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FOCUS: So, who is our new Chief Minister... Deputy Lyndon Farnham?

FOCUS: So, who is our new Chief Minister... Deputy Lyndon Farnham?

Friday 26 January 2024

FOCUS: So, who is our new Chief Minister... Deputy Lyndon Farnham?

Friday 26 January 2024


From working at Harrods to spearheading Super League and the £800m hospital project then almost missing out in the 2022 election to being announced as the island's next Chief Minister...

Express takes a look at Deputy Lyndon Farnham's journey towards the top job in politics.

A Jerseyman through and through

Deputy Farnham grew up in Jersey and was educated at St George's Preparatory, Les Quennevais, and Hautlieu School.

He then left the island to attend the College for the Distributive Trades in London from 1982 to 1984, and undertook a retail management traineeship at Harrods department store from 1982 to 1985.

Following his return to Jersey in 1985, Deputy Farnham worked in wholesale and retail, hotels and leisure, online commerce and property.

Political experience 

He was first elected to the States in 1999 as one of the Deputies for St Saviour's No. 2 District. He was re-elected in 2002 and stood down in 2005.

Deputy Farnham returned to the States Chamber in 2011, this time as a Senator, and relinquished the majority of his business commitment. 

He retained a small number of business interests and directorships. He currently remains a Business Consultant for The Royal Yacht Hotel, a Director of consultancy and investment company FCI Limited, and a Director of GYMCLUB.COM.

Deputy Farnham was re-elected in October 2014 and 2018, and 2022.

Eight years in charge of the economy

Between 2014 and 2022, Deputy Farnham served as Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture.

During his political career, one of Deputy Farnham's key achievements was bringing the Super League triathlon to the island.

WATCH: The promotional video that Deputy Farnham published ahead of the 2018 election.

The race – a spectator-friendly twist on the traditional triathlon – was thought to have drawn in around 2,000 visitors to the island who spent around £800,000 when it first hit Jersey in 2017.

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Pictured: The victors of the Super League triathlon in 2019.

Following the success of the first event, Deputy Farnham secured a £1.25m contract to bring the Super League back to the island for five more yearsHowever, these plans were scuppered – first due to the pandemic, and then due to two of the event's main sponsors pulling out.

Deputy Farnham also became known for being a strong supporter of Jersey's medicinal cannabis campaign – attending the Cannabis Europa medicinal cannabis conference in London in 2019.

“We wish to position ourselves as a centre of excellence in production, research, genetics and intellectual property in the sector, and attending events like Cannabis Europa gives us the perfect opportunity to network and to make our intentions known,” he said at the time.

As well at the establishment of a medicinal cannabis industry in Jersey, Deputy Farnham lists his achievements up to 2022 as including: managing the impact of the pandemic; the creation of the Digital Jersey Academy; the relaxation of Sunday trading restrictions; the British Lions tour Jersey training camp; and securing a five-year deal with British Airways for a Jersey-Heathrow air link.

However, while serving in John Le Fondré's government as Deputy Chief Minister – two things mostly dominated his time: the new hospital and the pandemic.

The latter saw him head up numerous press conferences, and work with Ministerial colleagues to bring forward a number of initiatives to keep people in jobs and stop businesses from going under as lockdowns threatened their income streams.

He yesterday said showed that he can work under "intense and prolonged pressure" and make difficult decisions.

The "hospital on a hill" saga

During his time as Deputy Chief Minister, Deputy Farnham was made political lead of the 'Our Hospital' plan to build a 'health campus' at Overdale.

The key features of the Our Hospital Project was to create a ‘health campus’ at Overdale, including a large 64,705m2 five-storey main block, two-storey Knowledge Centre, single-storey Mental Health Centre and five-level multi-storey carpark.

In 2020, after a number of delays due to the pandemic, the final site selection process reached its climax – with People’s Park causing controversy as a top two contender for the site.

However, in a move that Deputy Kirsten Morel dubbed the “least surprising announcement of 2020”, Overdale was announced in October as Ministers’ preferred choice. 

Upon announcement, Deputy Farnham said that the cost of building at Overdale would be around £550m. 

However, the report released shortly after showed a figure over £250m more than that – to include additional costs and contingency funding – with the report estimating around £804m would be spent on building the new hospital.

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Pictured: Deputy Farnham was political lead for the £800m Our Hospital plan to build a 'health campus' at Overdale. 

As well as funding concerns, Deputy Farnham had a very angry set of Westmount residents to deal with, who were particularly upset by his ‘hospital highway’ plans.

Advocate Olaf Blakeley used an ancient legal device known as a ‘requête’ to call a Parish Assembly in January, which led to parishioners decisively voting to block any further construction work on the access road until Ministers provided more detail about their plans.

Parishioners also supported St. Helier taking legal action to resist the Government using compulsory purchase to seize land around Westmount Road before the Parish has considered the information provided.

Another thorn in Deputy Farnham’s side came in the form of a viral video created by the Advocate, which sought to ‘fact check’ key claims made about the hospital project, such as how many trees would be lost.

Video: Advocate Blakeley's 'fact check' video.

Meanwhile, some campaigners denounced the look and size of the ‘hospital on a hill’ – feedback the Our Hospital team said they had taken into account when they announced in September that they had scaled back the design by around 4,000sqm and scrapped its ‘wave’ shape.

