This is no time for rainbows and unicorns

Horace Camp explains why he’ll be voting for sensible pragmatists, not single-issue idealists, at the coming election

(Milles Studio/Shutterstock)
(Milles Studio/Shutterstock)

I WAS listening to the JKT show on BBC Radio Guernsey, bracing myself in case she played one of the jingles which annoy me so much, when much to my delight she introduced a guest promoting a new book on environmentalism.

What a breath of fresh air that guest was. She was enthusiastic but practical and embraced focusing on the practical that each of us has control over and that each of us can do something about.

Leave all the stuff of governments for governments to sort out but be active in reducing use, recycling, etc. What a woman. She had me in her thrall and I was lapping it all up.

Now, in my industry, finance, we are told that if something looks too good to be true it probably is too good to be true. And indeed it was.

I got the first hint of something going wrong when she praised Extinction Rebellion and then it was all downhill after that. She had protested with XR as a samba drummer for an entire week. I kid you not, a samba drummer.

Then she got onto meat. I could tell by her voice that JKT was wondering where things were going but before she could stem the flow we suddenly had the entire dairy industry cast down as cruel masters enslaving cows.

Yes, dear reader, JKT’s guest was an idealist.

I’m sure someone at some time has uttered the prayer, ‘Oh Lord, please save us from idealists’, and if I wasn’t an atheist I would probably have those words tattooed over my heart or at the very least inscribed on a plaque and hanging over my bed.

The most frightening thing about idealists is that on the face of it they seem very normal and sensible people. At first it can be almost impossible to identify one because everything they say seems reasonable. Common sense, even.

Often they are well educated and seemingly well read. Many will be middle class.

In the run-up to the election in October, we will all need to be on our guard because elections are a time when idealists are known to congregate in large numbers.

They will promote whatever it is they are idealistic about in such a beguiling fashion that you will be confused into believing that what they are peddling is based on reality when it will be as far away from realism as it is possible to be.

Hopefully you remember balloon debates, where we are asked to imagine that our hypothetical balloon is overloaded by one person and we are all doomed if we cannot lighten the load. Approaching such a debate with a common sense, realistic point of view, we realise that one person has to sacrifice themselves to save the others.

In a balloon full of idealists it will quickly become clear that equality is paramount and that to discriminate against anyone in the balloon is just unacceptable, so they all jump out together holding hands and singing Kumbaya. A fine sentiment, but totally impracticable.

By the time you read this the debate on anti-discrimination will have either concluded or be approaching the winning post. The time is right for us to enshrine anti-discrimination in our legislation and I see no major opposition to it in principle. Some idealistic detail needs a bit of thought but it will sail through and in a year or two will be implemented.

However, my column today is not about anti-discrimination legislation – it is a warning about our forthcoming election.

We have only 38 deputy seats in the States Assembly. That’s not a big pool (I almost wrote ‘talent pool’ but chuckled and didn’t) to choose from and we are going to need the best we can get to see us through a difficult four years.

We need sensible pragmatists endowed with common sense and a firm grip on reality. We’ve seen an increase in idealism in the class of 2016 and until Covid-19 that could be tolerated without doing any great damage, other than annoying the hell out of me.

But this must stop now.

For the next year, possibly the next two years, principles are not going to butter our parsnips. Unicorns and rainbows can be promoted some time in the future when we know we are back on track, but definitely no unicorn promoters in the 2020 Assembly, please.

Single-issue candidates can deliver overpowering messages and promises of a bright and wonderful future we all desire for our children and grandchildren.

But, as much as I appreciated the peace, quiet and clean air of lockdown, I know that we are not going to achieve it again realistically for at least another generation and certainly not by filling the Assembly with active travel environmentalists.

There is a place for the idealist and that is on the steps of the Royal Court with placards. We need idealists, but we need to keep them in their place, which is dreaming of a better future and lobbying politicians to take us there.

We need politicians who can dream but who can also see that one person’s dream can be another’s nightmare.

Island-wide voting is going to favour idealists. Each of us is going to have 38 votes and probably will only be certain of casting five or six. It will be so easy for the one-issue candidates to sweep into the Assembly on the back of sympathy/empathy votes cast just because we have 32 votes still to get rid of.

There may be no party system in place for October (which is a very good thing) but the lobby groups will be stronger in promoting their candidates island-wide than they were in the parish.

My ideal 2020 Assembly will be a lot of boring but practical people with a wide range of interests and a love of all things Guernsey.

I would hate to think a radical vegan candidate is elected who then spends four years attempting to get the States of Guernsey to ban dairy farming and to issue an apology to all Guernsey cows past and present for being treated so abominably.

It could happen if we drop our guard.

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