Independent thinkers now hold the key

A 22-17 voting split on Deputy Andy Cameron’s amendment on secondary education was the first real evidence of the island’s nascent political party system coming into full effect.

Everyone in the Guernsey Party and the so-called Van Party – Deputies Ferbrache, Inder, Prow and Dudley-Owen, who shared a van promoting their own (independent) causes around election time last year – voted in support of Deputy Dudley-Owen’s ESC Committee.

Meanwhile, all the remaining members of the Guernsey Partnership of Independents supported Deputy Cameron’s amendment.

There has been talk of such a split ever since the first meeting of the new government, when Gavin St Pier was so spectacularly overthrown.

One wondered at the time just how States members, including exactly half of them new to politics, had realised so quickly that a radical overhaul was required at the head of the States.

And while political watchers have speculated on whether party divides will start to show, it has been hard to know, while States agendas have been so consistently thin for months on end.

The secondary education debate, which is structured as much around States finances as anything else – the financial imperative of closing a school is a major reason why the States has reached this point – was very likely to split the States.

This all occurred in the week where the Chief Minister admitted that the Guernsey Party and he and his three colleagues do tend to think politically along similar lines. He said there was no formal, or informal, coalition, but it did reinforce what many around politics were thinking, and saying.

It is hard to know quite how ‘whipped’ these ‘parties’ are for the future, but battle lines have now clearly been drawn.

Will the electorate embrace this, or will the traditional Guernsey reticence for political parties and relative lack of enthusiasm for ‘tit-for-tat’ politics come to the fore?

And perhaps just as crucially, given that the two parties/coalitions only number about 10 individuals each, how many truly independent thinkers do we have left in the States?

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