate that the present 0/10 tax structure is in conflict with the Code criteria. This is fully in accord with the view expressed by the Island authorities to the Code Group and the Commission.”
Translated into plain English – a panicked and brazen mish-mash of truth-denying sophistry. ‘Zero-10 is dead in the water – but we’re messing ourselves in terror and we dare not admit the truth to the Jersey public.’
The fear dripping from the Jersey press-release is almost palpable.
I’m reminded of the recent 50,000 strong protest in Dublin.
If I was Philip Ozouf – I’d seriously be making plans to leave Jersey.
However – that one departure wouldn’t rescue this community from a hopelessly stagnant, wilfully ignorant and morally corrupted body-politic – as most of those remaining are clowns – every bit as much as Ozouf.
We in this community have suffered – and are now going to suffer even more – because of decades of mythology. Generations have allowed themselves to be conned into believing that the average, traditional States member, can be regarded as a “safe-pair-of-hands”.
In describing the average Jersey oligarchy politician in a posting I wrote in 2008, I said discovering truth was like this:
“We pull back the curtain, as in the Wizard of Oz, and find lost and insecure individuals, thrashing around in a panic, like a drunkard at the controls of a 747 after the flight-crew have all had heart attacks.”
The full posting – titled “The Horsfall/Walker Years” – can be read here:
In that posting I wrote of the very carefully maintained spin and lies by which the average Jersey politician is marketed to the public as being competent and responsible; of that mythology I said:
“In that regard, the Jersey oligarchy – which includes the local media – have been startlingly successful in propagating and maintaining the mythology. I say startlingly successful, because so divorced from facts – from reality – are the accepted assumptions about the Jersey establishment; so wholly divorced from the evidence and consequences we see around us – that it could even be regarded as one of the most successful propaganda exercises in any post-World War II democracy.”
In reality, the customary Jersey politicians – who so many islanders vote for expecting sober and responsible governance – are a collection of ignorant and frightened imbeciles – with about as much grasp of ethics and responsible economic planning as Bernie Madoff.
Is there any sign of hope for the community of Jersey?
Surely – given the brazen mis-governance of the last 30 years – and in particular the various disasters of recent times – all of which stand like indictments against an entire political culture – a few of the current establishment States members must be mending their ways?
On the contrary, the arrogance and hubris on display just gets worse.
Consider the evidenced and profoundly serious and wide-spread planning corruption – which was recently attested to under oath in open court.
The corruption in question encompasses many individuals – and even stretches so far up the power-structure, that the States assembly were mislead into re-zoning a large amount of protected land, to enable it be developed. At great profit.
Even though the subject has been raised in open court under oath – the States assembly refused to even inquire into the matter.
As I often remark – you just couldn’t make it up.
Yet – things simply get worse.
Who could forget the absolute and solemn promise made by the Jersey authorities that public inquiries would be held into the child protection failures?
Eventually, one such inquiry was proposed – an examination of the management of the Health & Social Services department. Yes – that being the same structure – and the same individuals – who are now costing islanders an additional £760,000 because they are too defective to do the work themselves.
In November 2009, the States assembly rejected undertaking the promised inquiry.
As I wrote of the vote at the time: –
“A result so immoral and imbecilic, that you’d have had a hard time getting a room full of Palermo Councillors to support it – even if each of them was blindfolded, handcuffed, and had a Beretta to the side of their heads.”
I was repeatedly reminded of that betrayal last Thursday and Friday – as I sat with a group of survivors while they waited for the jury to return the verdicts on Morag and Tony Jordan, the two States of Jersey employees who had abused them and made their childhoods hell.
Having met so many survivors during the last three years – and listened to them – and shared their sense of grievance and loss – I find it impossible to understand what goes through the minds of that majority of States members.
For me, it remains the case that the true, defining political moment of the entire disgusting scandal was the occasion I attempted to give the customary Christmas speech as Father of the House, in December 2007. I thought I would use the opportunity to express on behalf of the States some recognition, acknowledgment and empathy towards survivors of child abuse.
I was howled-down by a baying mob of States members. The first time ever any public acknowledgment of child-protection failures was spoken in the States assembly – and so inadequate and ethically bankrupt were the majority, they refused to even let it be heard, with their boss, Phil Bailhache, cutting my microphone and adjourning the meeting.
As I stood at my desk, trying to absorb what had just happened, I felt as though the temperature in the chamber had just dramatically dropped – like a scene from a horror film. It was a real physical sensation. Looking around at the members as they rushed off to their Christmas lunch – I suddenly realised – in a kind of dark epiphany – these people were not what I had thought them to be. Not civilised human beings, with whom I might have political disagreements – but rather the makings of a mob – no autonomous thought or ethics on display – instead an accretion of ignorant and a-moral fools – not so many steps removed from the kind of collective madness that blighted Europe in the 20th century.
