Lions left licking their wounds

TWO perennial truths were reinforced in the States this week.

One was that deputies like nothing more than talking about themselves. Debate dawdled along with members poring over arcane procedure, examining their own navels ever more closely.

The other truth was that Policy & Resources is unloved. Time and again the senior committee was isolated.

At one point, it was suggested that P&R might be indulging in a failed power grab. Its president lamented that there was no power to be grabbed.

While P&R’s struggles were to be expected, it was more of a surprise that deputies had so little faith in HM Procureur’s judgment.

For the advice of the Law Officer was clear: attempts to politicise the civil service by taking more control of hiring and firing senior officers were dangerous and needed careful consideration.

The release of the Home Affairs governance review this week perfectly illustrated the importance of a balanced relationship between politicians and their chief officers.

Yet deputies want more power to rid themselves of officers they do not like (such as the former head of Law Enforcement?) and choose ones more to their liking.

It is a fundamental breach of the impartiality of the civil service and, as HM Procureur advised, risks staff being chosen on the basis of political patronage not merit.

That will not look good in court.

Deputies say that the tail is wagging the dog and the island would run more smoothly if its elected representatives could boss around the hired help.

It is nonsense, of course, and an excuse for deputies who cannot take a strategic overview but hide instead in operational detail.

Where this leaves high-calibre officers employed by the States is hard to judge. These are talented, well-paid, people who suddenly find a whole new layer of political management foisted on them every four years.

Bluntly, it is often lions being led by donkeys.

And as we have seen, political management can be unreasonable, ill-informed and autocratic.

Yet officers are now to be expected to put aside their hard-earned expertise about operational matters and jump to every deputies’ whim – or face the sack.

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