Frank Walker & His Council of Ministers:
Look forward to seeing how your politician voted.
So, here we are, dear readers – on the eve of debating your vote of no-confidence in Jersey’s Council of Ministers. As a result of your opinions as expressed in my poll, I tabled the proposition to get rid of Big Frank & Co. The island’s parliament will begin debating it tomorrow.
Actually – I would have done it anyway, but look – at least I don’t pretend that “consultation” with you necessarily has an effect on my policy decisions. I’m being honest – unlike the establishment politicians – who “consult” in an attempt to be seen to be listening to you – and then just go and do whatever they wanted to in the first place.
But – somehow – in this case I just can’t help but get the distinct impression that a great majority of Jersey residents are in agreement with the proposition.
So – how will it go? What will be the flavour of the debate? What will be the outcome? How long will it last? How much more gross and biased interference will there be from Phil Bailhache or Michael Birt when they’re chairing the meeting? How many political interventions will Phil’s brother, Attorney General William Bailhache, make?
I’ve been a member of the States, Jersey’s parliament, for nearly 18 years, throughout which time I’ve been an opponent of the entrenched oligarchy – so I have an awful lot of experience in matters political in Jersey. And, using that experience, it is possible to predict pretty much how the debate will play out. And whether current public opinion will have any effect?
Public opinion of my position in Jersey politics is rarely neutral. I’m a bit like Marmite – you either like it – or you hate it; – there isn’t really an in-between. But on balance, I must be doing something right, as I’ve topped the poll in my last two elections.
But something strange has happened – since about December last year. The early stages of the political battle over the Jersey child protection disaster had played-out over much of 2007. Public opinion remained polarised and unchanged when the controversy was still merely political; that is, before the Police made the covert investigation public. I detected a clear shift in public opinion following the Police announcement of their investigation. Nothing dramatic at that stage – but certainly a noticeable hardening of anti-establishment views.
However, I estimate that a far more significant swing against the oligarchy occurred from December last year – caused by their truly extraordinary and unlawful silencing of my Christmas speech in which I was attempting to express some recognition and empathy to abuse survivors.
But since then the Jersey oligarchy has truly crashed and burned – and I can take no pleasure in it, given the horrifying nature of events. The Jersey establishment has dealt yet more and more grave blows against itself. Some of which have been comical – in a tragic kind of way.
On display we have seen ignorance, stupidity, gross incompetence, hubris and folly. So well-catalogued are these event in the eyes of the public, I needn’t rehearse them now.
But just to illustrate the final decadence of public administration in Jersey, we need only consider the events of recent days – which display nothing short of a breakdown in the rule of law in Jersey. Events promulgated by the oligarchy at the precise moment when a number of the Jersey survivors, UK based campaigners and me were at the House of Commons, speaking with MP’s and the national media – and arguing for intervention from London because of a breakdown in the good administration of justice in Jersey.
That kind timing; that kind of stupidity and incompetence doesn’t come easily; no mere amateur could match such folly. No – this could only be achieved after decades – and centuries – of unopposed power – and the resultant culture of unbridled arrogance, and the sense of omnipotence and invulnerability.
It is an ingrained, in-bred characteristic of the Jersey oligarchy. We see it displayed constantly.
Why were Frank Walker’s national media appearances a succession of train-wrecks? Because he and other senior figures in the Jersey establishment are used to simple deference, obedience and respect. And this is exactly how they are always treated by their media in Jersey, and BBC Jersey – which may as well rename itself Walker/Ozouf Broadcasting – so comically biased is it.
Therefore, the culture-shock to the Jersey oligarchy people – when confronted by real journalists asking challenging questions – cannot be exaggerated. They were – and are – like rabbits caught in the headlights, frozen with fear.
And it is this “performance” which has served to swing more and more of public opinion against them. Even pro-establishment business men are fervently counting the seconds until Frank retires at the end of this year.
So, does this mean that Frank & Co. will be swept away in the forthcoming debate?
Not a chance – though the debate and the resultant vote will certainly be interesting. So let us speculate a little on how things might play.
Jersey has a three-year electoral cycle. It is well-noted that politicians suddenly remember who they’re supposed to be representing as we get into an election year. And I suspect the vote on this proposition will reflect that influence. If this debate were happening, say, two years before an election, I’d get about 6 votes in favour. But as the first round of Jersey’s general election is only four months away – I suspect, somehow, that one or two votes will come my way which would not otherwise have materialised.
Will it make any meaningful difference to the outcome? No, not in the least. The three-line whip is out – and Frank & Co. will survive, comfortably.
What I do expect to see is a lot of abstentions. It is easy to imagine a number of members who, under normal circumstances, would not hesitate to vote with the Council of Ministers – suddenly finding some weasel-words in an effort to justify their refusal to nail their colours to the mast – one way or the other. With an election looming – which was always going to be a political bloodbath at the best of times – and Frank & Co. having plumbed unprecedented levels of public contempt – abstaining will appear an attractive option to a number of establishment members.
However – I don’t think the electorate will be so easily diverted. They put politicians there in order that they make decisions. Abstaining doesn’t go down well with the public at the best of times. Under these circumstances – the public will see abstentions for precisely what they are: a de facto vote for Frank Walker and his allies – but one which the members concerned didn’t have the courage to commit to overtly. It is easy to see the abstainers garnering the most public disapproval of all.
These kinds of debates have the potential to go on for days. Personally – I really hope we deal with it more speedily than that. We all know the outcome is a forgone conclusion; we all know that only one or two members will be influenced by the debate – if that.
However – another feature of election years is that normally somnolent members suddenly feel a compelling need to make lengthy and tedious speeches during every debate – quite regardless of the fact that such interventions usually serve only to demonstrate how little they know of the subject under discussion.
So – probably, yes; it will go on for a long time.
Frank has always been one-dimensional politically. A one-trick pony. His sole modus operandi in debate is attack, attack, attack. And who can blame him – given that such is the quite overt anti-intellectualism of the States – that it’s a tactic which works. Members generally far prefer a good dose of ad hominem abuse – as it serves so well to divert attention from the real issues and to protect them from having to deal with uncomfortable facts. So expect a great deal of diversionary attacks upon me and a few others – rather then any meaningful attempt to address the fundamental problem; this being that Jersey has a cabinet – a government – which about 90% of it’s people want rid of.
So that brings us to Phil Bailhache and Mike Birt – Bailiff and Deputy Bailiff – one of whom will be chairing the meeting. The pro-establishment bias exhibited by these two men is, frankly, comical, such is the total lack of subtlety in it.
For example, standing orders require that speeches must be relevant to the subject under discussion – yet either of these two will permit Frank Walker, Phil Ozouf, and their various lickspittles to depart from the matter under discussion in an effort to mount irrelevant and diversionary attacks on their opponents. But were the position reversed, any anti-establishment members would be quickly told to desist and focus on the subject under discussion.
And will Phil’s brother – Attorney General Bill Bailhache – find some pretext for speaking in a no-confidence debate? Probably – he does seem to have taken leave of his senses just lately.
So – in general terms how will it all pan-out?
Whatever the details of the debate – it will be yet another example of the tragedy and farce which have become the staple product of the States of Jersey.
Somehow – I don’t expect it to be a particularly edifying spectacle; more significantly – I don’t, sadly, expect the debate to produce any great advancement or satisfaction to the people of Jersey. At least – not of itself.
But it is the longer-term effects of the debate which remain imponderable.
I’ll report back in due course, so we will be able to carry out an autopsy on the debate – and the polity which produced it.