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States vote decisively for a new way

States vote decisively for a new way

Tuesday 05 June 2018

States vote decisively for a new way

Tuesday 05 June 2018

It was the day the power balance in Jersey shifted. In a decisive vote, newly-elected Senator John Le Fondré unseated the two-term incumbent Senator Ian Gorst by a majority which has surprised many in local politics.

It was supposed to be close - but in the end, the former St. Lawrence Deputy knocked Gorst out of the top political spot by 30 votes to just 19.

Senator Gorst’s six-and-a-half year regime ended - it was also a vote which meant for the first time a politician with a history of scrutinising the work of ministers will cross the Assembly to make the decisions himself, as Chief Minister. Other former 'scrutineers' are now sure to make the same journey and join him in the ministerial seats.

It will also be the first Council since the Ministerial system began not to include at least one of Senators Alan Maclean or Philip Ozouf both of whom decided to resign at the end of the previous term. In a major ministerial exodus, the Ministers for External Relations, Housing, Health and Infrastructure and Assistant Ministers for Economic Development, Health and Treasury also stepped down.

Meanwhile, islanders and politicians alike hailed what they felt could be the dawn of a new, more inclusive politics - and as if to prove the point, it included a written agreement between Senator Le Fondré and Reform Jersey setting out how they would work together. 

He told Express that the victory left him feeling “pleasantly stunned” after a grilling by States Members before they cast their vote shortly after midday yesterday, which saw him secure a strong majority. “I thought it was going to be very tight – I thought it was going to be within one vote, so I’m really pleased,” he said.

Speculation had arisen over whether Jersey’s only party, Reform, would decide the vote with their set of five, but indeed Senator Le Fondré would have still won – albeit more narrowly by just one vote – even without securing their approval.

But their support nonetheless bolstered his vision for an “inclusive” government structured around the mantra of “teams work, egos don’t” – a promised break from the silos and division that dominated the latter years of Senator Gorst’s administration.

Reform’s backing wasn’t easily won, however. The group negotiated with both Chief Ministerial hopefuls, but eventually secured a deal with Senator Le Fondré that would see three of their members at the top table: Senator Sam Mézec initially as Housing Minister and then in a new role Children’s Minister to help implement the Care Inquiry’s recommendations, and Deputies Montfort Tadier and Geoff Southern as Assistant Ministers for Culture and Social Security respectively.

The agreement also saw Reform take the firm stance that they would not allow their association with Senator Le Fondré to stop them from pursuing their own manifesto principles or opposing Ministerial policies they feel might go against them.

“It is agreed that no version of collective responsibility shall apply to Reform Jersey members in government which would require them to vote against what was committed to in their manifesto. Where their political positions are irreconcilable, they will agree to disagree,” a document signed by Senators Mézec and Le Fondré noted. 

But the pair were able to agree on a number of policy commitments, including raising the minimum wage towards £10 per hour, improving parental leave provision and access to dentists for children, and working with Jersey Electricity on ‘green’ energy solutions. 

Congratulating Senator Le Fondré, the party commented: “His election marks a departure from business as usual as, for the first time in 70 years, power has democratically changed hands to someone who was not part of the ‘in group’. We look forward to working constructively with him to improve life for people in Jersey.”

Senator Ian Gorst officially launching Future Jersey

Pictured: Senator Gorst has lost his place as Chief Minister after six-and-a-half years, but will he accept a reduced role under Senator Le Fondré as Minister for External Relations?

Thanking the outgoing Chief Minister for his service, they added: “We may have disagreed robustly with [Senator Gorst] on a whole range of issues, but we accept that he has worked incredibly hard and his tenure will have had a huge personal toll on him. We wish him well in the future.”

The party’s inclusion in Senator Le Fondré’s Council of Ministers will make for what is perhaps one of the most politically diverse groups to have governed since the Ministerial system came into force.

If he agrees to his suggested role as Minister for External Relations with a focus on Brexit, Senator Gorst will sit alongside them in the Council. Senatorial poll-topper Tracey Vallois will take on the portfolio of Education Minister, while Jersey Overseas Aid champion Carolyn Labey would enjoy a new role as Minister for International Development – created so as not to detract from External Relations’ Brexit focus, Senator Le Fondré explained to Express, and to help build the island’s French links and strengthen relations with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

He added that Senators Mezec and Vallois’ Scrutiny involvement made them ideal candidates for his proposed Ministerial roles, and that he looked forward to working with a mixture of experienced and “challenging individuals” across a “broader spectrum” than the government has previously seen.


Pictured: Chief Minister-elect Senator Le Fondré has proposed Tracey Vallois - the Senatorial poll-topper seen here on election night - for her desired role as Education Minister.

He declined to reveal who would take his right-hand Treasury spot, but mentioned that four States Members were being considered. He is also yet to declare for Social Security, Health, Infrastructure, Environment and Home Affairs.

Yesterday’s vote also raises the question of who will be considered for a role for their loyalty. Senator Sarah Ferguson has long since championed Senator Le Fondré as a potential Chief Minister – if this is to be rewarded, what position might she take?

There also remains the question of the former Council of Ministers set – all of whom voted for Senator Gorst, who told the Assembly that top level changes against the backdrop of Brexit could be risky. Senator Kristina Moore expressed a desire to keep her Home Affairs role, while Deputies Susie Pinel and Steve Luce of Social Security and Environment respectively claimed during the election process that they felt they still had work to do within their own departments. But will they lose out for backing the wrong horse? 

Senator Lyndon Farnham of Economic Development – a former Chief Minister-hopeful who pulled out of the race at the last minute – may also be wondering about his Ministerial future after having voted against the winner. He nonetheless said that he looked forward to a “more united and inclusive States Assembly to the benefit of all islanders” under Senator Le Fondré.

Senator Le Fondré commented that his first priority would be working to improve communications between the Council of Ministers and wider Assembly and public – something outgoing Treasury Minister, Senator Alan Maclean, recently acknowledged was a failing of the last government in an interview with Connect magazine

“We’ve got to make sure that we get the structures in place to ensure that communication is much better, and that’s got to be the first one [task]. Then the main areas are affordable housing, and understanding the population side, and I would like to get something going on mental health,” the Chief Minister-elect said.

He added that it was also important to “get the Ministerial structure sorted” in tandem with sweeping public sector changes implemented by new Chief Executive Charlie Parker who has committed to creating several new departments.

In a statement provided to States members ahead of the vote, he also outlined proposals for a ‘mentor’ system for new States Members, boosting productivity and economic growth without compromising islanders’ wellbeing and environmental surroundings, and producing a Town Masterplan in partnership with the community and parishes with suggestions on how the Waterfront and St. Helier can be better integrated.

But before all that work begins, Senator Le Fondré took the opportunity to grab a moment of respite following yesterday’s successful – albeit “nervewracking” – vote. 

“I’ve got until Thursday at 09:30 to get the list of Ministers that I’m going to appoint, and obviously I’d like to get as far as I can with Assistant Ministers, but this is an afternoon off. I went to bed when the birds were getting up this morning so this is recovery time, and I’ll worry about the rest of the week as it starts tomorrow.”

His approach for managing the next four years? “I think it’s all about pacing oneself.”

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Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

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Posted by Scrutiny Scrutiny on
Not only did States’ members not know about this agreement when they voted, in answer to a direct question from Mike Higgins about deals, ministerial appointments, etc., Senator le Fondre did not mention it....
Posted by GaryBryant49 on
I would not have voted for him if I had known he had dine a deal with Reform. Before he warms his seat he has lost my vote of confidence. Nothing changes! Another opportunity lost
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