Community and consensus

The Queen’s death created a temporary feeling of unity which has made Horace Camp hope to see the jewel in Guernsey’s crown – consensus – restored.

Many islanders came together to watch the live broadcast of the Queen’s funeral at Saumarez Park on Monday. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 31281592)
Many islanders came together to watch the live broadcast of the Queen’s funeral at Saumarez Park on Monday. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 31281592)

I WRITE this the day following the funeral of our late Queen, Elizabeth the Great.

For the period of our mourning we have lived through a surreal time not experienced by most of us, even those of us with seven decades under our belt. Surreal but sad. Surreal but uplifting. Surreal but united.

And it was the last of those that surprised me the most. When were we last united? Division has been the order of the day for far too long and until this unexpected change we have become more divided and more entrenched in our divisions.

The divide is not just political, although that can bring out the worst in some, but it is also generational and cultural. Could it be that the Great Elizabeth’s final gift to us is that of reconciliation leading to togetherness? Wouldn’t that be just wonderful? To become a community working for the common good once again would be her legacy.

Of course, it will not happen. I expect as you read this four days after her funeral the Great Togetherness will already be a memory and far less of one than The Queue. As a species, we are not good with peace and harmony. Just look at our history and our present repeating all the mistakes of our past.

Even while Her Majesty was lying in state, there were some who refused to give up division even for a few days.

I saw them on social media deliberately sowing the seeds of division with tawdry, petty posts about ‘Not my King’ or how ‘It’s like living in North Korea because I can’t watch my favourite programme’.

Even on this island, our Gem of the Sea, which has been associated with the English monarch for nigh on a thousand years and owes our prosperity to the monarchy’s past constitutional gifts to us, had a fair number who couldn’t put aside their desire to undermine unity for just a few short days.

We have a tendency to accommodate the worst of predominantly UK culture in this island and the nadir of those accommodations has clearly been the tribal political divide rife in that country. In the UK, if your grandfather was a coal miner exploiting fossil fuels and destroying the planet, then chances are you will be a socialist and all Tories resemble a layer of dirt or froth on the surface of a liquid. If you are the scion of a Great Family, then you are a Tory and your greatest fear will be a Red under every bed planning and plotting to bring the country to its knees.

This wasn’t us just a couple of generations ago. Deputy Mrs Le Page we sometimes agreed with and sometimes didn’t agree with. But she was always Mrs Le Page and we were always polite to her, despite her view on any particular topic. If we didn’t know her personally, we most likely knew plenty of people who did and there was a fair likelihood she was a distant cousin.

We voted or didn’t vote for her based on her record of public service in the parish and how she performed when she dropped in for a cup of tea during her election campaign. We would look deep into her soul and see if she was wanting.

Her manifesto, a single page of A4, mainly confirmed her Guernsey credentials and her love of Guernsey and the parish but contained little in the way of preferred policies.

I think that was a better way and one that had been fading away but was still living until island-wide voting dealt the final death blow. And especially when we adopted the essence of the party system prevalent in the UK, which has produced nothing but a permanent decline during my lifetime.

How do we re-Guernsify our political system and restore the jewel in our crown, consensus?

We have to start with working out how to consign island-wide voting to the Hurd Deep, where it will remain for the rest of eternity. It’s not going to be easy because it means gaining a consensus of support for reverting to the parish system from an Assembly created by island-wide voting and controlled by the ruling coalition, made up of an embryonic party system.

In three years’ time, come the general election, the party system will be embedded even further into our way of life if we don’t take a stand against it by refusing to play ball and literally refusing to vote for anyone not standing as an independent. We have given up so much of our culture, can we just make an effort to hold on to good old Guernsey consensus?

I’m bringing this up far too early because 2025 is a long way in the future and given the pace of change these days we could be living in a post-apocalyptic world by then, doing our best to survive rising sea levels and hurricanes. But I want to plant the seed of unity while it is still fresh in our memories that we can come together and put our divisions to one side and that there is a good feeling from working together for a common good or standing together to mourn a great public servant.

We will have to build a lasting memorial to Notre Reine, Le Duc and while I expect the tangible monument will be a fine statue on the spare plinth in front of what was a fine market and the heart of Town, I’m hoping that an intangible monument will be the end of island-wide voting.

It’s time to man the barricades, mon vieux. Dieu Aix!

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