A FEW EXAMPLES OF MENDACITY.
Do You Want To Be Governed
I said in my last Election Special, we’d begin the process of whittling down the 21 candidates to eventually arrive at those who may merit voting for.
So, to begin that process, I thought we’d take a close look at some of the black arts of propaganda and spin – and consider what some of the sitting members assert – compared with the brutal truth of their political voting record. An exercise from which one may draw the obvious conclusions.
Since this election campaign got underway, I’ve been making something of a study of the manifestos, advertisements, web-sites and slogans of the 21 candidates.
Who said politics wasn’t fun?
Some people perceive me as a miserable bastard, to which I say, ‘look, if you had to do what I have to do – you’d feel a little glum from time to time’.
But existential bleakness can be funny. In many ways, Samuel Becket was a comedian. Humour can be found in the most unlikely of grim circumstances – even Jersey elections.
And so it has been whilst examining the assertions of most of the sitting States members – in contrast with the facts.
It’s been as funny as reading Private Eye, listening to Chris Rock and trying to follow George Bush’s syntax all rolled-up into one.
Some of the claims made by the establishment candidates are so nakedly brazen in their defiance of the truth, one can only stare in wonder and shake your head in disbelief at the sheer nerve and shamelessness of many of the lies.
I’ve been in politics for 18 years – a profession noted for the ability of its practitioners to assert that black is white – but even if I wanted to lie in politics – I simply wouldn’t have the utter brass-neck some of these people display.
I mean, to take just one example, if I had a track-record of rabid, pro-active destruction of the environment – as has Philip Ozouf – I simply wouldn’t have the gall to assert, as he does, “I have put environmental concerns at the heart of corporate plans”.
No you haven’t, Philip. You’ve crushed environmental concerns under the heel of your rabid, market-fundamentalism – throughout your career. A little bit of Greenwash in the form of an “EcoActive” scheme is about as convincing as a North-Korean media report.
I’ve actually had tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks at many of the fantastical claims made by the oligarchy candidates.
Check out this gem from Philip’s web site:
“GREEN FIELDS – I do not wish to see any further development in green field sites for the foreseeable future. Studies are now showing that there are plenty of opportunities to increase housing supply through regenerating St. Helier.”
You can tell Philip has – just as has his running-mate, Alan MacLean – made a study of infamous propaganda techniques. Note the carefully crafted “get out of jail free” clauses in the above quote. Any “FURTHER” development of green field sites.
So that’s no “further” development – on top of the vast quantity of environmentally destructive countryside development you have supported so far.
Then we come to the wonderful phrase “for the foreseeable future”. What is the “foreseeable” future? Would that be until your pall Freddy comes to the States next with another vast chunk of wholly inappropriate re-zonings for development?
But of course – the truly comical phrase of Philip’s is “I do not “WISH” to see any further developments”.
So that’s OK, then – Philip doesn’t WISH to see any further developments – but when the proposals are brought forward, with heavy-heart and reluctant hand he’ll support further developments – even though he doesn’t WISH to.
Interpreting political statements is often akin to translating from one language to another. Which is what we’ve done with Philip Ozouf’s environmental claim.
What does it actually mean? At first glance, it presses all the right buttons – green fields – to be protected from development.
But in truth – all that we are being presented with is a text-book example of the political emergency exit. Lots of nice, clear avenues of escape – just as soon as the candidate feels like it. For in truth, what is being said is this:
“I need a bit of Green tokenism in my manifesto – but I don’t want to draw attention to my PAST record of environmental destruction – and nor do I want to be bound by a manifesto pledge when I carry on supporting even more developments. So let’s phrase something with a few weasel-words – which can be ducked out of should I ever be questioned about it.”
See – easy, isn’t it? Translating political double-speak into English?
Philip’s protégé, Alan MacLean adopts the self-same tactic in his propaganda. For example, just check-out his ads which are running in The Rag. There are eight bullet-points in his advertisement – one of which says this:
“Countryside and Heritage Protection”.
Again – that’s the “Green” button pressed. But what – prey – does the phrase actually mean?
It means nothing.
What we learn from this little bit of analysis is simple, and can be summarised thus:
“Always judge politicians by what they DO – NOT what they say.”
So let us compare and contrasts the environmental weasel-words of Philip Ozouf & Alan MacLean – with the inconvenient truth of their voting record, by way of two simple examples.
On the 2nd April, the States rejected a proposition that was attempting to halt the piece-meal development of the countryside, and instead sought that the review of the Island Plan be completed before any major re-zoning decisions. An environmentally sound proposition.
Now – dear readers – can we guess which way Alan & Philip voted on this occasion?
It isn’t difficult is it?
Both men were implacable in their opposition to the proposal.
Following the defeat of this proposition, the States, on the 16th July, voted on a proposition of Freddy – Mr Environment – Cohen – to re-zone huge chunks of the supposedly protected countryside in an entirely disjointed, nonsensical fashion – rather than wait until the Island Plan review is complete so that we have a cohesive, overall policy for development decisions.
Which way do we think out two “environmental champions” voted?
Yep – got it in one.
Both men supported this latest round of environmental destruction.
Yet here they are – at election time – quite brazenly seeking to cloak themselves in a bit of Green spin.
As I said, the sheer nerve of some of the spin and propaganda is truly breath-taking.
Let’s take a look at another example of just how – err – “reliable” Alan MacLean is.
When I was running for election in 2005, I pledged that I would continue to fight for essentials to be exempted from the Goods & Services Tax. And you know what – Alan MacLean, whilst not going as far as me, made a similar election pledge to the voting public of St. Helier number 2 district.
