Who will bring ‘Guernsey Together’?

As the election draws near, Horace Camp shares his top tips for whittling down the number of candidates and considers who could fill the role of chief minister

Thankfully we are nearing the end of a fairly underwhelming election campaign trail.

I hope all of you who voted for island-wide voting are now ashamed of yourselves for turning what could be a fun time reading a few manifestos, poking half a dozen candidates with a pointy stick to see how they would react and then simply applying six ticks to a short list into an absolute nightmare of a double marathon.

As I write this the postman has just wrestled the mammoth bumper book of manifestos through my letter box, which has caused much excitement for my dog but has hardly made me want to rush and get it and start wading through it. To be honest I started my trawl for candidates before the candidate list was published. Because I have very little else to do, I threw myself into the challenge of selecting which of Guernsey’s finest should ascend to one of our 38 wooden thrones in the Royal Court.

Just like the candidates for the Iron Throne of Westeros, far from being our finest they have turned out to be quite an odd lot indeed, with only one common aim which is to become a deputy.

I am willing to concede that the vast majority of them are, on average, perfectly capable of occupying a seat in the Assembly and overall will be no worse or no better than previous deputies.

Just about any permutation of 38 from 119 will give us a perfectly adequate political chamber, so don’t feel under any pressure to get your perm 100% right because there is no perfect outcome.

What I’ve been doing is identifying the people who I think will be most entertaining in debate for, you see, I am one of the sad souls who listens to every States meeting. It’s a bit like the Archers in that once you get hooked on it, no matter how bad it becomes you still force yourself to listen.

Surprisingly, Deputy/Candidate Inder and the election team have done a pretty good job in trying to make unmanageable island-wide voting manageable and the most useful thing they have done in my opinion is setting up Election2020.gg/candidates where you can easily browse all the candidates’ manifestos and watch their videos before giving them a Yes/No/Maybe.

I significantly cut the number of candidates very easily by first focusing on the noes. More than 50 went on the first pass. I used a five heads marking system using the heads of Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, David Cameron, Greta Thunberg, Emmeline Pankhurst and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. As a reserve head I designated Screaming Lord Sutch of the Monster Raving Looney Party.

If you want to adopt my five-head model, it works like this. I read a manifesto, watch the video and perhaps engage on social media if in doubt. Then I award my five heads. As an example I will choose a well known deputy who is not standing in this election. Because she is a big believer in overseas aid, and social issues in particular, I award her two Mother Teresas and two Pankhursts. For her politics I award half a Tony Blair Head and half a Screaming Lord Sutch. To some this would qualify for an immediate ‘Yes’. For me it would be a ‘No’.

Using this approach it was easy to whittle out nearly half of the field in a single session. Greta and Sutch heads qualified for immediate noes. But you, of course, would apply your own parameters to exactly what qualifies as a Yes/No/Maybe. Plus you can choose your own heads. Perhaps a Hugh Hefner head for the ‘legalise cannabis’ candidates or a Mr Chips head for supporters of the 11-plus?

Having reached peak election excitement over a week too early I’m thinking of banking my 13 yeses and dumping 25 of my votes. Now I find myself thinking of the post-election period and specifically who will rule us through the Covid and Brexit wilderness years.

I have heard three names touted for chief minister. Yes, I know we don’t technically have a chief minister, but you all know what I mean. One is obvious and that is the present incumbent (I mostly awarded him Tony Blair heads, by the way). Undoubtedly Covid has been to him as the Falklands War was to Maggie Thatcher and, though still Marmite, he is a sure thing to be back in the Assembly and with the largest party, although I suspect well short of a majority.

The day after the election results are announced (I wonder when that will be?) there will be an awful lot of politicking going on and deals being made.

The second name I have heard for the top job is a new candidate Mark Helyar, who technically is barred by the rules of procedure to stand for CM. However, we all know that Assemblies overturn any rules they don’t like. I predict Candidate Helyar, who I mostly awarded David Cameron heads, will have a handful of his party in the Assembly with him but fewer than Candidate St Pier. However, there are plenty of independents who will flock to the Guernsey Party to bolster its numbers. Just as there will be independents flocking to Candidate St Pier’s party.

I cannot see either reaching the magic 21 seats which gives total control of the States. I also wonder just how the secret ballot used to choose our chief minister will play out with a party of independents made up of a wide spectrum politically being able to cast their votes with no repercussions should they not vote for the ‘boss’.

Anyway, if I call it right, which I never do, we will be in a split parliament again. I shudder just typing that after enduring four years of the worst type of petty feuding I have ever observed as a States stalker.

Which brings me to the third name I have heard mentioned on the grapevine. Are you sitting down for this one? And if you have just sipped from a cup of tea or coffee then swallow it now to avoid spraying your immediate surroundings because of the shock of me revealing that Candidate Roffey could be a candidate for chief minister.

Yes, Peter Roffey. I was just as amazed as you are now when I first heard it. But then I started to imagine how it would work and, much to my astonishment, I came to the conclusion that it isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Imagine if the last Assembly didn’t kick off with a tied, head-to-head bout between St Pier in the red corner and Ferbrache in the blue. There could be only one and after some sort of chat St Pier took the ribbon and Ferbrache took umbrage. He says he didn’t so I retract that statement because I don’t want to rile up probably the best lawyer in the island. But anyhow it set the scene for division which was played out over the next four years.

But let us imagine that Deputy Roffey had stood and been elected as president of P&R. St Pier and Ferbrache would have taken over great committees and been the big beasts of our government. Peter Roffey is not a contentious chap at all. He would, I am sure, have devoted himself to keeping his government friendly, civil and on track. Lots of herbal teas would have been drunk and Bhuddist chanting would have replaced opening prayers at each States meeting.

I am being somewhat flippant and Richard Digard will tell me off for it, but just this once let me assure you that I believe any one of St Pier, Roffey and Helyar could fill the chief minister’s tomato chip throne and, when the time comes to vote, I urge successful candidates to elect the one who will be able to bring our States back together again. The next four years are not going to be a barrel of laughs and we need someone who can bring ‘Guernsey Together’.

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