Thursday, 12 December 2013

More Powers for the Chief Minister? Think Again!

Following a speech the Chief Minister Ian Gorst gave today to the Institute of Directors, Channel TV have reported on a few of the things he has said -

"Jersey's Chief Minister is keen to push through a raft of changes to the format of government early in the new year. 
Senator Ian Gorst wants his position to have more power, and to be able to freely shuffle Ministers and portfolios around. 
He also said if Senator Philip Ozouf's proposition - to cut the number of States members to 44 and scrap Senators - isn't voted through, further action will need to be taken. 
"If that [Senator Ozouf's proposition] is not approved, then we need to consider how we're going to deliver electoral reform. It becomes apparent to me that actually, this is one of those times when we need to call for a Royal Commission." 
Senator Gorst also said he is "undecided" as to whether he will stand for election next year.
But, he said, if he does and is voted in, he will stand for Chief Minister once again."

I feel that these statements cannot be left without comment.

So let's go through them one at a time -

"Senator Ian Gorst wants his position to have more power, and to be able to freely shuffle Ministers and portfolios around."

In theory an excellent idea. If we want an effective cabinet style government, we need cabinets where all Ministers are on the same page as each and all put into the best positions to match their expertise, working towards a common goal that they all believe in.

A conglomeration cabinet (which is what we have now) will inevitably end up with certain members trying to pull in one direction where others go another.

When each Minister is elected individually, it's entirely possible for two Ministers to get elected who hold opposite views on a particular subject. The obvious example is a Housing Minister who wants to build houses in one particular place on the island to tackle a shortage there, and a Planning and Environment Minister who absolutely opposes houses being built there.

But hang on, who picked the Chief Minister? The States did. Not the people of Jersey. No Chief Minister we have ever had has also been the poll-topper in a Senatorial election, and Senators are likely to be abolished sometime son. So the electorate are entirely powerless when it comes to deciding who the Chief Minister is.

If the Chief Minister is to head a government of his or her choosing, to take the island in a direction in line with a particular vision, they absolutely must be endorsed by the public.

I cannot accept any enhancement of the Chief Minister's powers, without also an enhancement of his or her democratic mandate.

I'm suggesting that if the Chief Minister is to gain more power, it should be a directly elected position.

After the general election, the States Members should nominate their preferred candidates for Chief Minister, which then goes to a public vote after a month of campaigning. To get on the ballot, the States Member must be nominated by a majority of States Members, with States Members allowed to nominate more than once. That way the public will not be able to vote in a candidate who will not be able to command the support of the States Assembly and just lose a vote of no confidence at the first hurdle, leading to a constitutional crisis.

Ideally, I believe in a party system, whereby the leader of the biggest party after an election becomes Chief Minister. At the election, the public would vote for their local party candidate, knowing that it is not just a vote for the candidate, but also a vote for that party's leader to become Chief Minister.

But we don't have parties yet, so in the meantime I think that there should be a cabinet government, led by a Chief Minister elected in a sort of presidential style election.

"He also said if Senator Philip Ozouf's proposition - to cut the number of States members to 44 and scrap Senators - isn't voted through, further action will need to be taken."

Yes, very true. That action will be a referendum on the Clothier recommendations, as the States has already decided. Is his amnesia on this an indication that he will vote against the enabling legislation for the referendum? That's genuinely something to worry about.

" "If that [Senator Ozouf's proposition] is not approved, then we need to consider how we're going to deliver electoral reform. It becomes apparent to me that actually, this is one of those times when we need to call for a Royal Commission." "

You just couldn't make this sort of thing up.

Does he really think that a Royal Commission will come up with anything other than what has already been suggested in the past?

Any independent commission will just come up with either what the Clothier report suggested, or Option A.

On both occasions, the powers that be have rejected those. What will be different from a Royal Commission?

Senator Gorst supports keeping the Constables in the States. No Royal Commission would ever suggest keeping the Constables in the States. What will he do when a commission comes back with a suggestion that doesn't include the Constables? If he says he'll accept their findings, well why not just accept the findings we have already had from the Clothier commission?

Also, no Royal Commission will ever suggest anything that isn't in line with the Venice Commission's criteria. So whatever they suggest will not retain the overwhelming bias of the current system (and the proposed Option B) to the country Parishes at the expense of the urban ones. But if he is happy to accept their findings if they include this principle, why does he persistently vote against any proposition that tries to achieve fairness for St Helier? It's sheer hypocrisy, nothing less.

