Guernsey Press

How to win the minds and hearts of the people

Horace Camp has some words of advice for his distant relative, Guernsey’s chief minister

Chief minister Peter Ferbrache. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 32452351)

SEVERAL years ago I was called as a witness for a trial.

It was the first and last time that I saw my 93rd cousin, six times removed, Advocate Peter Ferbrache, playing on his home ground. And he was magnificent. From the moment he stood up he completely controlled the game in the manner of Pele at the peak of his power. He was everything, everywhere, all at once and he was as likely to let anything pass him as Mary Earps would a penalty.

Like football, a court of law runs under strict rules and has a referee to ensure adherence to those rules. A skilled player knows those rules and how far to push them to the edge. Peter Ferbrache was that player and he also knew all the tricks to thwart others doing the same. He could challenge, and win every challenge.

Those skills moved seamlessly into another very rule-based environment, the Assembly of the States of Guernsey. There he has explained in great detail how a poor boy from the Charroterie made his way from his legendary outdoor toilet to the peak of his profession and to the highest elected position within our Bailiwick.

A truly great achievement and if only that outdoor facility still existed, I would be the first to campaign for it to be declared a national monument with a blue plaque attesting to its place in our history.

But every great person is flawed and even our own, dearly loved and admired chief minister has an Achilles’ heel which might prove to be disastrous to our island. He has lost the common touch.

I don’t know if it is age-related or just too long working in rule-based protected environments, but interacting with the real world digitally appears to be just beyond him. We, the electors, can’t track his holidays on Facebook. We can’t see what he has had for lunch via TikTok nor which of his portfolio of eateries he has chosen today. He is an analogue man in a digital age. Something of an anachronism.

Perhaps if there was an emoji for ‘say that again and I will see you in court’, he could be tempted to overcome his phobia to interact with the electorate on social media?

Foxy, as he is known to many, is no fool. Far from it. Which makes the last three years under his rule such a tragic loss of opportunity. He is as much of a Guernsey Donkey as I am and he believes in our island and our community. He loves Guernsey so much he has bought a great deal of it.

I feared his one weakness, his Kryptonite, would be his undoing and I believe I told him so just before the election when I explained why I wouldn’t be voting for him. Us donkeys like to be led. We hate being driven. Foxy now has an island full of irritated donkeys, kicking and biting and, unless he quickly becomes a donkey whisperer, his next two years in office will be as unfruitful as the last three.

In some ways I feel some sympathy for him. He isn’t a bad chap but appears to have fallen into bad company, and I suspect even he would like to see a less toxic assembly of deputies, and the return of sensible consensus. But I also suspect – my personal opinion only, based on no facts – that Deputy Ferbrache needs the support of the ruling coalition to keep him in power. Or he believes he does.

However, because he only communicates by press releases, policy letters and grumbling letters to the Press, it’s very hard to get a true feeling of his intentions.

There is a leadership void in this island during very troubling times. In just a few years we have gone from Guernsey Together to a general feeling that the grass is no longer greener here. This change from joy to despair has happened on Deputy Ferbrache’s watch. It seems he believes it is more important to have votes in the Assembly, than the love and support of the people. On the face of it he is right. But look how his secure votes drifted away when the people rejected GST, and some of his ruling coalition partners changed horses midstream to not lose the popular vote in 2025.

At the time of writing this I have only read the first instalment of Deputy Ferbrache’s letter to the Press, where he channels Sulla and posts his first list of the proscribed, which are the columnists of this fine newspaper. Deputy St Pier was named a dozen times in today’s list and I’m certain will feature prominently in tomorrow’s. Because while we need stability and the return of Guernsey Together, we are instead in the midst of a civil war.

We have no time for petty squabbles with Moneyval at the door, with houses too expensive for managers to buy, and with the general feeling our youth are likely to find greener pastures elsewhere.

You, dear cuz, are the man of the hour, if you just stop what you are doing wrong and seize the opportunity to win the minds and hearts of the people.

I would hate to think a relative of mine ends up as the answer to the quiz question ‘name our worst chief minister’. I have no doubt at all in his ability to steer us through these uncertain times but, without the trust of the people and given the fickle, self-serving nature of his allies, he is doomed to fail.

Here’s what I suggest he does. Forget the litigious, lawyerly past. Be that poor, metaphorically speaking, boy from the Charroterie again and embrace your people via social media. Open your heart. Don’t scare people with threats. Be the ‘my door is always open’ boss, that everyone knows has their back in the tough times.

There is a very popular group on Facebook, Guernsey People Have Your Say, with a fair old chunk of our population as members. I have the privilege of being one of the administrators of that group and if I see a Peter Ferbrache asking for membership I will, after ensuring it isn’t a parody account, happily grant it. Start a dialogue with the people, if you are up to the challenge. Old dogs, new tricks?

PS. Could someone tell Peter that I didn’t vote for Deputy St Pier either.