Monday, 4 June 2018

Agreement between Senator John Le Fondré and Reform Jersey on the formation of a government


Following constructive discussions and negotiations, Reform Jersey States Members are committed to supporting the candidacy of Senator John Le Fondré in the election for Chief Minister on 4th June 2018.

This support is offered conditionally on the understanding that both parties agree to the following terms –

Shared objectives

Over the last 4 years, Reform Jersey and Senator Le Fondré have both voiced their concerns in the States Assembly over the direction Jersey was moving in under the incumbent Council of Ministers. Both recognised the disillusionment many members of the public feel about Jersey’s political system because of the dysfunctional way the States has often worked.

In his candidate statement for Chief Minister, Senator Le Fondré explains his concerns over the way that the benefits of economic growth have not been felt by most Islanders, many of whom are now worse off today than they would have been five years ago. He says - “We simply cannot allow this situation to continue and have to develop policies which address the complex socio-economic problems to provide real opportunities for all and not just a few”. This is a sentiment shared by Reform Jersey in their manifesto ‘Working for a Fairer Island’.

Whilst Senator Le Fondré and Reform Jersey have often taken different positions on States policies over the previous electoral term, both stated in the general election campaign that they wished to see a more inclusive government for this term and wanted to work constructively with others to see public services improve. Both parties believe that the election results demonstrate a mandate for change in line with this vision.

Whilst Reform Jersey and Senator Le Fondré have previously differed in their policies on improving the standard of living for Islanders, it is now agreed that this should be a key priority in the next Strategic Plan, with a focus on reducing poverty.

Both Reform Jersey and Senator Le Fondré placed significant emphasis in their election manifestos on the importance of ensuring Jersey is represented at the highest levels throughout the Brexit negotiations to ensure that Jersey’s place in the world is secured.

It was a stated priority in Reform Jersey’s manifesto that the next government must implement the recommendations of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, which Senator Le Fondré has also included in his candidate statement for Chief Minister.

Forming a government

If elected as Chief Minister, Senator Le Fondré will initially nominate Senator Sam Mézec for the position of Housing Minister, then, following the introduction of the upcoming changes to ministerial government, he will be nominated as Minister for Children.

Other Reform Jersey States Members will contest further ministerial posts on 7th & 8th June.

In the event of them not being voted into other ministerial roles, Assistant Minister positions will be offered to Deputies Montfort Tadier (in Culture) and Geoff Southern (in Social Security).

Working together in government

It is agreed that no version of collective responsibility shall apply to Reform Jersey members in government which would require them to vote against what was committed to in their manifesto. Where their political positions are irreconcilable, they will agree to disagree.

It is agreed that Reform Jersey members will have the absolute freedom to pursue their 10 key election pledges, both inside government and from the backbenches.

Reform Jersey members will continue to robustly oppose any policy which they believe will exacerbate poverty on the Island.

Reform Jersey members in government will abide by all parts of the Ministerial Code of Conduct and will not use information obtained in their government capacities for party purposes.

Senator Le Fondré has committed to improving communication amongst Ministers and Assistant Ministers, including ensuring that all Assistant Ministers are able to access all the information provided to their Ministers.

Policy agreements

It is agreed that Jersey’s Income Tax and Social Security Contributions systems will be examined to determine the appropriateness of potential reforms (including those specified in Reform Jersey’s manifesto). Further work will also be done to assess the relationship between taxation and Income Support (including the disregards) and work shall be done to review the supplementation system.

It is agreed that the Minimum Wage shall be progressively increased towards £10ph, with consideration given to benefits in kind provided by employers in agriculture and hospitality.

It is agreed that legislation will be introduced to define zero-hours contracts in law and regulate them to end their inappropriate use.

It is agreed that improved parental leave provisions, access to dentists for children and cheaper access to GPs will be aspired to, subject to sustainable funding mechanisms being found from Social Security Contributions reform.

It is agreed that a working party will be set up to consider how further responsibilities on local matters can be transferred to the Parish of St Helier, in line with commitments for urban regeneration.

