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EXPRESS OPINION: Dancing on the head of a pin

EXPRESS OPINION: Dancing on the head of a pin

Tuesday 03 November 2020

EXPRESS OPINION: Dancing on the head of a pin

Tuesday 03 November 2020

It’s so often the case that the way you deal with a problem is more important than the problem itself.

Last week, our Chief Minister discovered that many people saw the appointment of the Government CEO to an additional ‘role’ in a very different way from him.

This week, we learn his verbal permission for the appointment has been effectively overturned by his fellow Ministers, with the two ‘roles’ now being deemed “not compatible at this time.”

Yesterday’s States Assembly meeting gave Senator John Le Fondré his first platform to respond to all of that, and to react to the pending vote of no confidence in his leadership. 

So, how did he deal with it? 

Disappointingly, he chose to fire pointless blanks at the messenger - in this case, the island’s daily news media. His words echoed those of Mr Parker himself, who has also chosen to criticise the news media for factual errors in last week’s reporting. 

What were the errors? 

This is where Senator Le Fondré moved on from firing blanks, to dancing the political two-step on the head of a pin. 

Ready? Cue the music. Firstly, Mr Parker’s appointment with New River is not a “job”, it is a “role” – naughty media for getting that key fact wrong! It’s a role (not a job, don’t ever use that word!) because the money paid for the work (err…a salary?) doesn’t actually reach his bank account at all! Who would have thought it? It actually…and this was the media’s big mistake… goes to a group of as yet unnamed (are they even aware?) charities. Hallelujah, the sun is shining down on us all! 

So – according to the Le Fondré two-step - it is not £50,000 a year for a second job. Bad media, misleading everyone and making them all upset for nothing with your factual errors! Bad States Members for believing such a thing, and not calling the Chief personally to discover ‘the truth’ before commenting publicly!

Had you all just kept quiet we could have sailed on in wilful blindness, and spared the Chief Minister the tiresome need to apply his well-honed, and trusty, scalpel to split these pesky hairs. 

It is simply a £50,000 payment for a three-days-a-year role (not a job!), which will all be donated to charity in recognition of Mr Parker’s toil. That time will be taken as annual leave - not, as was originally said in a government statement, undertaken in the evenings and at weekends. 

When you put it like that, why have so many people got so very upset? Well, here’s why. 

Even putting to one side the simple ‘principle’ decision as to whether a second role (not a job!) for the Government’s CEO is desirable, the fall-out has revealed: 

  • A communications process in which, even a full week later, the Chief Minister still doesn’t know who signed off the first media release on the issue. To discover that, it needs an official review. 
  • A communications process which says the Deputy Chief Minister approved of something, when he didn’t. Surely a key fact? If we are on the subject of ‘errors’, perhaps this is a proper example of one?
  • A bureaucracy which allows a very senior employee to take outside employment on a simple ‘nod’, and with no paper trail from his actual employer, the States Employment Board (SEB). SEB has now given qualified permission for the appointment - but the Council of Ministers has decided it is incompatible with current duties... "at this time."

Painful though it might be, if this issue serves to correct the above problems, and so improves the system, it has been ultimately a healthy process – and that is why the daily news media were absolutely right to publish the story last week, and prove, once again, how very important their professional scrutiny is.

To denigrate them for doing it, as the Chief Minister has chosen to do to protect his own position, does not show the strong leadership we so desperately need. 

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