JERSEY’S CHIEF MINISTER, FRANK WALKER:
SHOULD HE FACE A VOTE OF NO-CONFIDENCE?
Let your views be known by voting on my newly added poll feature.
Hate Jersey’s present government?
Here is your opportunity to say so.
Should Big Frank face a vote of no-confidence for his disastrous leadership?
Should the collection of passive non-entities who comprise most of our parliament be forced to nail their colours to the mast – with only five months to go before the first round of Jersey’s general election?
Just so the public can see whose side they’re on?
I’d really rather not be wasting my time on such exercises, when I could be working on my novel instead (expressions of interest from agents or publishers welcome) but as I explain below – it is actually a serious matter.
And someone has to do it.
There are a number of quite entertaining pros & cons in taking forward a vote of no-confidence – a few of which I will explore below.
But before going onto them – let us refresh our memory as to the seriousness of the cabinet failure we are considering.
So – Jersey – presently facing up to a child abuse disaster which has been described as unprecedented in scale for such a small geographic area.
Additionally still, at time of writing – and contrary to the impressions given by certain media reports – facing the possibility of child murders having been committed. Let us hope not – but we are still left with the abuse disaster.
The island’s oligarchy making the right noises about supporting the police – but in reality making fundamental attacks upon the investigation – as Frank Walker and Phil Bailhache did when hi-jacking Jersey’s national holiday, Liberation Day, to make partisan political speeches to attack the investigation, the national media and, by imputation, people like me who have fought for the survivors of abuse.
A Chief Minister and Council of Ministers which – last July, basically decided to have me sacked for giving an honest answer in the island’s parliament – when I said I had no faith in the child protection apparatus of Jersey. Apparently “publicly criticising” the child “protection” system in this way was – “undermining staff moral”.
And, of course, “undermining staff moral” – as we all know – is a far more profound and heinous offence than those staff exhibiting gross multi-agency failure to save a child from 18 months of appaling abuse at the hands of two paedophiles.
And publicly criticising the service – for not preventing the institutional abuse of children in custody by subjecting them to lengthy periods of punitive and coercive solitary confinement – is obviously of far greater concern than keeping a self-harming child with severe emotional difficulties in solitary confinement for two months.
Of course – the real events I describe in the above three paragraphs are all appaling, grotesque – and completely unacceptable by any civilised standard of child protection.
But – not, apparently, as far as Frank, his Council of Ministers, their carefully selected ‘expert’ advisers (advisers who are so ‘expert’ they have no grasp of the principle of ‘in loco parentis’), senior civil servants and the great majority of States members are concerned.
The evidence for a range of profound failings on the part of Jersey’s child protection apparatus was – contrary to the assertions the oligarchy made at the time – there to be seen and absorbed – ten months ago.
Yet Senator Walker and his council of Ministers and most members of the States chose to side with a clique of manifestly corrupt, incompetent, idle, dishonest and over-paid senior civil servants.
The above-described catalogue of misjudgement, stupidity, ignorance, irresponsibility – and cynical political opportunism on the part of all these clowns unfolded before they, or I, knew of the covert Police investigation.
I had reached my own – accurate – conclusions quite independently. I did this on the basis of clear evidence, and of personal testimony provided to me by whistle-blowers, witnesses and victims.
Much of this evidence was available to the Jersey establishment back then – but they simply were not interested in the facts; even to the point of “fast-tracking” a Council of Ministers’ meeting to decide to seek my dismissal – precisely to make sure I had minimal opportunity and time to accumulate further evidence.
As events have shown – I was right.
They were wrong.
But – let us be extraordinarily charitable and assume that the well-documented ignorance and stupidity of the Jersey establishment led them astray.
So – let us bring the narrative forward to late November – when the States of Jersey Police Force first publicly announced they had been conducting a covert investigation into systemic and historic child abuse.
Surely – it became clear, that instant, that the Jersey oligarchy had “backed the wrong horse”?
Surely – one would imagine – a little contrition, at least, from the Council of Ministers and from those States members who voted with them?
But, no – there has been expressed not one iota of recognition that they had, essentially, sided with a corrupted, disastrous and catastrophically failed child “protection” system.
But did they – in the coming weeks and months – at least have the common sense and decency to remain silent on the subject?
Not a bit of it.
In what was the lowest, most foul, despicable and disgusting event in the entire history of the States assembly – I was shouted down, stopped from speaking and had my microphone switched off – whilst I was attempting to give, as Father of the House, a speech of recognition and empathy to abuse survivors.