It is agreed that discussions will begin with the Jersey Electricity Company to explore options for increased use of renewable energy in Jersey.

It is agreed that workforce modernisation negotiations will be re-opened, with the principle of collective bargaining restored.

It is agreed that a Policy Development Board on Social and Affordable Housing will be established, which will work with the Housing Minister to research and develop a fair rent regulation system for social and private accommodation. Social housing (i.e. Andium) rents will be frozen whilst this work takes place. Further work will be done to agree measures to encourage unused properties to be available on the market, including an empty property tax. An investigation will take place on external purchasers of property to reduce that demand.

Duration of the agreement

Both Reform Jersey and Senator Le Fondré sign up to this agreement in good faith, on the understanding that both parties wish to serve in Jersey’s best interests for the four-year term. If one party to this agreement does not uphold their obligations as stated, then the other can withdraw from the agreement if no reconciliation is possible.

Monday, 5 March 2018

General Election Statement - I'm running for Senator!

Sam Mézec to stand for Senator

Reform Jersey’s party chairman, Deputy Sam Mézec, has announced that he will seek election as a Senator in the forthcoming General Election.

Deputy Sam Mézec said - “With the backing of Reform Jersey members, I have chosen to stand for election as Senator in this election because I want to seek a mandate from across the whole Island for our manifesto.

Over the last 10 years, the States has lost sight of what should be its number one aim – improving life for ordinary Islanders. I believe that we must spend the next few years deliberately reversing the trends which have seen a drastic increase in poverty and a frozen standard of living. This will be the main focus of my campaign.

I am determined that the next government must be more politically inclusive and improve the way it deals with the issues facing Jersey, rather than replicate the unedifying debates we have seen on the new hospital and population control.

During the last term, I believe I have provided a strong opposition voice and have robustly held the government to account over its mistakes. But in this next term, I want to be at the forefront of delivering positive change.

I have spent my time as a Deputy fighting for increased wages for the low paid, for improved support for the vulnerable and against wasteful States spending. If elected as a Senator, I believe I will be better placed to take a proactive approach to improving the way the States works on behalf of Islanders.

I will be standing alongside other Reform Jersey candidates, with a shared manifesto which has at its core our main ambition of pursuing policies which will raise the standard of living for all Islanders

Notes to the editor

- Deputy Mézec is 27 years old and has been the youngest member of the States since March 2014.

- He currently serves as:
- Chairman of the Care of Children in Jersey Review Panel
- Vice-chairman of the Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel
- In his spare time, he plays electric guitar in the rock band FlashMob

Friday, 13 October 2017

"Honoured" to meet a random dictator

Being a politician is a pretty surreal experience on the best of days. It's never dull and even in Jersey we often find ourselves lucky enough to enjoy a political theatre that matches up to the excitement of other jurisdictions (or at least it does if you're a geek like me).

Today was strange.

Once again, our Chief Minister has gone abroad to represent the Island and meet representatives of other governments to promote Jersey. I have no problem with that.

Again, he has met with representatives of countries which have human rights records that are less than impressive. I also have no problem with that.

But what I can't get my head around is Senator Gorst's choice of words.

After meeting with Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa (the Finance Minister of Bahrain), he tweeted a picture of the two of them together with a caption saying he was "honoured" to meet him.


The Chief Minister has met some interesting people in his line of work. Whether they be Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers, or even ordinary Jersey folk who have done extraordinary things. How does Sheikh Al-Khalifa match up to them?

He is not a democratic politician. He is a member of the ruling family of Bahrain which has been in charge for hundreds of years, ruling with an iron fist and having zero-tolerance for opposition.

Torture is widespread. Since the 2011 Arab Spring protests, a hundred dissidents have been murdered and thousands have been wounded. They even called in the Wahabist and ISIS-backing Saudi Arabian military to help them brutally put down these protests.

Basically, these people are really nasty.

Why is it an honour to meet someone like him? Why was this word necessary?

