Not too late to create a controlling committee

IT IS a great disappointment to me that the Civil Contingency Authority has not been replaced by a Covid emergency executive controlling committee.

Safe pairs of hands... Left to right: Health & Social Care president Heidi Soulsby, Policy and Resources president Gavin St Pier, director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink and HSC medical director Dr Peter Rabey giving a coronavirus update at Beau Sejour. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 2827649
Safe pairs of hands... Left to right: Health & Social Care president Heidi Soulsby, Policy and Resources president Gavin St Pier, director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink and HSC medical director Dr Peter Rabey giving a coronavirus update at Beau Sejour. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 2827649

As each day goes by it looks more and more likely that the Assembly in which we have little faith will return to ‘lead’ us out of the crisis.

We will just have to accept that returning to the pre-emergency status quo will also entail returning to the utterly demoralising infighting of the 2016 Assembly. But I’m not going to go there today.

As I write, the front-page headline of this paper is shouting out at me that ‘Finance must re-engage soon to secure business’. As a finance business developer in a previous life I know that sentiment is correct. As a comfortably retired, highly vulnerable and at-risk individual who has spent the last couple of months at home hiding from the plague, I wish it wasn’t.

As I’ve explained before, I’m having a good Covid crisis, especially at the start of the lockdown when peace and quiet fell upon our beautiful island. Life became easier as local shops began delivery services and as a pretty unsociable person I no longer had to worry about anyone dropping in for a chat.

Clear skies, fresh air and, but for the volume of bird song, perfect peace at Old Farm. And not just at my home, but throughout the island and the rest of the world.

In a heartbeat the dramatic action needed to do something about climate change that was more meaningful than buying a bag for life just happened.

By putting the preservation of life as our number one priority, possibly for the first time ever, we fundamentally changed how our island is run and by whom. Politicians are a very broad church and every politician has his or her pet project or obsession. Epidemiologists, on the other hand, are pretty much focused on limiting the spread of disease and saving lives. Probably at any financial cost.

I have great faith in Dr Brink and we have definitely benefited from her wisdom, but I also have great faith in Tony Mancini, chairman of the Guernsey International Business Association, who speaks for our finance industry and is extremely wise in the ways of finance.

With Dr Brink calling for the preservation of life and Mancini calling for the preservation of the economy, which is after all the spring of all island life, who should decide which path we take going forward?

The one group who I believe is the least qualified to make that decision is the States Assembly of 39 deputies and Alderney representatives who come together as a right shower perfectly capable of debating tank walls ad infinitum but certainly not to provide leadership out of a crisis. This lot may not be as fractious as the Parliament of Bats (google it) but they are not far off.

This is why I am so disappointed that the Assembly hasn’t been confined to a scrutiny role and a controlling committee of politicians (only sensible ones) and technocrats (proper experts, not rich incomers) formed to provide the strong leadership we are going to need.

And when we have to decide if God (Brink) or Mammon (Mancini) is giving the best advice, we don’t want it debated for days over Microsoft Teams with every speech starting ‘Can you hear me?’ and suffering from internet problems which make Deputy Q sound like that chap on The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club with the dodgy microphone.

Just the thought of back-of-fag-packet amendments being drafted on the fly and debated to distraction as a way of preserving and restoring our economy to pre-C19 glory is terrifying. Can you also imagine how long the debate on how to spend every bit of £500m. of borrowing will take? Will an extra 12 months in office be long enough to even decide how to spend the first £100,000?

Whatever happens, I am reconciled to the obvious outcome that the new normal will not be that different to the old normal. I am hopeful that many will realise it is their self-interest that prevents our planet from healing itself and I look forward to taunting Extinction Rebellion activists for not grabbing hold of the perfect world (except for the economy) we created in a day and adopting lockdown as a permanent way of life.

We started lockdown with very clear leadership and a clearly defined figurehead leader in Deputy St Pier. Over time we have seen that leadership become somewhat fuzzy around the edges. Yes, we all know it’s a team and there is no ‘I’ in team, but that ignores the fundamental human need to have faith in someone or something. I really can’t embrace the CCA with the same passion that I can, metaphorically, embrace Deputy St Pier and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. I bet Genghis Khan had a big team, but can you name any of them?

The emergency pandemic protocol segment of this crisis is now over. It is time to put the procedural manuals away ready for the next training session. The playlist has done us well and Dr Brink has kept us on our toes by properly preparing the team and then providing advice for its actual implementation. Now the epidemiologist and the health carers have to take a back seat and the economists and business developers have to call shotgun. But we have to do something about the driving team.

As we reach this critical stage in our return to normality, can I just put it out there that there is still time to create a controlling committee? It won’t be easy because it will mean many deputies giving up their executive roles and now they can taste the blood of the CCA in the water they will resist that even more. But come on guys, it must be worth a try?

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