And those are the people – and that is the political culture – that governs the community of Jersey.
Reflecting upon the unceasing litany of failure by Jersey’s polity – only a few of which I’ve touched on above – can we be surprised?
When a majority of our elected representatives – will not hear words of empathy towards abused children – can we really expect them to act effectively and reasonably in other matters?
When they can’t even keep a promise to hold a public inquiry into decades of concealed child protection failure?
No – we can’t be surprised that they are still incapable of requiring the civil service to produce a meaningful health & social care strategy.
Nor that they would rather deny their various incompetences and sleaze and not inquire into evidenced planning corruption, of a kind that would be a national scandal in any respectable democracy.
I’m not sure how many people listen to States debates? Most certainly only a tiny number of people.
Hopefully another blogger will be able to post the audio of States question time – from those occasions when people such as the Chief Minister and the Home Affairs Minister have been answering questions concerning the corrupt concealment of child abuse – and the unlawful suspension of Graham Power.
If you are a civilized human being – what you hear will disgust you.
Not because of the brazen dishonesty and sophistry of the answers – though those are, indeed, disgusting enough. But, rather because of the response to the questions and answers, from most of your elected representatives.
It is against the rules to applaud in the States chamber – so the customary way for members to express their approval of a speech or of an answer, is to drum their feet on the floorboards. This traditional “foot-stamping” being the officially approved means by which the majority grouping intimidates and undermines minority members.
Hence the reason why most States members are increasingly known as the “Foot-stamping Lackeys”.
There are any number of States assembly ‘question times’ – when serious questions – of the utmost gravity have been asked – asked on the basis of hard evidence – about the many failures of the States of Jersey to protect vulnerable children – and a majority of Jersey politicians can be heard, sneering and sighing at the questioner – and furiously stamping their feet in rabid approval of the inevitably dishonest and evasive answer.
What kind of politician – no, person; what kind of person groans contemptuously when hearing a question about the need to protect vulnerable children from abuse?
What kind of person drums their feet on the floor – in furious applause – at a dishonest answer that seeks to cover-up child abuse?
What kind of politician can so unashamedly and noisily endorse the evidencedly unlawful suspension of the Chief Officer of the Police Force?
The same kind of politicians who can contentedly ignore an illegal toxic waste dump under St. Helier’s waterfront.
The same politicians who will refuse to investigate the wide-spread planning corruption that most of the population knows to exist.
The same kind of politicians who will idly throw money at a senior management structure of Health & Social Services – even though the same people have already shown themselves willing and capable of concealing child abuse, causing – and then attempting to cover-up corporate manslaughter, and incapable of producing a health & social care strategy in spite of having had over seven years to do it.
The same politicians who enthusiastically embraced their own ignorance – and refused to examine the realities of taxation policy – and who consequently have brought the looming economic meltdown upon their constituents.
Be under no illusions – the child abuse cover-ups are supported and enabled by exactly the same system – the same political ‘culture’ – the same inadequate individuals – the same broken, rotten system – that is responsible for the looming economic hardships about to be endured by the community.
These are the same people – the same oligarchy – who are desperate to ‘draw a line’ under the child abuse investigations; these people who have so grossly failed the community – are desperate for the subject to just ‘go away’ – and be forgotten – along with the rest of their mistakes.
But the Jersey Child Abuse Disaster cannot be set aside – until Jersey’s authorities have faced the full truth. Not only are there still a significant number of individual abuse suspects who should be prosecuted – not least the Chief Officer of Jersey’s Education Department, Mario Lundy – there is also the hitherto untouched subject of all of the criminal concealment of child abuse.
All of those perversions of the course of justice.
In the face of many decades of unlawful concealment of child abuse – how many individuals have even been charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice?
There are dozens – upon dozens – of people out there, who have betrayed the fundamental public trust placed in them – by unlawfully concealing the abuse of children – instead of protecting them.
And for as long as none of those who have criminally concealed child abuse are brought to book, Jersey’s child “protection” systems will remain unaccountable and, actually dangerous to vulnerable children.
As Rico wrote on his blog, when speaking of the “foot-stamping lackeys” that make up most of the States assembly – “These States members are a Danger to Children in Care, the reason for saying this is simple. Who now will be prepared to blow the whistle in Jersey if they see malpractice towards Children? Do these States members not recognise the magnitude of what they are doing?”
Indeed. And as the average States member has so little concern for the safety of vulnerable children – we can’t be surprised that they’ve failed catastrophically at everything – including the island’s economy.
A broken system of governance – is a broken system of governance.
If it won’t protect vulnerable children – then it won’t do anything responsibly.