I get that part of diplomacy and politics means that you have to meet with people you disagree with. Sometimes it means meeting with nasty people if it's for the greater good. But what is the benefit of cosying up to people and inflating their ego by acting as if there isn't something fundamentally wrong with their agenda?

Sheikh Al-Khalifa and his tyrannical family have blood on their hands. It's not an honour to meet them. At best, it's just business.

But things got even stranger when States Members received an advance copy of a press release on this subject.

Here is the relevant bit -
The Chief Minister has also met with His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, who has been Minister of Finance in the Kingdom of Bahrain since January 2005. Minister Al Khalifa is also a member of the Development Committee of the World Bank Group and IMF. 
Jersey and Bahrain have a long-standing relationship and the Chief Minister will be making an official visit to Bahrain later this year to enhance Jersey’s commercial and political links with the Kingdom. 
Senator Gorst commented: “We place great importance on the Island’s positive relationship with the Kingdom of Bahrain, and I was pleased to be able to meet with His Excellency to discuss future opportunities for partnership between our jurisdictions.”

Apparently Jersey has a long-standing relationship with Bahrain.

Did you know that? I didn't.

Jersey does not have any people from Bahrain living in Jersey at all, according to the last census. I doubt many Jersey people live in Bahrain.

We have a long-standing relationship with France. We don't have one with Bahrain. It's just silly to say we do.

These comments just aren't serious.

Is it too much to ask that our leaders speak plainly and cut this sort of unnecessary BS? It just looks a bit silly.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

An outrageous political intervention from William Bailhache

In September, the States Assembly will have it's first opportunity to vote on one of the recommendations of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry when it debates P.62/2017 lodged by Deputy Tadier to split the dual role of the Bailiff and allow the States to elect it's own Speaker.

In fact, not only will it be a chance to adopt a recommendation from the £23m ICJI, but also to adopt some of the recommendations of the Clothier Review and the Carswell Review, all of which have said that Jersey needs to introduce a Separation of Powers if it has any hope of meeting modern democratic standards.

The IJCI said that this had to be considered as part of a deliberate drive to eradicate the perception of the "Jersey Way" which has been prevalent in our community for decades, where many people distrust the Island's "establishment" and believe it acts only to perpetuate their own self interest at the expense of the vulnerable.

So, without a hint of irony, in the run up to this debate, the Bailiff William Bailhache, has written to the Chief Minister in an attempt to perpetuate his own self interest by trying to influence his conduct in this upcoming debate.

The full letter can be read from page 6 here -

The key paragraph reads -
"However, in the forthcoming debate, I should be grateful for your assurance that you will not take the line that the Care Enquiry's Recommendation 7 is a reason for supporting the proposition of Deputy Tadier, or indeed for re-visiting the issue of the Bailiff's role generally."

Let's put that in simple English - an unelected judge (and supposedly impartial Speaker) has written to an elected Chief Minister to instruct him to disregard the evidence and findings of a £23m Inquiry whilst pursuing his policies.

This is absolutely unacceptable in a democracy.

Of course William Bailhache is entitled to his opinion as an individual, but as our Speaker, he is not entitled to use his position to influence our elected politicians. In doing so, he has shown himself to be unfit to hold the office he does, and has shown how absolutely imperative it is that the States votes to relinquish him of these responsibilities.

He has epitomised the Jersey Way that Francis Oldham QC had criticised in the ICJI report.

If John Bercow (Speaker of the House of Commons) did something like this, he would be expelled by the afternoon.

The full letter is an illuminating read.

In the letter, Bailhache attempts to explain why there is no problem with the dual role of the Bailiff and makes an argument which is not only poor, but is just plain weird because of how illogical it is.

He says -
"The system which we have, for the record, does not come nearly as close to breaching the rules around the separation of powers as did that in the UK as recently as 2005. There, the Lord Chancellor was not only a member of the judiciary and the legislature, but also a member of the Cabinet with executive responsibilities."

Spot the problem with this argument?

He refers to a situation WHICH DOESN'T EXIST ANYMORE.