This is what he said – in writing – in his manifesto:
“GST – We must ensure the less well of are protected. They are the most affected from this new tax and we must ensure that the proposed low-income support scheme provides the desired protection. Medicines and medical services should be exempt as well as children’s clothing. We must ensure that the 3% rate is maintained as a maximum.”
OK – again, as an assertion, it presses all the right buttons. Protect less well-off, effective Income Support scheme, maintain a 3% rate – but also exempt medicines and medical services, and children’s clothing from the tax.
In due course, I carried out my election pledge – and fought a major battle in the assembly in an attempt to get some key items, such as food, domestic energy, education costs – and medical supplies and services – and children’s clothes – exempted from the tax.
You know what’s coming – don’t you?
How did Alan – vote-for-me-for-GST-exemptions – MacLean vote in that debate?
Not only did he flatly vote against every one of the proposed exemptions – he actually made a rabid speech in opposition to them.
So get this straight – here’s a man who made an unambiguous – written – pledge to his voters – the predominantly poor, working class district of St. Helier number 2 -that he would support the exemption of medical costs and children’s clothing from GST.
Yet, a matter of only months later – not only did he fail to keep his word – he actually made a lengthy speech in complete opposition to that which he had pledged to do.
Are you a mug?
Do you want to be represented by people who have such contempt for members of the public, that they’d so brazenly dissemble in their election promises – knowing full-well that if elected, they’ll just do what ever the hell they feel like?
Personally – even if I was in complete disagreement with the views of a candidate – I could at least respect them if they were honest about their political policies.
What I can’t respect – are charlatans.
But why do we carry on doing this? Getting hoodwinked at every single election?
By happy coincidence, this week’s New Scientist magazine has an article, on page 9, titled, “Our psychology helps politicians bend the truth.”
In essence, what is explained is that psychologically, we tend to arrange the world into categories – which saves ‘thinking-time’ – and we then go on to make all kinds of assumptions and extrapolations – based on the ingrained categories we have fixed in our minds.
Therefore, if politician X has, over a period of time, cultivated an “image” of themselves and what they stand for – a lot of people just won’t really absorb the fact that politician X, generally actually votes for the opposite of what we assume them to stand for.
To take a pertinent example – Sarah Ferguson has gone into this election touting herself as “Mrs Efficiency” – a politician who will hold the public sector to “account” – and bring some robust “common sense” to the task. As she has been Chair of the Public Accounts Committee – a body which is supposed to be a financial watch-dog, safeguarding us against poor performance and ensuring the public sector faces “accountability” – many of us will assume that image to be true.
But – what is the reality?
Two, highly relevant, examples spring to mind.
On the 9th September, I took a proposition to the assembly which sought to establish a Committee of Enquiry into the utterly irresponsible – and illegal – dumping of 100’000’s of tonnes of toxic incinerator ash into the land reclamation sites.
St. Helier’s Waterfront being, essentially, a giant toxic waste dump. A state of affairs which was repeatedly covered-up and denied by the relevant States departments in an example of the worst kind of civil service inefficiency and unaccountability.
Although difficult to conceive of a worse example of gross incompetence, irresponsibility and poor performance by the civil service – Sarah Ferguson voted against even enquiring into the disaster.
How does that reality square with her professed and supposed political determination to demand value for money and effectiveness from the public sector?
Consider the second example; on September the 11th of 2007, Sarah voted in favour of a proposition to have me dismissed as Minister for Health & Social Services – even though it was plain on the available evidence that the move to have me dismissed had been engineered by a number of manifestly incompetent, dishonest and dangerous – and very expensive – senior civil servants.
The prime motivation of whom was to get rid of me in order that they be able to hide the fact that so incompetent, lazy and unethical had they been – they’d been running for years a child custody system which was illegal and abusive. A fact which had been explained to me by the whistle-blower, Simon Bellwood – who I believed – instead of believing my plainly lying civil servants.
Fast-foreword to 11th October 2008. In an illustration of just how right me and Bellwood were – and how disastrously wrong the civil servants – and those like Sarah Ferguson, who passively supported them were – today, even The Rag says this:
“Grand Prix system was abusive and illegal”. It goes on to say, “Locking children up in solitary confinement…..was abusive and illegal a damning report will reveal.”
Decades of toxic ash dumping – decades of criminal, institutional child abuse. Both examples of the grossest malfeasance by the incompetent, bloated, over-paid and under worked upper-ranks of Jersey’s senior civil service.
But both perfectly OK as far as Sarah – “accountability” – Ferguson is concerned.
I’ve focused on Philip Ozouf, Alan MacLean and Sarah Ferguson in these comments, but the same observations could be made of nearly all the sitting States members who are contesting this election.
My recommendation to voters is that amongst the current States members contesting this Senatorial election there are only two who merit voting for. They being Alan Breckon & Geoff Southern.
You may not agree with their views – you may not like them. But they carry the immensely important distinction of being reliable and honest. With these two, politically – what you see is what you get.
Personally, I will, most certainly, be voting for Alan Breckon. And I’ll have to think closely as to whether Geoff Southern gets a vote. I don’t, frankly, get on with him at a personal level, but a part of being a responsible politician is setting aside personal considerations in order to do what you consider to be for the best.
For similar reason’s I’d like to place Nick Le Cornu at the very bottom of the list –but in reality – Mike Vibert must be in last place.
But as I said in my last posting, this is a strong field – I could easily vote for 10of the candidates. But I have to whittle down my choice to the 6 votes I’ll cast.
I have thought hard about how to present my recommendations. In the end I’ve decided on a simple approach. I will rank the 21 in order of preference.
Perhaps with a few, very short observations on each candidate.
And I’ll do that in Monday’s posting.
But in the interim, tomorrow evening we’ll be taking a close look at a few of the new candidates – and considering what they have to offer.
As the case is with some of them.
Watch this space.
The man who laughs in the face of defamation actions.