INSIGHT: Old, new and party political faces in Farnham's ideal Council of Ministers
Monday 29 January 2024
Jersey's next Chief Minister has shared his picks for his ideal Council of Ministers – and it's a mixed bag indeed.
Released this morning, Deputy Lyndon Farnham's ideal team is made up of three previous Ministers with new portfolios, three Reform Deputies, one Ministerial newbie and one former Minister returning back to his old role after years away.
Here, Express takes a look at the backgrounds of the new picks for the Ministers of Health, Treasury, External Relations, Economic Development, Infrastructure, Social Security, Home Affairs, Housing, Education, Environment, and International Development...
Deputy Chief and Health Minister
Deputy Tom Binet – the former Chief Ministerial hopeful who successfully ousted Kristina Moore – has been selected to be the next Chief Minister's right-hand-man, as well as leader of Health, including the hospital project.
Elected for the first time last year, Deputy Tom Binet has carved out a brief (thus far) but eventful political career on the back of promoting himself as a straight-talking man of his word.
After being a public critic of former Chief Minister Kristina Moore – particularly over the sudden departure of Government CEO Suzanne Wylie – Deputy Binet eventually resigned as Infrastructure Minister and then ousted Deputy Moore in a successful vote of no confidence.
He had initially intended to stand for the top job himself, only to make an embarrassing miscalculation prior to the deadline for nominations about how many fellow members were supporting his candidacy.
Deputy Binet confirmed in a statement last week that he would be supporting Deputy Lyndon Farnham in his bid for the Chief Minister role.
Speaking after the Assembly voted him into the top job, Deputy Farnham then revealed he would be nominating Deputy Tom Binet for Health Minister – with responsibility for the hospital project.
Explaining why he wanted Deputy Binet as Health Minister, Deputy Farnham said: “It makes sense to put the hospital – now we are quite advanced with the plans – and Health together.
"It has been problematic when we have seen a Health Minister and the politician responsible for building the hospital not having their thoughts aligned. We have got to put all of that behind us and move forward, so that is one of the nominations that I will be making to the Assembly.
“I have been impressed with the work that Deputy Binet has done and it makes sense not to stall it and to let him carry on. The important thing though is that we get through it and we bring [the hospital project] to the Assembly for approval – it is the Assembly that will make the decision.”
Ahead of joining the political fray, Deputy Binet was well-known for his work in farming, and campaigning around assisted dying and mental health.
His career journey is rooted in agriculture, working across production, sales and processing, and establishing relationships with major UK supermarket chains. That formed the basis of what became the Jersey Royal Company, for which he held the role of Managing Director from 2004 until the organisation was sold in 2014.
Taking hold of the island's purse strings will be Deputy Elaine Millar, if Deputy Farnham's choice is accepted.
Deputy Elaine Millar served as Social Security Minister in Kristina Moore's Government.
In that role, she has overseen the introduction of a reduction in the cost of face-to-face GP appointments by £20 for all islanders; free GP appointments for all under 18s; the 'WorkWell' scheme to allow signed-off islanders to slowly return to work; and a law change to allow patients to collect up to 90 days of prescribed medicines.
Deputy Millar was also appointed as Vice-Chair of the States Employment Board after Constable Andy Jehan's resignation.
During her short time in this role, Deputy Millar enraged teachers by sending out a letter which informed them that they would have the Government's latest pay deal forced into their wage packets with a condition that they cannot strike for three years – unless they explicitly opt out of receiving the rise.
Her letter also explained that teachers who accept the offer and then later strike will have the pay uplift removed from their salary and the one-off payment £1,000 taken back.
Before politics, Deputy Millar previously worked in financial services, and became partner of law firm Mourant du Feu and Jeune and a Director of the RBS/NatWest International Group.
In July 2015, she became the first woman to be appointed as Viscount of the Royal Court of Jersey.
The role saw her lead the department responsible for executing court orders, such as serving summonses, making wage arrests, as well as other general court enforcement duties, as well as carrying out the duties of Coroner and administering Désastre (bankruptcy) proceedings.
External Relations Minister
Kristina Moore's Treasury Minister, Deputy Ian Gorst is a former Chief Minister who himself survived a vote of no confidence in 2017.
He stood against Deputy Farnham in the fight for the Chief Minister last week – losing in the final round of voting by 22 to 27.
First elected as a Deputy of St Clement and sworn to office in December 2005, Deputy Gorst now serves as a Deputy of St Mary, St Ouen and St Peter. However, he has also held the title of Senator.
As Kristina Moore's Treasury Minister, he was heavily involved in the political back-and-forth between Jersey and France at the height of the fishing dispute.
He also delivered the 'mini budget' aimed at helping islanders through the cost-of-living crisis, and has been working on preparing the island for the MONEYVAL assessment which chart the course for the future success of the island's finance industry.
Deputy Gorst voted to keep Deputy Moore in the top job, arguing during the vote of no confidence that the situation "cannot be a good thing for our island’s political stability".
He echoed this sentiment in his own pitch for the Chief Minister job, saying that he did not “take the view that absolutely everything was wrong with the last Government".
Economic Development Minister
Kristina Moore's Deputy Chief Minister Deputy Kirsten Morel also served as Economic Development Minister in her Government and therefore knows the role well.
His time as Deputy Chief Minister has not been without controversy.
Deputy Morel came under fire for comments he made in the States Assembly saying he was unaware of any future resignations – despite being told of Government CEO Suzanne Wylie's intention to resign a week before.
He was also recently reprimanded by the political behaviour watchdog after his "aggressive" behaviour towards a colleague – for which he apologised and said lessons had been learnt.
His focus throughout his most recent term has been delivering a number of strategies and frameworks – among them, looking at the operations of Ports of Jersey, and how barriers and red tape obstructing entrepreneurialism in the island can be removed.
