A Week in Politics

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It must be a lot of fun, because everyone seems to want to have a crack at it.

We’ve had three so far – Senators Stuart Syvret, Ben Shenton and Jim Perchard – and we could be on our way to a fourth, after Senator Perchard went all Russell Crowe in the States the other day.

We could be, but we really, really shouldn’t – despite what the people who leave comments on the JEP website, the members of internet forum Planet Jersey and, uncomfortably for me, the JEP editorial from Friday all have to say about it.

Don’t get me wrong. While the Senator is still dancing around exactly what he said to his colleague –but, presumably, not his friend – it has been reported that it’s something along the lines of, umm, well: ‘You are full of f*****g s**t and why don’t you go and top yourself, you bastard.’

The obvious and sustained provocation notwithstanding – that’s not cool. It’s not polite, respectful, or seemly. It is neither big, nor clever.

And yet, as far as reasons for sacking for a Health Minister go, it’s an absolute non-starter.

I’m all for sacking ministers – and so are you, I’m guessing, by the way you dispensed with the services of the Education Minister and Transport Minister at the elections.

But wouldn’t it be nice to think that we would do this on the basis of how ministers do their jobs?

I mean, what are we really saying? That it’s OK to lose millions of pounds by failing to fix the euro rate for the incinerator company, that it’s OK to mislead the States into agreeing to the Waterfront development, that it’s OK to move out of the tourism building and then move back within 18 months and that it’s OK to make the entire Island look like a bunch of bumpkin mugs on Newsnight.

But that if you lose your rag in the States Chamber, then you go? That’s a new and special kind of nonsense. And if the big deal is that Senator Perchard is the Health Minister, and that it is particularly unacceptable for him to tell people to top themselves, well – you know, that’s got some problems with it too.

Does that mean that Freddie Cohen can tell people to go top themselves, because he’s the Environment Minister and mental illness isn’t in his remit? Can Deputy Phil Rondel say it? Can the Constable of St Peter say it? Can I?

No. This is utterly ridiculous. If Senator Perchard makes a habit out of swearing at his colleagues in the States Chamber, then he’s got to go. Fair enough.

I’m all for ministers getting sacked when they screw up their jobs. But Members need to, well, man up a bit. Have a look at the way other parliaments go about their business – with particular reference to the UK, US and Australia – and compare that with ours.

A big deal? Really? I don’t think so.

None of this helps Senator Perchard, in any event – the movement to oust him is big enough that there’s a fair chance that some feckless, publicity-craving hack of a States Member will be tabling a no-confidence vote soon enough.

The question is, whether enough Members have changed their minds since 8 December, when 31 of them wanted him to get the job and 21 wanted Senator Paul Routier instead.

Let’s all be completely honest with each other and admit that sometimes, the letters page in the JEP isn’t a thoroughly uplifting experience. All that changed on Saturday.

Year 2 pupils at d’Auvergne School – average age: six – wrote an excellent letter to this newspaper, furiously protesting about our description of States Members acting like they were in a ‘school playground’.

School playgrounds, they say, have improved since my day. Children at d’Auvergne School now follow a set of Golden Rules which say they help them to: listen, be kind and helpful, look after property, work hard and be gentle and honest.

I genuinely can’t argue with that at all, and I can’t help thinking that those Golden Rules should be stuck to the desks of each of the 53 States Members.

OK, Year 2 pupils from d’Auvergne School – I agree with you completely. And to be honest, I can’t help but think that maybe you’d do a better job than some of our politicians.

I’m not saying that they should take over the whole thing straight away – but why don’t we start them off with the Privileges and Procedures Committee in charge of States Members behaviour and see how they get on?

It’s impossible to say which of the three main elements to the £3m euro bungle on the incinerator is the most serious.

Whether it’s the £3m in taxpayer’s money lost, the fact that States Members were explicitly told that it could not happen, or the level of incompetence displayed in an Island where you’d hope a fair proportion of the workforce were a lot more financially savvy.

What is for certain is that someone has to be held to account.

Some fairly senior people have a lot of explaining to do for bringing back the era of capital overspends, and I for one look forward to hearing what they have to say.

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