How on Earth does a Bailiff consider it a good argument to compare Jersey to a bad system which no longer exists and was deliberately changed by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, to split the multiple roles held by the Lord Chancellor?

2017 Jersey may well be better than pre-2005 UK. But the UK accepted this was wrong and now 2017 UK has a better system than 2017 Jersey. That surely is a demonstration that we are too slow to reform ourselves and that there is a problem with the current system.

He goes on with -
"Dicey, that great English constitutional lawyer of the 19th century did not regard that position with disfavour."

Now, every person who has studied law has heard of Dicey. He was no Lord Denning (#legend), but someone we were all taught about. His main work 'Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution' was published in 1885.

William Bailhache is arguing that the lack of separation of powers is okay because some bloke wrote 132 years ago that it wasn't a big deal.

In fact, not just some bloke. Dicey was a staunch anti-democrat.

He opposed every single proposal to offer Ireland more autonomy from the UK (and many have paid with their lives in the conflict which that attitude helped create) and he was a staunch opponent of women's suffrage.

I really don't think that it's a wise argument to reference what an anti-democrat wrote 132 years ago to justify the dual role of the Bailiff in 2017.

"It is right also to add that my own experience is that there are a number of very senior thinkers in the United Kingdom, including senior judges, who do not regard the constitutional changes of 2005 with favour."

Because judges are of course well known for being beacons of progressivism!

"They have led to a hard edged angularity which is unhelpful, as was witnessed by the failure of senior politicians there adequately to defend the judiciary against the disgraceful attack by some part of the media (describing the judges as "Enemies of the people") following the decision in the administrative court on the lawfulness of the government's proposed Brexit strategy."

Now, when he says "senior politicians", what he should mean is the hard-right, Brexiteer Tory MPs who are so hell bent on leaving the EU that they don't care what it does to the British economy or what impact it has on British democracy. Labour politicians were at the vanguard of defending the independence of the judiciary throughout that process, and they cannot be lumped in together with right-wing politicians who were blinded by their extreme agenda.

But the example of the Supreme Court ruling on the lawfulness of the government's Brexit strategy is actually a very helpful one for those who support the separation of powers.

The government led by Theresa May and packed full of hard Brexiteers like David Davis and Boris Johnson believed that they had the right to unilaterally trigger Article 50 and begin the process of withdrawing the UK from the European Union. A member of the public disagreed and challenged this in court, arguing that as Britain's parliament is supreme, Article 50 could only be lawfully triggered after a vote in both Houses of Parliament. The government challenged this view at every step along the way (costing the taxpayer a pretty penny in the process).

The British courts, including the most senior court of the land, ruled against the government and hugely embarrassed them by forcing the Prime Minister to tear up her plans and go down a different route instead.

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom defended the principle of parliamentary sovereignty and upheld British constitutional law by stopping a government dead in their tracks and forcing them to change their illegal plans.

That was a true example of what an independent judiciary can do to a government which is abusing its position and acting ultra vires.

How does William Bailhache think that the pre-2005 courts could have possibly dealt with this situation any better, when they would have been headed up by a member of the government which was prepared to act illegally?

It is an argument which is so illogical and unnecessary, that it only seeks to highlight the importance of Jersey reforming its constitution to ensure that the public can be truly secure knowing that their judiciary exists to defend their rights and uphold the rule of law, no matter what the whims of a here today gone tomorrow government may be, and which will not be subjected to undue political interference, or vice versa.

I'm optimistic we will get there sooner rather than later and I am certain that the letter from William Bailhache will have the exact opposite effect he intended.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Why I can't take part in the Advisory Panel on implementing the IJCI recommendations

Following the publication of the report investigating child abuse in Jersey, the Chief Minister invited me to be a member of an advisory panel he has set up to advise him on implementing the recommendations of the report.

I thought long and hard about whether I could make a positive difference if I took up this role, but sadly have come to the conclusion that the Chief Minister is handling the aftermath of the report poorly and I am better placed to argue for positive change whilst being independent from any advisory panel.


