Guernsey Press

Has the world gone mad?

When you have lived as many decades as I have, you can be forgiven if from time to time you wonder if the world has gone mad. I can scarcely believe what I am writing, but it is true, the UK government plans to introduce a new employment law that will give workers the right to request special arrangements for themselves from the very first day that they turn up for work, and before they even ask where the free coffee machine is and how long before they can take their first rest break. Millions of these selfless, dedicated workers will be enabled to demand personal deals that will let them work from their beach hut, share their job with their best friend or grace the office with their presence only for certain hours of the day. This would be unremarkable if Gwyneth Paltrow, the woke Queen of Goop, were Prime Minister, but she isn’t. No, this wacky stuff is being peddled by, of all people, a Tory government. Thank goodness nothing like it could possibly happen here. Just imagine, half the civil service working from home and States deputies casting their votes from their sun loungers in the Caribbean. Unthinkable in Guernsey, eh?


The States of Deliberation met last week for the last time in 2022. Rule 11 questions to the presidents of various committees chugged along as usual, with added interest centred on whether supplementary questions would survive the Bailiff’s ruthlessly forensic scrutiny of their relevance to the original answer. Relevance in the Assembly? Whatever next?

My interest rose when the president of Education, Sport & Culture gave what I knew to be an incorrect answer when questioned about her proposal to move sixth form students and teachers from a purpose-designed, 15-year-old sixth form centre at Les Varendes to a school at La Mare de Carteret designed 60 years ago for 11–16-year students so that the 11–16-year students can move to the purpose-designed sixth form centre. (You can picture them waving to each other around Saumarez Park where I calculate they will pass each other going their opposite ways). Deputy St Pier asked if some teachers would be teaching A-Levels at La Mare and GCSEs in a different 11-16 school. The ESC president assured him that they wouldn’t, much as earlier that morning she had incorrectly assured the BBC Radio Guernsey presenter when he had asked her the same question. She was given permission to correct herself by the end of play on Friday.

The ESC president got into further difficulties when answering a perfectly reasonable question from Deputy Roffey. She attempted to downplay the disruption inflicted on hundreds of sixth-form students who will have to change location twice, on one occasion in the middle of their two-year A-Level course. Sensing that she was about to drown in her own sea of obfuscation, Deputy Inder threw her a lifebelt in the form of one of those transparently contrived and irritatingly sycophantic ‘Does the president agree with me?’ interventions. Did she agree that a question about disrupting the education of our resilient 17-year-old students was motivated by political mischief and not out of any genuine concern for the students? The ESC president gratefully grabbed the lifebelt – yes she did agree.

The elections to fill vacancies on the Development & Planning Authority and Education, Sport & Culture Committee offered a useful insight into the future DNA of those two entities. They both had the opportunity to propose candidates who would offer healthy internal challenge. Instead, their preferred candidates were the personification of safe conformity with the prevailing zeitgeist of each committee.

Believing that her DPA needed replacements for Deputies Taylor and Murray, the president wanted Deputies Blin and Le Tissier to join her team. With an open planning meeting on developing the PEH green field due sometime soon, it was of course entirely coincidental that she chose deputies who had already voted to smother the field with houses and a large car park. As it happened, Deputy Taylor withdrew his resignation, leaving only one vacancy.

Deputy Le Tissier expressed surprise that anyone would consider him as one of the candidates, a view shared by 37 out of 39 members when it came to the vote. The narrowly successful candidate was Deputy Blin, seconded by none other than Deputy Mahoney, who has a track record of interest in building on green fields, at the PEH or the Castel Hospital so far. I stick by my prediction made in a previous sketch –if the fate of the PEH field lies in the hands of the DPA, it is already doomed.

Somewhat predictably, ESC shut its door to any candidate who might add to the challenge already posed within its ranks by Deputy Cameron, in my view its sole member with an independent mind. Since the committee wanted a compliant new member, Alderney representative Roberts was the ideal choice and was duly elected, but by just one vote. He has previous form. It was his vote in 2020, along with that of his Alderney colleague, which determined that in Guernsey the States would abandon the provision of secondary and post-16 education through 11-18 schools, much to the benefit of our three private, 11-18 colleges in their recruitment of students and good teachers.

The Assembly next began its approach to the Alderney runway, landing lights flashing red. To lengthen or not to lengthen, that was the question. It was first asked sometime in the previous millennium and was meant to be finally answered at the previous States meeting but members never got even close to discussing it, let alone answering it. So it was still there, waiting to be answered in the 22nd year of this millennium.

As Hamlet might have put it if he’d lived a bit longer, the question was whether ‘twas nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by digging deep into our pockets to keep Alderney folk flying at will, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles by telling Alderney to get stuffed and act their size. Ironically, Hamlet was the classic procrastinator, but was he also prescient? Perhaps he had Alderney in mind when he spoke of ‘The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?’ I’ve just checked, it wasn’t Alderney’s air links he had in mind, it was ‘the dread of something after death’. Come to think of it …

Deputy Chris Blin. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31569749)

As befitted the spirit of Christmas, the debate was conducted largely without overt deployment of personality politics. It was a most effective debate, too, perhaps the best of this year.

Highly persuasive speeches were delivered by both sides, so much so that I changed my notional vote several times. But goodness me, they took their time. Amid a sustained outbreak of oratorical flatulence, we had to endure two days’ worth of amendments and scarcely an original observation made throughout the whole of the third day of debate. At times, the debate resembled the sort of gossipy chinwag that you might expect to be conducted across a suburban garden fence or in a late-night queue outside a town takeaway. Detailed descriptions of bad backs, repeats of personal life histories we’d already heard, a karaoke session of tediously recited — but mercifully unsung — lyrics from naff, decidedly uncool pop tunes, and the usual obligatory mention of football teams — we were treated to the lot. Mind you, the States Assembly of which I was a member last term had our bloviating, look-at-me members, too, and we bequeathed some of them to the current Assembly.

In the end, members touched down on an extended Alderney runway, but only after we’d learned that when it comes to viewing the relationship between Guernsey and Alderney, there were two distinct camps on the passenger list.

I leave you with a pleasant personal memory that came to me as I listened to the debate. Deputy Trott asked the Bailiff to rule on whether he could call Deputy Roffey a rascal.

‘Better not,’ was the response. It reminded me that in the previous States Assembly I started likening Deputy Trott, then our treasury minister, to Brer Rabbit.

It was meant as a compliment, my image of Brer Rabbit being that bouncy character, always skipping along the track, full of the joys of spring with good news to tell, but often colliding with sticky situations in the form of the pesky Tar Baby who awaited in ambush around the corner.

But then I discovered that the chirpy lepus of Uncle Remus’s stories was also a bit of a mischief-prone rascal, so I stopped making the comparison. You can’t be too careful in these litigious times.