Thursday, 29 September 2011

La Colomberie - a Nigthingale sings - End of Empire?

“Fourteen cabaret shows; now there are none!”

Yesterday I took a walk up to La Colomberie to investigate the relative economic decline of the area. What can be done to reverse this trend?

It is not the first time I have been there. I did a little impromptu speech on my soap box last week. It attracted one of shopkeepers who heard that I was a solicitor by profession. I was able to give a little directional advice about employment law.

Here I interview Tony who has run a shop in the area for many years. He laments the decline of tourism. We live the contradictions of hosting the offshore financial centre and its domination of the economy. Tourism and agriculture struggle.

I caught Tony as he cleared his shop and surrendered the lease. He will continue to work from home with a loyal, but reduced, clientele.

No one likes to be pessimistic, but one has to be realistic and speak the truth. This is the reality of Jersey today and it will probably get worse in the short term.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Mould or Mold? - Liberation Court – La vie en rose

Canvassing yesterday evening I knocked on a door and entered a veritable adventure.

I realised there was an important story to be told about the reality of life in contemporary Jersey. This is the invisible world that the four media entities care to ignore. Within twenty minutes my cameraman was in attendance to record an interview. This enabled me to nip across the corridor and speak to the neighbors who will be voting. The issues they raised were precisely the same as every pensioner – surviving on a fixed income in the face of inflationary prices and oh yes, a dysfunctional government of millionaires.

Sandra has emphysema. Her kitchen is being replaced. The original dates from 1995 when the building was constructed.  There is dust all over the kitchen and in the flat. No thought has been given to its potentially detrimental effect on her health. Why? We know why stupid.

Her bathroom suffers from mold on a regular basis. This seems to be a lack of ventilation. The bathroom is internal and relies on a fan to remove steamy air.

When the lights went out following an all island power cut, none of the emergency lighting in the corridor worked. In other parts of the building it did. This would be extremely dangerous for a disabled person evacuating the building, say if there were a fire, especially as the exit is down several narrow steps to the road.

Sandra is a disabled person and this is supposed to be a ground floor flat but is accessed via eight steep steps which are not to modern safety standards and she has fallen down them.

She has been cared for by her daughter for years who is now attending Highlands College on a vocational training course for which the widowed mother has borrowed money from a  money lender to pay the fees - if the daughter had just signed on at SS as unemployed she would receive about £90 per week but receives nothing apparently because she is training at Highlands.

The financial burden is great upon this widowed mother. Family photos show the young English born deceased husband as a handsome - fit young man but he was for years incapacitated through illness and their young son also died.

This is a family that knows tragedy and hardship - even when the proper order is restored to this flat and it is all re-decorated - across the road the old Wesley chapel site is being redeveloped and there will be 18 months of noise and dust ahead.

When the island-wide power cut doused the lighting the mother went searching for the electricity meter in the pitch dark but found that it was already loaded with money ---this is the measure of poverty in modern Jersey where electricity can only be afforded by the meter full....what will happen when the cold of January and February hits this struggling family?

PS. I actually discovered a use for Mary O’Keefe-Burgher’s four page manifesto – I found a copy that was lying on the floor beside the letter boxes in a discarded pile of others and rolled it up to keep open an external building door that would otherwise have locked behind me. Everything has a use value and not necessarily its original purpose - it just requires a little imagination.

Mary has the following paragraph in her Manifesto and this may explain why so many copies had been discarded on the floor by tenants. I am not sure if I would tolerate such patronising snobbery either.

"The number of people wishing for social housing has risen. The Government needs to help people to understand that social housing is not a right but rather encourage independence of States (sic) benefit. Understanding that this is an extreme fall back position in exceptional circumstances and should not be an automatic domestic ambition."

Having watched this video I wonder if Mary now considers the reality of social housing less aspirational and more a deterrent?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Soapbox in the Royal Square - Report from the campaign front

Here are two videos. One is an assessment of the campaign so far, the difficulties I face and the successes. As I note the other 7 candidates in this election in No.1 St Helier are not the enemy, they are just competitors, the real enemy is voter abstention.

We know statistically that 75% of St Helier No.1 district does not vote. These are mainly working people, whose standard of living and jobs are degrading on a daily basis and will get worse under the new government being formed by Ozouf, Le Marquand, Bailhache. The Cuts and austerity plans will bite.

The second video was recorded in the Royal Square at lunchtime today as I mounted my soapbox to discuss the implications of the Corporate Services Scrutiny sub Panel Report on Lime Grove House. It should be debated on the Senatorial Hustings as it is an indictment of the reckless amateurs that will be mis-managing  the island during an unprecedented economic crisis.

The gentleman in the background who was gesticulating behind my back whilst eating in the Cock and Bottle complemented me on the performance. He lives in St Ouen. I wonder if his Deputy and Constable candidates will be practicising their oratorical skills in a central location somewhere near the Parish Hall?

Deputy Trevor Pitman, a fellow candidate in the No.1 District election, his wife and supporters were in the square having lunch in Le Petit Greek and I challenged him to join me in a debate on any issue he chose. He declined. All looked on with a mixture of insecurity and bemusement. Clearly Mr Le Cornu is fearless and formidable. So he will be in the States.


Rough seas ahead

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Green Street Barracks Saga Part VI - Lime Grove House + Treasury Minister = TOAST?

“This is far too serious for playing political games” Deputy Egré BBC Radio Jersey, Morning Show 22.09.2011
It looks serious. The Head Girl, Senator Sarah Ferguson, has referred her Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel Report on Lime Grove House to a very senior Prefect for further consideration. A caning (Human Rights compliant) by the Headmaster or even expulsion from the school could be on the cards for OV and Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf.

However, none of this is likely. Senator Ferguson wants a Ministerial position in the forthcoming Bailhache-Ozouf government and consequently has not stuck the knife in. It has conveniently been referred for a further report which will gather dust in the fullness of time.

The Report leaves lots of questions hanging. All of them point to the competence of the Treasury Minister and his CEO John Richardson. We all know there is no accountability in the Jersey political scene. In fact this is quite acceptable to the wealthy, as all they want is stability. Stay in power and keep your hands on the tiller whilst we carry on making money. Hence they will all vote Bailhache and nothing will change. Elections are merely an occasions for elites to shuffle round the chairs and someone new gets to sit on the throne.


The bit that appealed to me as a feral lawyer was the allegation that the Treasury department had “weeded” their files before handing them over to Scrutiny.  Surely not!
We were dismayed, however, that correspondence between various parties appears to have been omitted. We have also been unable to find documentary evidence of the rationale of the offer final offer price and the instructions to the external negotiator [Chairman’s Forward p5]
Weeding is a technical term for taking out of a file and destroying any inconvenient or incriminating letters, drafts, bits of paper and notes. It’s an art form because it has to be done in such a way as to leave no obvious breaks. These lacunae are often covered over with replacement letters, “final” drafts, bits of paper and notes etc that have conveniently been found in the bottom draw of a desk or earlier misfiled and rediscovered. Fortunately, this is something that only happens in the “real world” of wicked business deals and not the irreproachable public service.

