2,500 Islanders stood shoulder to shoulder today to protest against the Budget.
The Royal Square was packed for the ‘Black Tuesday’ protest, and the crowd booed and hissed the politicians they hold responsible for a Budget which many claim will drive the economy into recession.It was the biggest public protest since the sacking of Vernon Tomes by the Crown, but the targets of the crowd’s wrath remained defiant despite the turnout and the hostility which greeted them.’A politician who hasn’t been booed hasn’t made a difficult decision and is probably an ineffectual politician,’ said Policy and Resources president Senator Frank Walker.Asked if the protest would force a climbdown, Finance and Economics president Senator Terry Le Sueur said simply: ‘Not a bit.’He had claimed that the protest – organised by seven businessmen – was an exercise in protecting vested interests, but it was clear that the protestors represented every section of Jersey society.
Many had never been on a protest of any kind before.
‘I used to feel that we were privileged to live here, but I’ve had second thoughts,’ said Alan Guy.
‘They want to tax us to the hilt.
I’m Jersey born and bred, and I’ve never been on a protest in my life.’Teacher Jean Andersson, holding a banner saying ‘No to a 0% corporation tax’, said that she was there because of the impact on low-income households and small businesses.’I feel that this is just the beginning of more and more taxation,’ she said.The crowd had begun to assemble in the square at 8.30 am, and by 8.50 it was clear that the organisers’ hopes of a turnout of 1,000 would be realised.
But by the time the Finance Committee arrived en bloc, having walked together from Cyril Le Marquand House, their target had been more than doubled.The committee chose to take the shortest possible route via the Royal Square into the States Chamber, arriving from the Halkett Place end, although they could have taken a back-door route and avoided altogether the boos which greeted their arrival.Having faced his critics, Senator Le Sueur admitted that it was an impressive turnout.’Even I was surprised at the numbers here.
I think that they are probably united in the view that the States are spending too much money and are not able to keep it under control.
I agree with them, and States Members must also listen to that message this week and make sure that we do not increase our deficit.’He said that he would not bend from his belief that what he was doing was right.Peter Tabb, the spokesman for the Motor Trades Federation, who opened and closed the protest, said that the public should remember ‘who it is who is trying to pick your pockets’.’We don’t expect to see white smoke coming out of the building at the end of the week, but if there is, we would hope that it is because this Budget has gone up in flames.’Other placards in the square read: ‘Stop Spending’, ‘No to VAT’, and ‘If you vote for this Budget, we won’t vote for you’.But not all of the politicians arriving in the Square were booed, and Deputy Lyndon Farnham’s arrival was greeted with an enormous cheer.He has lodged several amendments which will halt many of the increases sought in the Budget – notably on VRD, mortgage tax relief, and duties on beer and cider.Protest organiser Roger Trower of Broadland Estates described the turnout as ‘tremendous’.’They surely have to sit up and listen and take notice of that, don’t they?’ he asked.Estate Agents Association president Alan Maclean – another of the so-called ‘seven angry men’ – said: ‘I’ve spoken to many people who have never been on a protest before.
I hope that the politicians will take note of the feelings of the people and think very carefully before increasing taxes.
Most importantly, they should cut their own spending first.’