He once spent his days cleaning tables as a child at El Tico, but yesterday he became the island’s most senior politician.
Hot off the back of his third place Senatorial elections triumph, Jerseyman John Le Fondré secured 30 votes against incumbent Chief Minister Ian Gorst’s 19, making him the fourth person to ever hold the title.
But what led up to that moment? From his language skills to leadership style, Express tells you everything you need to know about Jersey’s new Chief Minister…
Senator Le Fondré (51) describes himself as a “proud” Jerseyman, having been born and raised on the island, with his childhood spent occasionally being roped into cleaning tables at El Tico, which was run by his grandparents and which he still owns.
After a spell studying Accounting and Finance at Kingston Polytechnic, London, he jet set to a business school in Montpellier, France – an experience that furnished him with French language skills that would later become useful in his political career, alongside conversational German. Returning to his island home, where he keenly practices dinghy sailing and competitive shooting, he became an accountant for Ernst and Young across Jersey and Luxembourg.
Pictured: El Tico in St. Ouen, which has been owned by the Senator's family for many generations. (Jersey Tourism/Wiki)
He still made time to engage in other activities, however, becoming Project Manager for the St. Lawrence Milennium Footpath project, acting as treasurer for St. Lawrence’s parish magazine and Battle of Flowers team and being Honorary Secretary for Les Vaux Housing Trust – a role he’s held for over 20 years.
Accountancy wasn’t to last for too long. In 2005, the father-of-two, who is married to Sarah, later decided to follow in the footsteps of his father – John Le Fondré Sr, after whom the airport departures hall was named – and became a Deputy of St. Lawrence.
During his 12.5 years in the States Chamber, the former Deputy took on a number of political roles – three of which were as Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s, Treasury, and Transport and Technical Services (now Infrastructure) Departments.
In 2014, he flipped from executing strategies to examining them, going on to work on Scrutiny panels focusing on everything from Brexit to the Future Hospital. During this time, he practiced his French in the Assemblée Parliamentaire de Francophonie and represented the island in the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.
Our review of the Migration Policy received evidence from industry groups about the issues they face in recruiting staff. The review also looked at the impact of migration on Jersey's infrastructure. Find out more here: https://t.co/tUSGNcYILx @John_Le_Fondre #migrationpolicyjsy pic.twitter.com/fJvEOWT2UA— Jersey Scrutiny (@jerseyscrutiny) April 9, 2018
Among his key achievements he lists giving the dairy industry a new lease of life through Howard Davis Farm, making social housing rents “flexible” and up to 90% of market rates (rather than at 90%, as had previously been suggested), successfully arguing for elections for all positions to be held on the same day in the same year, and producing an alternative to exempting food from GST, saving £300,000 in admin costs.
He highlighted these successes during his recent campaign to upgrade to an island-wide mandate as Senator – a title he gained with 14,204 votes, putting him in third place.
Senator Le Fondré was one of the architects of a ‘tolerance clause’ to be included within the recently-passed equal marriage legislation, which would have allowed some businesses to decline to serve same-sex or trans couples for religious reasons. The proposal was voted down.
Pictured: Senator Le Fondré was in favour of a 'tolerance clause' within equal marriage legislation, but said he accepted that it was not wanted by the States Assembly.
During a grilling by his political colleagues yesterday, he denied allegations of homophobia, explaining that he had accepted the matter and that he would not wish to reopen the topic.
30 States Members in total supported his bid to become Chief Minister:
Members of the public also sent the Senator their well wishes following his victory, including Foreshore issue battler Alan Luce, restaurateur Marcus Calvani and local pressure group, the Jersey Action Group.
@John_Le_Fondre congratulations. I am looking forward to seeing a better balanced Jersey, a Jersey that is proud, independent, confident to be different and where each market segment is in balance to make up a well rounded economy and better lifestyle for us all.— Marcus P Calvani (@MarcusCalvani) June 4, 2018
While each Minister is voted in by the States Assembly, it’s up to Senator Le Fondré to build his dream cabinet – but he is keeping his cards fairly close to his chest as he negotiates with his fellow politicians ahead of deadline day on Thursday.
So far we know that he wants Senatorial poll-topper Tracey Vallois in Education (her chosen department) – though Senator Vallois voted for his competitor, Ian Gorst - and the outgoing Chief Minister in a Brexit-focused External Relations role.
Pictured: The first few Ministerial declarations - Senators Tracey Vallois (Education), Ian Gorst (External Relations) and Sam Mézec (Housing, then Children), and Deputies Carolyn Labey (International), Montfort Tadier (Assistant Minister, Culture) and Geoff Southern (Assistant Minister, Social Security).
He would like Jersey Overseas Aid Chair Deputy Carolyn Labey to take on a new 'International' position, while Reform Jersey Chairman, Senator Sam Mézec, will initially be offered Housing, before being designated the Children’s Minister – a role newly created to help implement the Care Inquiry’s recommendations.
The latter comes as part of a deal struck with the party to gain their support, which would also see Deputies Montfort Tadier and Geoff Southern in Assistant Ministerial roles for Culture and Social Security respectively.
Senator Le Fondré is yet to reveal his top picks for Infrastructure, Social Security, Home Affairs, Health or Environment, or whether any of these will be drawn from the 'old guard'. He did reveal, however, that four people were being considered for Treasury.
“Working together, inclusion and communication.”
Pictured: Senator Le Fondré, who is known for his love of detail, scrutinising results as they come in on election night.
Keen to mark a break from Senator Gorst’s administration, Senator Le Fondré urged States Members to “erase their experience under the previous regime, or Ministries, sitting in their silos, performing specific functions. The emphasis MUST be on the team as a whole.”
Affordable housing, mental health support, strengthening the Health Service, finding a suitable site for the Future Hospital (something he wants done by the end of the year), regenerating St. Helier and the “key risk” of Brexit were all placed high on Senator Le Fondré’s agenda.
Video: Senator Le Fondré told Express his key priorities ahead of the island-wide election on 16 May.
However, he told Express that communicating better with all members of the Assembly and the public, would be his top priority. In a statement to his fellow Members, he committed to providing “greater information” and ensuring that both Ministers and Assistant Ministers are all furnished with the same papers for transparency of decision-making.
“I always feel that it is a privilege to live in Jersey. The spirit of community is something that continually amazes and delights me, and even though we still face some uncertain times ahead, I feel positive for the future of this island.”
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