The punishment must fit the crime

If Deputy Chris Le Tissier’s transgressions warrant suspension, or even expulsion, what punishment have we reserved for the truly bad? asks Horace Camp

Picture by Sophie Rabey.  24-03-21.  States Deputies outside of Royal Court - Lunchtime.  Deputy Liam McKenna and Deputy Chris Le Tissier.. (29715030)
Picture by Sophie Rabey. 24-03-21. States Deputies outside of Royal Court - Lunchtime. Deputy Liam McKenna and Deputy Chris Le Tissier.. (29715030)

To paraphrase a certain song, what do we do with a problem like Le Tissier?

Yes, I’m referring to the social media trolling Deputy Chris Le Tissier and his undoubtedly vile tweets issued under his various secret identities. Disgraceful conduct and, quite rightly, he was outed and complaints made about his misogynistic xenophobia.

Who is Deputy Le Tissier?

Well, the opinion writer of this very paper believes he is politically a spent force.

Hard for me to get my head around this one because other than his tweets he never appeared as even a blip on my political radar and therefore I doubt if he ever had any force to spend in the first place.

For this column I did a bit of research on him and discovered that since leaving Grammar, which I will not judge him for, he has worked in finance.

I can’t seem to recall him being much of a force in finance but he obviously did enough to get the second lowest winning score on election night, achieving several votes more than that well known political heavyweight Deputy Carl Meerveld.

In an election where only three successful candidates managed to encourage more people to vote for them than not vote for them, Deputy Le Tissier scraped into his seat by encouraging one-third of the voters to tick his name on the ballot. And I would suggest the majority of those votes came from a Guernsey Party hardcore of supporters with a wish to get Deputy Helyar some bums on seats.

By now you have probably picked up that I am not Deputy Le Tissier’s biggest fan. In fact, I have no real interest in the deputy, I almost typed good deputy then, because he is just one of those who make up the number in the Assembly.

If I have any animosity at all against him, then it is only because he has a seat in the Assembly when others of great proven ability and with a record of unselfish service to our community don’t. But that’s democracy for you.

As a self-confessed contrarian, I have in the past looked for anything good in public figures facing the wrath of the lynch mob and fearlessly championed them when no one else would.

In fact, some of the Twitterati have speculated just what virtues I will find in Deputy Le T to enable me to spin some sort of defence for his actions.

Well, I can tell you there are none to be found. There is no back story of his great charitable or humanitarian works in far-flung, war-torn corners of the globe, nor is there evidence of his political genius and will having made our community a better place since he took up his new responsible role.

No, I think he is as dastardly as the complainants make him out to be and I can understand why two independent Code of Conduct panels concurred that he has breached the code and deserves some sort of punishment.

Therein lies the rub.

How should he be punished for his obvious transgressions? The punishment must fit the crime.

How this incident plays out will set the bar for the standards we expect our elected representatives to live up to. And I suggest both panels have set the level of punishment far in excess of what the breach demands.

Deputy Le Tissier would, I am sure, be the first person to defend Guernsey’s right to set its own standards. His strong endorsement, even if under a false flag, of all things local and the dominance of the Guernsey way surely prove this point. However, I see no reason why we shouldn’t have a look at the standards other great nations hold their politicians to.

I won’t even speculate on the probable punishment our conduct panel would have recommended for President Trump’s actions if they feel false flag tweets deserve expulsion or suspension from the Assembly. Presumably some sort of fire at the bottom of Tower Hill?

Let’s look a bit closer to home.

How does the Mother of Parliaments handle wayward members?

Well, we have seen in a very recent case that dodgy dealings, nepotism and flagrant breaching of Covid rules will certainly not receive the onerous punishment of 12 months’ unpaid suspension which seemingly tweets suggesting, for instance, that ‘positive discrimination for women means men are disadvantaged’ deserve.

And what about all the MPs who fiddled their expenses – were they suspended without pay?

Remember Jeremy Thorpe and the sordid mess he got himself tangled in, which involved misuse of party donations, an attempted murder and the shooting of a poor dog? Did he get suspended without pay? The answer is no.

The question that deputies will have to ask themselves when the Le Tissier suspension is debated is does the punishment fit the crime?

I can see it is easy to imagine that such naughty boy behaviour deserves the nuclear option of suspension – thank goodness the recommendation for expulsion was withdrawn on appeal – but what if a deputy really does something wrong? What punishment have we reserved for the truly bad and which we do not award to the just plain and silly?

This is not a defence of Deputy Le Tissier, but rather an assault on the over-eager level of proposed punishment, which in many ways is an affront to democracy as well as smacking of woke, cancel culture.

Why an affront to democracy, you ask? More than 6,000 islanders put him in his seat and I don’t like the idea that 37 deputies can remove him from it.

I am pretty sure the middle class nature of our Assembly and the demands of populism will see few, if any, voting against the suspension.

To be blunt, it will make no difference one way or the other if Deputy Le T is not in the Assembly for the next 12 months, but it’s the principle and the precedent that will be set that worries me the most.

For some reason I can’t help but think of the Have I Got News For You episode when the Rt Hon. Roy Hattersley was replaced by a tub of lard.

If the deputy is suspended, perhaps the hole caused by his absence could be plugged with a tub of Guernsey butter? I think he would like that.

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