LET ME KNOW YOUR IDEAS?
Democracy in Action:
Your Chance to Suggest Topics
For my Christmas Speech.
Regular readers of this blog will be very familiar with the disgusting spectacle of the States assembly & Phil Bailhache shouting-down and halting my Christmas speech at the end of 2007.
As readers and I have remarked frequently in recent months – wouldn’t it be fun to engage in some speculations and discussions as to what should be the subject, purpose and nature of my Christmas speech this coming December.
So – as promised – here is your opportunity to make suggestions as to what you think I should say this year.
But – for those not familiar with the history of the wretched saga – a brief recap.
At the conclusion of the last States assembly meeting before the Christmas break, it has long been custom and practice to conclude with speeches marking the end of the political year and the approach of Christmas.
There are usually five speeches, these being from the senior Senator, the senior Constable and the senior Deputy, the Dean and the Bailiff.
The senior Senator – which is me, believe it or not – is ‘Father of the House’, so is the first to speak.
Usually, these speeches are a round of smug, self-congratulatory, mutually-glorifying banalities – which are of little or no relevance to the community we represent.
But during the course of 2007, the Jersey Child Abuse Disaster erupted into public and political consciousness. For the first time ever – decades upon decades of the most appalling child abuses had finally been exposed.
The response of the Jersey oligarchy to these events was – and has continued to be – uniformly disgraceful.
Having spent much of 2007 networking amongst whistle-blowers, witnesses and survivors – people whose age ranged from 13 to 75 – I knew all too well that the States of Jersey had engaged in a shameful, disastrous and sustained failure to protect vulnerable children.
So – I decided back then that the community – and the survivors – needed to hear some kind of expression of empathy towards the victims – an acknowledgement of the decades-long failures of the island authorities which had allowed, permitted – and in many cases condoned – and carried out – these atrocities.
Such an open acknowledgment having never before been uttered by a politician in the Jersey parliament.
So – I took the trouble to write a speech, and when the moment arrived, attempted to deliver it.
I got about a quarter of the way through the speech when – in another brazen example of the culture of concealment at work – I was barracked and shouted-down by a number of States members, for example Peter Troy, Terry Le Main, Frank Walker & Mike Vibert.
The Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache – unlike any other speaker of a legislature in the respectable, democratic world – instead of telling these barbarians to sit down and shut up – agreed with them and joined in with the prevailing mob-rule.
He ordered me to stop the speech. Having taken the precaution of ensuring that what I had written was ‘in-order’ – and therefore knew the intervention of him and his oligarchy colleagues was simply an anti-democratic act of oppression – I declined.
So he cut my microphone and adjourned the meeting – allowing the assembled States members to rush off to their tax-payer funded Christmas lunch – from which I’d so rudely detained them.
I have previously blogged the speech in question, on the 14th April, 2008. It is archived under the title, “The Speech the Jersey Parliament Refused to Hear”,
The first – and so far only – occasion on which a Jersey politician stood to speak words of acknowledgment and empathy to abuse victims.
And the States assembly – in its majestic hauteur and hubris – disgraced itself by actually stopping the speech.
In a major article on the Jersey Child Abuse Disaster, in the Sunday Times magazine of the 4th May, 2008, the journalist, David James Smith wrote this concerning the halting of my speech:
“The suicide of Michael O’Connell had first been drawn to the attention of Syvret by a friend of Michael’s. Syvret had discovered the dates of Michael’s death and his subsequent inquest, and attempted to introduce them in a Christmas speech to the States in 2007. He had been shouted down by Frank Walker and others because he had broken with convention by not making a routine speech but choosing instead to talk about victims of child abuse in Jersey care homes.
“When he refused to sit down and tried to carry on – even as some members came up and practically screamed in his face – the bailiff, Philip Bailhache, switched off his microphone.
“It seems only fair to point out that the Jersey politicians weren’t to know then what you have read here, about Michael’s tragic history of abuse. But, even so, it might seem like a somewhat unedifying spectacle – a group of grown men, or mostly men, shouting down a speech which was, in part at least, about a boy who hanged himself.”
That is a very diplomatic description of how those events appeared to the real world – as opposed to the parallel-universe, “Groupthink” environment of Jersey.
You know, one of the reasons I feel so pessimistic about the future of this community is that – to this day – notwithstanding everything we have learnt about the concealed atrocities inflicted on vulnerable children in Jersey – still 90% of Jersey politicians and their oligarchy supporters see me as the villain of the hour –and their conduct to be perfectly respectable.
But – let us try and set aside such multi-faceted tragedy and sadness – and instead turn our attention towards Christmas 2008 – and my speech as Father of the House.
I could easily think of several apposite themes – and a few particular phrases – which might inform the speech.
But I thought I’d try and introduce a little democracy into the process – by inviting you, dear readers – to submit your suggestions.
What do you think I should be saying this year, as the assembly finishes business and looks to Christmas?
Though – do not be in the least surprised if, as I’ve remarked previously, the oligarchy – with indecent haste – try and rush through a change in the rules somehow, and scrap many, many decades of custom and practice – simply in order to stop me from speaking.
Yeah – I’m afraid they really are that dumb.
The words of Jesus Himself – such as “suffer the little children” – are obviously out of contention – as these were not allowed last-time; being deemed somehow “inappropriate” – even though we were approaching the celebration of Christ’s birth.
And Biblical quotes in general will be forbidden, as even the Dean, when e-mailed by me after the incident to ask what he thought of events – took a decidedly pro-oligarchy position.
Though having said that – I guess he may have changed his mind – given that he used the very same quotes that I had attempted to deliver, a few months later when the cause of the suffering and misery of children had become “fashionable”.