The Ego has landed

“…all parties to the transaction, except for the Minister for Treasury and Resources, were anxious to proceed” (p9)
What appears to have happened is that Senator Ozouf, based on discussion with shadow advisers, who were not property experts, decided to personally take over the purchase negotiations. This is where things went wrong. An attempt to shave £500k off the price was initially successful; the vendors reluctantly accepted but were clearly resentful. It was a high risk act and it worked. However, the vendor's dissatisfaction was compounded by significant delays in completing the deal. The result was that when a new potential purchaser turned up in the shape of State Street, they accepted offers to lease the builing and blew out the States.

This is all egg on the Treasury Minister’s face for being too clever. He is not a property developer or speculator, but, as he keeps telling us, guardian of the public purse. So why take such risks? It was a gamble and it failed. Exit casino with just enough loose change for the taxi home.

The losses caused by this failure have yet to be quantified. It is certainly £1m per year for every year of delay in finding new offices for the Police. There are also reputational considerations.

Like all gamblers they will be back as soon as they can. Meanwhile there is an election. My money is riding on 26 Black.

There are many issues in this matter that should be of concern to the public as to the way that the leading group in the government operate. It needs to be put on the agenda during the Senatorial elections and the candidates must be required to comment. The future Bailhache-Cohen-Gorst-Le Marquand-Ozouf Counicl of Ministers will be doing the same time and again as they seek to sell off public assets cheaply to their mates with the same reckless abandon. This is why "progressive" candidates should stop dreaming of being a Minister or Assistant Minister and get on with building an organisation that warrents the name Opposition.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Sir Philip “CROMWELL” – takes the stage

On the way to re-establishing a Feudal Bailiwick with Sir Philip as its Crown Prince, there will be an election. Last night was the first Senatorial Hustings.

Senatorial Candidate David Richardson described Sir Philip Bailhache as a “Cromwell” – our Man of Men. He was perceptive. The ever timid ruling class in this island is frightened by the unprecedented discontent boiling on the streets and want a saviour. Step in the New Leader, former Old Leader, in a new democratic style.

It is clear from the JEP of tonight, with its front page photograph of Sir Philip, who they are backing. This is no surprise. They want him for Chief Minister. Philip Ozouf can go fry in the ruins of Lime Grove House, sidelined to a future of ignominy.

Likening Sir Philip to an English historical personality may not be to his taste, given his ambiguous loyalty to the British State. More apposite and appealing might be a comparison with France’s Bonaparte or his nephew Louis Napoleon, Napoleon III, especially if long lost Norman roots could be discovered.

Louis Napoleon came to power in a military coup d’etat following a democratic election in which he became President of a republic. He remained there ruling autocratically and crushing the French Left until the Prussians beat him at Sedan (1870). This “man on horseback” has been a recurring theme in French history, as evidenced by De Gaulle. He gave the necessary leadership to the French Bourgeoisie to begin a new period of economic expansion.  

Confidence is low on the Jersey Establishment side. Faced by economic and political challenges of the most unprecedented order since the end of the Second World War, there is a sense of crisis and a lack of clear leadership. Step in Sir Philip the New Saviour.

Bailhache’s reactionary talk is wrapped in pseudo progressive and reform language. Whatever he says he means the opposite. He talks of Reform, but does not mean the Clothier or Carswell reports, both of which he has publicly rejected. Instead he means reducing the number of States Member by a few, but not Constables. If the States are held in disrespect it is because he and the the Council of Ministers have created the situation. How can anyone with any sense of credibility believe such kant? 

Those who vote for the Establishment do so for good reason, to protect property and privilege, but do us a favour Sir Philip and put it in a cogent intellectual framework. Stop pulling the wool over the eyes of the People. That of course is precisely what our rulers have been doing for years. And, sadly, many remain gullible.

"Napoléon le Petit" (Victor Hugo)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Political Pogroms in St Helier No.2

I like political trials. I would have loved to have been at the trial in Paris in 1926 of the assassin Sholom Schwartzbad who shot Simon Petlura five times and was acquitted. Instead, this morning, I attended the mock re-trial of Deputy Geoff Southern before the Royal Court on a representation by Senatorial candidate Darius Pearce. Apparently there is some bad blood and political differences between the two. Both are thoroughly nice chaps.

Petlura was the leader of the Ukrainian government during its short history of independence between 1918 and 1921. His crime in the eyes of his Jewish assassin was that he instigated various pogroms against Jews. Pogroms were a form of Ukrainian sport at that time. The Jury agreed that Petlura was a thoroughly bad fellow and responsible for much trouble and decided that his assassin was right to have fired those shots. To Ukrainian nationalists today, Petlura remains a thoroughly nice chap and indeed something of a hero, especially as he was not a nasty Russian Bolshevick.

The representation in the Royal Court was all about whether or not Deputy Southern had or had not made an appropriate declaration during his nomination as Deputy in District No.2 St Helier. There was embarrassment all round.

No one had any evidence if Deputy Southern’s Proposer had read out the declaration correctly. The BBC and CTV had all switched off their cameras at the time or the audio quality was impossible. Everyone had amnesia.

The Connetable was embarrassed because the Comite Des Connetables had been following the wrong procedure, none having ever read the Electoral Law. The Jersey Way of make it up as you go and doing whatever is most convenient had triumphed again. Smack wrist, but otherwise business as usual and don’t do it next time.

Darius we were all reminded in Court had a number of convictions himself for upsetting his father in law whilst doing a Romeo and Juliet impression around at the old man’s house.

The whole world, including residents of No2 St Helier all know now, in case they did not already, that Deputy Southern has convictions in relation to assisting widows and orphans to complete postal voting applications forms, contrary to every Article of the Lets Get Geoff and Shona (Jersey) Law 2008.

William Bailhache , brother of the Senatorial candidate, gave judgment that was predictably political. In turfing out Darius with a flea in his ear, it was an opportunity to tell everyone and no doubt the JEP reporter present that, yes, Deputy Southern has convictions. Smack wrist and next time make sure its all video recorded and everything is Kosher according to the Law. In 2014 we will all have to listen to list of twenty convictions being read out for roughly the same offence. After that five minute sleep break, we will hear Deputy Southern’s Proposer give a speech telling us he is, yes, a thoroughly nice chap.

If I were a voter in No.2 St Helier, I would not be voting for Senator Terry Le Main as the next Deputy, even though, unlike the wicked Deputy Southern, he has no convictions of any sort, shape or colour.

Where is my water pistol; I have a Petlura feeling coming on?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Pre-abstention begins - ai vida!

Pre polling began today at St Paul’s Gate, New Street to a fanfare of …..nothing. Far from there being vast queues waiting for the doors to open enabling them to exercise their democratic right, there was only one person - Senatorial candidate Darius Pearce and a “friend” (can I have her telephone number – for political science research purposes only of course?).