Dear Ian,

I have considered your invitation for me to take part in an Advisory Panel to help you respond to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry's recommendations and have decided that I cannot take part.

I wholeheartedly support the recommendations made by the Inquiry and I will vote for any proposition which I believe takes the Island forward in getting these recommendations implemented. However, I believe that I can make a more positive contribution by offering advice across the floor of the Chamber and by continuing to work in Scrutiny.

The Inquiry's report emphasises the importance of independent scrutiny. You currently have plans to bring forward a proposal to take the independence away from the States Scrutiny Panels by allowing and encouraging Assistant Ministers to sit on Scrutiny. This is being opposed by Scrutiny and the Privileges and Procedures Committee, yet you have confirmed in States question time since the publication of the report that you have no intention to abandon these changes. I believe this is a huge error which will undermine our system of government and further embed the principles of the 'Jersey Way' where those in power have influence into many areas and will be able to stifle criticism, rather than allow those who have no obligation to support a here today, gone tomorrow government to take an objective approach as an independent and critical friend.

Whatever noble intentions the government may have in its attempts to implement the recommendations, innocent mistakes may be made along the way which I would be complicit in if I take up a role in advising the government. It is vital that there remain members who are not compromised by this process, who are able to speak out and oppose potential mistakes when they arise.

You have shown that you are not prepared to exercise your whip as leader of the government to make implementing the Inquiry's recommendations a red line in government policy. That is your choice. But it is wrong to then rely on Scrutiny and Opposition members to get the support you need. Just as I believe it is important for there to be a separation between the Judiciary and the Legislature, I also believe that the Executive must not be allowed to capture the Legislature. I believe that your approach so far is taking the Island in the wrong direction.

Were I in your position, I would seek to get the support of the Council of Ministers and then allow Opposition and Scrutiny to act independently to hold us to account.

As I do not have confidence in the process you have suggested, I cannot take part in it.

Kind regards,

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Poverty in Jersey and the lies of the Council of Ministers

In November 2015, the States of Jersey Statistics Unit published their Income Distribution Survey, which shed some light on the shocking rates of relative poverty in Jersey.

In the 5 years since the previous survey, income inequality in Jersey shot through the roof and we became a more unequal society than the UK. A third of pensioners, a third of children and over half of single parent families live in relative poverty. The spending power of the poorest 10th of Islanders went down by 36%

These statistics are shameful for a rich Island and drastic action needs to be taken to make Jersey a fairer society where everyone is able to have a decent standard of living.

In the States sitting on the 14th March, Deputy Mike Higgins asked the Chief Minister for an update on inequality since that survey came out.

The Chief Minister said "relative low income is reducing".

In the States sitting on the 28th March, the Chief Minister and his assistant minister (Senator Paul Routier) were subjected to a barrage of questions on how they have reached this conclusion and what statistical evidence they have to back up such a claim.

The video above shows a politician who realises he has dug himself into a hole, and would prefer to keep digging rather than apologise for getting something wrong.

There is of course no tangible evidence whatsoever to back up the claim that relative low income is reducing in Jersey.

No real evidence exists either way (until the next Income Distribution Survey is produced in 2020), however it is clear that many of the government cutbacks to support provided to pensioners, disabled people and single parent families is likely to have exacerbated the current statistics we already have.

Following the false statements made in the States Assembly, Reform Jersey's vice-chairman Deputy Geoff Southern wrote an open letter to the Chief Minister ask him to withdraw that statement and apologise for misleading the States/ public.