So – even though it’s a Christmas speech, Christian themes appear to be out-of-bounds – well, at least any Christian themes which are embarrassing or inconvenient to the oligarchy.
Though I’m quite sure that some Old Testament stuff about homosexual people being “wicked” and in need of being “cured” could be rustled-up by Ian Le Marquand. I’ve no doubt that that kind of thing would go down a storm with most States members if delivered by said ultra-conservative religious fundamentalist.
So – what are we left with?
Quite a lot actually
Being an anti-oligarchy States member, one has had to develop quite a good line in irony – so we could subtly – or not so subtly – take the mick.
Or – I could seriously address a subject which would appeal to the assembled herd – such as just how marvellous our ultra-low and regressive taxation system was – given that it gives such free-reign to the “wealth-creators” – whose efforts then allow a little “trickle-down” to the poor in Jersey and abroad.
Perhaps I could talk about the brilliant intellectual skills, leadership and vision of the retired Senator Frank Walker – and point to his many, many achievements – such as the vast, concrete excrescences which adorn St. Helier’s Waterfront; one of which was so fantastic an achievement it’s just won the “worst new building in Britain” award. Or maybe how – after decades of countless billions flowing through Jersey – we’ve accumulated a Strategic Reserve which is almost so large as to able to meet one year’s public expenditure.
Perhaps I could speak a little of all those members who are retiring?
Maybe pass a few words on the legacy of departing Bailiff, Phil Bailhache?
Perhaps I could confess the error of my ways? Hmm….Don’t think that’ll work either – as the Assembly made it clear they didn’t like ‘confessional’ material last time out.
Perhaps I could recite an appropriate poem? I like poetry – so that could be a runner.
Do send in your recommendations.
Or the lyrics from a song by Rage Against The Machine? A few appropriate titles spring to mind.
Or maybe you have in mind some other lyric? If so – please share your ideas.
But, instead of such frivolity – perhaps you think the occasion merits a serious and straight speech?
Well – if so, I really need your guidance because that’s what I tried last year – and it got shouted-down.
You see – only Phil Bailhache is allowed to make “political” speeches – like on Liberation Day – when the real world needs it explaining to them that the “real scandal” of the Jersey Child Abuse Disaster is “the bad publicity”.
But I can certainly think of several serious themes – which I’m actively considering.
Not least simply a straightforward, honest and unambiguous apology from the States of Jersey to all the victims.
You know the kind of thing? An apology of the kind Frank Walker has been advised NOT to give – by Jersey’s Attorney General, Bill Bailhache.
You know – I just don’t know where Bill finds all the time needed to determine all prosecutions in the Jersey Child Abuse Disaster – whilst at the same time giving legal advice to the executive as to why they must avoid any expression of culpability in an attempt to minimise compensation claims. It must take a very special talent to wear both hats simultaneously.
Nevertheless – an apology to the victims remains my favoured option at the moment.
Now – in your suggestions, we need to observe a few rules. We don’t want to make it too easy for the Jersey Establishment Party to shut me up – by delivering a speech which is “out of order”.
So whatever I say has to comply with the rules, the standing orders, of the States – just as my previous speech did.
So – “imputing improper motives” to a fellow member is out of the frame – as are obscenities.
Curiously, there is a traditional range of words and phrases which are deemed “unparliamentary” – most of which have been proscribed by the House of Commons and adopted by other legislatures.
It’s quite weird really – but in a legislature – a chamber full of politicians, of all people – the word “liar” is strictly forbidden. As is the word “hypocrite”.
Direct, personal abuse is also usually frowned upon – unless, of course, it’s being used by an oligarchy member against some rancid, uppity pleb like me – in which case it’s just fine.
The use of “big words” is also usually greeted with open hostility – which, being a dictionary nerd, I find a little disappointing. So anything with excoriating existential inchoate proschemata in it – is out – if you get my drift?
And we need to be careful, too, with quotations. You see – if one tries to be “too clever” Terry Le Main is allowed to shout “bloody know-all!” at you.
So that’s Goethe, Chomsky, Ghandi and Holub out of the running. Though one might get away with a little Shakespeare, though not sure about W.B. Yeats, given the presence of the Lieutenant Governor.
So, in general terms – we’re looking for a subject for the speech – and various points which might be included in it – which doesn’t break parliamentary rules by being abusive or telling the truth.
It should also – in order to “be relevant” – have something to say on the year gone by – what the States and its various titans have been doing – and look forward to the year ahead – whilst thinking of Christmas and what it is supposed to mean.
So come on, readers! Suggestions! Get your thinking-caps on!
But – as I said, we need a Plan B. The oligarchy will try and prevent me from making the speech.
They’ll embarrassingly rush through a decision which overturns decades of custom and practice so that it is not me who speaks.
Or – no matter how carefully crafted our collaborative missive – insisting on cutting me off again on some spurious ground – just like last year.
So here’s my Plan B.
I have a platform ladder which fits in the boot of a car. I’ll get a friend to take it to the Royal Square, outside the States building – and we can use it as a platform on which people can stand and deliver their various Christmas messages to the States.
We can even make the event a poetry slam.
And maybe a rap competition too.
But I don’t have a public address system – speakers, cables or microphones etc. Anyone out there who could help by supplying these?
So – no matter whether the oligarchy stop me from delivering a speech which the public have contributed to – whoever wants to join-in can meet-up in the Square where we can hear some pithy ‘Christmas speeches’ from the public.
In fact – the more I think of it – the more fun it sounds.
We’ll firm-up dates and times later.