Bring back Guernsey Together

Emotions have been running high in the States Assembly this week, with some contentious issues up for debate. Perhaps it’s time for some political healing, suggests Horace Camp

Deputy Peter Ferbrache was greeted by a wall of campaigners as he arrived at the States meeting on Wednesday. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29764633)
Deputy Peter Ferbrache was greeted by a wall of campaigners as he arrived at the States meeting on Wednesday. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29764633)

Who would want to be a Guernsey politician, eh?

This week’s States meeting has had a dodgy deputy, abortion and education on the agenda. By the time you read this the debate will be over, or at least drawing to a close.

I should imagine, with such divisive and sensitive topics up for discussion, a great deal of hot air will have been expended, tears spilt and words regretted by the hot heads.

Just one of the agenda items would be enough to have battle lines drawn but three in one session? The mind boggles.

Possibly the future livelihood of one professional politician will prove the least divisive of the debates. He will be sent out with no pay for a year, all for some fairly innocuous tweets. I get it that he is being made an example of to warn others that the Code of Conduct has teeth, but I still can’t get over that the one person who really stepped over the line and got away with it will be sitting safe in his seat, sure of his next pay cheque.

I asked who would want to be a Guernsey politician and, after years of dreaming about taking up one of those uncomfortable Royal Court seats, I have finally come to the conclusion that it is not for me.

Perhaps I was hiding behind my frailty as an excuse for not throwing my hat in the ring when the truth was I realised that I couldn’t do it.

Why take on a job where the only way to get through it with a modicum of respect and even less of a file of hate mail is to sit quietly on your hands for four years and not get too involved? You know, a few ‘I never intended to speak today but I have to fully endorse everything Deputy X said’ whenever you can see which way the wind is blowing to tick the Assembly debate boxes. And diligent committee attendance coupled with always being willing to put in an appearance for any photo opportunities to keep in with your peers and the public.

That would suit, and does suit, some and there is some merit in having a good war well behind the front lines. But the real deputies have to put themselves through a type of hell without any real hope of the bouquets exceeding the brickbats if they do their job conscientiously.

Writing this the night before the meeting, I have in mind how the abortion sursis debate will pan out. You will know the outcome but dusting off my old crystal ball and channelling the Horacle of old I am willing to predict it will not go well.

Emotions will be running high and ‘my body, my choice’, or variations on that theme, will have been heard time and time again. Counter arguments about the elephant in the abortion tragedy which is the unborn child will be raised by those who truly believe that human life is sacred.

I fear for the believers in the secular chamber who will be so conflicted and whose reasoned debate will have no doubt attracted little but a wall of ‘hate’ from those who cannot see themselves in the shoes of others but who fully believe no one who hasn’t worn their Louboutins can have an opinion on a subject, they say, is of interest only to women.

You will say that my comments are pointless (no change there then), because the debate has happened, mud has been slung, tempers are subsiding and outrage has dampened down.

It will, I am certain, be the exact same outcome for education. Lines will have been drawn, harsh words swapped, reputations undermined and other unpleasant stuff we have come to expect from a divided group of politicians.

Well, the reason I am bringing this all up now is that perhaps it’s time for a bit of political healing. I’m not suggesting we all hug a deputy, especially because most of us can only name about 10 of them and even on a good day only recognise five. What I am suggesting is, as we approach freedom day and we put Covid behind us (fingers crossed we haven’t got 10,000 cases by today), it’s time to resurrect Guernsey Together.

And I would like to see our political representatives take the lead in that campaign. No more sniping at each other, no more point-winning and back-stabbing. Perhaps now and then admitting they are wrong or Deputy Inder drinking some sort of calming brew before he speaks.

We are in a good place. We have weathered the storm well, but not without taking in some water and there are threats of more storms on the horizon. The most angst we see in the community, other than Covid, which hopefully we are drawing a line under, is seeded by the political processes and machinations which seem hell-bent on making life a little more difficult and a little less bright for us all.

For instance, hopefully we are a bit closer to an education solution now (I doubt it but I can hope in anticipation), but in reality there has never been a problem. And the ultimate solution is going to be, for the majority of learners, no different than if all the political stuff had never happened. In fact, all we have seen proposed is pretty much what we had at the time the 11-plus went south.

I’ve long been an observer of the pain politicians can inflict upon us as their golden ideas turn into scratchy straw after oodles of our hard-earned money has been invested in the process, but for the first time I wonder how much of an influence the antics of the States of Guernsey has on our mental health and wellbeing.

Be a deputy? Not for all the tea in China.

u The column was written before the States decided to suspend Deputy Chris Le Tissier for a year without pay.

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