After a contribution to the same effect from Deputy Richard Renouf of St Ouen, the Chief Minister responded as follows -

"Dear Geoff and Richard, 
Thank you for your emails. 
Income inequality did reduce when our economy was performing well before the financial crisis, but deteriorated as incomes fell and as low interest rates cut mortgage costs for some but did not benefit everyone. 
Now our economy is improving: average earnings have risen by more than inflation for the last four years; unemployment is at a six-year low and employment is at an all-time high. We saw economic growth of 5% in 2014 and a further 2.2% in 2015, more than double the forecast. The economy is clearly moving in the right direction, however I accept that until we have the next income distribution survey, we cannot be definitive about these complex interacting factors 
The next such survey is due in 2020 but I am working to bring it forward as it seems to me that this is an important piece of work. I hope this statement of intent is an indication of the importance I place on this issue 
Kind regards
Senator Ian Gorst
Chief Minister of Jersey"

You'll note that this response does not go quite as far as to overtly say that the statement "relative low income is reducing" is false, and it certainly isn't an apology for misleading the States/ public. I have responded to the Chief Minister asking for clarification on that specific point and we will see if he will apologise.

But what I find disturbing in this response (and the other responses given in the States) is that he is determined to pursue a narrative on their performance in government which is so flawed that you have to either question their honesty or credibility (or both).

They are attempting to make three claims -

  1. The economy is improving
  2. They have reduced the tax burden on low earners
  3. They are helping the poor by investing in health and education
Each of these can be demonstrated to be fatuous. So let's go through them.

1. The economy is improving

No it is not.

The Council of Minister claim that 5% growth in 2014 and 2.2% growth in 2015 is a sign that the economy is improving.

On the face of it, it appears to be good news, but only if you have no understand of economics and choose not to dig a little deeper into these stats.

In 2014, most of Jersey's industries did not grow, and the over all figure of 5% growth was driven by growth in the finance industry. The government's own Fiscal Policy Panel told them that this growth was not part of a trend of growth, but was due to several large firms in the Island undertaking one-off restructures which changed the numbers on paper and made the productivity figures for the sector look greater than it actually was.

In 2015, many of Jersey's industries did grow, but finance shrank! Basically the opposite of the year before.

There is no positive trend to take out of this and there is no evidence that we are facing sustained periods of growth which can be relied upon to see Islander's standard of living going up.

The government also claim that employment is at a record high.

Well, yes, this is true. We do have a record number of people in work... because we have a record high population!

In actual fact, the absolute number of unemployed in Jersey has only gone down by 140 in this term of office. The vast majority of new jobs have gone to people arriving into the Island. This is a ponzi scheme.

It is also a fact that half of the new jobs created have been zero-hours contracts, which will do little to help those working in those jobs out of poverty.

2. They have reduced the tax burden on low earners

Again, false and here is the evidence -

This is taken from the Oxera report on the changes to Jersey's tax system over the last decade.

For the lowest earners in every household type examined, tax went up.

The report even finally admits that GST is a regressive tax which disproportionately affects the poorest Islanders.

The government also introduced the LTC charge, which is regressive also.

There isn't much more to be said on it. It is just a simple lie to say that low earners have been protected by the Council of Minister's tax policies. They just haven't and the independent report shows it.

3. They are helping the poor by investing in health and education

This is a bit of a bizarre one.

How does a healthy working age adult who lives in relative low income benefit from a better health and education service? They don't. They might if they get sick, but just because you are poor doesn't mean you aren't naturally healthy.

But in any event, poverty is not measured by your access to public services. It is measured by the money you have to live off. A better funded education or health service does not put more money in your pocket.

In fact, in Jersey's case the opposite is true. because of how the government has chosen to fund it's "investment" (in inverted commas because it doesn't really exist, but I'll let that one slide for this blog!).

The government is funding extra spending in those areas by cutting the Social Security budget by £10m.

They have chosen to cut the Income Support disregards for disability benefits and pension income, as well as abolishing the Single Parent component of Income Support.

I have met people who already live in poverty who have seen their incomes drop by £600 per year as a result of these cuts.

The Single Parent component was £40 a week, so that cut will see some families (56% of whom already live in relative low income) £2,080 a year worse off.

The policies of the Council of Minister quite clearly are going to have the inevitable impact of pushing more people into poverty and making inequality in Jersey even worse.

Despite all their bluster and slogans, the fact is that the government has chosen this week to lie to the public to hide the disgraceful impact their policies are having on the poorest people in Jersey.