"Senator Gorst also said he is "undecided" as to whether he will stand for election next year. But, he said, if he does and is voted in, he will stand for Chief Minister once again."

It's a bit annoying that Jersey politicians always seem to be "undecided" about whether they will stand again. But I hope he does stand again. We've never had the chance to pass a verdict on the performance of a Chief Minister, and we need that opportunity.

I think Ian Gorst's premiership can be summed up in one word - weak.

Perhaps I'll go into more depth on why I think that in another blog post.

In the meantime, perhaps readers could leave comments with their verdict on Ian Gorst as a Chief Minister so far in this term?



  1. The only thing he has really achieved is the Committee of Inquiry into Child Abuse. And only because Senator Le Gresley forced him to. Another chief minister would have booted that into the long grass quicker than you can say cover up. It will be his one and only achievement.

    I'm very concerned about who would succeed him though...

    1. Agreed. The most obvious option to succeed him is clearly the worst. My view is that Senator Le Gresley would be the best replacement. His politics are in the centre, he has a social conscience and is very popular throughout the island. Just a question of whether he'd want the job or not!

    2. Why did the politician cross the road? Answer: to get to the centre.

    3. Senator Ozouf’s proposition for reform is of course the gerrymander Option B. Its not reform in any progressive sense; quite the opposite. It perpetuates the under representation of St Helier and the over representation of County parishes with small populations. This is a historic legacy akin to that of slavery in the United States. Historical amnesia rules alongside ignorance. Option B is about anti-equality.Essentially it’s designed to perpetuate rule by the political class for another few decades.

      “Plan B with a tweak” will do nothing to address voter abstention, standing at the highest in Europe. For God’s sake, even in authoritarian corrupt countries like Ukraine, the people are prepared to go out and vote for their corrupt oligarchic rulers. Do ours not realise that they lack legitimacy. How will they organise consent for their policies? Probably by digging the moat deeper and raising up the fortress walls.

  2. Sam,

    Weak - yes. But better than his predecessor, who brushed everything under the carpet. And looking at the realistic alternatives - one of whom is a habitual liar, one a bully, and one best summed up as a poltroon - he's the best of a bad, bad bunch.

  3. Anyone who thinks Gorst is not a good CM clearly wasn't around to experience some of the others. This government is forging ahead with long term care (started by Gorst in his previous role), new hospital, social housing etc etc and that's down to the fact we have a strong leader. It's a shame he is hampered by the low quality of ministers he can draw on but that's not his fault.

    Le Gresley is great in his current role but he would be a fish out of water as CM.

    At the end of the day it is clear that whoever is CM will always be the target of criticism from those in opposition. Even Le Gresley would quickly become 'the establishment's mouthpiece' etc.

    Gorst is perfectly entitled to be undecided about whether he will stand again (the election is just under a year away). If he does I suspect the public will vote him in comfortably and if he stands as CM against any of the opposition members he will win comfortably, just as Sir P comfortably won the houses support as foreign minister despite all the hate campaigns against him.

    Like Sir P, Gorst has the overwhelming support of the public and the states and long may that continue if it keeps delivering the kind of success we are seeing now.

    Oh wait, he hasn't delivered reform, do I care? not much, I care about who is going to house and nurse me when I'm old and as of this week I now can sleep better at night knowing that Gorst's government has taken huge steps forward in both those areas (long term care, social housing, new hospital in case you had forgotten). Perhaps not at the forefront of the average young healthy revolutionaries mind but very much on the mind of ordinary old folk like me.

    1. Being better than the previous ones doesn't make him good, just less bad.

      I don't doubt he'd be re-elected but I do doubt he would come 2nd again. If he came in the bottom 3, he would have no mandate to be Chief Minister again.

      "Gorst has the overwhelming support of the public" You have no evidence of that at all. The Jersey Annual Social Survey showed that only a quarter of the population have faith in the States. That's pretty pathetic.

      You're happy. Great. Good for you. But how about sparing a thought for the thousands of islanders who aren't happy? You know, the 3,200 unemployed. The God knows how many who are being exploited by zero-hours contracts right now. Those living in squalid accommodation.

      Yours is the politics of complacency. I don't share it.