There was no CTV, Radio 103, BBC Radio Jersey or JEP photographer to record the historic moment when nothing happened. There wasn’t even a sign outside saying “open for business”.

Darius quipped that he, at 10.15 am had “an early lead” (by two votes presumably). His friend advised us that she had voted in her Deputy election for “none of the above” and thus effectively spoiling her vote. Fortunately she does not live in District No.1 St Helier (I did ascertain that much at least)

Confused first time voters

In an earlier blog I mentioned that three ladies would be conveyed to the pre polling this morning to cast the first ever vote in their lives. In the end two joined me on journey and both come from the Jersey Portuguese community.

Duly briefed that they would be well advised to vote for a very nice man called LE CORNU who would be fighting in the States against all forms of discrimination and the interest of single mums, they entered St Paul’s Gate to cast their vote.

They came back confused. They had been handed a white ballot slip which did not have the name LE CORNU written on it. They had also received a yellow ballot which fortunately did have the name LE CORNU written on it and they had duly put a small cross in the box next to this man’s name.

So, what was the white ballot? It was the ballot for the Senatorial election; that for Deputy in St Helier No.1 is yellow. However, neither were aware that there was a Senatorial election occurring. The question arises how did they get given the Senatorial ballot for an election of which they knew nothing?

Confused? They certainly were and did not know what on earth to do with the white ballot. Since it did not contain the name LE CORNU what were they supposed to do? Well, it appears the staff told them they could vote for up to three candidates in the Deputy election and up to four candidates in the Senatorial election. They duly voted in the Senatorials, an election of which they knew nothing and whose candidates were equally unknown.

Under pressure of the circumstances, of authority and subordination, these ladies felt compelled to cast their vote. For whom did they vote you ask? One voted for the third one up from the bottom – Mr Richardson, and the other put four crosses in the boxes against names she did not know and cannot remember.

Having driven the ladies home, I returned to Town to discuss the matter with the Assistant Judicial Greffier. The votes stand apparently. Perhaps if there is a tie between candidates the issue could be re-examined?

That said, I trust that there are now new rules in place that ……

There are those who say none of this matters. Perhaps it’s the feral Lawyer in me that thinks something is not quite right. Then maybe I am wrong.

Working people spend their lives being lied to, cheated and exploited and perhaps its no different when they go to vote. These women were abused and conjolled into voting into something they knew nothing about. I had won their confidence sufficiently that they were prepared to support me. It was very fragile and at any moment they could have said no I do not wish to vote. One word misspoken and the ice thin veneer of respect and trust could have been lost. Oh how our rulers abuse us! Why do I feel they were done a great injustice; why do others have such difficulty seeing this? Why is inertia the default postion. Can those that are exploited not see that their salvation lies in their own hands. That is freedom.

I will be watching, I will be waiting, I will be probing, just as are they.

Perhaps this is all a pious hope. The majority, in fact 75% of the registered voters, or 6000 people, in No.1 St Helier know that the whole thing is charade. Nothing changes. Pre-abstention has begun – 19 more days left.

If you want to cry in despair – don’t  - listen to some fado and enjoy.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Every vote counts!


Yesterday I returned home to discover that my stepson’s postal ballot had arrived at my home. This was surprising because albeit registered here, he is studying in the UK. Upon enquiry he confirmed he had completed the application form so that the ballot should be sent to his current London address.

Having returned the envelope and all contents to the Judicial Greffe this afternoon, I was reassured everything would be sent to the London address.

It seems that an administrative mistake had been made or at least ambiguity caused confusion. Had I been permitted to "assist" my stepson on how to complete the appliction ACCURATELY all would have been well. Unfortunately, had I done so I would have commited a criminal offence and risked a fine, like Deputy Southern, of £10,000. Absurd!

AN OPEN BALLOT FOR CHIEF MINISTER - a major political Victory; MOBILE PHONES IN THE STATES – a small triumph over make it up as you go petty rules


Yesterday in the States I achieved a minor personal victory over petty fogging rules. When I arrived to go up to the balcony, I was searched in the usual way. However there was a novelty – mobile phones were no longer permitted to be taken into the States Chamber by members of the public.

I was advised by the security guard (nice guy, minimum wage, sub-contracted job) that I must leave my mobile at the entrance and would be issued with a receipt. I surrendered my mobile, having removed the chip (no chaps I am not that stupid to leave it in!) and duly received the receipt from a stubby Receipt Book. I enquired about the source of the new rules and was advised they were “the New Rules”.

During the break by the States for lunch, I accosted a number of sympathetic Deputies about the complete stupidity of the New Rules. No, I do not take photos from the gallery and I do not record the session using my mobile phone, both of which are long established rules of the House for the general public. Yes I do send texts.

I have Deputy Daniel Wimberly to thank for personally asking the Bailiff if there was a prohibition, under standing orders, for a member of the public to enter the gallery with a mobile phone in their possession. The Bailiff indicated there was no such prohibition. So where did these “New Rules” come from and who made them up?

No one in Mourier House was taking responsibility for issuing these rules. A friend inquired of the staff and it was ascertained that such rules existed, but he could not get them to tell him who had issued them and under what authority and produce a written authority. No one would take responsibility for their actions.

When I went back in just before the afternoon session, the stubby Recipt Book had disappeared as has the New Rules. Mobiles could be taken into the States Chamber, however they had to be kept switched off at all times.

These New Rules are all about staying in control and exercising power. Rule 1 “We make the rules and you plebs obey”. The States of Jersey is our “Best Gentleman’s Club in Town”. It provided refreshments, but got rid of the tea lady to save money; it used to provide sandwiches at lunch time until the issue got out of hand and they were abolished. However, unlike other Clubs, it does not provide sleeping accommodation for tired executives, as Deputy Tadier discovered. Like all Clubs there are sensible and there are arcane rules (Port bottle to be passed to the left only and not to touch the table).

The power holders are getting their knickers in a twist about new technology and the way it erodes their authority to control and limit public involvement in their everyday workings. We the ruled are not to question why and how this happens. Authority demands that we simply obey.

Bloggers have had problems in the past about bringing their cameras into the States Building to film Scrutiny meetings, so this little bit of harassment over mobile phones is all part of an on going war of attrition.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Philip – “ I realise how rotten this system has become”

Philip is a Lawyer, former naval officer and OV. His grandfather held a senior position during the Occupation and was held in respect whilst others were not. That honesty and integrity is evident in the grandson. He is a disillusioned Jerseyman who understands exactly what the problem is with Jersey politics. He has the analysis and solutions. Listen to an educated man.

I took him out canvassing with me yesterday and he proved a useful assistant. We went to a working class estate and talked to the residents. The emphasis is on the word talked.  We did not just slip a leaflet through the door. We listened. All are thoroughly disillusioned with a rotten and corrupt government. Three will be pre-polling on Monday morning 19th September. None have ever voted. One is French and the others Portuguese. They are excited at the idea that someone took the trouble to explain why voting matters.

Into the Lions Den – Norman Law

This evening Philip and I went to a lecture in the Royal Court by Mrs Sophie Poirey, lecturer at the University of Caen, on “The Droit Normand today”.

I undertook the six months course on the Droit Normand back in 1995 at Caen University and obtained the “Certificat d'Études Juridiques Françaises et Normandes. Thus I have an interest and understanding of the subject.

The lecture was opened by the Bailiff, Mr Michael Birt. There were about 40 members of the Jersey legal profession in attendance. I realised why there were so many there because attendance carried CPD – continuing education points. There is nothing like inducements.

The lecturer gave her lecture in French, with pauses to summarize her point in English for the benefit of those present that did not understand that language. Most of those there will have understood French, however only one person attempted to ask a question at the end of the lecture in French. Others asked their questions in English.

The lecture was essentially about the influences of the Norman customary law in Jersey Law, be it customary or statutory. The Droit Normand in France disappeared by a process beginning in 1789, with the commencement of the French Revolution, and culminating with the 1804 Code Napoleon, which abolished the Coutumes of the various Ancien Regime Pays, to replace them with a common national Code. It was never abolished in Jersey and this remnant of the Ancien Regime persists.

Mrs Poirey discussed the matrimonial law. Norman Law had a reputation for being extremely severe on wives and daughters, something that was despised even by other commentators for other Coutume Pays of France and especially those of Paris. We did learn that in France those married under the pre 1804 Coutume continued to live under its terms after that date, so there was no radical break, merely a transition.

The sound system in the Royal Court is virtually non existent. It makes little difference if one sits in the front or the back, speech is inaudible. Straining to listen in a foreign language left me drained.

Lecture over, there came the point for questions. This is usually a point of stunned silence, but instead I got my question in immediately. Initially it was not understood, because I spoke in English and its essence had to be translated into French for the benefit of Mrs Poirey, the lecturer. I wanted to know what resistance there was in Normandy to the revolutionary process that culminated in the 1804 Code. There was little. As I suspected, Normandy embraced the Revolution and became a part of the French Nation State. There was no Vendee uprising in Normany. Peasants became Frenchmen, not serfs.

Tom Gruchy asked, in English, if there had been any commentary in France on the so called Charter of King John, a bogus charter of rights to the Channel Island, no copy of which is extant in Jersey and only a remnant is Guernsey. The reply was in French and he understood nothing as he does not speak French.

Next up was a French speaking Advocate from the front of the Courtroom followed by Deputy Roy Le Herissier practicing his best French. He asked how the Droit Normand could me made living in Jersey, given that those training to be Advocates in Jersey are no longer obliged to attend Caen University and none go voluntarily. Mrs Poirey pointed out that it was still compulsory for trainees from Guernsey to complete the same course on Norman Law that I took. The irony was that of those she taught none had Guernsey names – they were Australians or English. This reflects the influx of non indigenous Lawyers to join the Finance Industry in the island and who wish to progress their careers as Guernsey Advocates and thus must attend the compulsory course.

I realise now that I am soon to be a fossil, as I am the last living link to the Droit Normand course in Jersey. I was among the final contingent in 1995. "Après moi, le déluge".

Norman Law at Caen University is a third year law undergraduate option. It is a peculiarity for those that enjoy antiquarian research and the investigation of recherché topics. It is part of a Norman nationalism or patriotism, for those that retain a Normandy identity that is different from that associated with being French. I wonder what that scion of the Norman Aristocracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, would have said?

In France the Norman Law is a tourist attraction – a medieval ruin for contemporary intellectual entertainment. In Jersey it is part of the ideological base for the concept of the island as a separate legal jurisdiction with its own law – a foundation for the Finance Industry to rest upon.

There was a final question from one of the younger members of the legal profession (in English). Normally the hierarchy demands that the junior members of the profession sit dutifully in silence at such events. To ask a question is to doubt. Her question was whether there was any law on employment in the Droit Normand. This rather naive question produced a smirk from the historians in the back row. Employment law may be in its infancy in contemporary Jersey and in the UK there is a substantial body of rights and obligations surrounding labour contracts, however in 18th Century Ancien Regime France there were no Citizens with inalienable Rights only subjects of a King. Answer; there was no employment law under the Droit Normand.

Speaking of serfs, no doubt under the new Chief Minister Senator Philip Bailhache, the island will become an independent feudal state with him as its hereditary Prince. It may be a temporary usurpation as the Cromwells of Whitehall will send an Admiral Blake with the Commonwealth Fleet to root out the Royalist Pirates.

Vive la République Anglais!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Lee - Food Vouchers and Hard Times in St. Helier - Deputy Gorst to comment please?

Lee is a resident of St Helier. He may be a voter in District 1. I emphasise may because there has been an "administrative error" that has denied him the democratic right to vote. It may be because he is young and a working man. The issue is subject to appeal and may end in the Royal Court - someone has blundered. I am fighting for him.

Lee is a carpenter and looking for work. There is very little. I "rang a friend" and asked if there might be some work for Lee. The employer took his details. Hopefully something may transpire - but who knows -  its tough for employers as well!

Clearly government must help. There is no unemployment benefit. The government must create a Winter Work Scheme as was done in the 80's.  The government must start infrastructure programmes - build that £300 million new hospital - spend the money - get the working people back to work. Get the people off Income Support and create jobs. Put carpenters to good use building homes, building hospitals.

All this and Jersey is sitting on £300 Billion in funds and in accounts. Crazy!

Concerned? Not voting? Yes I know "nothing changes in Jersey; all the politicians are the same" Heard it all before. Things are changing. Its getting worse! Workers a loosing their jobs. Work is drying up and all the Establishment can do is say "we need cuts of £65million to the budget". Time4Change. Time for working people to get out into the polling booths and demand change. Make it happen.

I will be out till late every evening arguing with registered voters that they must use that vote. By the way - its FREE.

Today has been very frustrating. I have tried since FRIDAY to get a copy of the electoral role and have been denied same. The reason? The reason is that I REFUSED to sign a form that said I would indemnify the Parish against ERRORS AND OMISSIONS. I am a lawyer. When I see exclusions clauses and attempt to limit liability I smell trouble.  The problem is the COMITE DES CONNETABLES – covering their backs because they know there are serious errors in the electoral roll in ALL parishes.

How many candidates read the form before they signed it? Did Sir Philip sign his or did he, as any good Judge might, just take out his blue pen and strike a line. A bold line through bureaucratic nonsense. I bet a lawyer did not draft the clause to which I objected. Copy and paste?. I learnt early in my career “precedents are good servants but bad masters”,

I got my electoral roll. I did not have to sign a nonsense form. Another candidate in No.1 got his at the same time. He did not realise the trouble I had saved him. He would probably have signed, as will have all the candidates in this election – including those who should know better.

As I wrote “someone has blundered” There will be accountability at these coming elections. I will be on my soap box (correction Claret wine case) in King Street speaking the truth – to those that wish to listen.

As Lee says its not comments we need - its changes!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Not just a pretty face - "Fresh and Deep"

"Fresh and Deep" is how my wife spontaneously described my photograph in the JEP coverage of the Deputies standing in District No.1 St Helier in tonight’s edition.

I say "coverage" because it was merely a photograph with a list of Proposer and Seconders. 

Let's hope the electorate reading their favourite local newspaper can concur that Mr Le Cornu is indeed a thoughtful and capable person - more to the man than a practiced PR smile. We would not wish conclusions to be made based on style rather than content. No superficial judgments surely.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Green Street Barracks saga - Part V - “The Minister made a foolish gamble and lost" - Hubris

I delayed posting this blog to await the report by the JEP in their Saturday edition on the evidence given by David Flowers, former head of Jersey Property Holdings. The JEP gave a fair and accurate report. This is what many have to rely on for their view of the world (well in so far as Jersey is at its centre), albeit they often try to double guess. In fact articles are often written with such skeptics in mind. Indeed reading between the lines is an art. In terms of opinion formation the public will definitely have got the impression that the Treasury Minister made a colossal mistake.

It will be interesting to see if the Minister’s handling of the matter becomes an issue in the elections. It certainly should. Questions ought to be asked of candidates at hustings. This will test their loyalty as to which side of the Establishment Party they swing.

Once Scrutiny has published its final report, look out for what the editorials of the JEP start saying. So far there have been none. They will wish to protect the Golden Boy, but may have to ditch him if it all gets too hot.

Outside the Scrutiny hearing room on Thursday, Senator Philip Ozouf asked me what exactly it was that he had done wrong in his handling of the Lime Grove House purchase. I answered “Hubris, Sir, Hubris”. I am not quite sure if he understood what I meant, but by now he will have Googled the expression.

We were all ushered in to the sub panel hearing before I was able to expand on the precise details of his failures of policy, but just enough time for a Deputy candidate in St Helier No.3/4 to verbally jump to the Senator’s defence. Not that the Senator wanted or needed a toothless dog to bark on his behalf. That was quite an insight for me into the phenomena of allegiance and loyalty; this from a man attending his first Scrutiny meeting, supposedly with a view to objectively assessing the facts. I fear it may be his one and only attendance. At least there will be no question as to political affiliation in a future House.

The Scrutiny meeting became quite heated at times. The dynamics of personalities came into play and at one point the Chairman Senator Sarah Fergusson had to administer a verbal slap and remind the Minister that it was she that was asking the questions not he.

The Minister merely reiterated his “I was batting for Jersey” line, so don’t criticise me.

The real action came the following day on Friday with the second appearance before the sub panel of Mr David Flowers, the former head of Jersey Property Holdings (graduate of Kings College, Cambridge – say no more!). He was accompanied by Treasury CEO John Richardson, as is the right of any line manager to accompany their subordinate. This did not go down well with the Chairman, Senator Sarah Ferguson, as it was perceived as an almost intimidatory act. It was certainly in keeping with the culture of bullying that seems to be a feature of the Jersey Civil Service.

Mr Flowers was able to speak freely in front of the panel by virtue of parliamentary privilege and protections, but the same comments could not be made by him outside as he was bound by confidentiality clauses in his contract which apply to all civil servants. This is particularly handy to politicians who can lay the blame for mistakes on officials without them having a right of reply. This is not good for the official and their reputation. The Minister has been trying to impugn the reputation not only of Mr Flowers and turn him into a scapegoat, but also a number of other officials and private sector professionals. Such is desperation. We are given to believe there are a number of law suits already issued for defamation of professional reputation.

Mr Flowers, in the fourth year of a five year contract to effect change, was clearly frustrated by his inability to achieve that goal, surrounded by superiors who said they wanted it but in reality did not.

Casino mentality
Anyway, there were a number of classic quotes from Mr Flowers that damned the Minister and his CEO:

1. “The Minister made a foolish gamble and lost

2. “Trying to get one over in a [property] deal, just comes back on you.

3. “What was the downside risk of chipping half a million off the price? Where was the risk assessment?

That is to say, Senator Ozouf has no experience of negotiating property deals, yet he sacked the property services department and its professionals, sacked the Assistant Minister with responsibility for property matters and assumed personal responsibility, advised only by his CEO, John Richardson, a civil servant with equally no property negotiation experience. Phoning a friend (unnamed) for a bit of advice, and acting on that advice, does not negate the necessity to obtain professional assistance.

4. “Why would the public want to drive a win/loose deal?

That is to say, do the Public expect the Treasury Minister to be a property speculator that operates brinkmanship style negotiations on their behalf?

During the hearing there was a lot of talk by Treasury of Lime Grove House a fire sale or somehow damaged goods by virtue of having been left empty for ten years. We now understand that the building stands the owners in at nothing, having sold off the apartments alongside. This is precisely why they could afford to leave it empty for ten years and wait for a prime tenant to take the entire building or find a buyer for the freehold.

I have blogged extensively on the Lime Grove House hearing and hope these may help clarify the situation. It is unfortunate that not all transcripts are as yet on the Scrutiny website, especially those with David Flowers and Richard Law. They will be and I recommend the read.

Call for Senator Ozouf to resign as Treasury Minister over Lime Grove House debacle

 The following submission was made to Senator Philip Ozouf's personal blog, but has yet to be posted. One wonders why? The Senator is waiting whilst swinging on the end of the rope. Will the Mountaineer regain a foothold or fall?

Submission by Tom Gruchy to Senator Philip Ozouf’s Blog dated 9 September 2011 regarding Lime Grove House – St Helier.

“I have attended most of the Scrutiny hearings regarding this failed project and been impressed by the professionalism of expert witnesses.

On the other hand, I have been appalled at the blustering and bullying attitude of yourself and the inconsistencies of your evidence.

In spite of the large team assembled by your Treasury Department to support you and your actions I have heard more than enough to convince me that your decision to abandon this project was wrong.

Your decision is certainly not supported by the spurious reasons offered before the Scrutiny Panel or the written statements offered by you since.

The financial loss to the public of Jersey by your personal decision could be many £millions and this is of course particularly blameworthy since you are forcing cuts and your CSR policies elsewhere.

The further delays in providing adequate accommodation to an already demoralised Police department is just one part of the considerable practical, public loss arising from this and related developments.
The reputational damage that has been caused to so many by your words and actions must also be considered and it is possible that legal actions will follow from those who have been damaged.

All in all, I hope that you will take the earliest opportunity to step back and to reconsider your ministerial position. I have no doubt that the Scrutiny Panel must publish a damning report of your department’s behaviour very soon. But we are now in the midst of Jersey’s first ever General Election and there are many other important issues that need to be discussed with the electorate. If you now allow this particular failure to dominate the elections and if you leave the public in any doubts about your political future it will be especially unfortunate for the democratic process.

Of course, the failure is a very important issue and needs to be discussed as part of the election process but such matters in Jersey have a habit of dragging on for years with reports being made upon reports - and those who are blameworthy allowed to slip away into the fog.

On this occasion, I would ask that you make the clearest statement now about your own position. I think that your resignation is inevitable but I am aware of the personal; magnitude of such a decision for you since politics is an important part of your life.

In all the circumstances I invite you, in the public interest, to make the appropriate announcement.”

The Jersey Polish Community

Today I attended the opening of the Festival in support of the Victoria Crescent Appeal at the Weighbridge Square.

We know there is a great deal of racism against the Polish and Portuguese community. The word "immigrants" is on many lips as I canvass. I have to keep explaining that cheap labour means bigger profits for employers in a casualised labour market. It is easy at a time of economic difficulty to seek easy explanations. The Jews have learnt that lesson the hard way over many centuries as minorities in Eastern Europe, including Poland itself.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Blogging in official circles

The Treasury Department read my blog. I am flattered. I hope it becomes essential reading over the first cup of coffee as officials enter the office, together with that of Richard Murphy.

I know they read my blog because John Richardson, CEO of the Treasury alluded to it. Ok, it was indirectly. In an earlier part of my reports on the Corporate Services Scrutiny sub panel inquiry into the abortive purchase of Lime Grove House as a Police Station, I erroneously referred to John Richardson having said he “phoned a friend” in Canada to take advice on the commercial property market, I was wrong. I confused my notes. It was someone else.

Yesterday, John Richardson, addressed the sub-panel to correct this erroneous attribution. The Chairman, Panel members and Scrutiny clerks looked blank. As far as the Chair was concerned this had never been said. She was correct. That little bit of information could only have come from this blog, since it was only on here that it was written. I sincerely apologise to anyone embarrassed by my error.

Yesterday, there were two important witnesses before scrutiny, Richard Law and Senator Philip Ozouf with his Treasury team.

More later as we assess the implications. Needless to say it got very heated, as the Treasury Minister sought to defend his action.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Fightback – Why bother? The Establishment has already won.

Black and White Party lapel badge (also available in Gold and Enamel by Carl Faberge)

I thought I had a virtual monopoly on idle rhetoric, slogans and otherwise ineffectual words designed to motivate the people away from Coronation Street, onto the streets of St Helier and into the voting booths.  It seems not.

Why on earth was former Senator Pierre Horsfall resorting to martial language in his nomination speech of Establishment Party Mary O’Keefe Burgher? What was all this stuff about “fight back”, “old school” and “new types”? Somehow, I cannot see Mary as the incarnation of the White Counter Revolution. However, one does not have to be a political scientist to recognise the battle cry of class struggle.

Are the Establishment worried? Surely not! Can it really be that the prospect of another three years of endless, repetitive and boring speeches by the "other lot" of States Members, is forcing them to get organised.

Pierre Horsfall, is very much the old school of “safe hands on the tiller” rather than “up and at’em”. Has someone been writing his speech? The tone has changed significantly.

They already have the nucleus of a government around the six Senators not up for election, and since last night a load of uncontested Constables and two Deputies from the Rotten Borough of St Lawrence.
The soi-disant Progressives are going to end up with exactly the same number of States Members as before, give or take a few casualties.

Am I being defeatist? Certainly not. What is needed in not simply quantitative change, in the sense of increased numbers of States Member: it is actually qualitative change. That is where I come in and the Establishement know it. They surely fear the election of a capable and politically informed lawyer like me. It would help to form the core of an opposition based on intellect not rhetoric. No more Uncle Toms either.

Elephants and ritual humiliation
Ever the opportunist, I cannot resist making a political point to an audience. So it was at the nomination meeting in the Town Hall yesterday. I was ambushed of course before the full thrust could be delivered. Never mind.

Each candidate in No.1 District was asked to stand up where they were and thank their proposer and seconder. I should have smelt a rat when the request did not include a request to come up to the rostrum and microphone, as was the case in the Senatorial nominations the night before.

Naturally, I thanked my proposer and seconder and was about to expand on political themes, when I was interrupted on queue by Darren O’Toole and accused of making a “political speech”. God forbid that a candidate should mention politics, but it is the polite convention that this part of the proceedings is narrowly limited.

Darren swings both ways in the sense that he is good mates with Gino Rissoli, but also likes to keep in with the Parish administration, so it was perhaps on their behest that I received the ritual humiliation and closed down. Such authoritarian intolerance is now drearily familiar. Incidentally Darren did not repeat his intervention technique when his good mate Gino extended his thanks into a rather longer “statement”. That would have been the end of the free coffees in Broad Street café one suspects.

Anyway, I did get in a few quips, before being cut down.

I wished all the candidates the best of luck and especially the Establishment candidates as they would need it. You should have seen the faces!! There were also a few laughs it must be said.

But worse, I went on to explain that one could spot an Establishment candidate by the number of what in France is called Les Eléphants, that is to say political dignitaries, that have signed a candidates’ nomination paper. I happened to be looking in the direction of Pierre Horsfall at the time sitting in the audience and caught his eye. He was not pleased.

Aferwards, in the side room where candidates gathered for photos and to organise the hustings, there was the usual polite greetings between those standing. When I introduced myself to Mary O’Keefe Burgher she wished me good luck with a certain degree of emphasis. Initially, the penny did not drop. I thought she was merely being polite. In fact she was repaying the compliment I had given her earlier in the hall. I have to say, sometimes, I am a little thick.

Moving Right

One further moment of amusement was at the time of the JEP photograph of all the candidates standing in No.1. With the curtain behind, the taller men stood in one row with the ladies and I in front.  John the photographer asked me to step to my right. I did so and moved back. He asked again, a little more forcefully this time and I complied. At that point Trevor Pitman quipped “Nick has never willingly moved to the Right” It got a laugh.

So, what was the point of moving to the right one pace? The answer rests in the subtilties of photography as propaganda. In Stalin’s Russia, the recently purged would be air brushed out of past official photographs. By moving to the right I was apart from the group. In a sense it is true. That’s where we come back to Establishment fear and anxiety.

Soon we will have to start discussing all those policies and things. How boring!

“Raise the Banner” in Solidarity

First up with their banner on Green Street roundabout (next to Philip Ozouf House –aka Lime Grove House) was Deputy Trevor Pitman. I spotted the railings which had been left by public services at ten to ten this morning, but had to attend a Scrutiny meeting on Lime Grove House, so did not have time to get there first.

Being able to get it up is essential, as we all know. My banner went up at 1pm. It cost me £40 as I had forgotten (chanced it?) to put up my pay card. Suki Blyat!

I am glad that Trevor and I are doing it in tandem.

