Using the word "unedifying" is not new in Jersey political life...it only takes a few tentative steps down memory lane to come up with examples fitting that description, and once you start thinking about it, well, they just keep coming. So why does this week’s internecine row between health scrutineers stand out?
Politicians making strongly negative comments about each other in a public forum like the States Assembly? Done. Repeatedly. And take a look at Westminster.
Politicians complaining about their treatment when put under intense pressure? Done. Repeatedly.
Deputies Southern and Bailhache on opposing sides of an intense political, and perhaps personal, disagreement? When are they not?
The Standards Commissioner probably being asked to step in to rule on what some islanders will perceive as a silly spat? Well, you get the picture.
Pictured: Deputy Bailhache and Deputy Southern are no strangers to being on opposing sides of a debate.
Didn't we also see 14 abstentions, many of them Ministers, including the Chief Minister? By abstaining, they declined to support one of their own Council, the Health Minister, who made the original complaint, and so they implicitly questioned her view of how she was treated...their defence being, they didn't see it for themselves.
Didn't we also see a top scrutineer aiming what eventually turned out to be a boomerang, in trying to oust two of his panel for the way he believed they had treated a Minister and her officers? That alone is highly unusual.
What are we really seeing here? Strip out the invective, peel back the layers of political obfuscation, rub off the murky mist of language.
Context is helpful. The structure, budget, facilities, culture and managerial performance of our health service has become the key political topic of our time.
Pictured: "The structure, budget, facilities, culture and managerial performance of our health service has become the key political topic of our time."
Accepting the forthcoming Moneyval assessment, reform of the public sector and delivering sufficient housing might justifiably have a claim to the title – it is health, in all its various guises, from primary care, to mental health to the decaying hospital which tops the list.
It has become a lightning rod for our sense of dissatisfaction and fear – whichever bugbear you want to manifest, you can find evidence somewhere within the health service. And that is twin-sided, as in the performance of its people, it is also one of our greatest sources of pride...that their performance is delivered in spite of the structure, budget...(see above).
The topic has become toxic, as Deputy Southern found to his cost this week – bizarrely (and that's no exaggeration) he might find a soulmate in Deputy Farnham, who had nowhere to sit when the music abruptly switched from the Wagnerian Hospital-on-the-Hill, to Tom's twin-site two-step.
Now we have a Health Minister who doesn't like the way she is treated by the democratically elected politicians whose job it is to question her - forming an allegiance with the Scrutiny boss who is there to hold her to account, who is then removed by his peers after trying to sack his own team, and her fellow Ministers decline to support her, as they didn't see it happening.
At other times, that paragraph would seem deeply odd. In the context of our current health debate? Welcome to 2023.
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