    2. I am not complacent, I have just far more experience of life than you. I have experienced unemployment, I have lived in squalid accommodation, I have experienced sickness and death of loved ones, and physical abuse by those in authority, and a broken home and my own marital breakdown, and family alcoholism, and sickness of my own children, I have been cold and hungry but never have I felt more optimistic about our government and its ability to make a real difference to ordinary people like me and thousands of others like me. There has been a change in the last few years and its being led by people like the CM, Le Gresley, Green and yes, even Ozouf.

      I am not complacent. I see the great things that are happening at the moment and it gives me real hope for the future. I don't see any credible alternative. I live in St Helier, am I interested in states reform or the role of the bailiff? not really, am I interested in discrimination, housing, healthcare and yes, of course, unemployment? yes, and the government is addressing those things like never before.

      If you want to be part of shaping the future of this great Island then, in my opinion, you need to understand people like me a bit more instead of dismissing us because we don't agree with you.

    3. "I have just have far more life experience than you", heard it all before. You're older than me, therefore everything you say is right and I'm wrong. That's a very patronising line of argument.

      As I said, if you're happy, great. But lots of people aren't and they don't share your optimism. When I speak to lots of islanders, they have the opposite views to you and you shouldn't be dismissing them because they don't agree with you.

    4. So Anon you are amongst the POOR and downtrodden, you would have us believe, and yet you are supportive of the multi millionaire Ozouf (landed property) and the Englishman Mr Gorst who run the island for foreignors and international Banks. You are either a fake or mislead. Anyone who was an "ordinary person" and concerned about their future and that of their children (now facing unemployment and diminishing job prospects), would never support this government, let alone go out and vote for them, when clearly they have so little public respect.

    5. Anon, I assure you I am not a fake and believe it or not I do support a government that pledges to spend 250m on social housing, plans to rebuild a hospital, introduces a discrimination law and raises taxes to provide longterm care. The fact that Ozouf is rich means nothing to me. The fact that Gorst is English means nothing to me. I am an ordinary person and I do care about the future of my children and I do support this government and when the time comes I will vote for them.

  4. Sam, here's a tip. If you ask for peoples views and someone is good enough to share theirs with you, perhaps responding with things like "You're happy. Great. Good for you." and "Yours is the politics of complacency" isn't the best idea?

    1. It's called "debate". That's what these forums are for.

  5. Perhaps you could share with us what you would do for the 3,200 unemployed if you were CM?

    1. Will be setting out more over the next few months but for starts -

      Work permit scheme so no unskilled labour can enter the island whilst there are local unemployed.

      Any construction firms taking part in building all these new social houses should be obliged to source their workers locally.

      Advance to Work programme is good, so maintain that, but be stricter about where they can do work experience, because some places just abuse the programme for free labour, with no intention of ever giving those on their placements a proper job at the end of it.

      I'm also up for some ambitious programmes, like building underwater turbines to produce tidal energy. That would create a lot of employment. Other big infrastructure things like that would be great. They are daunting, but we should be trying for these sorts of things.

      I'm not convinced that the digital economy is going to take off in the way it's being predicted (2,000 jobs in the next 4 years). I'm very sceptical that faster broadband is going to do anything more than help people download films faster. If Jersey wants to be a centre of excellence for digital firms, it needs to change the laws to make it much easier for digital firms to open in Jersey, and be able to mitigate their losses if it doesn't work out. That's what Israel did and they are booming, it's the opposite of what France did and they aren't booming.

      I plan to do more posts on economic stuff in the future, so stay tuned.

    2. You sound like a member of UKIP?

      Perhaps you could advocate large projects like social housing and a new hospital? No, wait, that's what Gorst is doing.

  6. When I hear Ozouf talk about all the investment he is pushing forward, in the manner of, just look what I'm doing for you, better housing etc....

    I think of say a family where the father is a gambler etc.. wastes all the households money, the children left to survive on little food, one day comes home, and says look, I've bought you tons of food, how good am I, and a little boy pops up and says, yea a weeks worth and you if you want my thanks for the years of starvation, forget it.

  7. "There has been a change in the last few years and its being led by people like the CM, Le Gresley, Green and yes, even Ozouf. "

    How very true, and how very inconvenient for the left wing minority in the States.

    1. Got to love this sort of hypocrisy.

      Every thing good is because of our right wing government being so brilliant. But everything bad is the fault of the left-wingers out of power.

      Keep it consistent at least! Jeez....

