Guernsey Press

Horace Camp: Not all change is for the better

Not all change is good and Horace Camp can’t help but wonder how being more closely connected to Jersey would benefit him...

(Picture by Adrian Miller, 33084665)

Ah, the timeless axiom echoing through the annals of philosophical discourse: the only certainty in life is change.

It’s a concept as old as time itself, yet perpetually relevant. From the grand cosmic ballet to the subtle nuances of our daily routines, change is the unyielding force shaping our existence. We humans, in our perpetual pursuit of stability, often find ourselves grappling with this immutable truth.

As Heraclitus so poignantly observed, ‘You cannot step into the same river twice’, for both the river and the stepper are in a constant state of flux. So, dear reader, let us embark on this intellectual odyssey together, exploring the profound depths of this perennial verity and its profound implications on the human condition.

A big shout-out to my good AI friend, ChatGPT, for that interesting opening to my rambles. I thought if I was to be droning on about change, I should at least make some attempt to alter my normal modus operandi and what could be more state of the art than an LLM? We certainly didn’t have them in the glorious 60s.

Each generation grows up in the status quo of their parents and dreams of changing everything to make it bigger, better and more fun. They create a new bigger, better and more fun status quo, which will be perfect from here to eternity. Unfortunately, their children will disagree and the process will loop once more.

Change is constant but isn’t necessarily better. For instance, much of the change from 1960 to 2000 is now realised to have been a huge mistake. The people of the 1950s hardly used plastic, didn’t own cars, practised active travel, recycled by mending, made do with what they had, didn’t eat a lot of processed food, and a lot of their food travelled no further than from the garden. Everything that the 2020s dream about having, the 1950s had.

Some change has been good, getting rid of polio being just one. But I think we can all agree that the major planet-killing changes were not really good for us in the long run.

Some of our most lauded changes, such as the North Beach car park, were in their day embraced as a Great Leap Forward for our beloved island. Encouraging car ownership, killing the buses and making our roads too dangerous for walking and cycling were hardly ever mentioned in the debate at the time. Nor the impact the North Beach would have on obesity, fitness and the financial cost to the taxpayer of keeping the fat and unfit alive. It may not surprise you that I was not a fan of the North Beach development.

I’m not certain if the change to the local market has ever been lauded but it happened and the result was not as expected by those removing protection from locals, which was designed to give them at least a fair chance of being able to make a life in the island where they were born or grew up. By ring-fencing houses for locals, who on average would be lower paid than first generation migrants with special skills, a link was maintained between locals’ wages and local market house prices. Once that fence was pulled down and the high wages increased by taxpayer-funded subsidies flooded into the local market, there could only be one outcome. Unaffordable homes for locals. And the only answer the States has come up with is to build new, subsidised homes for key workers.

The younger generation here, which is seeing the new status quo, is not exactly loving it. Some are leaving and so their children will never get to build or even see the new status quo here. Some are staying but can’t afford children. I heard a statistic today from the BBC that in the UK half of all abortions are for unaffordability reasons, not for the baby being unviable or unwanted. That will probably mean many locals who stay will not have children either and so will never build their status quo.

Often, changes here cause more problems than they solve. Finance, for instance, is a curate’s egg as far as this island is concerned. There are major opportunities but the chance of a local reaching the very top jobs in finance is extremely low. So our best, who have it in them to reach the top, pack up their family and leave to somewhere that will appreciate them better than their homeland.

How many of you will have guessed what is on my mind as I write this? Yes, it’s all about the tunnel.

Here’s the problem. The States of Guernsey costs more to run than its people can afford to fund in taxes. Even though in my lifetime the population here has risen by more than 50%, we just don’t have enough people to support our government. The economy just cannot grow fast enough to keep up with the cost of government.

The simple answer is more people. Say, another 50% taking us up towards the 100,000 population? How do we get them here? Why we tap into, via Jersey, three million fairly low-paid French people and bring them here as commuters via the tunnel. No impact on housing but a lot more footfall in St Peter Port offices. The tunnel also makes us more attractive for very high net worth individuals taking advantage of our not- a-tax-haven status.

What am I not seeing here? Where is the advantage for the local? They will give up more of our green and pleasant land. If Gran is in Jersey hospital as part of our CI union working together, it will cost £50 in tolls to go and visit her. And you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t be locals living in the new quality penthouse apartment at the top of the 30-storey apartment block on the old Beau Sejour site.

I am, as a Guernseyman, asking what’s in it for me and mine if we have a tunnel?