‘It ain’t what you do...’

Despite announcing his retirement as a columnist last month, Peter Gillson could not let the election results pass without offering deputies some words of advice – courtesy of a certain 1980s pop group

Don't worry, this is not a return to a regular column – I just could not resist commenting on the election and a surprising thought that 1980s group Fun Boy Three could provide some sound advice for our deputies.

I was a little surprised, and relieved, just how well the election went. On the whole there were few problems and some of the deputies who were not re-elected show that there is now no such thing as a safe seat.

Why should I be relieved? The reason is that the amendment I laid in 2016, seconded ironically by Mary Lowe, was the first time the States voted for island-wide voting and opened the door for this IWV election.

There seems to have been a very high degree of engagement with a high number voting and a high number of votes cast by each person – an average of 27. Hopefully, this level of participation will continue and was not just the novelty of the first island-wide election.

It seems that one of the biggest election issues was education: the choice between two- or three-school models.

Public opinion seems to dislike the two-school model, but I don’t think it was quite that straightforward.

From an educational point of view, either option is capable of providing good quality education, and yes, the two-school does have some horrible logistical issues, but my gut feeling is the negativity was broader than just the two-school option itself – it includes the way Education handled the whole issue over the past few years.

There were the issues over recruitment, misleading and inaccurate media releases, poor engagement with stakeholders, all leading to a general atmosphere of mistrust. I think it is those aspects which really damaged the committee members rather than the two-school model itself.

Had they been more open, more accurate and displayed higher quality governance, then, while the two-school model might not have been liked, there would have been less mistrust and perhaps they might have been re-elected.

Which brings me to the words of advice from the Fun Boy Three – the title of their 1980s hit, ‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it’.

Fun Boy Three, circa early 80s. Left to right: Neville Staple, Terry Hall, Lynval Golding. (28840852)

A big talking point has been the lack of a role for Deputy Gavin St Pier.

Congratulations to him for topping the poll, but I question whether it was the resounding success some of his supporters suggest.

He topped the poll with 56.55% of the turnout. In 2016, six out of the seven district poll-toppers all achieved percentages higher than that – the highest being 71%. In fact, that year 11 deputies were elected with percentages higher than 56.55%, and in 2012 Deputy St Pier topped the poll in St Sampson’s with 69%.

I accept that it is not a perfect comparison, but it does put this year’s result into some perspective.

Good, but not as great as some suggest.

There have been a number of letters in this paper from people expressing the view that since he topped the poll he should be the ‘chief minister’. The problem with that view is that we never actually know why people vote for particular candidates. OK, he mentioned that he wanted the job in his manifesto, but it also contained a lot of other things and we do not know which are the reasons people voted for him. For all we know, some might have given him their support despite him wanting to be CM, rather than because of it.

It is very unfortunate that he does not have a seat on any committee – clearly he has many talents which will not be used. I found it disappointing that he did not get the head of the States’ Trading Supervisory Board as it would have been a nice fit for his experience. However, my surprise turned to understanding when I read that his nomination speech indicated that he would immediately resign from the position if he did not get the membership he wanted. Nobody likes to be pushed into a corner, and the States is no different, so giving the States such an ultimatum is almost always going to end in defeat.

The biggest surprise was his nomination for a position on Scrutiny. I find this both amazing and disappointing. Just think about it for a moment: a lot of Scrutiny’s work will involve reviewing decisions and actions of the 2016-2020 States and, as chief minister, Deputy St Pier will have had some level of involvement in almost everything, even if it was just the budget allocation. How can Scrutiny be seen to be impartial if the previous CM is part of the team?

I understand that Deputy Yvonne Burford, a former member of his party, nominated him – if true, then it is a demonstration of poor judgement on her part.

It is a shame his skills will not be used to the full. Having missed out on the position of CM, I am disappointed he did not step forward for president of Health. With Covid still here, this is a committee which faces real challenges and strong leadership is needed.

It is interesting that in stepping up for that post, even though he did not really want it, it is Deputy Al Brouard who has shown the greatest leadership.

Finally, even with so many unknown faces, I am reasonably optimistic.

I do not expect to agree with all of the decisions this States makes – it would be foolish to have that expectation.

In government there are rarely options which are definitely right or wrong – everything is more complex than it may seem.

I do expect a high standard of governance so that we can have comfort that the decisions are balanced and have been subjected to vigorous review and not the ideological whims of a few deputies.

The way Policy & Resources conducts itself will set the tone for this government and insisting on good governance could be the act of leadership which sets it apart from its predecessor.

. Note: This column was written before Gavin St Pier released his open letter on Monday and is not a response to it.

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