My speech being the very first occasion – ever – that a member of the States had stood to acknowledge the suffering of the victims.
But the assembly proceeded to disgrace itself – utterly.
But that episode was, in many respects, symbolic of what the States of Jersey has become. It was appalling enough – but of less concern than the practical considerations insofar as child protection is concerned.
And it is in this respect that Frank Walker and his Council of Ministers – and I include Senator Ben Shenton and his Assistant Minister, Senator Jimmy Perchard in this analyses – are still exhibiting a disastrous and dangerous incompetence.
As has been explored on this blog and elsewhere on numerous occasions – there are a variety of well-evidenced examples of dishonest, manipulative, professionally negligent and dangerous conduct on the part of a number of senior civil servants.
This evidence is well-known to Frank, Ben, Jimmy & Co.
Yet they have chosen to side with these failed – and very expensive – senior civil servants – rather than with the public interest.
Even to the point of exculpating Joe Kennedy – the boss of the Greenfields secure unit – who they have allowed to return to work.
Let us remind ourselves of what the evidence concerning Mr. Kennedy is:
He designed and ran a regime in the child secure unit which was barbaric, harmful – and clearly unlawful – no matter what Frank’s poodles, like Mr Williamson, may say.
This so-called “Grand Prix” regime included such practices as automatic strip-searches, compulsory showers, initial 24 hours in solitary confinement for all admissions – regardless of need, the use of extended periods of solitary confinement – on a punitive and coercive basis – frequently for three days – but with some victims being kept in such isolation for two months – to the point of mental breakdown.
Kennedy bullied and oppressed staff.
He lied to politicians and the media concerning his Grand Prix regime.
He quite improperly gave a post to a candidate he was having an affair with – rather than the better candidate (Kennedy being a notorious womaniser, though married).
He placed his employers – the States of Jersey – in a position in which they were hours away from taking the stand at Simon Bellwood’s employment tribunal – on the basis of a raft of perjured evidence – much of which Kennedy was responsible for. (This, incidentally, is why the management case collapsed.)
The Jersey civil service – and their poodle-politicians – set up a supposed enquiry into Mr. Kennedy’s conduct. The terms of reference – which Mr. Bellwood and I objected to at the out-set – were clearly designed to exculpate Kennedy.
They were so rigged because – if Kennedy had been found to be culpable – on similar grounds so would Phil Dennett, Linda Dodds, Marnie Baudians, Madeleine Davies, Mike Pollard, Mario Lundy and Bill Ogley himself.
This because the chain of failure in this case spread so far upwards.
So Jersey’s finest politicians – such as its Ministers – including Ben Shenton and his Assistant, Jimmy Perchard – have exhibited themselves utterly incapable of enforcing anything remotely approaching accountability on the island’s senior civil servants.
They have allowed Jersey’s so-called child “protection” apparatus to remain in the hands of a clique of defective senior officers – many of whom have been on-the-scene during the various episodes of appalling child abuse over the last couple of decades.
People who – at best – failed to stop the abuse.
Therefore – this is not a Council of Ministers which is taking child protection seriously. For all that they will assert the contrary – talk is cheap when it comes to child protection; everyone – indeed, even un-exposed paedophiles if asked – would claim to strongly support child protection.
So we cannot judge people – especially politicians – on the basis of mere assertion.
We must judge them on their actions.
And on this basis – this Council of Ministers must go.
Senator Ben Shenton has proven to be hopeless – to my great disappointment. I used to have some confidence that this man could be an effective politician – a more centrist counter-weight to the far-right market-fundamentalism of people like Walker, Ozouf and Le Sueur.
Instead – not only is he incapable of suspending a few civil servants who have demonstrably lied, schemed, manipulated and been dangerously incompetent. He has also denigrated the Police investigation – making insulting and disparaging remarks about Lenny Harper.
And this is the politician who carries legal and public responsibility for child protection in Jersey.
Christ help us.
As somebody famous once remarked – ‘people never cease to disappoint me’. I plough through the festering midden that is politics for 18 years – hoping – very occasionally – I’ve met someone of the same kind of strength and integrity I attempt to exhibit.
And so rare are such encounters, one often – out of sheer desperation – takes them at face value – only to always be let down; always disappointed.
So it was with Ben Shenton.
But what of his new-found political ally, friend and boss, Senator Frank Walker?
For there is no prospect of acceptable performance from Frank Walker.
