A watershed for standards in the States

NEXT week’s debate on the recommendation by the States Code of Conduct Panel to exclude new deputy Chris Le Tissier from the States for 12 months without pay raises a number of fundamental issues about standards in public life.

Perhaps the biggest problem the panel has with those who argue its proposed penalty is too harsh or exceeds the severity of Deputy Le Tissier’s ‘crime’, is that it is trying to set guidelines retrospectively.

The first panel failed to record any objective criteria or scale of seriousness against which they reached a decision to expel the deputy. The second says it can fix that by explaining the factors that led to its recommendation of a one-year suspension.

So far, so technical. There is much to commend in the panel’s report, which covers the issues with precision and clarity. Whether the Assembly agrees with its findings and approves the penalty – thereby establishing clear guidelines on online ‘trolling’ – remains to be seen.

However developments have now exposed gaps in what electors can expect from deputies in terms of honesty and transparency and how that is policed.

Deputy Andy Cameron will not submit himself to a code investigation for allegedly leaking material revealing the committee on which he sits, Education Sport & Culture, was offering a misleading summary of a meeting it had with teachers on education reforms.

Nor should he. The greater offence – if proved – would be, as some perceive it, the committee deliberately attempting to paint a false picture of what is already an unsatisfactory ‘debate’ on the future of education in Guernsey.

So the States Assembly & Constitution Committee hounds Deputy Cameron for being a public spirited whistleblower, but is silent on ESC’s actions.

Islanders are right to feel let down by all this. The expectation is that States members conduct themselves with integrity, honesty and decency, however defined. The current code says deputies must conduct themselves in a way to maintain and strengthen public trust and confidence in the States and not to bring the States into disrepute.

The forthcoming debate risks becoming a watershed for standards in the States.

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