The public deserve so much better than this.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Jersey Aircraft Registry - a Soaring Success from the Jersey Government

I'm not going to lie, today was pretty irritating!

Myself and someone I know had been doing a bit of digging lately, trying to uncover what we thought might be a political scandal. We were on the verge of being ready to go public and, lo and behold, the media somehow managed to beat us to it!

I am of course talking about the story today that the States has spent £860k on setting up and running the Jersey Aircraft Registry, and only two aircraft have actually signed up to it.

Just a few hours after this story hits the headlines, my written question for the States sitting tomorrow was published, so I've missed the chance to get involved. Oh well! -

There will be more documentation being published at our initiative soon to reveal a few more details.

The Isle of Man Aircraft Registry has almost 1,000 aircraft registered to it, and Guernsey's paradoxically named "Channel Islands Aircraft Registry" has 160 registered. We have two. That's £430k per aircraft, with only £11k in registration fees made to offset that. Pretty embarrassing, by all accounts.

I think that most Islanders will rightly feel aggrieved that, once again, a venture headed by the Economic Development Department has led to a huge amount of taxpayers money being squandered.

Whether it is the business class golf jollies around the world, the failed Innovation Fund or now the failed Aircraft Registry, there is a legacy of embarrassment haunting this department.

Whenever questions are raised about what the department are doing and the legitimacy of any of their activities, we get normally a rebuttal from the minister, Senator Farnham, which usually is missing any actual answer but instead contains a bit of hot air about how "this government is a success because the economy is growing and you lot just hate success".

This is incredibly worrying that Farnham thinks this is acceptable answer and, in my view, shows that he either doesn't really understand how economics works, or that he does but is just awful at bluster to hide his failures.

In a nutshell -

Jersey has had some economic growth over the last two years, but it has been erratic and doesn't reflect a positive trend. In one year growth was driven by the finance industry where several large firms undertook one-off restructuring, but all other industries shrank. The next year, finance shrank and growth was driven by the other industries. Nobody can really take anything genuinely positive out of that, especially when a large proportion of that growth was driven by the fact our population is massively increasing every year (which is ultimately a Ponzi scheme).

So, having noted some of this bluster and been unable to find any evidence that government policies were having any positive tangible effect on our economy, I thought I'd just ask a simple written question asking the minister to list everything he has done which he thinks has helped develop the economy.

Here is his answer -

To sum it up in one word, this list is - pathetic.

The first one on the list is the regulations to extend pub opening hours for the Queen's birthday (which by the way was actually my idea! But anyway...), as if this is a true success story for our economy. Unbelievable.

Others include the raising of various fees charged by the States. As if increasing the cost of business helps grow the economy.

But, most amusingly, a whole seven items on this list are to do with the Aircraft Registry!

In a parliamentary question to a States Member about measures which have had a tangible effect on economic growth, Senator Farnham chose to boast about a scheme which has seen a deficit in States finances of £849k.

You could not make this stuff up.

If his department had any proof that their actions had actually done anything to help businesses in the Island, cut unnecessary red tape or improve the regulatory framework for those busy employers in the Island, then I'm sure they would be shouting them from the rooftop. But instead we get pub opening hours on one weekend and the Aircraft Registry.

When I stood for election last year, I was asked at one hustings what I would do to create jobs in the Island. I said a combination of three things -

1) Cut Social Security Contributions for the self-employed (ironically the opposite of what the "pro-business" Tories in the UK are now doing), so they have more security in their lives, can afford to invest more and employ more people. 
2) Form a joint review group of employers and trade unions to work together at finding the laws and regulations which no longer suit the needs of either workers or bosses and consolidate, update and simplify those laws. 
3) Push forward with the eGovernment programme to cut down on bureaucracy and red tape that businesses have to contend with when dealing government.

I think these policies aren't too bad for a left-winger. Yet instead, the pinnacle of our government's creativity is the creation of an Aircraft Registry.

Lord help us!

So, is Senator Farnham our most useless Minister? It's a tough one. Leave your thoughts in the comment box below!