For all his, rough, tough, hard-man of financial rigour and efficiency image, Senator Frank Walker always was, ultimately, a week, spineless and pathetic little man – witness his inability to even assert enough authority to deal properly with Joe Kennedy. Walker is utterly lost – without some senior civil servant to hold his hand and steer him. I strongly suspect this dependency of his may well explain his simple inability to ever stand up to the Jersey civil service and in doing so, defend the public good.
Think I’m too harsh?
Frank Walker has played an absolutely central role in both public sector finances and employment policies and practices pretty much from the year he was first elected nearly 18 years ago.
A public sector which has a bloated, inefficient, out-of-control and wholly unaccountable senior civil service.
A public sector spend in excess of half-a-billion pounds per annum.
And terrifyingly vast public sector pension scheme debts.
This particular emperor is naked.
But what, then, are we to make of the response of the average member of the States?
Given that in any respectable democracy the Government would have fallen over such a catastrophic catalogue of misjudgements – where have our back-benchers been?
Where are the demands for the resignation of Walker & Co?
Where has been the vote of no-confidence, which would have been tabled months ago in any respectable legislature?
Nowhere – of course.
Just as there has not been so much as one, single public apology or recantation from any of those members who, effectively, chose to side with child abusers and those who would conceal child abuse.
So – all-in-all – the polity of Jersey is in its most wretched state ever.
And not only because of the Jersey child abuse disaster.
There are a variety of other woes which beset this community right now – in addition to a range of profoundly problematic issues in which this community will reap what its Glorious Leaders have sown during the last three decades.
And believe me – the prospect of that particular ‘harvest’ does not make for pleasant contemplation.
I won’t bore you now with the all these other reasons why the current regime have failed disastrously. If you want an idea of what I’m referring to – check out my post called “The Horsfall/Walker Years”, posted on the 22nd February.
But being politically realistic – let us reflect upon one or two of the pros & cons of bringing a vote of no-confidence against Frank & Co; these being pretty obvious, but you might want to consider them before casting your vote on my poll.
Actually – thinking about it – some of them are both pros & cons. For example:
The proposition has precisely zero chance of being carried. I might get five, or seven votes at a stretch – out of an assembly of 53 elected members.
So – this could be seen as a negative. This outcome will be promoted, and perceived by the more gullible – as a resounding vote of confidence in Frank & Co. Me and the other reprobate scum will be depicted as marginal and irrelevant.
But it could also be seen as a pro. For even though we know a victory for Frank is guaranteed – it forces the elected representatives of the Jersey people – all those States members – to openly align with one side or the other.
And as we approach Jersey’s general election – what better guidance could the average voter wish for – than seeing which sitting members are pro-establishment Walkerites?
Now, the forthcoming elections are going to be a ‘night of the long knives’ in any event – quite without the prospect of sitting members being seen to have supported Walker. To those familiar with Jersey politics – it’s clear and obvious that at least two thirds of the present members must be regarded as at risk of defeat anyway.
Add to this scenario members having supported the most unpopular political leader Jersey has ever had – and one could quite easily imagine only about ten or twelve of the present members being returned to office.
Turning to one of the negatives – I will be accused of political opportunism; of “using” the situation for political purposes.
To which I say three things –
Firstly – I couldn’t give a monkey’s.
Secondly – the Jersey oligarchy is already pro-actively running such a smear campaign against me – and has done so from the very day the Police first went public with their investigation; so nothing new in that respect.
Thirdly – it, apparently, doesn’t occur to Frank, his Council and the average States member that they all used the situation politically – quite cynically – to get rid of me.
Back when they thought – in typical Jersey culture-of-concealment mode – “get rid of Syvret – problem solved”.
At a time when we were not aware of the Police investigation.
But – turning to another positive; such a vote has to be tabled. It would have happened months ago in any respectable legislature; and I have waited in vain for another member to take it forward. But none has.
It therefore falls – un-avoidably – to me to bring the no-confidence motion; and I say un-avoidably – because the public interest requires that there be such a vote.
So, there are just a few of the considerations relevant to the bringing a vote of no-confidence against Frank Walker and his crew.
Should we do it?
Yes or no?
And remember – the victory of Walker in the vote could be the historic catalyst for finally breaking the oligarchy’s monopoly of power.
Who knows what effect the outcome of the vote could have on Jersey politics?
Possibly a credible, organised opposition?
Watch this space.
In the mean time, cast your vote in my new poll feature at the head of the blog.
I promise I will take your views just as seriously as Frank & Co and most of the rest of the States did with the 19,000 signature petition which sought a delay in the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax.