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Government by grudge has no place

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AN ESCALATION of the campaign being waged against Sark Estate Management raises a number of troubling issues, not least firearms security, adequacy of policing and personal safety there, particularly if your face does not fit.

AN ESCALATION of the campaign being waged against Sark Estate Management raises a number of troubling issues, not least firearms security, adequacy of policing and personal safety there, particularly if your face does not fit.

But perhaps the biggest concern is the suitability of Sark's government, Chief Pleas.

At first glance that might seem an unwarranted accusation but the evidence – largely ignored in the current debate on vandalism – is there.

Nearly half of Chief Pleas took part in a protest against the vineyards, although not one of them, nor the responsible committee, had earlier expressed any concerns about what SEM was doing.

Elsewhere, protests generally occur after people feel their views have been ignored.

In Sark, it appears that they have replaced the conventional way of asking a business what its long-term intentions might be.

What makes this more sinister is the enthusiasm with which so many of Sark's legislators jumped on the bandwagon, the same people who are talking about using the law in the case of the vineyards.

Legislating against what is unclear. Despite what the ringleader claimed, this is not about a loss of agricultural land. SEM is actually cropping the land, albeit with a perennial planting. The only 'loss' is of some grazing for horses, one of the least productive uses that the area could be put to, and SEM has done nothing which the island's Agriculture Committee can say is wrong.

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So what next? Rent-a-mob stopping guests using a hotel because it is owned by SEM? Picketing a pub because it has the wrong owner?

And if/when Chief Pleas does legislate over land use, what confidence can anyone have that the law is required and proportionate or that the ends are justified when nearly half its members have already condemned the business that they will seek further to hamstring?

Provocation may be claimed on both sides, but no functioning democratic government can behave in a partisan manner. Decisions must be evidence-based or else have no legitimacy.

Whoever pulls the strings in Sark ought to take stock of how all this plays to a wider audience.

Government by grudge gives the moral high ground to SEM.

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