The year came to a close with the addition of more drama from St. Helier when the parish rejected a £6.5m offer from the Government for parish land needed for the project – meaning that the Government would instead need to look at compulsory purchase.

In the hope of accelerating the project as the end of their term drew near, Ministers had decided to split the planning application for the £800m new hospital in two: demolition and construction.

However, in February, the Planning Committee decided to refuse permission to demolish 20 buildings on Westmount. 

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Pictured: The previous 'tortoise-shell' roof design was replaced following feedback.

Deputy Farnham, however, denied that it would have a material impact on the overall timeline to have a new hospital up and running by the end of 2026 as they would effectively have a second bite of the cherry when the main planning application was considered.

In a shock move the following month, the Government’s own Planning Department issued a strongly worded statement saying it could not support the £800m proposals.

Their evidence, as well as that of medics and campaigners, was considered in April by Philip Staddon, who was back on the island for yet another planning inquiry.

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Pictured: Independent planning inspector Philip Staddon.

He was to consider the plans against a new three-year ‘bridging’ Island Plan, approved by politicians just weeks earlier, which contained a special new clause.

It said that development will be supported where “the proposal is not considered to cause serious, unacceptable harm to the character and amenity of the wider area” and “it has been demonstrated that the proposed development represents the best design option relative to be needs of the hospital and the land available.” 

Just a month before the election, then-Environment Minister Deputy John Young announced that he was following the recommendation of an independent planning inspector to pass the Government's application to build a £804m ‘health campus’ on Westmount.

Scraping through in the election of '22

But despite his political expertise, Deputy Farnham almost missed out on a seat in the States Assembly during the 2022 election – which saw the hospital dominate public discussion.

Deputy Farnham gained the fourth and final seat in the newly-formed 'super district' of St Mary, St Ouen and St Peter by less than 50 votes. 

Kristina Moore, who had perhaps been the hospital project's most vocal critic, topped the poll in the same constituency.

The results in the district were as follows: 

Not invited to join Kristina Moore's government, Deputy Farnham went on to take up Scrutiny roles instead – and was a vocal challenger around the direction of the 'new' hospital vision that she and colleagues were putting forward.

From rivals... to allies

In November 2022, a £30,000 Government review led by new Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet concluded that Deputy Farnham's 'Our Hospital' plan for Overdale should be scrapped in favour of a new multi-site solution.

The report concluded that a “phased option delivered over two or more sites" – primarily at Overdale and Gloucester Street/Kensington Place, where work on homes was halted in anticipation over summer – would provide the "best opportunity to make the scheme more affordable and appropriate”.

Deputy Farnham criticised the change in direction, arguing that the ‘New Healthcare Facilities’ will be more expensive and less efficient than his one-site plan.

He also raised concerns about the cost of “duplication” with a hospital “running over four sites” as opposed to a single site.

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Pictured: Deputy Binet is Deputy Farnham's preferred choice for Health Minister.

However, despite their differing views, Deputies Farnham and Binet are now set to unite and keen to deliver the multi-site New Healthcare Facilities vision.

Ahead of the vote for a new Chief Minister, Deputy Binet said that Deputy Farnham had approached him with a "serious offer to assist him in shaping an improved future for the people of the island" and that a "great deal of common ground" had been established between the pair.

"With regard to the obvious potential stumbling block, the New Hospital, it is clear that Deputy Farnham accepts that the current New Hospital Facilities project is now the only way forward and that, henceforth, it will receive his full support – he has recently made a categorical statement to that effect," he added.

"Critically, in the event that his candidacy proves successful, he is extremely keen for me to return to the task of completing the project, and this I am happy to do."

After being nominated as Chief Minister designate yesterday, Deputy Farnham confirmed that Deputy Binet would be his preferred candidate for Health Minister – with responsibility for the hospital project.

However, he said that he had not yet decided who his preferred choices for any other ministerial portfolios would be.

Explaining why he wanted Deputy Binet as Health Minister – to replace Deputy Karen Wilson – 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.”

A"more civil and respectful kind of politics"

This willingness to work with Deputy Binet is perhaps indicative of Deputy Farnham's promise of a more inclusive and collaborative government in his new role as Chief Minister.

In his speech yesterday and subsequent hour of grilling by States Members ahead of the big vote, Deputy Farnham spoke about the importance of "change".

He said: “As the leader of a coalition Government, I will adopt a different approach to collective responsibility, which allows Ministers to stay true to own principles, and empowers the Assembly to take more of a lead on establishing Government policy. 

“The trade-off will mean that the Government will not always be united on every issue, but the benefits of a more civil and respectful kind of politics will outweigh this.”

WATCH: Lyndon Farnham reacted to becoming the island's next Chief Minister yesterday.

It was a message he repeated as he spoke to reporters outside, as he said that he was hoping to meet Reform Jersey leader Sam Mézec and confirmed that he would be "quite happy" to work Reform members.

“They have 10 seats in the Assembly, so they’re entitled to a seat around the [Council of Minster’s] table, should they wish to," said Deputy Farnham.

"My door is open to all 49 members in the Assembly."

Next week, the public will find out who will be joining him in the new, more "inclusive" Council of Ministers. Elections will be happening next Tuesday. 

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Posted by Scott Mills on
I'd have preferred Johnny Lydon. Least he speaks the truth!!!! Lovely beaches
Posted by Jon Needham on
The first test for our new CM will be his nominations - will this be based on skills and experience or do we revert to the old Jersey way? The world is watching.
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