As I struggled to twist Wehrmacht surplus wire around railings, there arrived two rough handed fellows, paid each a shilling, to put up the anemic A4 posters of Mrs O’Keefe Burgher (Uniform Black and White Establishment  Party Colours) next to Trevor’s monster. They were actually very polite and asked me if it was OK to put them up. Naturally I consented.

Incidentally, we need more railings asap so that the entire roundabout can be encircled.

I chatted to the parking attendant who booked me and tried to get her to vote. She lives in No.3 St Helier and I mentioned a few names of candidates sympathetic to the people’s cause. As a manual worker she is a member of Unite the Union. Naturally she will not be voting.

Why do I say naturally she won’t be voting? Well, because voter abstention is very high amongst the working people in St. Helier. She hates the States Members and hates reading the JEP. Such admirable sentiment is not enough to get her voting, try as I might to win her to the side of the Angels.

I did enquire if the Union provided any political education. You know the answer. Ah well, I shall add that to the ever growing post election “to do” list (win or loose).

A heroic effort is a collective effort

Yesterday was the nomination event at the Town Hall in St Helier. I was duly proposed and seconded as a candidate for Deputy in St Helier District 1.

There are 8 candidates for 3 seats.

I was particularly impressed by my Proposer Eddie McGarragal.  I was more nervous than he and I was not the one having to give the speech!!

I would also wish to thank also those who seconded me. Their names appear below. I will thank them all personally in the next few day, and probably take in a bit of door knocking where they live!

So here is that speech by my Proposer and thanks again to Eddie:

“Nick Le Cornu was born 53 years ago to a Jersey father and a Northern Irish mother.

He was educated at Victoria College and Warwick University, reading History.

He studied at the College of Law, qualified as a Solicitor and practiced commercial law in the City of London.

In 1993 he returned to Jersey where he specialised in Trust Company compliance.

Nick married in 2004 and moved to Havre des Pas.

He remains because he has a view of the sea more beautiful than the view of the incinerator.

To be born within the sound of Bow Bells is to be a Cockney and so it follows that a Deputy for No 1 St Helier, must know intimately the smell of the compost site and incinerator at La Colette.

Nick became involved in local politics immediately upon his return to the island, including campaigns on civil rights.

He has an extensive political C V.

In 1996 he stood for election in his home Parish of St Brelade.

He stood again in 2008 for Deputy in St Helier No.1 and just missed out.

Nick is committed to social justice.

He is a member of the finance sector of Unite the Union - and campaigned alongside the Woolworths workers for their redundancy entitlements.

Last year he made a written submission and gave evidence to the Carswell Inquiry on the role of the Crown Officers.

He knows that the Clothier principles of Constitutional and States Reform are long overdue.

Nick understands what are the obstacles to honest and open government.

This District has a lamentable 75% voter abstention rate. The implications of that for the legitimacy of government are profound

Nick believes he has solutions to overcome the situation and energise democratic participation.

Nick has made a tremendous effort to meet the people and since April has been knocking doors to personally register 250 new voters.

Nick is an enthusiastic blogger. He invites you to read the real facts about the Lime Grove House scandal on his blog, details of which are on his leaflet.

If elected Nick promises to fight in the States for the social and economic rights of all working people. He will use the States as a platform for the ideas and demands of the progressive movement.

Nick wants to do the job.

He believes he has the skills to perform the task, and he would consider it an HONOUR to serve as your Deputy.”

The nomination form reads as follows:

“We, the undersigned, being electors of St Helier District One, nominate: NICHOLAS BASIL LE CORNU of FLAT 4, 23 HAVRE DES PAS, ST HELIER, as a candidate for the office of Deputy in said constituency this fifth day of September 2011.



Two further declarations read as follows:

“ I , the undersigned NICHOLAS BASIL LE CORNU  hereby declare that I have read and understood the provisions of Article 9 of the States of Jersey Law 2005 and that I am not disqualified for election and I have no relevant convictions for the purpose of Article nine one B and C.”

“I NICHOLAS BASIL LE CORNU confirm that my candidacy is not endorsed by any political party.”

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Senators’ Nominations – so much hot air the fire alarms go off.

So we have thirteen candidates for four Senatorial seats.

The highlight of last night's nomination meeting had to be when the heat of the room set off the Town Hall fire alarm and we all had to evacuate the building. While some tried to get out quickly, others just got in the way. As those closest to the door reached the fire escape and looked out into the heavy rain and said “I am not going out there”, they created a blockage. Clever people! Had there been a real fire we would all be toast. Does this reveal something fundamental about the Jersey political class who had turned out in force for the event?

In a Senatorial election insiders read with care the names on the nomination paper and seek to attribute political affiliation. Will anyone ever believe that Daphne Minihane, Age Concern chairman, is anything other than a creature of the Establishment. She signed the papers of three top Establishment candidates – Sir Philip Bailhache, Ian Gorst and Freddy Cohen. When these three vote for an increase in GST, how will she explain to the poor pensioners (sorry “Middle Jersey”) who follow her, that poverty is to be born in dignity whilst Senators fly around the globe promoting Jersey Finance. When will the elderly realise their trust was betrayed long ago?

Advocate Rose Colley likes to play the Liberal. However, her choice of signatories exposed her naivety and absence of political judgment. Having a gay Lawyer as proposer is fine, whilst Deputy Bob Hill as a signatory reflects that conservative but essentially honest middle ground. To then have John Boothman was unwise. This may have been an attempt to reassure the political class that she is ultimately a “safe pair of hands”. It can only but alienate the progressive vote as he is a known hard Right political militant. The lady doth protest too much.

When thanking his Proposer and Seconders, Sir Philip Bailhache revealed his deepest anxiety.  He hoped there would be mutual respect amongst candidates at the hustings and attention to policies. I think the opposite will be the case and we all know it, however much we also detest the cult of the personality in Jersey politics. Until we have parties, manifestos and mandated candidates, it will ever be so.

Finally I note that the Establishment candidates all live in the Country Parishes. No class divide in Jersey then!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Green Street Barracks Saga – Part IV – Understanding the Lime Grove House “train crash in slow motion”

I took soundings from a variety of sources to ensure I was confident
Treasury Minister Senator Philip Ozouf – oral evidence to Scrutiny sub panel

I am sure you can appreciate how utterly frustrated and let down my clients are feeling at what they consider to be unconscionable behaviour by the States.
Vendor’s Agent to the States of Jersey Treasury Agent on learning of a revised offer price from £8.75m to £8.25m. 11.04.2011

This is one of the biggest blame cultures I have ever lived in ........there will be a witch hunt.
David Flower, Head of Jersey Property Holding Department – oral evidence to Scrutiny sub panel 02.09.2011
 So far the full details are not in the public domain and the public has only the faintest hint of the scandal that is about to break. The government media, CTV, JEP and BBC Radio Jersey, in the meantime will be spinning to save the reputation of Treasury Minster Senator Philip Ozouf.

