DO YOU WANT YOUR PARLIAMENT
TO BE A RICH MAN’S CLUB?
An Open Letter to Senator Ozouf.
I thought I would share with you what is, essentially, a parochial matter concerning Jersey domestic politics.
Should some of your elected representatives be more equal than others?
I don’t think so.
But the Jersey oligarchy wants to attack the concept of equal pay for elected members.
You see, when I was first elected at the end of 1990, only token payment was available for politicians.
“And what’s wrong with that?” I hear you say.
What’s wrong with that is the result was a legislature which was simply a rich man’s club; plebs need not apply.
Indeed – some great Jersey politicians, like the late Norman Le Brocq, had to, essentially, gather alms from his constituents so that he could work on their behalf – whilst supporting his family.
Read my open letter – re-produced below – to Senator Ozouf.
Whilst – understandably in many ways – one’s first instinct is to want to kick politicians – before doing so, just think – ‘what are the motivations of those who would return politics back to the age of the landed gentry?’
One thing we can be certain of – it is most unlikely to coincide with the interests of the average member of the public.
From: Stuart Syvret
Sent: 10 February 2009 23:20
To: Philip Ozouf
Cc: All States Members (including ex officio members)
Subject: Politicians Pay: An Open Letter to Senator Philip Ozouf
I read with interest your comments as reported on page 5 of tonight’s Jersey Evening Post, concerning States members’ pay.
You and Deputy Gorst – both very financially secure individuals – stoutly assert that States members’ pay should be frozen.
But you, in particular, are reported as going much further; effectively, reiterating views you have expressed previously.
You – apparently – want a “radical overhaul of the whole system of members’ pay”.
Essentially, that means people of your political persuasions getting paid more – and those who stoutly work day and night for their needy constituents, getting paid less.
I would be most interested to receive a copy of your submission to the board which is reviewing States members’ pay.
It should make fascinating reading.
I trust you will share it with the public?
Along with some other relevant facts?
For example – you assert that “one salary for all States members is wrong – as some do more than others.”
You would, perhaps, therefore be willing to elaborate to everyone just how many private member propositions you have tabled in you near-ten year existence as a States member?
Because – as you would, no doubt, be the first to acknowledge – bringing forward propositions, legislation or amendments – as a Minister – or Committee President as used to be the case – is vastly easier than developing and tabling private member proposals – because one has an army of very expensive civil servants to do the necessary work for you – unlike a back-bencher.
So, I’m certain you understand the relevance to the debate of comparing your track-record of personal, hands-on, work with that of a good number of back-benchers?
You confidently assert – as you have on many, many other occasions – that some members – people like you, presumably – deserve greater levels of remuneration – because, supposedly, people like you “do more” than other members.
Though I have to say – blowing a fortune of tax-payers’ money on the flying-banana – and breaking financial procedures to fund the appearance of a “glamour model” at a family event such as the Battle of Flowers – hardly appear to meet a value-for-money test.
Nor – it has to be said – does being responsible for, as voted nationally, the very worst new building in Britain – the Waterfront Hotel; an excrescence that every thinking person told you would be a revolting carbuncle – yet you never faltered in your support for it.
You now see, surely, the obvious methodological difficulty with your approach?
Even if – as you allege – you ‘do more work than others’ – there has to be a mechanism to differentiate between ‘quantity’ – and ‘quality’? For example, Ministers may well be able to appear in the media three times a week – on the basis of some vacuous guff churned out at tax-payers expense by spin-doctors – and “appear” to be doing more “work”. But – some low-profile back-bencher may be putting heart and soul into working for disadvantaged constituents – yet rarely appear in the media.
And on the basis of such examples as those two – I for one am in no doubt whatsoever as to which member is producing work of the greater “quality” – which, surely, must be the real test.
But setting aside the manifest inadequacies of your own performance, and instead looking to basic principles.
You, and some others, have always been of the view that a greater salary should be available for Ministers – or whoever happens to be ‘pleasing’ to the establishment.
Perhaps – such a view could be justified in the United Kingdom – where Ministers are drawn from the ranks of the governing party – where obedience and servility to the leadership is understood by voters to be a part of the package – from the very outset?
However – in the Jersey context – a non-party-political environment – only the truly politically illiterate could endorse higher pay for Ministers – in the absence of party-politics.
Jersey – at least so far as its establishment is concerned – is a non-party-political environment. Therefore – the power – the accountability – for what elected members do – and how they perform – forms a vastly more important relationship to the electorate than one would find in, say, the UK.
If your views were to succeed as policy – we would simply be handing to whoever was Chief Minister a mechanism by which he or she could bribe back-benchers into passivity and obedience – using tax-payers money as a lure – on condition they “played their cards right” and “didn’t rock the boat”.
If, supposedly, “independent” back-benchers – those who we rely upon for scrutiny – and where appropriate, opposition – can have the carrot of an extra £20,000, £30,000 or £40,000 per annum dangled before their noses – then, effective challenge and debate is destroyed.
Such a state of affairs would be antithetical to the public good.
But – if your views – as in all probability – find favour with the review body – and your establishment colleagues – then, in all justice, we must surely go back to considering States members pay on a means-tested basis – just as it used to be?
However – we would have to be far more rigorous than we were back then – wouldn’t we?
As you will, no doubt, recollect – the means test was very, very easily avoided through the mechanism of members arranging their financial affairs – such as investment wealth-streams, employments, directorships or consultancies – in such a way as to ensure the wealth-stream of the member didn’t accrue as personal taxable income. You must remember, surely? The very same device is used to avoid full Social Security payments.
So we would need a tougher system – in order to avoid that which used to happen – namely multi-millionaire States members – like you – as discussed during question-time in the States some years ago – dodging the means test using the above-described avoidance mechanisms – just as you used to do.
But – I’m sure – with sufficient determination, such a system could be made to work.
For example – if one was truly wedded to the concept of differential rates of pay for members – no matter how perverse such a concept – a more robust means-test would take into account such factors as existing wealth, inheritance, properties owned, businesses from which one derived an income, etc. Although we would have to be tough about this – in order to make sure that members’ business interests included the ‘”effective” economic ownership”‘ of assets – just as is the definition used in the Isle of Man. This would bring into account such mechanisms as Trusts, proxy-ownerships etc.
Incidentally, I did try to get the IoM definition used in States of Jersey procedure – but the Bailiff obstructed it.
So – if differentiated rates of pay for States members is – as you would have it – the path to go down – then means-testing would seem to be a logical approach.
In those circumstances, all of your vast, personal fortune would need to be declared; for example, the many inheritances which have fallen into your lap – such as Augres Garage, the old tobacco shop in a prime King Street location, the massive country farmhouse and adjoining buildings, the many fields, the other properties – etc – etc.
But – somehow – I doubt that any such quid pro quo would happen, would it?
For – in truth – all you and your establishment colleagues wish for is a return to the bad old days – as they were when I was elected – when only token remuneration was available – thus ensuring that the Jersey parliament was a virtually exclusive rich men’s club.
No plebs required.
Personally – I believe in fully representative democracy – which, of necessity, requires a level playing-field.
I hope – however futile it may be – that your elitist, self-interested views are placed where they belong – in the dustbin of history.
Senator Stuart Syvret
States of Jersey.