The debate on the vote of no confidence in Chief Minister John Le Fondre encompassed a whole spectrum of topics across Government, from the current economic uncertainty to the covid response.
Express breaks down the questions and points in the debate that determined the Chief Minister's future...
One of the main triggers that brought about the vote was the way the Chief Minister handled the controversy around Government CEO Charlie Parker’s second job.
At the opening of the debate, the Chief Minister defended his actions, saying that “at the end of the day, this was an oral permission for something that ordinarily would be acceptable and which was conditional.”
He denied breach of procedure, stating that the “SEB has said I have not breached or exceeded my powers, but rather exercised them as a line manager” and that “the CEO has accepted his responsibility that he should have sought permission in writing and based on past experiences that was my reasonable expectation,” calling it Mr Parker’s mistake.
Pictured: The Chief Minister's reaction to Government CEO Charlie Parker's second job was a prominent topic throughout the debate.
He also confirmed that Mr Parker would not be receiving residential qualifications and that he would receive his contractual entitlements.
Senator Sam Mezec argued these explanations were not good enough though, saying the “Chief Executive felt he had capacity to take on another role for a Real Estate Company in the UK and asked the Chief Minister verbally for his approval, which he got.
“That appointment was always going to cause consternation; it must surely have been obvious that the island would not accept someone who holds a role as the head of the public service of our national Government holding a private sector role like that.”
The question of the Chief Minister’s responsibility in regards to this topic continued to be a thread through the debate.
Some members like Environment Minister John Young argued that though he had “taken his eye off the ball”, the Chief Minister should be allowed to make one mistake, while others like Deputy Steve Luce said how “bitterly, bitterly disappointed” he was in not giving Mr Parker a ‘no’ from the start, and that failing to do so had lost his confidence.
A key point of defence in the Chief Minister’s opening speech was the risks that a change of Government could bring during the pandemic.
“A vote of no confidence is an extremely serious matter at any time, but particularly in the middle of the pandemic,” Senator Le Fondre said. “If adopted, this Government will fall, the teams will change; the delays, the disruption will continue for months.”
Some agreed and praised Senator Le Fondre’s response to the covid pandemic, such as Treasury Minister Susie Pinel, who said she thought “Jersey is a better place medically and economically under his leadership. With so much achieved and still to achieve, we should not be changing the Chief Minister at this time.”
Pictured: Questions were raised as to whether a change of leadership would have an adverse effect on the Government's pandemic response.
Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham agreed, saying that islanders needed “certainty, stability and continuity” in “the most challenging period for Jersey since the Second World War.”
But others questioned the real necessity of the Chief Minister in the continued response to the pandemic – Deputy Geoff Southern said that Deputy Medical Officer for Health, Dr Ivan Muscat “and his colleagues are the people who will get on with things, not the politicians.”
Similarly, Deputy Jess Perchard brought up her pleas “to do more to protect the vulnerable” and said that she had been “consistently told that it’s down to vulnerable individuals to manage their own risks.” She said that “this style of leadership does not work for me, and it doesn’t work for the islanders it impacts.”
The character of Senator Le Fondre was consistently cited, with him being described as being a man of “integrity” and “honest” by both his supporters and opposition alike.
However, many like Deputy Steve Ahier said that “we are in crisis entirely of the Chief Minister’s doing”, and questioned whether these positive traits extended to his skills as a leader.
Pictured: Though the Chief Minister was praised for his character by many States members, there was doubt from some as to his strength as a leader.
Deputy Louise Doublet also echoed these concerns, saying “holders of public office should be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs – and can we honestly say that describes Senator Le Fondre? Because I cannot."
“He did not act in this manner during the recent episode with the Chief Executive, and I have seen him face other situations where he has shown when things get difficult or he is faced with a bully, he shrinks from it,” she added.
However, Deputy Lindsay Ash mounted a rebuke to these questions, challenging the opposition by saying: “The Chief Minister is steeped in Jersey tradition, who like his father before him, has served the Island to the best of is ability. Could you honestly stand before, look him in the eye and say, John, I question your integrity?”
The question of whether a change of Government would result in more delays to the hospital was also pertinent.
St. Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft emphasised the need for urgent action on the project, stating that “stability is very important, and nowhere moreso in that we have at last got within touching distance of a decision on our new hospital” and explaining that he would not want the debate on the hospital to be delayed as a result of the vote.
Pictured: There were fears expressed that the new Hospital project could be further delayed by the vote of no confidence being agreed on.
He added: “We need to think really carefully before we add even a fortnight’s delay to the decision we’re due to make on the location of the hospital."
Health Minister Deputy Richard Renouf also voiced these concerns, giving the current progress as evidence of Senator Le Fondre’s leadership.
However, Deputy Mary Le Hegarat spoke out to say that she thought contrary to members’ statements she didn’t believe the hospital project was ready to go, and that at a recent Town Hall meeting she had attended, no States members attending were able to say they had sufficient information on the proposed site.
In considering whether to oust the Chief Minister, the question of who would step into the breach naturally reared its head a number of times.
Some questioned Senator Moore’s motivation for bringing the proposition and reflected on whether an opportunity for political gain was being capitalised upon.
Deputy Mike Higgins said that the proposition was “built of revenge and self-promotion”, saying: “The plotting and intrigue is worthy of a Shakespearian play.”
“Am I completely happy with Chief Minister’s actions? No, I am not. But this nuclear option is a step too far. He has made serious mistake but who hasn’t made a serious mistake in our lives? In my political career, I have served with three Chief Ministers and we appear to be holding Senator Le Fondré to a higher standard than the other two."
While Senator Moore confirmed she would be throwing her hat into the ring for Chief Minister, some States Members suggested that they would not be supportive of her in the role.
Pictured: Senator Kristina Moore defended her track record as a previous Home Affairs Minister in responding to some States Members' remarks at the end of the debate.
Assistant Education Minister Deputy Jeremy Maçon highlighted that the Senator’s opposition and her no confidence proposition didn’t outline who the new Chief Minister would be, saying that “I don’t have an alternative candidate at the moment, and I certainly don’t think the bringer of this proposition exudes the qualities that she’s looking for, therefore I will not be supporting this proposition.”
Home Affairs Minister Constable Len Norman made a swipe at the Senator’s ability to lead, noting that, when he took on the portfolio from her, Police morale appeared to be at its “lowest ever.”
External Relations Minster Senator Ian Gorst hit out at the politicians who had attempted to “impute the motives of Senator Moore for bringing this proposal” and her supporters.
Pictured: Senator Gorst said there should be a reshuffle of the Council of Ministers.
While he said he would not be supporting the no confidence bid, he urged the Chief Minister to take the frustrations aired during the debate into account and said he should give “serious thought” to a cabinet reshuffle to bring the Assembly together again.
Deputies Kirsten Morel and Hugh Raymond were both clear in their speeches that the appropriate time to decide on a change in leadership would be at the next election – not now.
In summing up the debate, Senator Moore confirmed that she would put herself forward as Chief Minister if the proposition succeeded, and defended her track record as a previous Home Affairs Minister, citing her work in bringing forward new Sexual Offences legislation among other key proposals shaping the criminal justice system.
"I've never personally claimed that I was perfect, nor do I expect any other person to be perfect," she noted.
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