Horace Camp: Consensus government is NOT doomed

OUR system of government works best when the States Assembly isn’t filled with politicians.

 (Picture by Shutterstock)
(Picture by Shutterstock)

Our system of government works best when the States Assembly isn’t filled with politicians with a conscience.

Our system of government works best when the States Assembly isn’t filled with politicians with a conscience and global concerns.

Our system of government works best when the people of Guernsey don’t elect politicians with a conscience and global concerns.

Our system of government works best when we elect men and women who realise their job is to keep Guernsey independent, economically viable and a place where our children and grandchildren will want to live and raise families who will also want to make Guernsey their home.

Why then did we choose the candidates who mostly wanted to play at big gesture politics? The Save the Planet Group, The Think of the Starving People in Africa Group, The Let’s Stop Everyone Hating Everyone Else Group, The Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves Group, to name but a few of the virtue-signalling, woke policies that are more important than keeping the girl Le Page (Mrs Le Page from Torteval’s youngest) on-island and contributing to our future and the future of generations of Le Pages to come.

How often do we hear deputies promoting equality, sustainability, rights and the eradication of discrimination? I would suggest more often than we hear them promoting our happiness, which is a target within the big plan.

And how did we get to a situation where every man, woman and child is going to be asked to cough up nearly a fiver each to fund an ‘independent inquiry’ into whether Deputy Fallaize stepped over some line which, though it exists in the UK and elsewhere, has never been drawn here?

I think I’d rather give the £250,000 to Deputy Brehaut for three toucan crossings than waste it on some English expert who will find that Deputy Fallaize did indeed step over the line that wasn’t there and conclude he did no wrong but recommend the line be drawn forthwith. And it just so happens there is an English expert line painter who could paint a wonderful line for only £1m. pounds and touch it up each year for around £100,000.

The esteemed former editor of this very publication suggested only last week that consensus government is doomed. His face stared out at us from the front page of the Press in a fair representation of Private Frazer and I could imagine him in the wild and lonely parish of the Vale penning his column in the flickering light of a penny candle.

Private Frazer had two famous catchphrases. One was ‘doomed!’ and the other ‘rubbish!’ Well, Mr Digard used one and I’m going to use the other in response to his claim. Consensus is doomed? Rubbish!

Consensus is the basis of all forms of efficient government.

I will refine that statement a little. Consensus among the executive is the basis of efficient government.

Even Uncle Joe Stalin had to be in agreement with himself for his government to work efficiently, although I do agree that consensus is easier in an executive of one.

Executives differ from government to government but are all basically the same. It is a group of people who, when working together in concert, can implement policies. That group could be El Presidente and his generals or a Westminster Party with a majority of seats.

The Tory party shenanigans are quite relevant to a discussion on consensus. Bojo has a cabinet of 33, not dissimilar in number to our own dear States. His cabinet members can vote according to conscience, a luxury all our deputies claim is their right, but if they lose the vote in cabinet their conscience goes out of the window.

Once a decision is made in cabinet, every member, no matter how they voted, will then back the decision 100%, no matter how sick in their mouth it makes them feel. And assuming the whips can do their job, the only opposition to the government’s proposal comes from minority opposition parties who are toothless in parliament.

But what we don’t see is them arguing around the cabinet table. I assume the prime minister controls the agenda and therefore if he loses in cabinet he can sack the rogue ministers, appoint new on-side ones and try again.

In our own States we get to see and hear these ‘cabinet’ discussions. Our executive is the entire Assembly and we get to hear the to-ing and fro-ing of our executive arguing each proposal. Transparency may be a good thing but it does give the impression of division, pettiness and a totally inefficient system of government.

These arguments take place in other jurisdictions but behind closed doors and we see what we assume is a much more efficient system elsewhere, as long as the executive does have the votes to carry it through.

We cannot directly compare our system to others but they all operate to the same principles and efficiency is the result of a majority and a majority that adopts a consensus policy and is not driven by conscience.

Consensus government is not doomed in Guernsey because an efficient government always requires consensus of the majority.

Why therefore isn’t it working here?

Because there is no majority.

This Assembly is so equally divided that it cannot be efficient. Who is to blame for that? Well, us. The good electors of our parishes. We didn’t consider our system of government when choosing candidates in 2016. In previous elections, until the Sarnian Spring, we generally voted for generalists. And we generally voted for generalists with a bias towards maintaining our economy.

We did elect people with consciences but they tended to be much more aligned and, even if they didn’t all vote the same way, they subconsciously accepted cabinet-style collective responsibility. It was no real hardship for them to do so because few were one-trick ponies standing on a woke mandate to save the polar bears.

Consensus is only doomed in Guernsey if we make the same mistake at the polls that we made in 2012 and even more so in 2016 by electing an Assembly with no clear majority. And I’m not endorsing parties as the route to that majority but suggesting we drop the vanity-project, single-issue candidates and embrace the mundane run-of-the-mill candidates who are more aligned to Guernsey issues and who can work together for our benefit.

If consensus dies then that means we have consigned Guernsey to be run by a squabbling bunch of ‘politicians’, in the worst sense of that word, who have consciences as big as the whole planet and who worry more about the plight of the polar bears than the Girl Le Page.

If you want an efficient, consensus government in 2020, then cast your votes wisely.

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