The right words

After a brief break from following politics, Horace Camp was lured back in by a Budget broadcast from the new team at the top – and he was impressed by what he heard.

P&R president Peter Ferbrache with Deputy Mark Helyar. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28927798)
P&R president Peter Ferbrache with Deputy Mark Helyar. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28927798)

A FEW days before the election I told Peter Ferbrache (Foxy) that he had disappointed me with his performance in the 2016 Assembly and, as a consequence, I would not be voting for him.

He seemed to take this in his stride and went on to explain to me why I was wrong. I still didn’t vote for him but now I feel a little bit of regret for not supporting Cousin Foxy (typical Guernsey thing in that we are distantly related via the Brown side of our family). Let me explain why.

After the excitement of our general election, I found myself very bored with domestic politics and got caught up in what the Americans refer to as a democratic process, namely the choosing of a president. What a farce that was and is and I soon lost all interest in it. And for the first time since I took up watching politics as a hobby I found it no longer interesting.

As a consequence I suddenly found myself with lots of time on my hands, mainly because without politics and politicians to outrage me I had no reason to engage in social media debates or any need to provoke them when they dried up. Occasionally something would attract my attention – say a provocative tweet from a former chief minister – and where once that would have resulted in an immediate response from me there simply wasn’t any desire to get involved.

Like any addict in rehab, sometimes I was very tempted to tweet something and I sometimes even drafted one but forced myself to delete it lest the cravings should return and my life would once again be lost to the demon that is Guernsey politics.

Life was good. Everything appeared to make sense again. The sun would rise in the east and set in the west. There was no fake news and I controlled the narrative. All was in tune with nature at Old Farm.

Of course it couldn’t last and the architect of my fall from grace was none other than Cousin Foxy.

Without actively seeking a political fix I stumbled upon a Facebook live feed that looked like a Covid briefing and it drew me in like a moth to a flame.

It turned out to be a Budget broadcast focused mostly on our new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Deputy Helyar (who I did vote for), and it was a case of hook, line and sinker as far as I was concerned.

This was something new and I have to say I was impressed with the delivery, the message and the overall policy, which for the first time says to me that a new team is in charge and it is different to the last one.

Words are cheap but their words were good words and the right words for the interesting times we find ourselves in.

We have a bumpy ride ahead of us but the new captain of our ship knows the course we have to steer and, though it will not be easy, if the crew work as a team and follow the same guiding star, we will make it to a safe harbour.

And that is the challenge Foxy has made to the Assembly, which is let’s all pull together. What we don’t know at this stage is how many are planning to mutiny and if there is a Mr Christian below decks just waiting for a chance to topple the captain.

Only time will tell.

Now I’m fully back in my Politics Lab I cannot help but comment on the constitutional crisis in respect of our fish.

Our unwritten constitution isn’t worth the paper it isn’t written on if we cannot stay friends with the former super power to the north, which effectively protects any form of self-determination which we believe we have.

For centuries we have maintained our precarious freedom by being very careful to fight battles we have a fair chance of winning. Our greatest politician of the past, Daniel De Lisle Brock, fought and won several such battles but in all cases our victories were of a great magnitude for us with minor downsides for the United Kingdom.

But let’s consider the current crisis.

The UK and its 65 million people are about to crash out of the European Union. With only a few weeks left to seal a deal, it is quite a possibility that those 65 million people will lose easy access to the single market. This could be devastating for the people of the United Kingdom. I know they brought it upon themselves but, let’s be honest here, if the UK gets a bad or no deal then we will suffer too.

Imagine you are Boris Johnson, as horrible as that may seem, and you can see two main sticking points for finally agreeing a deal with the EU – namely French fishing rights and Northern Ireland. The Irish question is and always has been the big one and will take some solving in a post-Trump world.

But let’s look at the fish. The UK negotiators have to consider the impact on 65 million people while at the same time considering the impact on 175,000 Channel Islanders, of which almost none are dependent on fishing.

Our constitutional position with the UK must be our foremost consideration. However, we must never forget it depends totally on the good will of the UK. One way we can reinforce that good will is to help out the UK when its need is greater than ours.

In this case securing a Brexit deal is beneficial to both of us, as is not testing our constitution at a time when the UK Government of the day has set securing that deal to be a higher priority than adhering to international law.

Helping out the UK by agreeing to adopt the fishing clause would have bought us brownie points and, if a Brexit deal is secured because of it, be of benefit to us anyway.

I think some amongst us have been beating the independence drum for far too long and have forgotten we are the Lilliputians in this relationship. Our vague special relationship with the Crown has suited us well but we maintain it best by being charming rather than pitting our fisheries protection vessel against the might, reduced though that may be, of the Royal Navy.

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