After a week of oral evidence to the Corporate Services Scrutiny sub panel, it is becoming palpably clear that the responsibility for the loss of the Lime Grove House purchase deal rests squarely with the Treasury Minister and senior Treasury civil officials.  

The decision to assume personal responsibility for the negotiations late in the day and then to seek both a reduction in the “headline price” and the cost of alterations and fitting out, was described as a “recipe for disaster” by the Head Jersey Property Services Department. So it has proved.

Based on the current lessee’s terms, the yield on the Lime House Grove is 6.25% to 6.75%, giving a capital value of £11m to £12m. Trying to reduce the purchase price by half a million from £8.75m has resulted in the loss of a building worth more than was being paid, created a probable three year delay in finding or building new offices for the Police, together with the loss of an annual £1m saving from the wider government office relocation strategy.

Evidence given during hearings revealed that abortive fees of surveyors and architects prior to 2008 amounted to around £1m. One can only imagine the total loss now in aborted professional fees incurred over a period of five years of protracted negotiations.

“Phone a friend decision time” – impaired decion making

At the time of intervention, it appears that Treasury Minister and his CEO were spooked by a possible fall in the commercial property market, of the magnitude of a 50% drop. Of course we do live in exceptional times of crisis and market volatility, so caution might well have been justified, albeit historically declines have never been more than 5% in Jersey. Quite what was the source of this fear is unclear.

The Treasury Minister stated he took informal soundings as to valuation, refusing, when pressed, to identify to whom he had spoken. The estranged former Assistant Treasury Minister Deputy John Le Fondre believes that the Treasury CEO John Richardson had formed his opinions based on telephone conversations with a Canadian friend and property developer.

A pure property transaction being conducted by professional was suddenly subject to political intervention; a volte face in terms of style of negotiation and aggressive price reduction. Neither the Treasury Minister, nor its CEO, has any property management experience. Based on purely subjective factors and a phone around friends, the advice of Jersey property professionals, in the form of formal valuations and reports, was discarded.

Part of the issue must be Senator Philip Ozouf’s leadership style. He is not sufficiently humble to recognise when he is out of his depth on technical areas.

The media will manage the message and limit damage

By what ever means the media seeks to protect the reputation of the Treasury Minister, property professionals and the educated will quickly draw their own conclusion from correspondence, documentation and transcripts of evidence given by civil servants, professionals and politicians close to the deal that is soon to appear on Scrutiny’s web site.

For the media, this is a complex matter of property development not easily served up in sound bites, especially as comprehension requires some thought.

In terms of the damage limitation campaign, Senator Ozouf stole a march on Thursday by having prepared an extensive written defence. It was not simply through the Senator’s hubris that it appeared on his web site even before he had started giving evidence to the sub panel, it was made available early to ensure the media had time to read his thoughts and adopt the correct political line. There is nothing like spoon feeding a lazy journalist.

Give that this enquiry has the potential to be a serious political scandal, just in advance of a general election; it is surprising there has been no consistent mainstream media presence at the scrutiny hearings.

Acts of desperation

In order to defend himself, the Treasury Minister in the “Defence” published on his blog site has had to resort to impugning the reputation of not only his own professionals in Jersey Property Holdings, a branch of Treasury, but also that of the external negotiators and at least three firms of private sector chartered surveyors that prepared separate valuations. This is a desperate act that will not go down well at the golf club bar or dinner parties in professional circles.

A £17.50 “blow out lunch” or irony in an email

The first diversionary “red herring” by Senator Ozouf was to claim that a senior civil servant from Property Holdings had been invited to a “blow out lunch” by the vendor’s agents and implying attempted corruption. It was reported that the official was now subject to disciplinary proceedings as a consequence, thus suggesting the act was a serious breach, rather than a lapse of judgment.

That lunch at Bohemia restaurant in fact turns out to be a modest set lunch at £17.50. In any event, the firm was on the panel of professionals used when out sourcing work and this lunch was no simple one off event to discuss a specific deal. It cannot be treated as corruption of an official, as the individual did not carry sufficient authority to “fix” a deal as complex as Lime Grove House, especially one requiring Ministerial sign off. The Treasury Minister has alleged that this affected policy formation and was a reason undermining his confidence in Property Holdings. A cheap lunch is hardly a plausible reason for removing an entire department and negotiating team.

A second diversion was to claim that the sub panel Chairman was conflicted, as she and her starlet, Deputy Tracy Vallois, had, at various times, lobbied him to proceed with the transaction as speedily as possible.

Chief Minister battle

Certainly Senator Ian Le Marquand is hoping to make some political capital out of the embarrassment caused to his rival, in his bid to become the next Chief Minister. He hopes the scandal may be fatal. It has upset the well laid plans of Senator Ozouf to declare for Chief Minister and his official announcement is probably delayed pending the final report of the Scrutiny sub panel.

However, Senator Le Marquand’s performance on CTV Thursday was lack luster and upstaged by the ever confident Treasury Minister. Perhaps Senator Le Marquand is playing a waiting game in the hope that the facts will speak for themselves. Certainly there was no attempt to deliver the final coup de grace.

Attack being the best form of defence, what could have been a Waterloo, turned out to be a skillful counter attack. Neither Senator Le Marquand nor the CTV presenter was sufficiently confident of the facts to refute the spin that the Treasury Minister was “batting for Jersey” in a bid to prevent another capital overspend on a par with the infamous Cavern project.

The White Rabbit

The Treasury Assistant Minister Constable Refault was interviewed by CTV Friday and gave a weak and incoherent explanation for why the Property Holdings department was removed from the purchase negotiations. He become Assistant Treasury Minister in January 2011.

He said to camera:

 “The negotiating team was changed because they had been working on this project now for approximately a year and things had not progressed very far and there was need to refresh the whole project again and to re-look at it and reopen the negotiations, in light of we were now twelve months further on. What we decided to do was, rather than use internal staff, to bring in a professional, commercial property negotiator to ensure that the States got the best value for the money.”

Nearly every aspect of this statement does not square with the detailed facts and sequence of events revealed in evidence by others to Scrutiny.

During a hearing on Friday, Constable Refault looked extremely uncomfortable and clearly was not conversant with the facts. He had failed to be briefed on what had been said and by whom to the panel in previous days. Like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, he kept looking at his watch hoping the meeting would end soon.

True to form, the authoritarian secrecy mode kicked in and he started referring to emails in a code fashion by their date and time but without mentioning sender or recipient. The result was bizarre, especially as these were the same emails the Home Affairs Minister had read out and attributed when giving evidence earlier.

He became so defensive that he accused the sub panel of cross examining him when their terms of reference limited them to collecting evidence. This impertinence was reprimanded by the Chairman and again he looked foolish. His understanding of what went on is clearly so defective, that the only purpose for his for attending, along with John Richardson, the Treasury CEO, was to act as a “minder” for David Flowers, the head of Property Holdings, as he gave evidence.

The sub panel hearings continue tomorrow, Tuesday.

Homeless Police officers take the search for new offices into their own hands