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EXPRESS OPINION: We're facing a 'remember forever' decision

EXPRESS OPINION: We're facing a 'remember forever' decision

Thursday 07 May 2020

EXPRESS OPINION: We're facing a 'remember forever' decision


Bring back Brexit, all is forgiven. It’s rather ironic to think that as the British nation, we took what should have been a relatively simple in/out decision, and strung it out over four years of agonised recriminations... and then in the last four weeks, the gods have taken their revenge for our Brexit shillyshallying, and hurled down some truly hard stuff.

Like whether to take a knife to our economy in order to save people’s lives, that sort of thing.

Or the one currently facing us: how many virus cases (some of which will be fatal) do we accept as lockdown is eased? Is that different if it is your loved one who gets sick?

Those are truly, tortuously difficult, ‘remember forever’ decisions, and they are near impossible for our politicians to get ‘right’, since there will always be a range of views, perceptions and reactions. What does ‘right’ even mean?

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Pictured: Life seemed so much easier when Brexit was the only big decision on the table.

Add into the mix the fact that we are all dealing with concepts and ideas, which, if we had heard someone rather optimistically broaching them on TV just a few short weeks ago, we would have switched over to Love Island – like the science behind the ‘R’ number measuring a rate of infection, or how long a particular virus lasts on clothing. Pre-covid – deadly boring; post-covid, just deadly. 

Or the fact that Guernsey is dividing itself into familial ‘bubbles’ (honestly, what would you have thought, on hearing that, pre-covid?), so you can buddy up with another bubble.

We might be invited to join their Channel Islands ‘bubble’... But, actually, what if we want to be in a different ‘bubble’ with someone else?

A French ‘bubble’ would mean better [INSERT NATIONAL STEREOTYPE HERE, E.G. BREAD, WINE, LENGTH OF LUNCHTIME]. How about a ‘Euro-bubble’, presumably complete with music to match?

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Pictured: Jersey and Guernsey are taking very different approaches to the next phase, with Guernsey using social 'bubbles'.

It would all sound quite fun, were it not so serious, and symptomatic of the major decisions facing us as a community, which will reach right into the heart of what we believe ‘Jersey’ to be all about.

On the pages of this digital newspaper recently, you will have read calls from people like Kevin Keen, and Deputy Kirsten Morel, for the Government (and everyone else) to buy local wherever possible, in order to help our businesses – you know, the ones which provide the jobs to pay the taxes to fund the public services – recover from this period of enforced abstinence from their customers, cash and confidence. Spoiler: some, perhaps many, won’t.

The news from the Bank of England that our main partner economy is facing the deepest recession on record should tell you that.  

This is our island, and this is our time, and we must do all we can to secure its future.

Deputy Morel and Mr. Keen are 100% right in those calls to ‘buy local', which doesn’t have to mean ‘thinking local’ too.

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Pictured: Deputy Kirsten Morel is bringing a 'buy local' proposition to the States.

For many businesses in Jersey, their customers come from down the road – the local media is one of those. Every time you click on a UK or global website, and see an ad for a local business, you know that business is not buying local, even though it wants its customers to. 

But there are major parts of our economy where their customers come from across the globe, each one putting their money into Jersey’s pocket, which then feeds into our public services. 

That sort of investment is exactly what we need to drive our recovery.

In recent weeks, our worlds have shrunk - for some, to just a couple of rooms. We must make sure our mindsets don’t do the same, and believe that just because this virus has come from overseas, the correct response is to pull up the drawbridge and cut ourselves off from the investment which will drive our recovery.

To do that, would be to complete the nasty work of this virus.

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Pictured: international trade provides the funds to fuel our recovery.

‘Buy local’ isn’t just an exhortation to our government, our businesses or islanders themselves; its wider context is actually pulling together to support our island, in whatever form that takes. 

So far, we have heard nothing from Government about Jersey’s economic recovery plan. We have had the bizarrely named ‘Safe Exit’ plan, which overtly accepts that its effect will be more people catch the virus – not quite that ‘safe’ then.

Make no mistake, it is the right way to go, but there’s no need to try and sugarcoat it with childish platitudes, which just make us feel we are being manipulated.

That’s not pulling together. It is not ‘safe', and it is not an ‘exit’. That’s the whole point.

What we have done so far is reach the end of the beginning. The next step will be even harder, and it will involve a tricky juggle of protecting lives, supporting trade, and remembering our horizons are not bound by Gorey and St. Ouen. 

It’s going to need another of those ‘remember forever’ decisions.

READ MORE on Jersey's covid-19 recovery...

David Warr: There's no sense in splitting health and the economy

Kevin Keen: Investing in Jersey - Tell Helier!

Kevin Keen: Want the economy to recover? Buy local!

Luke Smith: We need financial patience, not pain

Eliot Lincoln: Time for government to help businesses get paid

David Warr: View from the business frontline - Cooper & Co

Andrew Hosegood: Down here in the bay...

James Filleul:  Share the plan for lockdown end

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