A Week in Politics

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If you had the good fortune to be listening to the States on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning, you might have heard a few States Members bemoaning the lack of legislation guaranteeing redundancy payments for workers.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There is one particular group of workers that do get guaranteed compensation, and payouts have been made as recently as last year. They’re a small – I hesitate to use the word ‘elite’ – and select bunch.

Go on, have a guess. Here’s a clue – there’s 53 of them. Yep, if you get made redundant tomorrow, the only thing you’re guaranteed by law is a bit of sympathy, a touch of concern, and some ‘support’. Not financial support, dear me no, nothing nearly so crude. The kind of support you get from politicians is different – they look you square in the eye, grasp your hand firmly, say ‘I support you’ and then walk away.

But if you’re a States Member and you lose your job… Well, then you get a month’s ‘resettlement’ pay – regardless of whether you quit your seat, or whether the public kicked you out of it, regardless of how much you get paid, how much you’re worth, and regardless of how much you earn on the side. In case you’re curious, a month’s pay works out at £3,365.17.

Not that far off the average payout that was proposed for the Woolworths workers (£289,500 total divided by 84 workers comes out at £3,446.43), is it?

Strange how no-one thought to mention it really, how none of the 53 States Members drew the connection between their own deal, and the one they were being asked to sanction for the Woolworths staff. As luck would have it, there’s a consultation paper out at the moment on this very subject (see paragraph 31 on page seven of the paper on the States Greffe website for more details).

Note the precise wording (my emphasis): ‘We should also welcome views on whether additional “resettlement” pay should be given to members when they leave office, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. At present members are entitled to receive one month’s pay after leaving office and we should like to hear views on whether or not this remains an appropriate level of payment.’

If you used to work for Woolworths, or if you’re thinking about getting made redundant any time over the next couple of years, then maybe you’d like to get in touch with the States Members Remuneration Review Body.

Among the questions they’re asking is whether States Members get paid enough, whether ministers should get paid more than anyone else, and whether the expense allowance is enough. Drop them a line, go on.

All this to one side, it’s been a good week for the 14 new Members who were taking their seats for the first time for a formal sitting. They did well, most of them. Lots of speeches, most of which were sensible and coherent, which is more than you can say for some of their more experienced colleagues.

Deputies Montfort Tadier and Tracey Vallois managed to make succinct, coherent speeches that made actual sense – whether you agreed or not. Whatever they’re on, they should pass it round. Or maybe whatever training the new Members get should be offered to the senior ones too.

Not quite so impressive was Home Affairs Minister Ian Le Marquand, who suggested that the States go into secret session while he dealt with a query during Question Time. Having spent a fair amount of time in and around the Magistrate’s Court in my life – as a reporter, I hasten to add – I can say without any doubt that Senator Le Marquand has a brain the size of a bus, is unfailingly honest and a nice guy to boot.

But if he thinks that he’ll get away with answering questions from colleagues in secret session, he’s got another thing coming. Special mention must go to one of the new Members in particular however, and that’s Deputy Trevor ‘The Punmaster’ Pitman – who with apologies to Barack Obama, has to be the best politician in the world, this week at least.

He was quizzing the new Education Minister, Deputy James Reed, on support in schools and youth clubs for vulnerable young gay and lesbian people. Deputy Reed, you might remember, has a bit of history with this issue.

In the last debate on lowering the gay age of consent to 16, in line with straight couples, he had some graphically expressed views to share with us on the ‘totally unnatural’ nature of homosexual acts.

On Tuesday, now elevated to ministerial status, he simply assured Members that enough was being done for homosexuals in the establishments under his control, and that help and counselling were available. Deputy Pitman didn’t miss a beat. ‘Sir, I very much welcome the news that the Minister will be standing up firm and erect on behalf of gay sexuality,’ he said. Genius. Keep punning like that Trevor, and you’ll go far.

Social Security Minister Ian Gorst didn’t make any puns during the last States sitting, so he’s not as good a politician as Deputy Pitman. But more than any of the other ministers so far, he’s had a rough ride based on things that were either done, or should have been, before he got the job – what with the Income Support criticism and the debacle over the laid-off Woolworths staff.

For my money, he’s doing OK. Most importantly, he managed to get through the Woolworths debate without a) sounding quite as screamingly right wing as some of his colleagues, or b) giving the standard ‘up-to-the-eyeballs-in-sympathy-but-not-going-to-help-in-any-way’ speech that set the tone for so many Members on the minister/assistant minister side of the House.

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