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INSIGHT: Plotting allegations fly as 'no confidence' fever spreads to Sark

INSIGHT: Plotting allegations fly as 'no confidence' fever spreads to Sark

Friday 12 April 2024

INSIGHT: Plotting allegations fly as 'no confidence' fever spreads to Sark

Friday 12 April 2024


Following successful no confidence votes in both Jersey and Guernsey, the fever spread to one of the smaller Channel Islands this week... leading to a dramatic ousting of the one-man 'committee' responsible for some of dealing with some of the island's most important issues.

After nearly an hour of fiery debate and strong allegations – and denials – of plotting, Sark’s Chief Pleas voted to remove and replace its single-person Douzaine Committee on Wednesday evening.

Express was there to capture all the drama...

Plotting to remove political opposition?

The Douzaine has a central role in Sark as a nuts-and-bolts committee with a huge mandate to administrate waste, roads, other public works, licences, the appointment of key officials including police and law officers, and the management of public property.

But the usually seven-strong committee has only had its Chair for several weeks following a string of resignations which led to a motion of no confidence in the incumbent leadership – with working differences and a desire to restore a functional committee cited as reasons. 

Conseiller Frank Makepeace, the chair of the Douzaine until Wednesday evening, was ousted after making several heated remarks about his colleagues' true ambitions including plotting to remove political opponents throughout Chief Pleas and questioning the performance of others. 

He was removed by a 13-2 majority, and seven Conseillers – including members who had recently resigned – swiftly moved back into Douzaine positions: Conseillers Paul Williams, Tony Le Lievre, Jolie Booth, Chris Bateson, Marcus Barker, Ben Harris, and Sandra Williams.  

Letter "didn't edit itself"

Conseiller Makepeace initially put himself forward during the nomination period, but subsequently withdrew. 

The meeting had been due to be a busy one, with key votes including a a proposed relaxation of laws banning the use of tractors on Sundays.

But new Douzaine Committee hurriedly met to discuss its next moves and pulled several agenda items, so it could discuss and agree on matters itself. 

Conseiller Makepeace also criticised the inclusion of Conseillers Le Lievre and Paul Williams since they are currently subject to a code of conduct complaint relating to the lease of the Old Island Hall, but others said they must be considered innocent until proven guilty. 

Conseiller Makepeace levelled accusations at the Speaker of Chief Pleas, Paul ArmorgieSark's civil service, and fellow politicians of editing a “letter” attached to the confidence motion before them to remove complementary statements about his character. 

He said it “didn’t edit itself” and was done to “besmirch my character” and “influence support” for the motion of no confidence. 

A vote on if Sark should "be governed by islanders or beach bars in Ibiza or leather sofas in Camden

Speaker Amorgie rejected the accusations levelled against him, saying he isn’t responsible for compiling individual reports, which was down to politicians. 

Conseiller Makepeace also heavily criticised Conseillers Harris and Barker, accusing them of being on a “campaign” to remove various committee chairs who supported closer civil service collaboration with Guernsey, including the Policy & Finance Chair, Conseiller John Guille.  

Conseiller Makepeace added that those with those inclinations weren’t “acting in the best interest of islanders” and were attempting to bring about a “free market libertarian” system.   

He said it wasn’t a vote of no confidence, but a vote “on whether or not you should be governed by islanders or beach bars in Ibiza or leather sofas in Camden”. 

There was audible support for his opening speech in the public gallery.

No "Svengali tactics"

Conseiller Harris said the allegations were “fantasy” and denied “Svengali tactics, saying the letter alleged to have been edited was his email notifying Chief Pleas of his resignation from the Douzaine. He said Conseiller Makepeace had to be removed via parliament as it “wasn’t possible to repopulate the committee under his leadership”. 

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Pictured: The public gallery was packed for the debate. 

Conseiller Harris defended his support for the “self-governance of an independent people” and criticised the “scurrilous attack” on his position.  

Others in support of the motion said they had no personal issue with Conseiller Makepeace but were concerned about his leadership style and priorities within the committee 

Conseiller Andrew Miller said a committee with mass resignations “needs a fresh start”, while Conseiller Bateson said he was confident the signatories were only trying to achieve a “functional Douzaine”.  

Conseiller Guille said: “This comes down to a matter of numbers... it’s not possible as it stands to to run the Douzaine."

Claim some colleagues "spend less time in Sark than a seagull"

Conseiller Makepeace responded saying if he was being judged by performance, then other committees “should look at themselves”, including the Medical and Tourism Committees: “Dare I say they would’ve been gone a long time ago."

He refused to resign prior to the vote to not be a “victim of personality politics” and claimed some of his colleagues “spenless time in Sark than a seagull”. 

Chief_Pleas_Douzaine_swear-in.jpg

 

Pictured: The new Douzaine members were sworn in after a lengthy Chief Pleas sitting. 

 

Conseiller Kevin Delaney said the debate had been a bad reflection for the island. 

Conseiller Le Lievre promised that, if he was found “guilty” of breaching the code of conduct by awarding a cheap lease to a private individual for the Old Island Hall, he would stand aside or be forced to resign through a formal reprimand.  

"This was more about personality"

After the meeting, Conseiller Harris told Express: “We've got some important pieces of work in our in-tray and we will be able to do that more effectively, more efficiently.

This was more about personality, I don't particularly want to throw any shade but we needed new leadership on the committee."

"...Politics is narrative, and he brought a narrative this evening that there's tangential but rather limited relation to the truth," he continued, labelling the accusations “absurd and adding that he had no issue working with Guernsey, but Sark should be “wary” about unintended constitutional consequences.

LISTEN...

What happens in Sark's halls of power? Listen to Kit Hannah had this special 'pub-cast' direct from Sark – listen below or by searching Bailiwick Podcasts with your favourite pod provider...

READ MORE... 

Motion of no confidence lodged against Sark Douzaine

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