He has also had a key role in looking at the island's freight and sea travel links, with Condor's current contract up for review.
Constable Constable Andy Jehan served as Assistant Chief Minister and Vice-Chair of the States Employment Board under Kristina Moore – until his dramatic resignation which he said was due to "severe concerns" about the “indefensible misuse of taxpayers money” within Health.
At the time, the Constable for St John said his decision had been a “difficult one and not one that I have taken lightly”.
In a resignation letter to then-Chief Minister Kristina Moore, Constable Jehan took aim at Health Minister Karen Wilson, saying his key concerns revolved around:
During his time as Vice-Chair of the States Employment Board, Constable Jehan led the teachers' pay negotiations.
Just before he stepped down, he said he was "disappointed" to announce that a £1,000 one-off payment to teachers had been rejected.
The Constable was previously accused by NASUWT of inflaming the row by making "ignorant" comments that showed a "lack of respect" and "disregard for [teachers'] dedication and professionalism".
Constable Jehan said in his resignation letter that he was "sad to leave at a time when further work is needed and underway" to resolve the ongoing row.
Social Security Minister
Deputy Lyndsay Feltham is the Deputy Leader of Reform Jersey and leads the Public Accounts Committee, which is responsible for keeping an eye on public sector spending and governance.
Reform Leader Deputy Sam Mézec said that she had "played a prominent part" in developing the political party.
Deputy Feltham has been a vocal critic of former Chief Minister Kristina Moore's U-turn on the 'tampon tax'.
Deputy Feltham described Deputy Moore as “disingenuous” for supporting the removed of GST on menstrual products prior to the election, and then “changing her mind so quickly” post-election.
Prior to her political career, Deputy Feltham boasted 14 years’ public sector experience in Jersey and Australia and chaired the civil service branch of Unite the Union.
Home Affairs Minister
St Helier's Deputy Mary Le Hegarat first joined the States Assembly in 2018, having previously worked as a police officer, across agriculture and fisheries, the airport, and in accoutancy among other areas.
She was one of the signatories to the vote of no confidence against Kristina Moore, and backed Deputy Tom Binet for the top political role, before joining him in supporting Deputy Farnham.
Throughout her time in politics, she has played leading and panel member roles in Scrutiny. Most recently, she has worked on the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel, as well as being a member of the Planning Committee, Privileges and Procedures Committee and Public Accounts Committee.
The leader of Reform Jersey, Deputy Sam Mézec, also stood against Deputy Farnham in the fight for the Chief Minister role.
However, once Deputy Mézec was voted out, his 10-strong political party supported Deputy Farnham – and were ultimately responsible for his success.
In his own Chief Minister pitch, Deputy Mézec promised to officially declare a housing crisis and put together an emergency taskforce to drive forward the implementation of Reform's housing action plan.
Although he is most well-known for his scrutiny of those in charge, it is worth noting that Deputy Mézec is no stranger to ministerial remits.
Under the previous Government he once held the role of Children's Minister and later took on responsibility for Housing, when then-Chief Minister John Le Fondré decided to combine the portfolios – although he resigned from the position to back a no confidence motion directed at Deputy Le Fondré...sound familiar?
Deputy Mézec was first elected to the States as a Deputy of St Helier in 2014 and has also served as a Senator.
It may not be straightforward for Deputy Mézec to secure the role, however – with the incumbent, Deputy David Warr, keen to reprise his brief.
Education Minister... for now
Deputy Farnham is also planning to replace the current role of Children and Education MInister with two new ministries: Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning and a Minister for Children.
This will require an Order to be drafted under Article 29A of the States of Jersey Law 2005.
In the meantime, Constable Richard Vibert (pictured above) will be nominated to the existing role of Children and Education Minister, and as soon as the Order is given effect, Deputy Robert Ward from Reform Jersey will be nominated as Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning.
Constable Vibert was previously an Assistant Education Minister, but resigned from Kristina Moore's government to back the vote of no confidence against her.
Prior to politics, Deputy Ward had 25 years of experience in the teaching profession and experience of leading the Jersey branch of the National Education Union.
Most recently, he served as Chair of the Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel after fellow Reform member Deputy Geoff Southern was ousted from the position by a vote of no confidence brought against him by the panel's vice-chair.
He has been a vocal critic of Kristina Moore's government's approach to teaching unions in the ongoing pay row.
His party, Reform Jersey, have requested that the most recent pay ultimatum laid out in a letter to education staff be rescinded.
This role is one that Deputy Steve Luce knows well, having previously held it during the term of Deputy Ian Gorst as Chief Minister.
During John Le Fondré's term as Chief, Deputy Luce took on a scrutiny role – an area he continued in this term as Chair of the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure panel. He is also a member of the Planning Committee.
During this most recent term, the Deputy – who represents Grouville and St Martin and stood as a member of the Progress Party – secured success for the struggling farming and agriculture sectors by getting the Council of Ministers to agree to a significant funding pledge of more than £6m.
International Development Minister
If Deputy Farnham gets his choice, it will be the third Government in which Deputy Carolyn Labey has served as International Development Minister, having first been appointed to the newly created portfolio under John Le Fondré in 2018.
Deputy Labey has a long record of service to the States Assembly, having first been elected in 2002.
She is also Chair of the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission, and has taken a leading role in the project to better establish Jersey's island identity.
While Deputy Labey had served in Kristina Moore's government, In the recent vote to confirm a new Chief Minister, she decided to throw her weight behind the challenger, Deputy Lyndon Farnham, rather than "stability" candidate Deputy Ian Gorst.
When will the new Ministers be confirmed?
Votes over who will take on what portfolio will be taking place tomorrow morning in the States Assembly.
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