    2. "But everything bad is the fault of the left-wingers out of power."

      Who said that?

  8. Well its the government that has brought the propositions for all the good stuff mentioned above? And all under Gorst's leadership.

    That's not hypocrisy, that just plain and simple fact. Gorst/Ozouf/Le Gresley/Green are the architects of the things mentioned above. The opposition may have squeezed in an amendment or two but that's it.

    I fail to see the hypocrisy?

    1. Exactly (many of those with the support of the left-wing minority, led by a Chief Minister who only won with the backing of the left-wing minority btw!).

      And therefore equally, all of the failings of the past few years are also the fault of the same bunch.

      It isn't Monty Tadiers fault that Jersey is on the French blacklist.

      Those that always moan about the left-wingers in the States are not smart enough to realise that they have no power at all and the failings of the States are down to the government, not the back benchers.

    2. I moan about the left-wingers in the states but I am smart enough to realise that they have no power. Interesting the way you generalise though.

      If the failings of the states are down to the government like you say then so are the successes. But that seems to be hypocrisy?

      Read back Sam. No one said the failings were down to the left wingers.

      Also, I fail to see how a left wing minority who generally vote en-bloc against most government propositions can be said to be contributing to anything. The fact that Southern and Pitman (S) voted against long term care will not have had any impact on the result.

      The point was that this government is forging ahead with more centre left policies than any before and that is inconvenient for the opposition in the same way that New Labour was inconvenient for the tories.

  9. It is incredible what propaganda people absorb, without thinking things through for themselves, or gaining a few facts.

    New Hospital.

    The problem Jersey has is long waiting lists, more than a year for a hip, physiotherapy appointment given months after the initial treatment, a shortage of nurses, consultants earning literally a fortune using the hospital facilities, using mid grades to cover their public work. Managers of departments on call at home during the evening getting paid £250 to answer one phone call.

    This is just a few examples of a dysfunctional hospital Anne Prykes answer, build a new one. Thats like building a new school to replace one with lousy educational history, it will not make the slightest difference. The waiting lists, staff shortages and armies of overpaid non clinical management, secretaries and admin staff need a serious cull.

    Ozouf is incompetent. With a cash fund of between £80 to £100 million, and reserve fund of around £700 million and rents for social states housing around £40 million a year he thinks its a good idea to borrow £250 million over ten years which means £25 million a year. Try and work that one out, Borrow your own money back from the bank ? There is lot more, but this is just one example of mismanagement.

    The States is so well run, that it doesn't trust its own executive management with secret quangos being set upon departments that cost a fortune and usurp the professionals working that department.

    Absolutely mind numbingly crazy and expansive on a small island. Frank Walker is now on two and Terry Le Suer on one as is Maurice Dubrais also an ex politician all working at arms length from the politicians you elected but spending the publics money and being paid it.

    Jersey is being carved up through self interest and jobs for the boys. As you mentioned Mr Mezec 75% of island residents have NO faith in this Government. People are just not that stupid. There are some excellent members who do care for the island and its people. Deputy Higgins should be Chief Minister and Senator Ferguson Treasury or Health minister to name a couple.

    1. Does higgins have the mandate that sam suggests a CM should have? He came fourth in his district?

    2. Anon, believe it or not some people don't just absorb propaganda, they do think things through for themselves but then they come up with a different opinion to you. If someone does that it does not necessarily mean that they are stupid. For example, have you thought through the effect on waiting lists of building more operating theaters? Its just possible that building a new school might be the answer if the lousy educational history is due to lack of proper facilities and crowded classrooms. Don't you think?

  10. Do you think the Bio-psychosocial assessment methods could be applied throughout government and not just with claimants seeking welfare or housing?

  11. Does Higgins have the mandate that sam suggests a CM should have? He came fourth in his district?

    Good point @ 14 December 2013 12:22

    However unlike several of the Ministers including the chief, he fully engages in debate, is researched and has a conscience, as he has displayed on the floor of the house. He remembers what he reads, probably also on planes, has a good strong backbone and fights for what he believes.

    Compared to most of them in the council he is an excellent and trustworthy politicians. Who do you trust ?

  12. I see from your twitter feed that you are presently doing some investigating to see whether Jersey residents should have a vote in EU Parliament elections. Are you doing this for an employer ?

    1. Nope, doing it for Reform Jersey. It's one of several things that might be in the pipeline next year for a campaign.