I ALWAYS end the year with a lot of unused holiday entitlement, so last Wednesday I took a rare day
off to go for a walk with my wife and Basil the dog. We parked in
St Aubin, where a traffic warden was busy booking cars in a near-empty car park by the Yacht Club, no doubt as part of a ‘Welcome to St Aubin’ initiative. Our walk took us over Mont de la Rocque to St Brelade’s Bay, lunch at The Smugglers and a walk back.
There were a significant number of new houses and flats on our walk, some of very questionable architectural design. Expensive houses and flats for the wealthy immigrants, the wealthy locals and for the ‘essentially entitled’ newcomers flooding in.
It struck me that there are now two Jerseys – ‘Old Jersey’ and ‘New Jersey’ – or, more accurately, ‘My Jersey’ and ‘Bling Jersey’. My Jersey is about community, unspoilt bays, local policies, heritage, arts and amateur sport. A place where the locals are listened to, a definition of wealth that goes far beyond just money and there is a sense of belonging. Bling Jersey is about money, status symbols, image, one-upmanship, material things, UK influence, all summed up by the Jersey Style Awards.
One of our weaknesses is that we increasingly lose sight of the fact that we are a small island and this provides limitations. To put it in perspective, Jersey’s population is just over 100,000. Newport, Wales, for example, has a city population of 145,700, an urban population of 306,844, and a catchment area of 1,097,000. A catchment population of our size cannot, for example, support a professional Championship rugby team over the very long term without considerable taxpayer funding – this is a reality that many refuse to admit. I support Jersey Reds and I believe that what they have achieved has been fantastic, but at some point the politicians need to wake up and smell the coffee. Another £150,000 just to get through the current season is an expensive sticking-plaster. Where is the realistic long-term plan, or genuine acceptance of the sad reality of the situation? Expect grandiose plans that will never amount to anything, and denial until the reality of the situation sinks in.
Bling Jersey, and what it offers, is important. But more important is accepting the reality of situations, taking tough decisions, and preserving the Jersey that I love, the Jersey that I am watching fade away.