As we approach election, reader Tom Binet analyses the political landscape that candidates will be stepping into.
As we hasten through the opening weeks of 2022, which brings with it the fervent hope of an all-new government, the urge for anyone aspiring to political office to plunge into the electoral fray and carve out a position of meaningful influence, becomes ever-more compelling.
However, a few moments of reflection and it soon becomes apparent that, perhaps, it isn’t all that simple.
The new electoral system, by its very nature, makes the latter objective somewhat more complicated than hitherto, with the result that such course of action becomes almost wholly dependent upon subscribing to some form of party or, at least, collective structure.
And knowing that the 49 available seats will probably be divided up between half a dozen different parties, complicates the situation further.
Pictured: "As we hasten through the opening weeks of 2022, which brings with it the fervent hope of an all-new government, the urge for anyone aspiring to political office to plunge into the electoral fray and carve out a position of meaningful influence, becomes ever-more compelling."
As foreboding as all of that may be, the urge to engage may well return, very swiftly, when contemplating the woeful mismanagement to which we have all been subjected in recent times.
Weakness and ineptitude are terms that have tripped off the tongue very readily, to describe many previous Assemblies, but never with any more conviction than that of a passing grumble.
If my own experiences are anything to go by, public anger has risen to levels not experienced in my lifetime.
Leaving aside the tin-eared dismissal of the need to address the misdeeds of the State when found wanting, especially in cases where the rights of the individual have been trampled upon, our present government seem totally unable to give a straight answer to a straight question.
Pictured: "... our present government seem totally unable to give a straight answer to a straight question."
All too often they have even resorted to outright dishonesty; most recently in an effort to persuade the public that the standard of care available to stroke patients (following the closure of our world class stroke and head injury rehabilitation centre at Overdale) remains unchanged: ‘Pay no heed to ‘emotional’ stroke patients in wheel-chairs, just listen to our experts’!
We are about to embark upon the building of just about the most expensive hospital in existence, contributing to a rise in our national debt from about 5% to something like 38% of GDP; the sort of number one might expect from a third world country in the hands of a deranged despot.
Adding to our concerns must be the fact that the New Hospital site selection process was unnecessarily protracted, very expensive, and deeply flawed; ‘manipulated’ might be a better description.
Furthermore, and without any attempt to reduce the facilities to those actually essential to a central location, the project will seek to accommodate twice the volume of construction that the site can comfortably accommodate. In consequence, the visual impact will be appalling and the infrastructure costs astronomical.
Pictured: "If, or when, the Interim Island Plan is passed, the New Hospital Planning Application (submitted under the previous Island Plan) will be subjected to review by a UK Planning Inspector under the terms of this new, Interim, Plan."
Perhaps the most unpleasant and, from a democratic perspective, most frightening issue in all of this is the planning element. An Interim Island Plan has recently been submitted to the States for approval and even the most cursory glance shows a coach and horses to have been driven through all previous policy to accommodate the bloated edifice.
If, or when, the Interim Island Plan is passed, the New Hospital Planning Application (submitted under the previous Island Plan) will be subjected to review by a UK Planning Inspector under the terms of this new, Interim, Plan. However, the public consultation process for the application was invited under the old Island Plan, which would never have permitted anything of the proposed magnitude. As such, no public submission will be worth the paper it is written on. So much for Democracy.
Equally disturbing, in the teeth of the pandemic, has been the introduction, and continued progression of the now infamous ‘Jersey Care Model’ (for details, see comments above on the closure of Samares Ward). This deluded scheme (due, originally, to be delivered through our Parish Halls, if you please), was rejected in the UK, when introduced by the self-same executives now seeking to inflict it upon us.
Meanwhile, despite their best efforts to fulfil all government requirements for the management of the pre-vaccination Covid period, our GPs continue to be denied any uplift in their support payments, which were last increased a full 10 years ago. And Population Policy has been completely ignored for the entire duration of this government, but, apparently, a token gesture will be cast our way to appease us in time for the forthcoming election.
When it convenes, the new Assembly will also inherit the housing crisis and associated traffic difficulties that have arisen in part consequence of leaving Population Policy unaddressed. And as if that weren’t enough, productivity (output per person) has been flat-lining for some time and the finance industry is coming under increasing external pressure; though these latter problems cannot be laid, entirely, at the door of today’s government.
The list goes on, and whilst the many difficulties associated with the pandemic can be blamed for various delays and additional costs, it cannot excuse the blatant incompetence, cynicism or inability to be open and honest that we have witnessed over the course of this parliament. That said, at least our (powerless) Scrutiny department has conducted itself with integrity.
Pictured: "Without sufficient inside knowledge, it is difficult to speculate how the structural damage inflicted by the Parker regime can best be undone..."
Sadly, there will be few quick fixes for whoever inherits the job of putting Jersey back on track after the next election, but there is one task (possibly the most important of all) that can, and must, be implemented immediately; that of putting control of government back in the hands of those who should never have relinquished it in the first place; the politicians.
Without sufficient inside knowledge, it is difficult to speculate how the structural damage inflicted by the Parker regime can best be undone, but however the reformed apparatus may look, each and every government department must have a strong and capable Minister at the helm.
Another quality required will be the ability to recognise the difference between competent and incompetent senior management within the civil service, and the courage to deal with the latter in a swift and appropriate manner. One need look no further than the current Hospital and Health Service fiascos to see what happens when those qualities are missing.
We hear from various quarters (not least the party associated with the current Council of Ministers) that the individuals are right, but the system is wrong. Given all that has gone before, that forlorn contention is probably the only form of defence left available to them. The truth must surely be diametrically opposite; capable people will always get more from a bad system than incapable people will from a good one.
Come the election, soundbite solutions will pervade, but the cold hard truth is that many will prove unworkable when confronted by reality. Most of the key issues now facing the island (population, housing, health, hospital, revenue generation and reining in government spending) will all need to be assessed, very rapidly, in light of the situation that prevails when the new Assembly takes office.
In the meantime, rather than courting the electorate with a series of ‘bold new visions for Jersey’, perhaps the new candidates could confine themselves to proposals for getting the system back in order.
And where better to start than the grass-roots. By actually listening to stroke victims; to people with serious mental health issues; the homeless; nurses; health care workers, teachers and the many others that use and/or deliver our essential services. Who better to provide evidence for the reshaping of our future?
Repairing our societal foundations is an aspiration of substance in itself, and for now, perhaps we need no greater vision than that.
And if that is to be achieved, it will be more important than ever to make the right choices at the next election. Parties may look like the answer, but we might be better served by ensuring that the best individual candidates are elected, regardless of party allegiances, or lack of them.
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